BOWDOINHAM — Walter Beesley takes his snowmobiling seriously. Won’t-reveal-where-he-snowmobiles-because-it’s-such-a-sweet-spot seriously.

During rough and tumble off-trail rides in the winter, he and friends would rip through gear. They fogged up goggles, tore clothes and frequently had to modify sleds.

Three years ago, Beesley, a computer programmer, reached out to a factory on a lark: Could he design a better goggle?

That led to designing gloves, helmets, jackets and pants, and that all led to JUDGED Gear.

“You can slam into sticks and not rip,” said Beesley, 34.”We’re really catering to the guys who are abusing their gear. You don’t want to go through a couple coats a year.”

He describes himself as someone who has always liked to build and putter, a “playing with Legos too much type of guy.” He’s been snowmobiling for more than 20 years.

Beesley co-owns JUDGED with his wife, Jessica. The startup involved lots of “expensive trial and error.”

“We spent a lot of money on junk (in the prototype phase),” he said, work that involved a lot of back and forth with factories overseas, some of which took their funds and ran. “There’s 10 things you should not do when you send people money; I was doing nine of the 10.”

But they kept at it and eventually started to see progress.

“Once we had stuff that was better, my friends started saying, ‘You know, you’ve got something here,'” Beesley said. “One of my buddies used to have a fan in his goggles. If I can get that guy not to fog, I’m good.”

The new company debuted goggles, gloves and lightweight, carbon fiber snowmobile helmets last fall. This fall, they’ve added waterproof jackets and pants.

His goggles are designed for a snug fit. The gloves have insulation on the backs of the hands, but not the palms; better for allowing the heat to come in off heated grips, he said.

JUDGED’s helmets are one-third lighter than competitors’ helmets at a little over 2 pounds, Beesley said. That means “less head fatigue, and it’s actually safer, too. If you have a real heavy helmet and you crash, it whips your head. It’s going to give you a spinal injury.”

His coats and pants are made of Cordura fabric, “actually a lighter-weight version of what a suitcase is made out of,”  Beesley said. “It’s canvasy in a way, but it’s real rugged. We didn’t want to get wet, we didn’t want to get cold and we didn’t want to pay $500 for it.”

Prices range from $75 for goggles or gloves to $329 for jackets which come in colors like fluorescent green, pink and black. For now, JUDGED sells direct to consumers via the company website. Ninety percent of customers have been from outside Maine and most of those from out west.

For the first time, Beesley will be at the New Hampshire Snowmobile Association’s large three-day trade show this weekend.

A recent Small Business Development Center micro-loan obtained through Community Concepts Financial Corp. helped the young company bulk up on inventory in advance of this winter. 

“Last year, we hobbled along,” he said, selling out before their latest shipment even arrived.

JUDGED has relied on a group of 30 test riders from all over U.S. and Canada to test each piece of gear for a year before bringing it to market. Beesley said he looks for people griping about their current gear online and asks them to put his product to the test.

“I found a guy who goes through a pair of gloves every two weeks,” he said. “It’s worked really well for us. We have made some products and our testers thought they were junk. I have a whole basement full of junk.”

For now, most of his merchandise is made overseas but he wants to explore bringing production to the U.S. He’s also considering a storefront or retail space next winter.

Beesley joked that he’s happy to work in it, as long as it’s not on a Saturday. That’s the day in the winter to ride. Somewhere fun. That he will not disclose.

“It’s common in the snowmobile world; you do not give up your honeypots,” he said. “Fields get boring pretty quick. A steep hill with a couple runs that lead into some tight trees, that’s where it’s at.”

[email protected] 


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: