BYU student engineers Casey Messick and Caleb Lystrup worked hard to take the skills they learned in the classroom to manufacture and market a unique accessory to make year-round “hammocking” possible.
Each year as the weather grows warmer, BYU students and Provo residents alike sling up their hammocks and enjoy peaceful afternoons outside, said BYU physics teaching major Megan Morganson. However, once the weather gets colder in the fall, these outdoor enthusiasts are often forced to pack things up and wait out the winter indoors.
“Hammocking is the perfect activity and it’s so relaxing,” Morganson said. “But the worst part of it is trying to relax while it’s freezing cold outside.”
After a miserable, freezing camping trip, Messick and Lystrup recognized many would enjoy hammocking for the other six months of the year. They teamed up to design the SHEL, an insulated hammock accessory that keeps users warm during cold winter nights but is still perfect for spring and summer afternoons.
“Our first prototype was just us frankensteining two sleeping bags together,” Lystrup said. “It was really just us trying to validate our original idea. But now, the SHEL is a product that helps you overcome the elements. It’s minimalist and might seem too good to be true, but it’s really just a well engineered product.”
The pair decided to enter their completed prototype in the BYU Student Innovator of the Year competition. Their inventive design and the subsequent marketing earned the team first place in the competition and also helped them take home the Audience Favorite award.
But Messick and Lystrup were not satisfied with a few awards. The pair used their Student Innovator of the Year winnings to finance the creation of their new company, Khione Outdoor Gear, and now plan to begin mass-producing their designs. Messick and Lystrup hope Khione will soon offer a wide variety of products suited for outdoor enthusiasts, as the SHEL will soon be launched as the company’s flagship product.
“We talk to people and find out what they want,” Lystrup said. “We’ll get to the point where we can start to make what people are really interested in.”
The SHEL will be available for purchase in July, and even more products will be made available in the months to come. Khione Outdoor Gear’s Facebook page will also be looking for interested prototype testers before their mid-summer release.