Brautigam Expedition Works: Meticulously Handmade Titanium Tools

Andrew Marshall


Almost every ultralight backpacker has found themselves sitting around a bubbling pot of noodles towards the end of a long day while considering their gear choices. 

“I could maybe do this better,” they think to themselves while pondering a flapping tent, a loose pack strap, or a shoe that just won’t stay tied. And for many of us, that’s where it ends. But if you happen to have an engineering background and experience working with ultralight’s go-to metal — titanium — well, that’s a different story. 

So it was for Pete Brautigam, Founder of Brautigam Expedition Works, who found himself getting sauce all over his mittens while trying to scrape those last precious calories out of the bottom of a Mountain House bag during a typically ferocious northern Minnesota winter. 



The long spoons already on the market simply weren’t long enough for Pete’s needs. But with two decades of experience as a mechanical engineer and industrial tool designer, the winter camping enthusiast and bikepacker knew there was room for improvement. 

“I found that there was a lot of ultralight gear out on the market that wasn't really tuned to say -30, -40 degrees, where you have to use gloves and mittens,” Pete told us in an interview. “So that's what led me to start building my own stuff, like my long spoons. They are a little longer, and they have grips for mittens.” 

Titanium is ultralight’s golden child because it’s light and strong. But, Pete explained, it’s also perfect for cold-weather applications because it doesn’t conduct heat very well. 



With an engineer’s ever-restless tinkering spirit, Pete didn’t stop with material choice and handle length. In addition to the aforementioned mitten grips, the tinkerer also added weight-reducing cutouts and a reshaped and flattened spoon head — because when it’s forty below, every calorie scraped out of a pot is precious. And with that flattened head comes true ultralight multifunctionality. 

“I had a buddy scale a fish with one, once,” Pete noted. 

Pete also noticed that many long spoons have a carabinier hole at the top of the handle that is, somewhat inexplicably, too small for most standard carabiners. Making that hole big enough to accommodate whatever carabiner you’ve got lying around in your gear closet is a simple design improvement that nevertheless reaps big dividends for the brand’s customers. 

Those kinds of simple but obvious design elements are at the heart of Brautigam Expedition Works, and this methodology has brought Pete enough success that he was able to quit his “real” job last May. He now runs the company full-time from a shop in his backyard. 



He also makes tweezers, wood stove accessories, cookware, folding saws, pack hardware, and other handy titanium camping tools. Currently in the works? An adapter that will let MSR WindBurner pots interface with standard upright canister stoves. 

Also in Pete’s stable is the SporkSpat, a Frankensteined contraption that’s exactly what it sounds like — spork on one end, spatula on the other. If you’re an ultralight backpacker who still enjoys the occasional skillet meal, this gadget might be your huckleberry. Just don’t ask us how to fit it in your pack (maybe use one of those handy, carabiner-friendly cut-outs).  


Process, Process, Process

While you stare at your trail journal, wondering if you have the energy to note your daily mileage, Pete is hard at work in his tent with a grid paper notepad and a six-inch ruler, which he notes (in true gram-weenie fashion) “doesn’t weigh much.” 

“And then, as soon as I get back home, my mind is racing pretty badly. So I [put my design in] the CAD software, and then I laser the material out. Then I try it, see what that looks like, and then start that process over and over again until I'm satisfied with the product. And then I’ll give it to a few friends of mine that are in my circle and then once I get the green light from them, I’ll put it on my website and see what happens,” he explained. 



But functionality isn’t everything. Pete is deeply committed to aesthetics, and in that spirit, he treats many of his titanium products — spoons included — with a food-safe anodizing process that’s part technology, part pure creativity. Like an ultralight mad scientist, Brautigam dips his finished products into a bath suffused with baking soda and electricity in different combinations The result is a gorgeous, shimmering finish that will have fly-fishing enthusiasts dreaming of brookies all day long. 

As for advice for burgeoning gear designers, Pete’s wisdom will be familiar to any thru-hiker who has ever been told, “Don’t quit on a bad day.” 

“I’ve worked harder [at Brautigam Expedition Works] than I ever have in my life. But it sure is rewarding to see those orders go out every day. The only advice I have is to never quit,” Pete said.


Andrew Marshall tried his hand at documentary filmmaking, dorm-parenting 30 middle schoolers at a boarding school, and professional wedding photography before washing up on the rocky shores of outdoor journalism. Since then, he's written for Blue Ridge Outdoors, BikeRumor! ExplorersWeb, The Inertia, GearJunkie, Backpacking Light, and other web and print outlets. He's won multiple Excellence in Craft awards from the Outdoor Writers Association of America in such diverse disciplines as writing, photography, and illustration. A committed dilettante with a tendency to be interested in just about everything, Andrew is also a published poet, a chess player (trail name: "Pawn"), an experienced long-distance backpacker, a mountain biker/bikepacker with a tendency to fly over the handlebars, and an extremely slow trail runner. Based in Western North Carolina, he enjoys hanging out with his two-year-old, eating biscuits and gravy, and checking out way more library books than one person could possibly read in three weeks. You can find more of Andrew's published writing and watercolor illustrations here



Brautigam Expedition Works Titanium Utensils
Titanium Tools by Brautigam Expedition Works



Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published