Jack Spirko Delves Deep Into The World Of Wazoo EDC
Who is behind Wazoo?
What does Wazoo represent?
Why is Everyday Carry essential?
How can Everyday Carry affect your life?
LISTEN TO THE EPISODE:
Check this one off the list!
Way back in the day, when Wazoo was nothing more than a "what if?", Dustin and Nick had listened to Jack's TSP - heck, I'm sure most people that have sought out survival knowledge on the internet have at least listened to one of his episodes and we have massive respect for this guy. Sure it may have taken him 2294 episodes before he contacted us, but what a blast from our past! He's like the Godfather of survival podcasts.
It was a surreal feeling knowing that before Wazoo even existed we listened to this guy, and now we've grown to the point that we were asked to do an interview with him. It's a crazy road that led us to where we are, but I think there are some really good points that came out of this interview. Give it a listen and let us know what you think. It's really only our second interview, the first being How I Built This on NPR with Guy Raz.
The Survival Podcast - EPISODE 2295
Jack Spirko: Anyway, we're going to talk about ETC today and that is of course every day carry for the uninitiated that means the stuff that you have on yourself at all times and that can be for preparedness and wilderness survival and things like that. But honestly, if you carry something all the time whether it's for that or not, it is your ETC.
If you wear a belt every day, it's your ETC, if you have a key chain you wear, it’s your ETC if you wear it all the time. If you have a necklace you wear it’s your ETC, if you have a bracelet you wear, it’s your ETC. But what are some of the things you wear it could be ETC for preparedness, bush crafting things like that.
They can and there's a lot of ways people have done that on their own but there are some really cool innovative stuff that's being done by a company called ‘Wazoo Survival Gear’ and one of the founders anyway Dustin, he’s going to be with us so that I know he was originally a listener of the Survival Podcast way back when and another one of these things that have come up out of the community this is the survival podcast and we'll have Dustin in just a minute to talk about Wazoo Survival Gear and all the cool stuff they have and why you might want to be in your life before we do that though let's go ahead, let’s hear from our two sponsors of the day.
Jack: All right with that I just found out I'm actually going to have Dustin Hogard who I’d mentioned earlier and his partner Nick Blackman on the show today so it's going to be really a great interview, two really great guys and with that on to say, “Hey Dustin and hey Nick welcome to the Survival Podcast”
Nick: Hey, how’s it going?
Jack: Glad to have you guys with us man we're here to talk about basically every day carry as wearable survival gear I think it's really cool. I love the stuff you guys are doing out there with your product line; before we get into the stuff that you're doing at Wazoo Survival Gear, why don’t we let each of you take a moment tell us a little bit about your background and how it led you to what you're doing today because I find most of the people that come on the show like no matter what they're doing like the path they took was not straight; there is some kind of walking around here and there.
So you guys decide who goes first but first introduce yourselves to the audience who you are going to take us back to like you sit in the study hall trying to ask a girl out or something and also if you're someone like really cool survival gear how does that happen?
Nick: Well, I feel like neither one us like you said have a really straight path but this is Nick. Nick Blackman is my full name; I'm from a small town in West Virginia. Always had good grades going through school so they kind of groomed me to go into engineering and I always had this weird innate desire to learn how everything works so engineering seemed like a perfect fit.
I got two degrees one in Mechanical Engineering and one in Aerospace Engineering; graduated school, came to Houston, Texas to work in the space industry and then I realized that the glory of Engineering is not what it's chalked up to be. It's more cubicle work and number crunching than the actual design and development aspect. So, I really lost interest in that side of it and wanted to pursue more outdoorsy stuff. Like I said, I was from West Virginia, grew up in the mountains hunting, fishing, camping and now stuck in Houston and there's really not a lot of that to be had here. So, I wanted a reason to get back outdoors and Kind of got into the survival stuff watching all the YouTube channels and listening to Podcasts like yours and really living vicariously through other people.
And then I started to think, “Well, why not try and get into this back during the craze of the survival bracelet” and it didn't make sense in my head as a literal thinker as to why it was a survival bracelet when it was just a piece of string.
So, I started in some you know some actual hidden tools inside the bracelet and that's kind of how I got my start, created a brand as a hobby kind of started the Wazoo thing as little Facebook page and then around the time that I turned it into a business and I was ready to quit my job and try full time. Dustin kind of contacted me out of nowhere and we met up over a beer so I'll let him continue his story from where he was and he can take it from there.
Dustin: Cool, I do not quite have the credentials that Nick does whatsoever but I was born and raised here in Texas in a small town pretty cliché when you think about Texans when they say, “Did you ride your horse to school?” Not necessarily but we do have horses riding all over town at any given moment and it's okay from a small town decided to go to the big city of Austin to go to the University of Texas. And I got a degree in Advertising and Business and then after I graduated, instead of going the typical routes of going to some big corporate advertising firm, I kind of went into Adventure Guiding and that kind of set me on a different route of life where I decided I was not going to be good at that corporate life anyway and Adventure Guiding kind of held all the non-committal freedom that I wanted.
And so, I did most zipline canopy tours in Austin they went to Alaska and worked down in Peru and probably would continue that, had it not been for at some point I decided to kind of get something my style of permanents, which was to start my own company and I'd always been obsessed with survival kits.
I was a guy who any time I went to any store I would always immediately run to the survival kit section, something about the utilitarianism of it and the practicality of it even from a little kid standpoint, I just loved it. And so, I’ve always been designing those since I was a kid and this seemed a natural progression when the paper bracelets came out to be able to jump on board, up the game of what the design was.
And so, as Nick mentioned, we are kind of the same area I was here because I had to sell boats, I move to the Houston area to have an old all for thirty and I was living on the boat and running a business and Nick was about 20 minutes away running a separate business but we're doing the exact same thing pretty much so we partnered up; an Engineer and an Adventure Guide and created Wazoo that was in 2013.
