In more ways than one, Dayton resident Jason Evatt’s invention is a testament to the saying “growth comes from discomfort.”
The idea for the Bitterroot, “the world’s first 3-in-1 dry bag,” came to Evatt — a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and founder of Airborne Outfitters — while hiking through the high-country of the Bitterroot Mountains in Montana.
As anyone who has ever hit the trails has experienced, Evatt found himself looking for ways to lighten his pack’s load without getting rid of essential gear.
Spreading out his equipment at camp while hunkering down for the evening, Evatt realized there was opportunity to combine uses for items he needed for a comfortable and safe trip.
“If you piece and parted it out, you could probably find three pieces of gear that will do all this for probably about the same price,” Evatt said. “You can’t find one piece of gear that does the same functions.”
What was born from that trip was the first multi-functional outdoor equipment to keep gear dry, filter water and inflate air mattresses and air pads, all made from “National Sanitation Foundation approved water potable material.”
Along with actual physical baggage that was made lighter from his new invention, the Bitterroot was an outlet for Evatt to lighten the weight of less tangible baggage he had been carrying for years.
As a veteran of 22 years in the military, Evatt wanted to commit to producing and assembling all components of the Bitterroot in the United States.
“That was honestly part of the reason I wanted to do it — because it was hard,” Evatt said.
After years of deployment and intense dedication to the service, Evatt was struggling to make sense of the struggles he was battling internally. That was until 2014, when the diagnosis of PTSD gave him some answers.
“It was exhilarating to be told — this sounds morbid maybe — but when I found out that PTSD was it, I was so happy that I was able to point to something and go, “It has a name,” Evatt said. “Because it was this abstract thing that I couldn’t put my finger on before.”
Still, the process of ongoing therapy was taking its own toll on Evatt. Compartmentalizing a laundry list of experiences was leaving the veteran with no outlet while his thoughts began consuming him. That’s when sewing became an unexpected release for Evatt, as he could actually hold a physical product of a new skill he was practicing— an outcome, he said, that an information job in the military was never able to give him.
His new hobby and his lifetime love for the outdoors came to a head during a deployment to South Korea in 2016. A visit to a Korean gear and tactical bag shop yielded some unexpected direction when he purchased a duffel and gave the owners some suggestions as to how they might adjust the pockets to be more practical.
“I went back to the shop the next day and offered some suggestions ... a week later (they) brought my ideas to life, and I was hooked,” Evatt said.
Evatt knew he wanted to be in the outdoor industry and immediately purchased an LLC for Airborne Outfitters in April of 2016 when he returned to the U.S.
“I had no idea what my business was gonna do, but it was going to do some business,” Evatt said. “My theory, if I wanna lose weight, I’m gonna buy a pair of pants that are too small and eventually they will fit. That was my approach with this.”
Fast forward to a backpacking in the Bitterroot Mountains and a single idea — Airborne Outfitters would soon take flight.
“I’m not going to lie. I absolutely want to make money. But I also want to show that for people who are struggling with PTSD or depression or whatever the case may be — alcohol, self medicating and suicide is not the answer,” Evatt said. “That does not fix the problem because I was there.”
Pouring energy into a passion project like the Bitterroot can, however, be the answer.
“I wanna say, that dude was on the brink in one point in his life, he made a decision, and this is what came as a result of that.
Evatt is campaigning a Kickstarter fund to get the Bitterroot off the ground and finally running. Full production and delivery of the product will begin after the campaign ends on May 31st. To learn more about the Bitterroot, join the campaign and pre-order, visit kickstarter.com.
and visit airborneoutfitters.com for more information about Jason and his company.