Tim Ralston could be known to many different people for many different things.
On TheBlaze, you might consider him the inventor of the X-Caliber Shutgun Adapter system, which we showed you a few weeks ago and you couldn't get enough of. To several million viewers of National Geographic's "Doomsday Preppers" series, he's the guy who shot his own finger on the show. Or for those who knew Ralston in other parts of his life, perhaps he is thought of as the Air Force veteran, the ski instructor or the fashion photographer.
Tim Ralston on a a "Survival Cycle" he helped model off of a Rokon Motorcycle for 2013. (Photo: Tim Ralston)
Yes, Ralston has quite a story to tell of how he came to appear on "Doomsday Preppers" and to start the online outdoor survival store Gear Up, based out of Scottsdale, Arizona.
A man of many trades
Ralston didn't decide to become a so-called "prepper" out of the blue.
"For me, it's a lifestyle," Ralston said, explaining that the simple things his grandparents did decades ago that were completely normal then would be considered "prepping" by today's standards.
Still, he does remember a moment of crisis when he saw his father spring into action and thought to himself that this was the type of person he wanted to become. On a group trail ride traversing steep terrain, one of the horses fell backward onto a female rider crushing her. Ralston said the woman was in critical condition, but his father, having military experience, knew what to do to best help the injured woman.
"I was a 12 year old watching dad be a hero, Mr. Responsible," Ralston said. "That was the time I was really inspired."
Coming from a military family, Ralston signed up for the Air Force's Special Forces ParaRescue division. But after putting in his time, he said it wasn't the life he wanted anymore.
What next? Consulting his "mini-bucket list," ski instructor popped up. Now, how could a man who had skied once in his life in the sixth grade get a job in Vail as an instructor?
When sent to test his skills, Ralston conveniently slid into the group of returning instructors instead of the newbies. Ralston recounted the head instructor there to teach the group new techniques saying in an Austrian accent how he wanted all the instructors to pretend they had never skied before. When asking for a volunteer, guess who raised his hand?
Within a few weeks, Ralston skied tested proficient and went on to instruct the 3 to 6 year old group for a year.
After that, Ralston worked in college admissions. He didn't go to college himself, but helped "[get] other kids into college," he said.
Next up? Photography. Ralston said he had a stint in modeling, which led him to photography when he realized the pay was significantly better. It was in this career that he met his wife who worked for a modeling agency. Once married and deciding that she might not want him photographing women anymore, Ralston switched to babies.
But that soon became boring, so he and his wife moved on. She had an idea for a new product -- an automatic makeup pencil sharpener that did a perfect job in one rotation, conserving the pencil and making a like-new point.
It worked. And after the product struck it big on the QVC channel, the husband-wife team created an ad firm where they "used their eye for what's hot, cool and in."
Living -- and making -- American dreams
(Photo: Tim Ralston)
Ralston wanted to follow his passion and entered the survival market, going back to his naturally ingrained prepper roots. The product that really put Ralston on the map -- and got him noticed by National Geographic for Doomsday Preppers -- was the "Crovel," a crowbar welded to the head of a shovel.
Crovel Extreme 2 (Image: Gear Up)
Watch the product reel for the Crovel from Gear Up:
It was after this product took off that Ralston began to tailor his Gear Up website to only products he had tested and considered useful as an "inventor prepper." All products on Gear Up are made in America and often have dual functions. As Ralston's motto goes, "pounds equals pain." Therefore, the more dual uses one item has, the less one would have to carry.
It's also these survival and self-reliance products he thinks contributed to him landing on "Doomsday Preppers," which just entered its second season on National Geographic. Although featured in the first season, Ralston has a walk-on role in the second. Here's a clip from the first season where Ralston gets in an accident with a gun:
Demonstrating his good-natured spirit, Ralston has nicknamed the repaired thumb his "midget digit."
Continuing to innovate
In addition to the X-Caliber shotgun system, which TheBlaze featured last month, Ralston continues to innovate. The latest project he's excited about is a hammock that is suspended at a single point. Forget needing to find two trees.
In testing the Adventure Pod by Cacoon at one point, Ralston said "I felt like a big bear burrito," because it was so low to the ground.
"All I did was think 'how can I make this better?'" he said.
He fashioned a new harness out of a pulley system that was used by hunters to dress their kill and was able to lift the hammock safely out of a predator's potential reach.
(Image: Gear Up)
"All inventions come out of necessity," Ralston said.
Ralston is often approached by other inventors to help out with their products. To him, it's like "making little, mini American dreams come true."
Given all that Ralston has done in his life, he would say he's living the dream too.