Dustin: And he joined forces joined forces and other paper bracelets have now we've actually just recently slimmed our line bracelets since you continue cut nose out in lieu of other wearable survival kits. Hats, belts, bracelets [inaudible 00:14:00] and necklaces and various other ways of wearable survival kits.
Interviewer: So talk to me, you guys to pick and choose as you answer and you can both answer it's all on your own because I can't see and call on you by name or anything.
When it comes to this type of stuff, a lot of times people are feeling “I don't really need all this junk because I don't go out there in the woods with snakes and scorpions and bugs and stuff. I stay kind of in an urban area”. Can you kind of talk maybe a little bit about how this type of gear is actually a good idea for everybody not just Adventure Guides?
Dustin: Yeah, so I love that question for two points the one that the when it's, you always you're prepared with some essential equipment and that translates over from wilderness survival or wilderness essential translates over to everyday carry essential as well.
And I go in deeper detail and that maybe lists out specifics but I think I don't know, I always want to go to the heart of the argument which is you should always be prepared, you should always strive to look at your life and say, “If there was a situation that arises, am I ready for that?” And it's more of I think a deeper kind of mindset that we also hope that comes through with our products and that we hope we are instilling and propagating in the world.
That's kind of a deeper thing and I know we’re a products driven company but kind of the reason why I was really excited to be on the show is to help share that vision and to get more involved with that idea because I think that's one of the crucial issues is that when people are saying, “It'll never happen to me or I don't need it because I live in the city”
I think there's another truth that goes deeper and that's a very caustic way of thinking; it’s permitting our society in a lot of levels “It'll never happen to me” I think there's something to that; if you want if you want to jump on that Jack?
Interviewer: I was going to say what it makes me think of a guy that’s 33-34, who just started a family, got two kids, he's got a wife and ask him about life insurance and he's like, “I'm young and healthy” is though he can't get run over by dump truck tomorrow or you know find out he's got liver cancer tomorrow because it happens or find out oh you're not going to die but guess what? You have late onset diabetes and now no life insurance company going to touch you and you can insure your family forever, right?
I mean like there's a point where you take into consideration that if bad things happen to people who didn't do anything wrong, one of those people sooner or later could be me.
Nick: Yeah, Yeah I think that's the acknowledgment too often; There's something innate about humans out of sight and out of mind and there's something maybe primal about that is if we can avoid confronting the issue and avoiding it then it’ll somehow not actually happened there is like some correlation mixed up, correlation in our mind that's not factual.
And so, I guess this conversation I'm trying to take it to a deeper level but I think that's where we realize or trying to do a public service announcement that says, “Let's actually talk about that subject let's talk about the subject, let’s talk about things that do happen to good people, things happen to prepared people and it's not if or when”
And so our products are a avenue for that, not only do they really do prepare you for everyday occurrences but also wilderness, the most extreme survival situations. But hopefully we're also going to with our company perpetuate that mindset that positive mental attitude that prepared for anything idea. Sorry if I took this off the rails and I can go through all of it.
Interviewer: It's great! Let me know so I kind of sticking with that philosophical thing that like when you hear these like you know stories of survival; somebody made it through like being lost in a cave or on a mountaintop whatever, it generally ends up being will to survive and knowledge that gets that person through that more than gear, so why still focus on the gear?
Nick: 110% I actually have in front of me-- I was reading this book called ‘Deep Survival’ have you read that?
Nick: Okay! And I think in the prologue, he did an incredible job of explaining that of course it is necessary to have your essentials, you make sure you have your gear at all times, you’ll be dumb not to. If you have a choice to have in your car an airbag or not have an airbag, what's your choice going to be? It's not going to be to act like you're never going to have a car crash; you want it there when you need it.
But I think that there's something to be said about taking baby steps into equip yourself with the right tools when you need them and then also equip yourself mentally. So, if you're that kind of person who's preparing for a situation by purchasing things, pursing products from companies like ours and you're also the kind of person who is acknowledging the concept that it can happen to you and that awareness of instability that awareness you can't control everything sorts of puts you on guard and I think it kind of permeates the rest of your life, the other areas of your life to try and prove yourself, improve your mentality, improve your attitudes and so that's kind of how they work in conjunction with one another.
If we never sold another piece of equipment, let's just say Wazoo never ever sold other pieces of gear, we just go bankrupt, somehow we changed the world in a way that people kind of-- the loser’s victim mentality and start being a lot more self-reliant, I think that would be called a win in the very end.
Interviewer: Very cool and I mean also put of you this way so sometimes those amazing survival stories the person had to use the wilderness to survive was because they didn't have a gear. So if you had a gear, you wouldn’t have been in the situation. So, you hear about this guy that got stuck on the mountains nearly froze to death and his friend had a bead on his feet to keep the frost from losing his toes or whatever. Well, maybe if you had for say a marauder and started a fire, you would have done that.
So like the other side of it you know the rule of surviving is great now but if you're putting forethought into what you’re doing, then gear should be kind of a side effect of that. Like, “Gee, this would suck and yeah I can rub some sticks together but you know sometimes it rains and sometimes actually finding that gear and okay I'll make a fire warden and a bow drill or whatever okay well that's more to carry around in a bag” so, I think there's a place for gear like y'all which is going to be there anyway and then to me sometimes you get into situations where if you have the gear, you don't have a survival situation, right you have a camping trip and people go camping you know where you get people to go in this at least fake survival situation saw from a million dollars as a prize and become a reality TV star. People like, “Hey kids, you know what we're going this Saturday? We're going to go to a survival situation you know they go if you're camping”
So, I just rather have the gear turned a survival situation into a camping trip than have the lack of gear turn the camping trip into a survival situation. That sound there like a good marketing slogan.
