Demetri Coupounas, president of Boulder-based GoLite, is glad that America’s elite warriors have adopted the company’s lightweight sports gear for battle.

But it’s not as though he went after the business.

GoLite generally doesnt like government contracts that supply members of the armed forces largely because the bureaucracy is too cumbersome, Coupounas said. Instead, he relies on word of mouth for the sales, he said.

Many of America’s most highly trained military units have their own equipment budgets, said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the Outdoor Industry Association in Boulder.

“Divisions of the Marines, special forces, CIA, Navy, all have independent budgets where they can outfit the companies with gear they think is most appropriate,” Hugelmeyer said.

Although contracting with the government can boost sales volume, it takes a lot longer to collect payment, Coupounas said.

And dealing with a government bureaucracy can lead to changes in the gear that the designer never intended, he said.

“In the bureaucracy, somebody wants something changed, then somebody adds something else they want, and then somebody else adds something, and in the end you surely dont have a GoLite product,” Coupounas said.

The company sells backpacks, sleeping bags, outerwear and other gear, all of it light enough to attract serious outdoors enthusiasts. Customers include backpackers and rock climbers.

GoLite has increased sales to military personnel to about 5 percent of total revenue since Coupounas and his wife, Kim, launched the business in 1999.

Coupounas wouldnt provide further financial information on the privately held company.

More than 700 dealers worldwide carry the GoLite line, and the firm employs about 20 people, Coupounas said.

The company has carved a specialty niche in the $18 billion outdoor gear industry by producing some of the lightest gear made, Hugelmeyer said.

And for soldiers facing conditions in the Middle Eastern desert, light gear is a must, Hugelmeyer said.

GoLite is one of many companies in the outdoor equipment market that sell to military personnel, said Michael Hodgson, co-publisher of, an industry newsletter.

Coupounas, a backpacker with a master’s in business administration from Harvard, decided to form the company after reading Ray Jardine’s “The Pacific Crest Trail Hiker’s Handbook.” The self-published paperback, a cult favorite that included instructions for fabricating lightweight gear, is now out of print.

Jardine, who also authored “Beyond Backpacking,” preaches a gospel of outdoor living that is centered on lightweight backpacking.

Coupounas asked Jardine if he could use his specifications to produce packs, shelters and sleeping bags. Jardine is now a consultant for GoLite.

Now Coupounas is working to keep the market niche his company has established by constantly improving its products.

“There is very little that we are doing that a bunch of smart people couldnt copy,” Coupounas said. “If we work quickly, we can stay ahead. When we started, we said we are going to go at this heart and soul, day and night.”