The Ashland Beacon
Kenny Dietrich and Mike Crawford are both avid outdoor enthusiasts. Mike is the chief of the Boyd County Search and Rescue group, with Kenny as his assistant chief. For years, they have been teaching camping techniques such as how to pack the proper gear and how to obtain water while on the trail. They are now using their knowledge of the outdoors to sell trail gear that they have personally approved.
S.O.S. Outdoors is a small shop located at 1331 Central Avenue in Ashland that carries different kinds of survival and bushcraft gear. S.O.S. stands for Survival and Overland Solutions, and according to Kenny, this is “not your dad’s Army/Navy store.” The store has had an online presence for nearly a year, and their physical location has been open a little more than a month.
Kenny was recently laid off from CSX in Russell and decided that “I’m gonna live my dream whatever it takes.” His business partner, Mike Crawford, still holds a full-time job, so Kenny handles the daily running of the storefront. Kenny hopes that the store is the “very first step to a whole bigger thing.”
S.O.S. Outdoors currently carries Vanquest backpacks out of California. Kenny referred to these as being military-grade backpacks and said that the store is one of only two dealers in the state. One wall offers a large selection of knives. Another wall is dedicated to different axes, hatchets, and knives-including some that were made locally by a father-son team of forgers in Greenup. There is a table full of equipment for water purification. They also carry small camp stoves, headlights, lamps, compasses, bug nets, hammocks, sleeping mats, and tarps.
Kenny is known for his tarp configurations; he has been doing a YouTube channel called “Ugly Tent” for about four years. He makes different types of formations with tarps as part of his videos. He only uses tents to camp with during the summer because of bugs but the rest of year; he only uses different types of tarps.
Dietrich is a global ambassador for the Mountain House brand of trail food. He is also a gear tester for Vanquest and a few other companies. He has written a book about trail survival and is currently working on another one with a local herbalist, Tina Potter, from Greenup County.
Boyd County Search and Rescue, handled by the business partners, have recently applied for 501c3 status and have had a paramedic join forces with them. They now have the “full capability of an ambulance out in the middle of the woods” according to Dietrich. There are one of only two teams in the state with this capability, so they are hoping to become the “pride of Boyd County.”
S.O.S. has recently debuted rooftop tents on their website and have even installed one on the top of Crawford’s SUV. Dietrich says that this is just the beginning of their expansion into some of the overland solutions type of bugout gear.
The pair also teach a three-prong survival class. The first is “Backpacking 101” where they teach the “basics of backpacking” They teach people how to pack a backpack and keep the load balanced. The second class is “Water Procurement and Purification.” They take people out into the field and teach them how to gather water and how to treat it to make it safe to drink. Dietrich explained that the water procurement class is important for backpackers and survivalists because a person cannot carry enough water on them to survive. The third class is what they refer to as the “Graduation Class.” They take people out for an overnight backpacking trip at Lake Vesuvius. They hike five miles in, help them set up camp, cook dinner, cook breakfast the next morning, and then hike three miles out the next day.
Crawford also teaches a land navigation class to show people how to use a compass. Tina Potter teaches “Wild Edibles and Medicinal Plants.” They will have a hike on August 24 with Potter. Students will go into the woods and gather plants, and at the end of the trip, they will eat what they have gathered.
Dietrich said that although S.O.S. is “carrying a pretty good variety of gear” right now, they still hope to expand into more stuff for backpackers, survivalists, bushcrafters, bug out vehicles, and everyday carry gear or EDC. Dietrich wants the business to “be an experience, not just a store.”