Dustin: Yes I mean exactly, this is a preventive measure and you might never hear about it just maybe in your car, I mean that's the most dangerous thing we do on a daily basis try to get into these super huge metal and fiberglass I guess it's I missiles Yeah and drive on down the road next to people who are texting that's really where we're probably surviving; we don't realize there's probably life and death situations are all around us at any given moment we just don't know how close we came to it and equipping yourself with essentials situations, you don't know how—you might have considered a survival situation might be camping but it only takes a few small things to go wrong when the tides turn and the tables turn and there's a complete tipping point and so maybe our gear sometimes lies in that area where we're going to hear about people stories where they used their equipment and it prevented them from getting caught in a survival situation where they were literally on the edge of death.
And so, that's yeah I think there's a preventative measure as well as being prepared and that comes along side with our products themselves are typecast and too often like, “What is this thing used for? What is this thing that you make?” and in the end is just a tool, I don't know what the use is; it has certain properties and characteristics.
It's ultimately up the individual, you can give somebody a bit lighter and I guarantee that some people who can't figure out how to use it or somehow break it; even the best equipment the world can fail if you don't have the concept of how to get yourself out of a situation and I guess I'm veering off, do you have something you want to say now?
Nick: I was just going to kind of try and summarize all that up with, I think the reason that we got into some of this wilderness survival stuff is that's when people relate to you it's a glorified side of it where you're surviving on a tropical island and life is awesome and you're just sit back drinking water and all that.
But the fact of the matter is that survival is scary and it is a truly life and death situation and so like Dustin said earlier, it's hard for people to approach it and really take it seriously because people don't like scary things, they don't like to think through that ‘what if’ scenario. So, that's one of the reasons that we kind of keep Wazoo, even in its name itself as kind of a jovial tongue in cheek type of approach to everything is that we're talking about scary stuff that is literally life and death but we keep it fun, we keep it engaging and keep it approachable.
The end goal I mean there's a whole world of tripping, preppers homesteaders, bugouts like all that stuff; people-- you know it's kind of I guess shunned in the way, in the mainstream people think that we're nose and whatever else. But those are the people that are prepared what we are, is that middle ground for the everyday person to be able to have some of these tools and not be such a victim like Dustin said, it's a tool kit depending on your skills, will depend how you use the tools and if you're prepared for whatever little thing might come your way like, “Oh! I forgot my tie down strap to tie something to my roof rack” then guess what you got some portage in your belt that you can pull out and now you're a problem solver and not a victim.
So, even on the tiniest scale, just a mentality shift, you're no longer a victim; it can apply across your entire life it's not even just “I got stuck in the woods” it's now just a complete mentality shift.
Interviewer: Yes, so let's talk a little bit about your survival gear from and I mean-- survival kits have been around forever and there are good, bad and ugly. I have seen the ones they sell at Wal-Mart and you're like, “Just go get a gun and shoot yourself” you can haul off pretty innovative ones, I've seen some really-- and if you think that's going to help you just end it, go find one. Go find the building it's really tall minder's no useful people underneath you and swan dive with you but there's was a really good ones it has a lot of some of the best kits I've seen have been things that people put together themselves. How's the stuff you guys are doing different? How is it not just reinventing the wheel and putting a different label on it or what have you?
Dustin: Yeah, that's a door scratching background; yeah we are reinventing the wheel to a certain extent; survival kits are out there and we're utilizing technology that has been around for 60 years [inaudible 00:26:30] we did not recreate or we didn't make we but we did reframe it and some things we have completely designed from the ground up for example for just talking about a scraper for Syrian rod, we started using ceramic which solved a couple of issues, ceramic is impervious to corrosion or approach anything really and it's hard to still sort actually scrapes ceramics better.
But at the same time, I don't think that we're going to try and say that we invented anything new but we did repackage it and I think repackaging is a game changer because the number one issue with any survival kit is that people don't have it when they need it.
The irony of it is if you thought you're going to get a survival situation you just pack a backpack full of stuff, have you thought it was going to happen you would avoid it you would even do that thing that got you in that situation. And so, that being the number one hurdle with survival kits and what has been the issue of why people still get in survival situations is because they're not always carrying some of their kit items and so that has been our agenda from day one is to make it so that things they can be worn; that means that they're smaller in these are using new material sciences so that they can last longer in certain environments and it means that they are aesthetically and ergonomically comfortable so you can wear them to your job.
You can wear them pretty much anywhere and not be out it is some weirdo because people try then a survival situation that literally has survival kits at their house. Just didn't take it that one time right, so that is kind of an art and all the time is to repackage the same concept but in a way that makes it one hundred times more practical because it's just like the number one knife right when you ask, “What's the best knife or what's the best camera”? The same answer goes for your survival kit it's the one you have with you when you need it and that's where our gears comes into play, it's there when you need it we have a Firestarter on your neck, we have a hat with all kinds of curing it, we have a belt it's all survival kit on it that's going to be the best thing you best ever existed.
Interviewer: What is the worst venom of snake to be bitten by? The one that just bit you, right? It doesn't matter if it's an inland piping and it also doesn't bite you it does not matter; what you know that you've got a problem so yeah once you're in the situation, the gear you have is the gear you have, so I like that.
I kind of mentioned this you, there is a philosophy that I guess the primitive survival philosophy I see it in archery because I'm an archery Hunter and I use a compound bow and I use for it in carbon atoms carbon atoms, clark and arrows carbon atoms fusion bow but you know and you know I use the latest and greatest in Broadhead technology and yet people I only use a wooden street bow and I don't even use a tree stand I stand on a limb and I like him if you want to do that that's fine, but I also believe in like getting things done so what do you say to the primitive this is like I got a bigger friction fireman, I go into the woods with nothing but my bare feet and I you know I'm a better Cody when they don't even either more a man I got it all what do you say to that person?
Nick: So, I think there's a place for everything; this is Nick and talking from the Engineers perspective, this is one of the reasons that I started designing these survival bracelets the way that I did, Dustin kind of had his own philosophy I had mine.
