Airborne Outfitters: Pioneering with AFRL

Posted by Anne Kane on April 11, 2024

Entrepreneurs’ Center client Airborne Outfitters, founded by Jason B. Evatt, a retired US Air Force officer, embodies a journey from a simple idea to a beacon of ingenuity for outdoor enthusiasts and military personnel alike.

Jason sees innovation as the heart of growth, believing in empowering his team to explore and expand beyond conventional boundaries. This belief has shaped Airborne Outfitters into a company where ideas transform into reality, evidenced by their flagship product, the Bitterroot Dry Bag. 

The Bitterroot Dry Bag’s journey from concept to creation is a testament to Jason’s dedication. Moving from a sketch on a napkin to a physical product was a defining moment for him, marking a “proud papa moment” when his company’s product became tangible. 

The Bitterroot Dry Bag is one bag with three uses. It’s made from National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) approved water potable material. It keeps your gear dry, filters water, and inflates your air mattress. The idea for the bag came to him while hiking through the high country of the Bitterroot Mountains in Montana. While spreading out his equipment at camp, he realized there was an opportunity to combine multiple items used for a lighter pack on his back. 

Evatt presented the product to the Air Force, which saw the product as valuable due to its multiple functions. Through this effort, Airborne Outfitters was awarded both a Phase I and a Phase II SBIR. 

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) is a US government program coordinated by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to help small businesses conduct research and development with funding from contracts or grants. 

Looking ahead, Jason envisions continued growth for Airborne Outfitters, driven by the development of new products like BARFITE, a device that has caught the eye of both the Air Force and Navy. The company’s expansion, marked by new partnerships and team growth, points to a future prosperous with potential. 

“Our growth over the past two years has been tremendous,” Jason notes, highlighting the company’s trajectory of innovation and strategic growth.

BARFITE is a covert signaling device that can be affixed to an operator’s uniform gear or equipment to provide a unique signal for detection by radar. The device specifically would be used, in the event of a need to signal location while the enemy is jamming comms. BARFITE (Battlefield Reflector for Isolated Travelers Everywhere), was initially licensed in an agreement between Airborne Outfitters and the US Navy. Airborne Outfitters was able to take the technology from the size of a beach ball down to the size of a thumbnail.

BARFITE could be used aboard Naval vessels affixed to life preservers and uniforms to locate overboard sailors, as well as tracking air drops or pallets. In the commercial sector, the product could be used by airliners to assist with aircraft recovery.

“At the end of the day, I’m retired. I don’t have to do this. But it’s my passion, and I want to make things better for the guys and gals currently serving, If we can do that, I’ll be happy,” says Jason.

In Airborne Outfitters’ journey to success, pivotal support came from the Entrepreneurs’ Center (EC), which not only offered critical investment for essential molds but also played a key role in amplifying the company’s online presence. Integral to this collaboration was Trent Fisher, an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) at the EC, known for providing invaluable guidance and structure to emerging businesses. Facing the challenge of expanding Airborne Outfitters, particularly enhancing its digital footprint, Jason reached out to Trent for assistance. 

“I called Trent and said, ‘I have an idea of where I want to take the company—but I need some help with the website.’ With his deep understanding of business needs and his commitment to fostering growth, Trent secured the funding that propelled our revenue to new heights,” reflects Jason, appreciating the strategic support that turned a vision into substantial growth. 

This partnership, especially Trent’s role as an EIR, underscores the critical impact of targeted advice and support in navigating the entrepreneurial landscape successfully. In reference to the EC, Evatt said,


“I’m a career military officer and didn’t know the first thing about running a business or starting a manufacturing company. I attended a boot camp a few years ago, and they took me by the hand to help me navigate the process. They also do a wonderful job of introducing you to the people already in the industry who can help with your specific niche. Finally, the numbers don’t lie—60% of businesses fail within the first three years. Without their assistance, I could have easily fallen victim to said mortality rate.”

As Airborne Outfitters looks to the horizon, Jason’s vision for the company is clear: a trajectory marked by innovation, expansion, and deepening its footprint within the military and outdoor gear sectors. The success and development of BARFITE, a product already catching the keen eyes of the Air Force and Navy, signal the beginning of his company’s journey. Jason plans to harness the momentum from BARFITE’s reception to explore new growth avenues, foster partnerships, and expand the team to meet the evolving needs of the military and private sectors. This forward-thinking approach encapsulates not only Airborne Outfitters’ commitment to delivering exceptional products but also Jason’s broader ambition to solidify the company’s role as a critical player in equipping today’s adventurers and tomorrow’s warriors.

About Entrepreneurs’ Center

The Entrepreneurs’ Center (EC) drives economic growth and prosperity by championing entrepreneurship. With a mission to empower innovators, the EC annually collaborates with over 1,000 entrepreneurs, catalyzing the creation of businesses, job opportunities, revenue streams, and investments. Offering a suite of professional services, including business planning, mentoring, training, networking, commercialization, and capital investment, the EC serves as a beacon for both main street and technology enterprises. Anchored by a dedicated team of advisors, entrepreneurs-in-residence, and staff, the EC orchestrates world-class business acceleration programs in collaboration with corporations, academic institutions, and government entities, including the U.S. Department of Defense, from its headquarters at The Hub Powered by PNC Bank within the historic Dayton Arcade

Want to learn more about how to become an EC client? Connect with us.


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