Troop Chic

Firms that make outdoor-adventure gear for civilians are ringing up new sales--to the military

Demetrios Coupounas, an avid outdoorsman and entrepreneur, dreamed of tapping into the money spigot known as the Pentagon. But until last year he had come up parched. A co-founder of GoLite--a privately held outdoor-gear firm based in Boulder, Colo.--Coupounas tried to sell military purchasers on his company's lightweight tents, backpacks and sweat-wicking T shirts. But even after calling evaluators at the Army's gear-testing center in Natick, Mass., meeting with sales reps who hawk wares to the military and calling Navy SEAL officers directly, he had booked just a handful of individual sales to a fighter here and there.

Shortly after the...

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