The reason that I was doing it is because I tried this friction fire thing and you know two sticks together all I end up making is blisters. So for me personally, it's that cheating type method right I'm going to start with what works and what works is a [Feraud and tinder 00:30:30] so I'm going to use that and get comfortable with that then to expand on those skills, then you kind of challenge yourself a little bit maybe go back to flint and steel so now all you have is a single spark coming off so you really have to work on preparing your tinder, you work on you know your skills of how you manipulate the materials to do what's needed to do.
From there you can keep working it back and working it back and you get back to that primitive level but I think that's the way to do it; there's certain people that are raised just you know from the ground up in the primitive which you know by all means awesome congratulations you have the skills that most people don't have but it is a natural progression for people to get into this stuff; it’s just-- we naturally want to be challenging as humans so we take a starting point and from there once you consider yourself to have, I won’t say, master that skill but once you are comfortable enough with that skill, you add in a couple different variables or you change the inputs and then slowly you’re still adding this challenge which in itself is building your skill set.
Interviewer: And I think I would have liked, okay there's the right tool for the right job, there's also the right tool for the right time. For instant, what are your future items of the day on the blog every day? And recently, it featured it's not a really high end knife so your plastic case locking blade folding knife with a swappable blade.
Now, I don’t have to sharpen the knives made by coming called outrage this is basically this the same steel that makes surgical scalpels with which is actually really great until it is an eye done last a long time and hold an edge you but for what that knife is meant for which is skinning, it is it is perfect cost about a buck to replace a blade in it yes I can save a buck by sharpening my knife but like last year I went out to shot a pig, the pig ended up down in a ditch because I don't want to wait for the guy who was picking me up I drug the pig out it's 8:30 and I smell like a stinky pig, I'm hunting in Texas, I'm covered in you know mosquito bites I want to skin that pig as fast as possible and drink a beer and his heart right that's what I want to do, I don't want to be out there for an hour and a half making sure I keep my blade sharp want skin in this stinking pig, I want to shower and go to bed.
So, I go kill another one tomorrow so in one instance Yeah you know I carry really great knives and I take good care of only what have you but there's also a place for this particular thing and it's not really directly relating to your gear but each piece of gear has its place in time and another kind of little analogy here is like many years ago, I did a thing called ‘Dirt time’ I was an instructor there one of the instructors was a guy named Allen and he had the world record for the fastest hand drill ember ever it was like 9 seconds he got an ember six so he's going to do this demo and he it's not you know fakery he admits like this isn't a perfectly prepared you know space board and what have you and actually he was doing a show like this is when you get perfect to sell this works.
So we took his baseboard the day before and we soaked in a bucket of water overnight and we let it dry enough that it looks truck and we put it back in its gear. So, they're like is the best guy in the world he's --- and eventually, he did get it to work when we told him what we did rather run away from was pretty mad but you know it makes a point that like some things work really well but they don't always work or they're not the right thing for the right time.
Nick: Right and I think if you talk to any of the survival instructors that are teaching at these events, every one of them is going to tell you carry a bick lighter and just as you can start a fire with flint and steel or friction, it doesn't matter they still carry bick lighters because that is the most effective and the quickest way to get fire.
Interviewer: I think that is called instant gratification.
Nick: So it's that thing that there is a right tool for a job and for us it's really--- there's not really a fashionable way to make a bick wearable So we went with the next step which is going to be the [ferrow rod 00:34:53 ] and incorporating it into small one.
Dustin: You mind if I add one thing too jack too?
Interviewer: Go ahead!
Dustin: So I think that what we do-- this is a lot that comes from our training too; we go out with some these guys there's a actually a great up and coming survival group called ‘Flint and Steel Critical Survival Group’, and so they have flint and steel in their name and one of the things that they'll teach you if you take any class with them or any kind of fire skills looking teach you how to do a bow drill or a hand drill but you know what they always do when they promise the conversation is they say, “Okay, now we're going to teach you how to do this, it's a great skill to learn but if you ever, ever in a situation in which you are relying on this skill in a survival situation, you have screwed up so many times you probably don't deserve to live”
Certain thing goes with flint so there's this great Flint napper just in cookies out of Florida and I mean museum quality stuff. Not museum quality, he's got stuff in museums.
So he knows how to flint and he's incredible he's fast, he's efficient, it's beautiful work and what he'll do when he first starts it for starts a little flint knapping classes he'll say, “Hey guys, so here's a big rock and we're in a situation where we want to knife the two rocks together bangs rock onto the rock to me as a star that comes off there's a knife, he set his razor sharp he shows a cut leather if you want a knife that's a knife you don't sit here for 6 hours and you kind of flake out this nice, neat, sexy spearhead or something.
If you want a knife, that's a knife; if you want to fire and use your bick I think that kind of that's what I think that's where there is a bush craft element that is important of course please go learn these primitive skills; it’s essential for us to learn how basically fireworks how a lot of these things work and to stay close to the land and live primitively.
However, that's a different place to be than saying, “I'm going to survive with these tools” I think of those they're kind of there is a brand shop between surviving merely being in a wilderness survival situation and being prepared and learning primitive skills. And I think a lot of the primitive skills guys will be the first ones to tell you that.
Interviewer: Well, I'm sure you've heard the term ‘Two is one and one is none’
Dustin: Of course we have expanded that to three- is for me, four is more and five keeps you alive.
Interviewer: So five, that's your Robin sticks when you got the five Right?
Dustin: Right! Yes, I can have of three and you have five yeah you got extra.
Interviewer: So, tell us a little bit about your gear as a whole like what are some of the products you have and you know what's unique about them?
Dustin: Yes Sir, so as mentioned, we start with character bracelets and we came on the scene, character bracelets were really blowing up, are becoming very popular as a medium cool to be in but at the time it was just a pair cord on buckles and people were calling them survival bracelets. I don't know how you can do a lot of things broke as Nick said earlier but we took it to a different level and we started to combine other elements Firestarter and navigation and saws.
