ACLIM8 began in 2018, emerging onto the scene with a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign. To casual bystanders this arrival might have seemed like an overnight occurrence, but it was in fact the result of multiple years of research and development, design iterations and prototyping. The ethos of innovation that was established in those formative years has underscored everything ACLIM8 has done since, including the release of a streamlined COMBAR, the FoldaXe, and limited runs of rare Color COMBARs. Now, as the brand celebrates five years of engineering elite adventure tools, we’re catching up with the founders who set it all in motion—Lt. Col. Udi Cohen and Lt. Col. Yaniv Bar—to reflect on the journey so far, and discuss what the next five years have in store.
Spoiler alert: The product innovations have only just begun.
First, let’s give people a peek behind the scenes. Can you describe your two roles as founding partners? What aspects of the business do you each drive?
Y. Bar: In brief, my responsibility focuses on the products—R&D, production, vendors, assembly line, etc, and managing some back end business operations.
U. Cohen: My philosophy and role is that of the practical dreamer—from the day Yaniv came to me with the idea I’ve tried to be an enabling factor. This starts with the strategy and continues through the execution and realization of the business and product offering.
Looking back to the brand’s beginning, five years ago, what do you most fondly remember about the early days of ACLIM8?
Y. Bar: Five years ago, after the Kickstarter, I remember for the first time the weight of responsibility hit. We had a mountain of pre-orders to deliver on. It may sound stressful, and it was, but we thrive on that kind of pressure.
U. Cohen: I fondly remember the time, in the early days, when we were searching for like minded dreamers. We’d been told by an initial team of engineers that the COMBAR was impossible to make, but we decided to continue the development with people who believed solutions could be found. We still have the same mindset, we’re just navigating less doubt and uncertainty.
If you imagine the timeline of ACLIM8 to date, what do you see as the brand’s biggest inflection points—the moments that had an outsized impact on the brand’s trajectory?
Y. Bar: The Kickstarter, winning the patents, winning the Red-Dot Design Award and COVID. The patents, the award, those were like rocket fuel in our already-running engine. COVID though, it tested us, like it did everyone, and after having to adapt on the fly, we emerged a more resilient company because of it.
U. Cohen: These are three key moments…
1. The early product development that I mentioned above — We chose to seek solutions and continue with vigor vs. fold in the face of professionals saying “impossible”.
2. After the success of the Kickstarter — We found ourselves working until late at night to prepare the shipments for all customers. For me, these were the moments when you realize that the dream is really coming true.
3. Recruiting investors at different stages — The most complex and difficult part of any venture is the ability to generate trust towards new investors and existing shareholders. At multiple points, thanks in large part to the trust demonstrated by our community of customers, we’ve managed to recruit more people to believe in and invest in the vision under our leadership.
Are there any moments or decisions along the way that seemed minuscule at the time but have proved to be crucial?
Y. Bar: Our background taught us that there is no such thing as minuscule in decision-making. Every minor thing can become a considerable challenge, so we give every decision, however small, serious consideration.
U. Cohen: All the minuscule decisions add up. Thankfully for us, they’ve added up to positive outcomes. But I believe you can only connect the dots backwards (Steve Jobs). It is clear to me that today we would do things differently in light of the fact that we are people who are constantly investigating and learning how things can be done better.
What about how ACLIM8’s perceived in the world of outdoor exploration and overlanding are you proudest of? Any misconceptions you’d like to correct?
Y. Bar: I am always excited to read our customers’ reviews. Those are a huge source of pride. Mainly when they express their trust and confidence in our tools. Trust takes time to build, and to see it building among our community of customers, to the point where folks are finally replacing their old, bulky saws, hammers, knives with the COMBAR, knowing it will not disappoint them when they need it, that gives me immense pride.
U. Cohen: I’m proudest of the grassroots nature of the perceptions that exist. They’re genuine. People trust the COMBAR. I would not correct perceptions that were built in a natural way, I’d devote energy to moving forward from here in accordance with the needs of our customers.
To what do you credit the brand’s staying power? How do you imagine this manifesting in the future?
Y. Bar: Definitely the reliability of our tools. That’s what it boils down to. We understand, deeply, that your gear can’t disappoint you out there. It is out of the question. That’s our brand DNA.
