Summer is over and fall is already here, soon the holidays will be upon us. If that doesn’t conjure images of cold weather, snow, and over eating… I’m not sure what will. Speaking of snow, yup, it’s time to start thinking about snowshoeing and snow camping again. Today I talk to Brian Hallgren, co-owner of Northern Lites, to see what’s shakin’ in Wisconsin. Brian was kind enough to give me the skinny on their latest products as well as what’s going on with the business since he and his brother Brent acquired it. Check it out!
Howdy Brian. Thank you for talking with us today. Please tell us a little about yourself. What types of outdoor activities do you enjoy, and how much time do you currently spend outdoors?
I enjoy running, hunting, fishing, and snowshoeing of course! Depending on the time of year I spend probably 20 or so hours per week outdoors.
What are some of your favorite places to snowshoe?
Here in central Wisconsin we are very lucky – there are many places to go. To name a couple… Perkinstown Winter Sports Area and Rib Lake.
When you’re not snowshoeing do you do any hiking or backpacking?
No, not really. I enjoy running and that’s what I spend time outdoors on, in addition to the other activities I mentioned already.
So, when did you and Brent take over as owners of Northern Lites?
We took over in June, 2011.
And, who plays which roles in the company?
Brent oversees our production which means everything from
what we are making, to inventory, to purchasing material, to shipping to
a ton of different things. Craig [Brooks] oversees all of our marketing and
sales in addition to a multitude of duties ranging from our website and
Facebook and Twitter to working trade shows. Again, just a ton of
things. I handle the business side, such as order entry, invoicing,
payables, and so forth. Al of us work closely together and we share in
the decision-making regardless of area.
As you know, we are a blog dedicated to lightweight backpacking. Many such lightweight winter backpackers appreciate the weight savings offered by Northern Lites. Will “lightweight” continue to be an important factor in the designs?
Definitely. We have a high quality, very durable snowshoe that is extremely light. We will not mess with that, just do some tweaking here and there.
Cool. So for an average guy, say 180 lbs with a 30 lb pack, which of your shoes would you recommend?
we would suggest the Backcountry or the Backcountry Rescue in that case. They are both great snowshoes (deck color being the only difference) and will hold up well in all snow conditions for the 210 pound total weight.
Where are you currently manufacturing your products?
Medford, WI. We are very proud to be in the USA and in Wisconsin. It’s a great part of the world.
Why make em locally? Do you have any thoughts on off-shore manufacturing?
Wow – what do we say? We love American made!
Northern Lites started off as a one man operation, what some might call a “cottage manufacturer”. Would you say that term is still appropriate for your company?
No, though, Brent and I as owners are very hands-on and accessible. So in that sense we are small. However, we are making a very aggressive marketing push to let retailers and customers know about Northern Lites.
We also hired Craig Brooks who has extensive experience in the outdoor
business. He has been with us since March, and has done a great job
reaching out to the market utilizing his knowledge of the people and the
What would you say to the folks out there who aren’t familiar with the smaller independent manufacturers and what to expect in terms of customer service, and product quality?
I’ll use the term “overwhelm” and I mean it – we will overwhelm you, our customer, with service and quality. Every snowshoe we ship is individually inspected by hand. Further, we respond to emails and phone calls as quickly as possible 24 / 7 / 365.
Just for fun, what are some of your favorite non-snowshoe pieces of gear?
My running shoes first, then I like other basic outdoors stuff like my old Gore-tex coat and pants for winter. I’m pretty easy to please that way.
Ok, this is very serious – If accosted by a Yetti is the snowshow advised as a formidable means of defense?
Absolutely! Not sure if I’d recommend the Race model for speed in swinging it, or the Tundra for its sheer size. Maybe just use our Backcountry model and run like hell!
Do you have any new products, developments, or accessories that you can share with us?
We’ve recently introduced a couple. This year we introduced a great new women’s model, the Women’s Elite. Last year we rolled out a kid’s snowshoe that is fantastic. We’ll keep working to build our product line in the future.
Looking toward the future, what’s your vision for yourself and your company
We want to be known as a company with great products that does business the right way. That is, a company that cares about its customers, its employees, its community, and the environment. Brent and I feel a strong need to do things right.
Complete this sentence: “I hope that Northern Lites snowshoes will …”
Be known as a high quality snowshoe that is very durable, lightweight, and supported by a great company that does things the right way – with honesty and integrity.
Thanks again for the interview, Brian. Is there anything else you’d like to add, or any sage advice to bestow upon those reading this interview?
Me + sage advice? You’re kidding right? Just, thanks for the opportunity. You and your readers should feel free to contact us any time. Our office phone number is 800 560 5483, you can also email me personally: firstname.lastname@example.org
Coolness… seemed like an appropriate adjective given the topic. You can check out Northern Lites newly revamped website at: www.northernlites.com. They are also on the usual social media – Facebook and Twitter @LiteSnowshoes. I’ve been pretty pumped with my own pair of Northern Lites which you can read about here. See you on the white stuff! Hike It. Like It.
Jacob is the head honcho, wearer of many hats, and modern day berserker here at Hike It. Like It. When he's not out hiking or running the trails you'll find him operating in full capacity as a Super Dad and chipping away at a degree in Kinesiology. This guy likes to stay busy.
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