Outdoor Photographer Chris Burkard Just Released A Dr. Squatch Soap For A Great Cause

Outdoor photographer Chris Burkard holding his Dr. Squatch soap bar

via Dr. Squatch

This summer, legendary outdoor photographer and filmmaker Chris Burkard is a man on a mission.

The mission? Racing in the Tour Divide, a 2,745-mile backpacking adventure that crisscrosses the Continental Divide from Banff, Cananda to the US/Mexico border in Antelope Wells, New Mexico.

“I think The Tour Divide is up there. That’s one of those things that I just gotta do this once in my life,” Burkard tells me on a call from his home on the central coast of California, where he spends half his time. He spends the other half in Iceland, where he fell in love with the landscape and the people and lived part time. “‘At a certain point I was like,” he explains, “Why don’t I just make this more of a part of my life instead of just visiting?”

When it comes to a life of adventure, Burkard usually earns his keep behind the camera, shooting surf trips and heliskiing and “chasing so-and-so in the mountain skiing.” His most recent work includes shooting the wildflower super bloom in California for National Geographic after a wet and soggy winter led to technicolor orange and yellow hillsides across the excessively arid regions of the state.

But the mountain bike race down the mountainous spine of North America is a chance for him to test his own potential.

“At a certain point, I started to really question what are my capabilities as an athlete, not just somebody who’s running around with a camera trying to document others,” says Bukard. “I wanted to see what I was capable of. So, I think that a big part of my life now has been not professional sports by any means, but just like athletic pursuits.”

“In the last five years I’ve really taken to like exploration by bike,” Burkard adds. “I think it’s such a healthy and amazing thing, people to explore human-powered adventures. I feel like it’s almost like I have to do this to pay homage to like sport because it is such a historical, beautiful thing.”

Bukard has had to push the pause button on other parts of his life and career to prepare for the race, which he estimates will take him a little over two weeks.

“That’s something I’ve been training for. It’s something I’ve had to like turn down work for and carve out time. Yes, it’s hard. It’s hard stuff,” Bukard says.

“I mean, it’s like nonstop. You’re basically like barely sleeping, and it’s ridiculous. I’m aiming for a 15 to 16 day window. That’s a pretty competitive window. But who knows? If it takes me 20 days, something probably will have gone wrong. I think sub 20 something would be great…”

Chris Burkard Teams Up With Dr. Squatch

A high altitude bike tour de force, summer in Iceland, and capturing stunning fields of wildflowers from the sky aren’t the only projects on his plate. Idle hands, after all, are the devil’s workshop.

Burkard also partnered with soap brand Dr. Squatch on a collab called the “Burkard Bricc”, now available on the Dr. Squatch website for $8.

“It’s kind of funny to even think about partnering with a soap brand,” says Burkard. “But these days, nothing’s off the table, right? From the start, they struck me as such an unpretentious brand among a sea of oddly pretentious ones. Plus, I’m all about not smelling terrible, you know?”

He tells me he plans to bring it on my backpacking and bike packing trip, cutting it up into tiny cubes for easy packing.

“The Burkard Bricc is a spin on their pine tar soap, which is my favorite scent—flavor, if you will,” he explains. “I love the heavier grit that actually makes you feel clean, and their scents are something else. There’s some sort of wizardry going on there, I swear.”

Dr. Squatch Burkard Bricc in the desert

via Dr. Squatch

He continues: “The soap captures everything I love: a scent that’s rooted in nature, which to me is the most important part, and all-natural ingredients. In a world full of cosmetics with ingredients you can’t even pronounce, that’s really important to me.”

Burkard helped design the packaging, which includes emblems, his bike and some of his adventures, along with a funny portrait.

“I mean, who’d have thought I’d end up with my face on a bar of soap? But hey, stranger things have happened.”

It’s also for a great cause, with part of the proceeds benefiting a charity that hits close to home for Chris.

“Part of the proceeds are going to an amazing outdoor nonprofit called Outdoor Outreach, which gets kids from disenfranchised. They’re based in San Diego. Kids from basically unideal situations out into the wilderness gives them an introduction to what it’s like to be in these amazing spaces. They’ve had a long history of doing this with inner city kids and, really, anybody,” he explains.

“It’s pretty personal for me. Not to get too intimate here, but like coming from an environment like that where I had a single mom, and it was like pretty hard to carve out time to be in nature, to get outdoors. Like I really looked to others when I was younger to create those experiences. So this is important to me. I’ve worked with them for maybe five, six years, so it’s not like something new. They’re an amazing group that I’ve been lucky enough to watch grow.”

So go buy it!

Close Calls and Life Lessons: A Perspective Shaped by Adventure

To close the conversation, I ask Burkard about some of his more hairy moments on assignment. He laughs, “about a million”, and notes he was “uninsurable for like five years, when I was like 23 or something.”

Burkard launches into story time:

“The first time I left the US was to go to Dubai and Yemen and Oman. Nothing dangerous happened, but you can imagine me 20 years old, 21 never been anywhere. Just like my such wide eyes, so naive to like the world and just trying to like adopt different cultures. Shortly after that I was in Chile with a drunk boat driver way down south in the middle of nowhere, and he like fell asleep at the wheel and basically drove our boat into a huge reef pass and I lost almost all my camera gear, flooded by this huge wave that came over the bow”

Oh no, I tell him

He continues: “Under an Arctic Sky is a film about surfing in Iceland in the winter and exploring new waves, new friendships, and whatnot. During experience we had the biggest storm in 25 years and basically we were on a road driving, trying to escape the storm and the roads were just closing in front of us and behind us due to avalanche danger. We were just driving on these steep roads with steep cliffs on both sides, one leading into the ocean, one leading up a mountain, digging out the car for hours and hours and hours, like questioning life’s choices. Really, at a certain point, I realized that I bit off more than I can chew.”

He called it a “big eye-opener” and notes that he’s never been great at learning from other people’s mistakes.

“I’ve always had to learn it my own way. I will say, you pay the price for those things.”

“I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had water housings hit me in the face or split my nose open, or I’ve torn my shoulder in the shore break of some remote beach in Norway and had to go to the ER for luckily always small things,” Burkard chuckles.

“But that’s life, and I think it’s given me a perspective that I feel grateful for. And I always feel like we go through things, we learn so much from these little mishaps, whatnot. But I also think we don’t ever fully know how close we are to having s*** hit the fan. I will say there’ve been more moments where I’ve been closer than I could have imagined than I realize. I’m just grateful that this is all that’s happened.”

Brandon Wenerd avatar
BroBible's publisher and a founding partner, circa 2009. Brandon is based in Los Angeles, where he oversees BroBible's partnership team and other business development activities. He still loves to write and create content, including subjects related to internet culture, food, live music, Phish, the Grateful Dead, Philly sports, and adventures of all kinds. Email: brandon@brobible.com