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By Joe Flowers

   Tim Ralston is living (and creating) the American dream. You may have seen Tim on TV, most notably on the National Geographic Channel series Doomsday Preppers, where Tim hacks apart a pig cadaver with a self-designed sharpened shovel called the “Crovel.” Whichever method he uses, Tim is sure to make bacon while providing the world with U.S.-made products and training that would impress any pioneer or frontiersman, new or old. The way he goes about inventing things, and the life lessons he has learned, would inspire any American to follow his lead.

Tim has always been into the outdoors and self-reliant living. His father was retired military, and they lived on a ranch in Colorado. The ranch that they lived on was a fully functioning farm, so that is where his “prepared” mindset started. Tim spent a lot of time trail riding in the backcountry, staying out for weeks at a time living off of the gear that can fit on a horse. Spending a lot of time with his father and grandparents, Ralston learned about working hard around the ranch and trail. The real-world skills, such as butchering pigs, plucking poultry and planting crops, are all techniques that Tim is thankful for learning. 

“These skills are invaluable. In my opinion, they are basics that many should know. If something were to happen, people need these skills, as today’s society has become dependent on just walking to the corner store,” Tim said.

After high school, Tim’s call for adventure was still there, and he enlisted in the Air Force and trained in the Pararescue division, later finding himself happy being an air traffic controller. After doing his service, Tim got out of the Air Force and was at a crossroads as to what to do next. Tim decided to become a ski instructor, even though he had only skied once as a kid. If Ralston wants something, he figures out a way to make it happen. He was able to learn through a hilarious circumstance where the new head ski instructor picked him to be the troublesome “new” skier for examples to teach the other instructors. Tim did such a good job “acting” like he didn’t know how to ski that the head instructor used him for the next three weeks. After that, acing the ski instructor test was a cinch and Tim became a very competent instructor. 

Being an active person, Tim then worked for a few years as a health instructor, but the call for adventure whispered in his ear again. Tim sold everything, his sports car, his house, his furniture, and joined his model friend on a modeling contract in Europe. In Milan, Tim was signed up to do a modeling gig, which had him travel throughout the surrounding countries. Ralston soon figured out that the person behind the camera made a lot more than the person in front of the camera, so during that time Tim learned photography from some of the best cameramen Europe had to offer. Learning how to shoot high-end glamour and editorial shots, he brought the skills back home, and became a popular photographer in Arizona where he met his beautiful wife.

Tim’s wife had an idea for a better cosmetic pencil sharpener, as the ones that normally come included in pencil sharpening kits are designed to eat the pencil up quickly. The Z Pointe was born, and it took off like a wildfire. Tim gave the pitches for the sharpener on QVC, and the item sold within minutes, propelling them into the QVC market, and he continued on to sell other items they were able to pitch on the channel. But Tim yearned to return to the self-reliant foundation that he started with. 

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The “Crovel Effect”

Tim soon started his own survival e-store and rigorously tested anything that he would put on his site. “If I didn’t want to put it in my bug-out bag myself, it didn’t get on the site,” says Ralston.

 The infamous Crovel, a hybrid of a pry bar and a folding shovel, was created with this mindset. Many readers can identify with a hand-me-down piece of outdoor gear from their fathers. Some of these heirlooms may have served their purpose in wars or other survival situations that adds another level of sentimentality to them. Tim is the same way, and had an old World War II folding shovel with a handle that finally broke. He wanted to put a new handle on the shovel, but couldn’t locate one anywhere as a suitable replacement. There was an old crowbar in the corner of Tim’s garage, so Tim brought it over to his friend, who was a welder. The finished product was one of the coolest things Tim Ralston had seen, so he thought that it might be something others would want. He ordered 30 more shovels from a shovel company and welded them up, painted them and took them to a gun show to see how they would sell. 

“It was amazing to see guys walk by and do a double take—and then a triple take—of the shovels, and come up with stories about had they had them in the war, et cetera,” Tim said. “We sold out in about 30 minutes.”

Tim bought more shovels, and this time brought his wife and an investor to view what he called the “Crovel effect.” He was even able to trade guns and ammo at the gun shows for the “Crovels” he made up. Tim then took it through prototype stages with some changes, and then found a U.S.-based manufacturer. After finalizing a prototype, Tim sent out a press release that soon went viral. 

Tim’s e-store sold a high volume of Crovels right away, and he had to shut down the website due to the volume of orders and to find a new manufacturer. The design soon became stronger, faster and better. The Crovel’s success is due to its unique design, which features a strong, hollow handle for storage and a blade that can be used as an axe, camp seat, crow bar, nail puller, knife, hook and hammer, just to name a few of its many uses. The crowbar end has an adaptor for a spike as well.

Following the Crovel’s initial success, the National Geographic Channel’s show Doomsday Preppers called. They wanted Tim to be on the show. “As long as I can bring my shovel,” Tim added. Tim was happy to go on the show. “I really feel that there are two types of preppers, the type that are doing it to better their families, their community, and have a more self-reliant mentality, and then the survivalist preppers that are secretive and don’t want to help anyone else.” Tim states that if you don’t help anyone, others are going to be more likely to want to exploit your resources. “I was hoping that if I went on, I could encourage people to work with others more.” Tim has a much more realistic approach to prepping and promotes a less “doom and gloom” approach than most.

Tim Ralston

More Great Gear

The Crovel, like many things Tim has designed, can be used for multiple functions. Along with the Crovel, there is now the Nax, another chopping tool that would be at home on any farm or on a hunter’s ATV. Tim is continuing to innovate, and recently teamed up with a shelter company called Survive-A-Storm for a shelter that can hold up to 16 people, along with designing a hammock that can be affixed at only one point. He’s also teamed with Little Guy Teardrop Trailers on the B.O.S.S.—Bug Out Survival Shelter—that hooks up to your vehicle. It’s billed as “The world’s first mass-produced survival camper.”

The hits don’t stop there. One of the most common rifles in America is the trusty 12-gauge shotgun. One of the most inexpensive and common types of shotguns is the break-open style of shotgun. Why? Because of its durable design, this type of shotgun finds itself everywhere from South America to any big box store. Tim designed the X Caliber system, a set of barrel inserts that adapt to a break-action—single-, double- and triple-shot scatterguns—allowing it to shoot over 11 different calibers from one platform. In a really bad situation, the owner can make use of one gun and many different calibers if they have to go out and scrounge up some ammo.

As a person living the American dream with an adventurer’s spirit, Tim Ralston is always coming up with new products, and on multiple occasions he has helped other inventors make products, too.

Tim says, “This is stuff, though—the most important part is knowledge on how to use it and make the most use out of it, or even the situation at hand. Knowledge is cheap and lightweight. It can’t be taken away from you, and is always there as a database you can draw on, no matter what situation it is.”

Tim admits that this advice can help you more than any of his products, but it doesn’t mean that Tim won’t strive to make more stuff out there for the modern frontiersman to use on his next trek. For more information, visit gearupcenter.com or call 480-306-4945.                                  

Editor’s note: As this article was on its way to press, AF learned that some new Ralston projects are due to launch in June 2014, including: Recon 6 Adventure/Survival Watch, Recon Survival Motoped and the newest X-Caliber Survival Shotgun with adaptors.

This article originally published in AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN®  2014-#158 issue. Print and Digital Copies to AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN®  magazine are available here

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