And I think what does was the adventurous that claim to have the tools different tools whatever to check but somehow it seems to me sixteen maybe sixteen different souls we came on online with this pair of core bracelet which you can go get a Wal-Mart or $4 in China. And then we said, “Oh here, here's a $90 bracelet and that was kind of crazy to have such a difference in price, we feel like it completely is a bargain for the quality of the innovation and what you get for it but we came on board with that and we were lucky enough to have enough people to think that the idea was relevant to purchase, give us their hard earned cash and enough to sustain us as a company from day one.
And so once we we've grown that market, the high end high quality character bracelets we now branched into other things they've gone on to other accessories, we have a hat weighed six secret pockets and we’ll continue to do new models of that it's called a Cash Cap.
We have necklaces that are Firestarter necklaces and they were kind of a recently updated Viking Whetstone necklace so it's a really cool looking stone that has various grinds on it so you can out the field sharpen your knife so it's another one of those kind of reaching back to your time out earlier. How is a stone going to save your life? Well, actually stone can do a couple different things it can because it's made a nine percent courts you can actually use it to spark a high carbon steel knife or something. But it's also about preparation and your knife is worthless if it's not state and if you can't keep it sharp so having that kind of auxiliary tool to support your other tools becomes part of a bigger prepared plan.
Moving on down the body, we have a belt that came out on Kickstarter and we did a pretty good job at Kickstarter; we sold over 7,000 of those; we didn’t do a very good job of fulfilling and that's pretty cliché. We ran into the typical late summer little success.
And that could be an entire Podcast on its own; what not to do on a Kickstarter but our success was there and a proof of concept was there and we still intend to stay you can go and buy a cash belt live we're still only on pre-order but they are available for pre-order and that's kind of the general products that’ll probably sell the best ones are other ones that we have tons of products and all kinds of ways but in order to scale our company we've kind of focused on a few of those that have been really our best sellers and most scale items.
Nick: Yeah, I think what we found is I guess the way we start things as we make something cool that we would want to buy and we kind of bring it out to the public and from there we get feedback and so for us it started as the bracelets and then we got a bunch of people saying, “Hey, I don't like wearing bracelets anymore, I want to wear a watch” I’m all right well here will make a Firestarter you can wear around your neck, what about that?
And then the necklace took off and it just kind of compounds on itself it's a feedback loop we have with the customers in our Facebook page in our social media that people kind of requests things that if we get enough requests for it we make it and we try to make it as cool as possible; we put lifetime warranties on all of our stuff because we want to make sure that if you purchase a $30 necklace or a $90 bracelet that is designed to save your life, we want to make sure that it is there and in tip-top shape when you need it to save your life.
So, that kind of goes into everything we do and slowly over the years, we've cumulated and now we realized when we slimmed down over this line Dustin and I wear that cash belt on a daily basis and it’s become our everyday belt and it has a 23 piece survival kit in it which is pretty much a 72 hour kit minus the shelter material. So, you got [inaudible 00:42:18] lash together shelter but outside of that I mean eight has replaced pretty much everything for us it's kind of the pinnacle of what we've done and we found ourselves adapting our own every day carry because of these products. So, throughout the years we're changing, we're developing, we’re still seeking knowledge and input from other people but yeah it's really exciting to get that feedback loop from the customers and the fans to be able to continue developing new stuff.
Dustin: If I can one more circle back I think from our firm original idea of creating $90 races which is kind of an absurd idea looking back on it but it enabled us to position ourselves as a no-compromise company and so when we go to put corn in a belt for example we're going to use Tech Nora, not because it's not because it's accessible because it's not sometimes the military buys out all the Tech Nora but it's because it's the best done stuff that's possible that we can afford to put into that thing.
And that's kind of across the board is that we've positioned ourselves to just go for the highest quality and luckily there's enough people out there that say, “You know what? Yeah, if I want to rely on this I want the best possible and I trust you guys to put the best out there” So, we've been able to go higher components that I think you'll find in any other kind of survival kit not just the fact that we package it in nice neat ways but we also can do things that no one else would do and you've never seen a Wal-Mart shelf.
Nick: And jack to continue that and cut us off that we're rambling too much already we're passionate about what we do and to that end, we get carried away with our designs and like he said we test everything so when we went to put a wire saw in the bracelet originally, It's called the ‘Lumberjack Bracelet’ so went on a wire saw in it we tested I think seven different varieties of wire saws. We had a spiral cut saw, we had braided commandos, we had surgical bone saws, we had diamond coated saws and we went out in the field and we did time trials.
How quickly can we cut green brush? How quickly can we cut dead brush? You know can you strain it up in a bow? Can you use it just by hand bent around the tree? And we weighed all those different variables to settle on the most durable, most efficient saw for our purposes. And that's you know one component we do that with every single component that goes into our products but what we realized in the reason that we had to slim down our product line recently is because we get so carried away with the design and everything that goes into it, we forget to document it, we don't tell the story.
And we've realized that we have great products and great capabilities, great features but we're not good at telling our own story; so we have to kind of slim down all the various things that we do so that we can do a better job of telling people what can this Viking whetstone can really do it just looks like a rock on a necklace but there's so much more than that.
So we're really trying to build out some of these products and focus on the marketing side of it to better tell the story and explain more of our products and not so much just playing with them behind the scenes.
Interviewer: So one of the things I'm getting from you there's an important feedback from the customer is and I just found it ironic that you mention here but I'll even wear a watch and so the company that killed the watch is Apple they did the exact opposite; whatever the customer says screw them will do that like seven generations later.
So you've taken the exact opposite in many ways the approach that Apple does it, what the customer wants is the most important thing as long as it works.
Nick: Yes and we try and pride ourselves on and the customer support too, I mean we get people that we think of the phone and we go was the survival gear in this neck and they're like, “Oh is this a real person?” like they don't expect to get a person which is sad in this day in age but we still even put handwritten notes on every order that comes through Brant does a lot of our shipping in actually all the shipping and customer service stuff so we make sure to take care of our people puts and write notes in who knows if that makes a difference in people's lives or not but it's something that we want to do, we want to cultivate that relationship with the customer and let them know we're here for anything they need.