U. Cohen: The ability to produce innovation. Period. Even in places where it seems impossible or where others before us have given up.
Looking ahead now, what can fans and customers expect from ACLIM8 over the next, say, 12 months? Any big new releases or changes on the horizon?
Y. Bar: Ooh, haha. Yes. Without revealing any classified information, I’ll say this: We always look for ways to improve our tools so they’re more accessible and, specifically, to solve the actual problems we encounter when adventuring outdoors. We’ve found a few of our own itches to scratch and are developing products that solve these problems. Some are releasing in 2023, others a little further down the road.
U. Cohen: These days we are working on the brand's next moves both in the world of multi-purpose tools and in other areas.
How about over the next few years? Any grand visions or concepts that overlanders and outdoor explorers will want to file away in their memory banks?
Y. Bar: Stay tuned. You won’t regret it.
U. Cohen: Ditto.
How would you describe ACLIM8’s approach to product design and engineering? It’s obviously a core pillar of the brand. What makes your approach effective?
Y. Bar: Every problem or need can be solved intelligently, simply, and reliably. You just need to want to walk the path that gets you there, even if it is long and unclear at times.
U. Cohen: We treat the product design and aesthetics as an essential part of the product that strengthens functionality. We insisted time and time again on an extreme visual design, even in places where we could compromise, and this has been proven, time and time again, to be the right decision in the long run.
How will this engineering ethos be reflected in the evolved tools that are coming down the pike?
Y. Bar: Patience, my friend.
U. Cohen: It will be clear in every tool, every product. In the meantime, stay tuned. The long way is the short way, as I like to say.
Are there any common pieces of feedback you get from customers or wholesale partners about the product that you love hearing or that stand out for any reason?
Y. Bar: One piece of feedback we get a lot, and love hearing, is users telling us they make sure their COMBAR is always close, even at home. They pack it on every outdoor trip, or just on trips to the grocery store. It’s an extension of them.
U. Cohen: Yes. And what’s nice is that it’s exactly what we designed the COMBAR for. We’re frequently told that the COMBAR has become the piece of gear that solves the vast majority of scenarios without resorting to additional larger and more cumbersome tools.
What are you most excited about over the next year or two?
Y. Bar: Every day brings in a new challenge, and I know they will keep on coming. We thrive on problem solving. To me, that’s exciting!
U. Cohen: To see ACLIM8 scale up in the US and worldwide with more new features and products. In doing this we’ll be collaborating with new partners, new creators, more real-world adventurers. Getting to work alongside all these people is exciting.
Any advice for the entrepreneurs out there who are thinking of starting a company?
Y. Bar: Patience, optimism, and the ability to persist. Not everything depends on you, but you decide how you react to everything.
U. Cohen: First, do what you believe in and what excites you. Second, constantly ask for help from those who have already succeeded before you and who believe in you—you will always be surprised how much they will want to help you.
Patience, optimism and persistence—words to keep in your back pocket if I’ve ever heard ‘em.
What we do over the next five years won’t be possible without everything we’ve experienced over the last five. And many of those experiences included you—customer interactions, feedback, product testing, posts shared on social media from all over the world. You’re an integral part of ACLIM8, and more and more you are the story of the company. So thank you, seriously. We’re excited to explore the next five years with you in our ranks.
The adventure has just begun.
Where are you planning to take your COMBAR in the coming years? Let us know on social media: @aclim8gear. And make sure to sign up for our email newsletter (sign up below) so you never miss an update from the blog, new product releases, and videos from our ambassadors who are criss-crossing the world putting our gear through its paces.
Want more insights from ACLIM8 Founders, Udi Cohen and Yaniv Bar? Check out 7 Lessons for Outdoor Explorers from Over 20 Years of Special Forces Experience.
Get inspired by this epic cross-continental ADV trip that Founder Yaniv Bar went on prior to launching the company: Overlanding Down Under: An Adventure Motorcycling Trip Across Australia.
Want to deep dive into the differences between our two flagship products the COMBAR Titanium and the COMBAR FoldaXe? Read COMBAR Titanium vs. COMBAR FoldaXe: Which Multitool Is Right for You?
Shop the gear from this article: