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BYU students make winter hammocking a warmer reality

Student Innovators of the Year win $7,000 for “The SHEL” hammock cover


Hammocks have become wildly popular among millennials, with sales jumping 30 percent between 2015 and 2016. Part of that increase is spurred by a surge in hammockers using them for overnight camping.

Unfortunately, this practice has also led to an increase in the number of hammockers suffering from poor insulation and cold rear ends. Well, hammock lovers, two BYU students have some good news for your backside.

Mechanical engineering majors Casey Messick and Caleb Lystrup have created a lightweight insulator that envelops your hammock, keeping the heat in and the condensation out. The SHEL, as they call it, will help you survive cold nights in the outdoors without adding hardly any weight to your pack.

Messick and Lystrup’s invention stole the show at BYU’s 2017 Student Innovator of the Year (SIOY) competition, earning them a combined $7,000 from winning both first place and the Audience Favorite award. The SHEL beat out six other SIOY finalists, including a safe driving app, a rock climbing device and an underwater drone.

“The competition really emphasizes engineering and innovation, so we thoroughly engineered a simple design with the features people want,” Lystrup said. “It’s easy to use and adds a lot of warmth. It’s ultra-light, compressible, and is basically every hammocker’s dream.”

The idea started when Lystrup went camping last June and began to suffer what hammockers have dubbed “Cold Butt Syndrome.” He wrapped a second sleeping bag around his hammock and survived the night, but also recognized a pain point in a growing industry. Months later, $600 from the SIOY competition got the idea off the ground.

SIOY is sponsored annually by the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology. It has helped kickstart successful companies such as Owlet, PhoneSoap and Klose Guitars. This year, 35 teams were given a chance to compete for funding.

BYU was just ranked No. 4 in the country for universities that help turn research innovations and inventions into commercialized goods. Read more about the new ranking here:  BYU No. 4 in the country

Other top finishers this year included Scan Factor, a software that turns career fairs into a digital experience; Aryv, an app that incentivizes safe driving; and ExoPilot, a virtual reality simulation that allows you to experience exactly what race car drivers and pilots experience in real time.

Lystrup and Messick will introduce The SHEL as the flagship product for their new company, Khione Outdoor Gear.

“Learning how to start a business is kind of exciting,” Lystrup said. “There’s so much we didn’t know just a few months ago. It’s a little bit daunting but I think we’re both OK stepping into the dark a little bit.”

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