Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Iconic Seattle outdoor gear firm continues sales to U.S. military

by Matt Rosenberg June 14th, 2012

A Seattle-based company that markets popular brands of snowshoes, kayaks, tents and other outdoor gear used widely by Northwest outdoorsmen and women continues to enhance its revenues with sales to support the programs of the U.S. military, as well. The U.S. Department of Defense announced today that Seattle-based Cascade Designs, Inc. won a sole source contract from the Defense Logistics Agency’s Troop Support division worth up to $20 million. The contract is to provide water filters to the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. All the work will be performed in Seattle, according to DOD. The firm is located at 4000 First Avenue South, a short distance south of the Spokane Street Viaduct, in Seattle.

Although Cascade Designs was started in the early 70s by three laid-off Boeing engineers whose first invention was a better air mattress for hikers, it is only since 2007 that the company has begun doing business with the U.S. military, according to the DOD’s contracting database.

In March 2011 Cascade Designs won a contract worth up to $6.7 million from the Defense Logistics Agency to provide self-inflating sleeping mats to the Army, Navy and Air Force. In September 2007 the company won a similar contract valued at just shy of $5.5 million.

Asked whether or not some customers in pacific Seattle and environs might not take umbrage at the company’s selling equipment used in U.S. military endeavors, a co-founder of the firm and its current board chairman John D. Burroughs of Renton in a phone interview said, “if we’re going to have our troops in different parts of the world, they ought to have the best gear that can be designed to serve their needs.” He added that the company’s founders in their years at Boeing were closely involved with weapons-related work for the military but all Cascade Designs goods are non-lethal.

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Burroughs also noted that Cascade Designs water filtration equipment is used in efforts funded by prominent Seattle non-government organizations such as PATH and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help improve water quality and control disease in developing nations. One of the companies later purchased by Cascade Designs, MSR, which makes popular snowshoes and other gear, received funding early on from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop portable stoves and water filtration equipment, Burroughs added.


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