ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — If you've lived in Colorado long enough, you know having the right gear is essential for any adventure.
But too many times, people get stuck wishing they had a certain tool in a pinch.
You're in good company this week, with Outdoor Element, which hopes to solve some of those problems.
Michael Mojica was a mechanical engineer for years, but Colorado's abundant outdoor lifestyle ultimately put his problem-solving skills to the test.
"I'd use gear, and I would always want it to do something else," Mojica said. "Or maybe be more quality, or have some other device, you know? And, so I just started keeping a little notebook and drawing stuff up."
He eventually found a way to craft several handy tools into one, and he launched the Outdoor Element brand to help campers and hikers explore with confidence.
"The very first thing I developed was a fire-starting bracelet," Mojica said. "So, it throws a spark."
Most of his survival gear involves fire.
"You know, you get yourself in a pinch, fire can be a game changer," Mojica said. "Be warm, be safe, be found."
His fire-starting caribiner is a top-seller among his products.
"So, it has a little flint wheel that I designed," he said. "It's great for lighting your camp stoves."
He also makes kitchen items and hunting knives. And, he designed a rescue tool after meeting with first responders.
"So, I took a bunch of notes down, and this is the result of that," Mojica said. "So, there's a much larger cutter for seat belts. And then there is a tungsten carbide window breaker tip. So, if you need to punch out a window to help somebody out, you totally can."
His products have won awards at trade shows, and gained the attention of REI Co-op, now one of his retailers.
"[REI] is gracious enough to work with small people," Mojica said. "I was pretty up front and said we're two guys in two basements. And they were like, 'We don't care. We love your gear. Let's see if we can make this work.'"
It's ignited his innovation more than he ever thought possible. And, some day, he hopes his items are considered essentials you'll never leave home without.
"I hope it becomes a staple, home-brand name, like The North Face, or REI, or Kelte," Mojica said. "Like, you say the name and you know who the company is."
Outdoor Element's Firebiner won the Radical by Design award at the Outdoor Retailer Show, and Best Gadget by Backpacker Magazine. Their tools are also available at 12 U.S. National Parks.
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