The Prairie Dog story goes a little something like this: Boy meets ultralight camp shovel. Boy falls in love. Boy purchases trowel business. More happy adventures are had by all.
The boy is Prairie Dog Owner Chris Schabow, who agreed that buying a defunct ultralight camp shovel company may have sounded a little strange at first. “I do stupid stuff sometimes,” he laughed. “But that’s always been my practice. When people around me think something is crazy, that’s what I should probably do!”
Crazy or not, he genuinely wanted to resurrect his favorite poop trowel startup. So Chris reached out to the dismantled Prairie Dog business, and learned the original creator still owned the intellectual property, and was even sitting on a fair amount of inventory.
“Everything was just sitting there idle,” Chris said.
It was a win-win transfer of hands, and Chris couldn’t be more excited about his purchase of Prairie Dog in late 2022.
“This product was too good to not exist! I believed it to be superior to most other things I had in my backpacking kit,” Chris said. “Nothing that I had was earning its place in that role better than the Prairie Dog.”
The Prairie Dog UL Shovel can be used from either end; the wide-end ideal for loose soil and sand, and the narrow-end best for prying and digging. The unique design also easily attaches to sticks or hiking poles, creating leverage to dig in extra hard soil.
But the shovel’s real superiority stems from its lack of sharp and snaggy edges, protecting delicate fabrics and fragile meshes commonly used in today’s ultralight backpacking gear.
While rival trowels proudly boasts serrated edges — to assist with cutting through small roots — with a grin, Chris retorts, “personally, I don’t think we should be cutting tree roots to take a s***!”
Made in the USA from aircraft-grade anodized aluminum, the Prairie Dog is uber light at just 0.6 ounces (17 grams) and is backed by a lifetime warranty. It also can function as an extra tent stake or snow stake, and it’s even been used to scale a fish.
By day, Chris is the CEO of Enlightened Equipment, widely known for their quality lightweight backpacking quilts. Once he clocks out, he crosses the Mississippi River from the small town of Winona, Minnesota to his home in Holmen, Wisconsin, where his work on Prairie Dog begins.
Balancing his commitments between the two companies can be challenging. “My brain and heart want to put everything into Prairie Dog. I even have this project management checklist for myself,” he laughed.
But, without any real financial pressure to be successful out of the gate, Chris says Prairie Dog has been all about having fun. “Fun is the theme for sure.”
With the help of his teenage daughter, Chris is dedicated to moving Prairie Dog forward in an ethical way. “Everything is eco-friendly,” he said of the retail packaging. “We’re spending money in areas we don’t have to, but we want to do the right thing. And that will be the cornerstone to any future decisions we make.”
“The beauty of it all is I don’t have any preconceived idea of where it should go. I work as I can, and as the ideas come to me, I’ll pursue it. And hopefully it’s all the right stuff!”
Currently, Chris is scheming up a companion piece to the Prairie Dog Camp Shovel. If digging a 6-8” cathole 200-feet from a water source isn’t possible, Chris wants to add an eco-friendly WAG (Waste Alleviation and Gelling) bag to the brand’s product line.
“I’ve got the cathole product,” Chris said. “Now I’m looking at a WAG bag solution.”
“The current WAG bag solutions are largely emergency grade. There’s a lot of plastic and they’re a little overkill,” he said.
Chris hopes his efforts with Prairie Dog will make a positive impact on our outdoor spaces. “We’ve all seen campsites riddled with toilet paper. It’s one of the most painful things to see. But this is an angle I can take. It’s a small voice, but I hope I can lead people to the right answer.”
“Every piece of gear in your pack has the chance to be awesome when it’s ‘go’ time,” Chris said. “Even the lowly backpacking shovel.”