Vaucluse Backpack Ventilation Gear: An Engineered Solution to a Sweaty Problem

Alli "Moonbeam" McGranaghan


Setting out to solve a simple problem in the hiking community, founder Brice Sokolowski innovated a piece of gear that reflects a journey fueled by perseverance, problem-solving, and a passion for making a difference. An engineer by trade and outdoor enthusiast at heart, Brice drew from his own experiences trekking through hot climates to draft a solution to sweaty backpacks that is revolutionizing the way people carry their gear. 

Brice's company, Vaucluse Backpack Ventilation Gear, has created their ultralight ultra-flexible backpack frame designed to reduce sweat when wearing a backpack, which weighs in at just 3.3 oz. Installing easily and directly onto your favorite pack, it instantly allows for increased ventilation and airflow for more comfortable hiking, biking, commuting, or traveling.


Brice grew up with a deep appreciation for hiking and nature. He shared with me how his love for the outdoors was formed through his childhood summers exploring the beautiful, rugged, lavender-filled, and sun-drenched terrain of southwest France. This stunning area is also where the company name derives from: the Vaucluse region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France.

The Dentelles de Montmirail and Mont Ventoux located in the heart of the Vaucluse.

In his younger years, Brice loved to trek. He regularly hiked throughout Europe and completed trails such as the Camino. However, he also always hated carrying a backpack due to the discomfort, particularly the increased heat and sweat it caused, and he subsequently began hiking less. 

After two decades of successful careers in which his professions ranged from a globe-trotting test engineer to a nonprofit fundraiser, Brice was left longing for new challenges and to escape a desk-bound lifestyle. Further, his mother-in-law reintroduced him to hiking and backpacking through her own enthusiasm for the stunning landscapes in their home state of Arizona. When faced with relentless heat and humidity in the U.S., Brice’s lightbulb moment came. He was determined to find a solution to the discomfort caused by traditional backpacks. Brice joked with me saying how surprised he was to wear a backpack again after a 15 year hiatus, “I thought backpacks would have been fixed… I was really happy I was an engineer, because it made me think of a solution.”

He had a vision of what he wanted to create to allow for more ventilation while bearing a pack. Drawing from his fascination with structural engineering, particularly trusses and buttresses, Brice envisioned a backpack frame that would prioritize strength and lightness, akin to the structures found in classic bridges and cathedrals. 


Throughout our conversation, it was clear to me that Brice’s engineering background not only served as inspiration for his design, but also ingrained in him an innate drive to tackle challenges head-on. He routinely emphasized the importance of perseverance in overcoming hurdles and viewing problems not as barriers but as opportunities for personal growth and learning. 

For example, having the ability to imagine a solution is one aspect, while bringing that vision to fruition poses a distinct challenge - one that Brice recognized he would need support with. He reached out to his engineering contacts and soon connected with someone who could assist in a design compatible for 3D printing. This individual marked the beginning of a chain of support that Brice deeply appreciated in transforming his initial sketch into the successful product it is today. Reflecting on the venture, Brice remarked, “In the beginning, all I had was a doodle on a piece of paper to show this is what I want… and I don’t really know how to doodle. It’s been a journey.” While Vaucluse is based out of Phoenix, Arizona, they work with a fabricator in Tennessee now that they've moved beyond 3D printing their products.

Brice has also discovered the comradery of the ultralight community and finds great fulfillment in receiving feedback from users. He wants people to give feedback so he can continue to improve the product. “The only reason the frame is the way it is today is because there was constructive feedback. Some are more constructive than others…but I don’t mind. What motivates me, the mission or the goal, is to make a piece of equipment that betters people's lives.”

Brice regularly explores the local trails with his wife and mother-in-law. Through social media, he even regularly hikes with strangers who are interested in testing his gear. These meetups are one of the most fun parts about his job, Brice explained.

Brice, right, hiking with his family


The hikes aren't just about gaining beta on his gear; they're about forging genuine connections and leaving a positive impact on the hiking community. “I get to meet complete strangers, go on a hike for two hours, and learn a little bit about them. And at the same time, hopefully improve their backpacking experience.” By the end of the hike, after sharing stories and learning from each other’s perspectives, it's not uncommon for Brice and his hiking partner to feel like they've just gained a new best friend. 

Brice, left, with new hiking friends

Vaucluse Ventilation Gear is certainly off to a successful march towards achieving their mission. Gear Junkie has nominated the product as Best in Up-and-Coming Gear for 2024. Whether it’s for a multi-day trek or a daily commute on the subway, people are recognizing the transformative power of carrying the right gear. Empowering individuals beyond the outdoors to feel more comfortable, he has also received anecdotes from those who carry oxygen tanks - expressing their gratitude for an invention that provides a bit of cooling relief to an otherwise cumbersome part of their daily life.

While Vaucluse is excited about the diverse possibilities of their product, they are committed to a gradual and consistent approach to expansion, mirroring Brice’s own hiking style. While the entrepreneurial journey of establishing a new company can be daunting and challenging at times, Vaucluse stays positive. Looking ahead, Brice aims to build a vibrant community around the brand whether users are scaling mountains or strolling city streets, because every journey should (and can be) more comfortable, more enjoyable, and a little less sweaty. 


Alli is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada. She believes in embracing silliness, taking small steps towards personal goals, and inclusiveness for all body sizes in the outdoors. Her message emphasizes that extreme fun isn't limited to extreme athletes. Apart from writing, Alli enjoys backpacking, hiking, snowboarding, trail running, and snuggling with her dog. Her next adventure is hiking the Arizona Trail. Find her on Instagram at @bucketsofmoonbeams.



Ultralight Backpack Ventilation Frame by Vaucluse Backpack Ventilation Gear
Ultralight Backpack Ventilation Frame by Vaucluse



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