Dustin: Well, I don't know where it comes from, we're kind of old school that way or kind of a young company and we're like individually we're young and then we have a young company but there's something nice about the old school way of doing things.
Interviewer: So one of the other things I've seen you guys kind of say that you want to make survival ‘sexy’ like what do you say the first is like that's the craft you're doing with like reality TV shows, Doomsday Preppers and stuff like that like how do you mean that differently?
Nick: One of those I think is make survival sexy and one of those is get some quick bait. So, I'll let Dustin kind of run this one I got my own concepts of it but it's kind of he's coined phrase, see where he goes with it.
Dustin: Yeah, I mean ‘Sexy’ is also mainstream acceptable, make it so that it's not that quirky where you mentioned for example, Doomsday Preppers. That's a good example when you read between lines they're actually just making fun of you, it's like they're laughing at you not laughing with you buddy and anyone who goes on Doomsday Preppers has to know in advance like they're probably going to be the butt of the joke.
And that's what a lot of these shows, they're kind of like they're not doing it in such a way that actually promotes a positive mental attitude very end or promotes that kind of problem solving part there are shows out there that I think that we like to link up with. One of our you can call the brand ambassador one of our partners is Zachary Feller Valone and we have some other people who have also been on alone who represent our gear and probably wear it every single day and I think that's a show that maybe even more comparable what we would say would sexy because it's something that across the board is someone who's a super survivalist what knowledge is that OK like you probably when you're pretty legitimate you went out there and you really did survive the situation with the bare essentials.
And so that's kind of more I guess where the sexy is, it’s actually something that's not tongue in cheek but more along the lines of something that the mainstream can get on board. On one side of it, you almost you must want people that have a victim mentality to just fail and read them out of the gene pool but I think we're kind of turning had because if it keeps on going that direction, this is still our society where we were living in apocalyptic times where we're relying on small tribes, we really do have to rely on people all the other people and in America people in the world. And so, the only way we can get better this is if we actually raise the tide for all these boats and there was a time in my life where I was a lot more misanthropic and I would have just given up something going to die hopefully the good ones stay and better in the very end but I think our new agenda and lease on life is if Wazoo connection can actually bring more people into the fold? People who typically woods kind of shrug off survival pre-prepared or self-reliance as something that tacky; if we can bring those people and in various ways and getting them to be better individuals, they will win.
Nick: So and to elaborate on that a little, the survival sexy my opinion is if it's a big loop and to bring it way back around our Montreux when we started the company was we want to design products that save lives and so how do you do that? You get people that need these kits to wear these kits and so yeah so how do we get them to wear these kids? And so we make them easy to incorporate into a life and whatever and so now the survival sexy thing, the necklaces I think are the things kind of spearhead to that approach.
Interviewer: I mean it's always you're making it sort of a survival sexy; you're making survival fashionable.
Nick: Yeah and it has the same thing yes it's desirable, it's something that people want; it's like a Ferrari or a Lamborghini right you see the celebrities with it and therefore you want it and so that's kind of what our necklace is starting to do over the last year or so we're getting the broad spectrum of people that and it's not like we're paying them, it made me get this stuff in their hands and they legitimately love the concept and the idea and they wear it on a daily basis and it's spreading across social media and people are seeing necklaces and they want it because it's fashionable and in doing so, they're inadvertently becoming more self-reliant and prepared.
And even belts you know mainstream travel Bill you know our cash belts you can use it for travel documents or you can put our survival kit in it whatever it is even as far back as the bracelets that concept there, we’re not going to put instructions in there, we're not going to tell you how to use this in a survival situation because at that point, it's too late but the number one thing that kills people in survival situations, is that positive mental attitude right? If you lose your attitude and you go negative thinking then you're kind of game over, you give up you lose that will to survive.
So, by having something even as complex as one of these great and bracelets with survival kit items inside, we prioritized it we put the Fire starting, the signaling on the outside and then if you need longer term stuff to get food, built shelter, all of that is hidden inside the bracelet. So now, when you find yourself in an emergency situation instead of freaking out and panicking and running off a cliff in the middle of night, you can settle down, you can calm your mind, you can slowly take apart your product and do an inventory of what you have it becomes second nature even if they don't realize they're doing it. So, we're trying to save lives in a somewhat manipulative fashion I guess.
Dustin: Yeah, I think the doom and gloom narrative is as so not to work in most cases for anything and life right like trying to scare somebody into something is not an actual practical way to win a long term person or to win them the right way you've got to change them and we're going to sneak in the survival up on to people trying to bring more into the fold I think we're doing that and if they're in a different way than what's been typically done of scaring people into it
Interviewer: Very cool man, so I read your bios and we talked about your background a little bit; get across an outdoor experience nobody or one of the survival experts on air quotes or whatever; so how do you know how do you then become the guys that are making the gear?
Dustin: Talk to those air quotes survival experts, right? Like I mean time and time again, there’s examples of the product itself. Any product you look around at is not created by planes aren't made by pilots necessarily, and I think in that same regard, the gear is if it comes from our fascination with our obsession to get down the bottom brass tacks of it and then also consult with those individuals who are air quote expert survivalist and in for the longest time you know that was something that would seem like it would be a hurdle like you're not the foremost expert in fire starting, how can you make a fire-starting necklace?
Well, hey look around there as now looking today there's plenty of people who are the foremost experts in fire-starting and they wear fire-starting necklace because I think the principles are still there and I think when you basically, when you ball something down and you try to make the highest quality and you make it to the specs that are requested from these air quotes survival experts, you get a product that works across the board.
It works for the people who are the most knowledgeable in that field and it works for John Doe too and I think that's kind of a spectrum that we work on is I call it the “Dove deodorant- Strong enough for a man but made for a woman” so I think I don't know what that marketing analogy is, I don't think it's a real thing in a textbook but I call that ‘Dove Strategy’ of we're making it for that expert; we want to get on the experts first and foremost we want those guys to validate it, we want those guys to say, “Wow! I wear this every day” and if you if you make it to those kinds of standards, then it will definitely trickle down to the other individuals who are not experts.
