Photos courtesy of VSSL Outdoor Utility Tools
There are northerners, and then there are those people I call “true northerners.” Individuals such as Todd Weimer. As a youngster growing up in Northern Saskatchewan, Weimer loved to hunt, fish and explore.
As a kid, he and his friends would make “minimal” versions of the gear they needed so that they could travel light. “Even back then I knew that off-the-shelf kits were pretty crappy,” he said.
Fast forward 25 years. Weimer’s own kids love exploring the woods near his home in Abbotsford, B.C. “So, I started VSSL in 2014 to make sure that not only them, but others were properly prepared for short-term excursions.”
It’s no surprise that people working in snow operations industries or partaking in winter activities are often at the mercy of Mother Nature who, face it, can be quite brutal when she wants to be.
What happens if a machine breaks down while grooming trails, far from shelter or warmth? What if someone gets lost on the trail? Being prepared for all situations and conditions can be the difference between life and death in the frigid winter months. However, carrying all the necessary gear to ensure you’re properly prepared can be cumbersome.
With a motto “Geared for Life,” VSSL Outdoor Utility Tools (VSSL) provides compact, light-weight canisters that can be fully customizable in both size and contents that contain all the necessary equipment to stay safe while enjoying the great outdoors. The company has been featured in numerous publications such as Field & Stream, Outside, Time, National Geographic and others.
VSSL has an office in Abbotsford, B.C., and a shipping warehouse in Sumas, Wash. Approximately 80 percent of the company’s customers are in the U.S. It sells a wide range of gear for those looking to get away from it all – for just a few days or longer hauls.
Essentially, there’s everything one needs in an emergency container in a convenient ‘to carry’ eight-inch long, two-inch diameter waterproof anodized aluminum case – capped with an LED flashlight.
“VSSL is unique because it takes the minimal (but still practical) form of important equipment and safely contains those items in the handle of a nearly indestructible LED lantern,” said Weimer. “Our customers are mostly outdoor, adventurer types. We also get many customers in the snow industry. We recently collaborated with Nitro on a snowboard specific VSSL, and we find that a ton of outdoor-type people extend their adventures into winter sports as well.”
The company has also partnered with Suunto to make a compass (for one end of the cylinder) that can withstand Canada’s cold winters.
“It’s the first time in their 80-plus year history that they’ve co-branded a compass,” said Weimer. “So critical contents aside, having a navigational aid that can point you in the right direction, regardless of temperature, is an essential part of preparation.”
The prices for VSSL gear are quite reasonable, especially if you take into consideration what the cost would be if you tried to assemble a kit with the same quality components. It could get into the hundreds of dollars quickly.
“And, considering that this product can essentially outlast its owner, it’s practically free,” said Weimer. “From a value/convenience perspective, we’re very reasonable. We do all assembly at our office in Abbotsford. We could save a lot of money if we sent everything overseas, but our workforce is primarily youth with special needs, so we sacrifice some margin to keep these guys employed. They love working here and regular work is often very hard for them to find.”
As for the future, Weimer is pleased to say that VSSL is always growing.
“We will be launching a mini camp stove (that fits inside a VSSL) in the next few months. Our sales have been rapidly increasing, and we’ve been expanding accordingly. In three years. we’re already into our second facility. We thought this would last a few years, but we’re already looking at another space.”
Additionally, its product development roadmap shows the company releasing a new VSSL model about every 18 months. Later this year, there are plans to release second and improved versions of its best-selling products: supplies, first aid and flasks.
And, when it comes to customizable options, Weimer said, “It’s pretty limitless. We’ve found that a ton of people were buying empty cylinders and ‘a la carting’ their own contents. So, a few months ago we launched an interactive ‘Build Your Own’ to simplify the process. It’s working really well! Regardless of the type of industry, if you are working outside, being properly prepared is essential.”
It is indeed.