Nick: I think it helps us also that we aren't those experts because it puts us in the perspective and in the mindset of the consumer that we're targeting right; we don't know necessarily what we're doing initially, we know we want let's say a necklace that is good at starting fires well how do we do that? We can dangle a farrow rod in a strike or off of the necklace that looks easy so it's a balance between the aesthetics and the function and the we literally have what 8ft foot tall, shelf back to those full of prototyping research and development stuff that we buy, we buy nearly every fire steel striker we can find and we compare what makes the good ones good, what makes the bad ones bad, what works, what doesn't and then we just do it scientifically and it's taking that logical approach to it to see what really makes a good fire steel striker and we pioneered the use of ceramic as a striker; no one has done that and ceramic is extremely hard, it holds a crisp edge and the only downside is fragile so steel will dull ceramic will break but at a molecular level if you actually break the ceramic it gets sharper.
So, even if you snap your fire steel striker in half and you're doing some crazy man thing trying to I don't know cut a branch with it or something silly, where it's broken will throw the best far exceed ever seen off of any fire steel striker guaranteed.
Dustin: I think in other words it works, yeah and I think doesn't sound approach instead of like I think that's kind of a survival mentality from anything you do you right? Don't approach something and already have preconceived notions or else you're going to look at trying to make a Firestarter with the typical classic Firestarter tools you can have a very ceramic rod and are going to have a high carbon. Her hardened steel Well if you take that all you've always take that approach you don't break it down to more of a characteristic level and say, “Okay, I need something that will scrape this metal that has this this kind of hardness” when you start backing up a little bit and you come to the conclusion like, “Well in our case like ceramic” but I think that's also any kind of situation survival situation especially if you back up and you look at the tool you have that you look at what you need and not from the type casted kind of individual level at the items typical for.
Interviewer: So, you proposed a question about the victim mentality in the United States, how is that related to what you guys do as a you know survival gear company?
Nick: I think we touched on that a little before, essentially it's all about empowering people and it's trying to change that mindset of, you know if any situation arises whatever it might be in our instance the way we're bringing people into the fold is through the thought process of a survival situation.
I get lost on a hike mountain camping there chased me out of my tent middle of night whatever it is you're stranded, what do you have on you? And it's a logical thought process for people I wouldn't have anything and like you mentioned earlier, it's not as applicable to people in the city but you can do the same thing people that are traveling if they have the bill, have their documents or extra cash in their belt and so that way to get mugged and somebody steals your wallet you still got back your documents and cash on you.
So, it's applicable depending how you look at it but by shifting one perspective of it to say, “Okay, if this situation occurs, I'm no longer a victim, I have options and I have tools” and you'll find yourself applying that to other things in your life as well.
Okay, my Boss fired me! Okay well, guess what that's now a challenge so you have the tools, you have the confidence like how do I approach this problem? And you can apply it across the entire spectrum of your life but it's just deciding to make that slight change and start kind of heading over that hill.
Interviewer: Very cool, I know one of the other things you guys are big on is the traveling is like a big part of self-reliance can you kind of talk about that a little bit?
Dustin: Yeah and Jack, do you have anything to any feedback on this kind of concept? Love to hear it; kind of something that we've been flushing out especially since the cash belt of how travel is somewhat of a survival scenario if you're out of your element and alternative environment and you will at times have to rely on the things you just have on you and specially if you're backpacking for example but when things go wrong in my experience, they have a they have a tendency to compound on one another.
So, you really want to nip that on the butt early and you can do that by being able to do rationally, problem solve and be comfortable in an uncomfortable situation and so all these elements of travel at least kind of more adventure travel maybe not staying in a resort but any other kind of normal travel where you're actually getting out and doing things has all those tell-tale signs or those marks of survival and the individual overcoming their issues and being a problem solver.
And so our products kind of do a really good job of crossing over from wilderness survival to also city travel and kind of being out of your element, do have any thoughts on that concept?
Interviewer: Well, I mean the first thing I thought of when you started talking about this is an article I saw quite a while ago and it was Syrian refugees and they were on their way to wherever they can get to and they showed what they took with them and it was very smart phone is you know key chain and a list of things that like none of them have like when you see like apocalyptic TV shows; you see the guy would like two shopping carts a craft bungee cord it together looks like the drunk guy that did the DUI, The Steve commercial or saw you know and likely a train a shopping cart or some going on a road warrior vehicle know all these people everything that they carried was either in their pockets, on their body or in like a small back like a kid's backpack and these are people that this is a-- there is nothing about being a refugee from a war zone it's not a survival situation that is the definition of survival situation.
You're bugging out so you don't get blown up right that's as real as it gets; so that's part of it then the other part is you know I'm thinking like the gear you have products like Scotty vest like you know the minimalist travel I think is really is a great thing for people to experience one of the guys that I've really admired a lot of his work, it's nothing to do with survival but deadly self-reliance because of a business standpoint is Tim Ferris [right] you know talks about you know especially if you're a young entrepreneur and your you know all your business is web based, living that travel lifestyle and being able to live with a backpack on the road for a month.
Dustin: Yeah and it was his favorite book, yeah.
Interviewer: And I think all of that is valid and I also think just like travel exposes you to different cultures, different foods, different realities and by being exposed to those things, you're just better suited to make do wherever you end up, right?
Like I think it's kind of a lifestyle thing like I think most people that I know that all are big into self-reliance and self-sufficiency and things like that generally are either they're either completely the opposite right? They're like homesteaders that are like the Grinch you know never come off the mountain or they're always going somewhere, it seems to be one extreme to the other and I think that like that actually fits really well with your brand as a lifestyle of being a traveler you know and being an explorer because we eat you know you always have to be going into a cave and small on cue earth by Viking to the bottom of an ocean to be exploring there's a lot of stuff out there to explore with a credit card, a plane ride or an UBER, they make it happen, you know?
Nick: Yeah, I think it's another ability of it like you're saying the same, when you're traveling you don't have that safety net; if you're near your house and you're just going to and from work you've got that safety net, if you lock yourself out of your car or if you lose your keys or whatever it is, just get someone to take me home I got my extra keys.
When you're on travel it doesn't work that way if you lose your passport you're kind of stuck, you're out of luck so you really have to be in a preparedness mindset, have those contingencies in your mind and be ready for it because you don't have that safety net. So, it is a little risky, it's a little thrilling and it is an exploration on its own.
Dustin: Oh by the way, did you know that Tim Ferris carry one of our products?
Interviewer: I do not!
Dustin: Yeah, he actually recommended it, it’s a product we’re not caring anymore but it's a key chain called the ‘Wood Chuck’ and he carries that around I actually got to meet him and I was like, “Okay, you don't know me but I think you carry my product” he's like, “Yeah, it’s in the backpack”
Interviewer: Very, very cool man. How does survival gear relate to travel gear then? Like you know, so we kind of had that discussion so like how does--- look if I have your stuff and I'm out on your travel adventure, how does your stuff fit my lifestyle?
Nick: I love it, I think it goes back to what you're saying earlier about tools and taking things as it is and its most basic characteristics so what is this thing? What is the characteristics? What can it be used for? So, we put fishing line for example in one of our belts kits has a 40ft fishing line but if you're not careful and you just think of us fishing on you won't realize that what it is 50 pound braided [more screen] spectra which can be used and I've used it on several occasions as a sewing thread. It works perfectly for the needle, I had a backpack rip open in Mexico sewed it back up with the fishing line and the needle.
Almost like on a week ago like item to item and if you just kind of reframe it to solve be a problem solving tool kit and that works across the board for all kinds of situations. I mean literally and we have duct tape in the belt some of those things that just fixes problems for you and so you're more of a MacGyver then you are a Bear Grylls in any situations.
And I could probably if I had the kit in front of me I can probably tell you that I've used most things out about doing backpacking one of my side things a little side projects I do is I take these freshly graduated 8 year old boys, I guess they're technically men to Euro chaperone for that we take them for about 10 days plus into Europe these guys are private school so you can imagine their affiliate and they have never traveled before and we throw them in Europe and they're able to drink and find other things and so...
Interviewer: Do you say you take all of them or you shove them out in the middle of the road and you turn on the great big LED light and blind them with it?
Nick: Yeah exactly and then yeah and I think you know the way. So, that's a kind of a thing that I get to go do and it does put our stuff to the test you know I love having a belt on me where-- because I can't afford to have an issue and these trips, I can't afford to be the victim. I have a dozen other guys that are going to find problems for me to solve and I can't have a problem my own so I have to be able to solve issues quickly and I can't have issues for myself and so that when I have a token in my waist or in my hat for travel, it's become essential and I use that stuff all the time.
If you have with you specifically I probably could name out every one of those items I have in some way helped us on we were-- I don't want to go too much details; we're in mountain climbing in Switzerland and we're several hours away getting back down and my girlfriend she got dehydrated but we had water from a stream but do we really want to make this an issue where you get your [indiscernible 01:08:58] and so I have a water bag on the leader and I have purification tablets in my belt.
So, she was able to drink the water and we wouldn't cause any long lasting effects and that's just kind of a simple thing; we just did a whole day hike nothing big, we just ran out of water somewhere up there it's not like we were dumb and unprepared, we just didn't realize it you know maybe a gallon of water sort of half a gallon. Some simple things like that it's kind of those problems I mean it wasn't a big deal we got some water it's a problem nothing big long term effects afterwards when it could have been like we said earlier a survival situation kind of like made a lot worse getting into a worse situation for us.
Interviewer: So, like how can go how can folks like hook up with the other guys have a pretty big social media presence, you sell from your website; give people sort of resources that they can get in touch with you through.
Dustin: Well, like Nick said you can always give us a call if you want, we always put you on the phone if you want to get a hold of us during the daytime because while we can easily solve your problem if you have any issues or questions, we can talk to you on the phone, the email is fine too email@example.com andwww.wazoosurvivalgear.com is our website and then our social media are two big ones going to be Facebook and Instagram and you can correspond us via that or get interactive with us on those.
Interviewer: Really cool guys, I'll make sure I have links to your stuff for everybody in the audience today and I definitely will recommend people get on by checking your site again wazoosurvivalgear.com. Really appreciate you guys hanging out with us this day and I guess we'll let you get back to actually working. I mean I'm not slacking off this is all I do for a living; you got bills to make you know what I mean.
When is that bell going to be available? Because I was like you're sort of like that which was really cool and you said you have some fulfilment issues because of the quantity on the Kickstarter so where are you at on that thing because I'm not buying from you and wondering if you’re available.
Dustin: I think in our best interest, we're just going never going to make it live I think if we just always make it such a demand item that it's always backordered it will draw more attention. Now, we are going to a re-launch on crowdfunding on Indiegogo just to get one last little bit of introducing to a new audience here soon hopefully next month we'll put on Indiegogo and that on naval people to go online and get it pre-ordered quicker.
Nick: You got to be careful mentioning that belt because I'm sure every time you do, there's people that backed us that are listening, that are screaming, “Where’s my belt?” most of them have their belt by this point you know a few don't.
Interviewer: Yes I will. There is someone out there going Jack Speer better not get his hat and belt before I do.
Dustin: Yes that should be noted we did deliver like over 7,000 people we got out there right the only people that don't have their belt is because they live in South Africa and the shipping structure is a bit more over there or they pre-ordered within the last month or two and were planning to do another batch in October.
Interviewer: And I don't know if you've heard but they have a few survival situations going on over there right now so they might have some problems otherwise there, yeah. No future orders to South Africa.
Anyway guys, do appreciate you being with us today thanks for joining us on the Survival Podcast.
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