Web Exclusives:Features

March 13 , 2002:

Go light, ultra light

Demetri '88 and Kim Coupounas '89 create new outdoor gear

Demetri Coupounas '88 sets lofty goals: figure out how to balance the federal budget, climb Kilimanjaro on his honeymoon, and backpack with no more than a 10-pound pack. To date, he's met all three. As policy director for the bipartisan Concord Coalition, he divined a way to eliminate the federal deficit. Christmas Eve 1992 "Coup" and his wife, Kim Riether-Coupounas '89, summitted Mt. Kilimanjaro on their honeymoon. And through GoLite, a Boulder, Colorado-based start-up, the couple is three years into creating super light camping gear.

Passionate backpackers, Coup and Kim got the idea for GoLite from Ray Jardine's Pacific Crest Trail Backpacker's Handbook, which promotes light gear so backpackers can hike farther and more comfortably. The most devout followers of Jardine make their own equipment; but Coup speculated regular folks would prefer simply purchasing theirs. In 1998 with the federal budget on its way to being balanced, Coup penned a letter to Jardine and asked for his blessing and cooperation in the new business. At the time, Coup was living in Washington, D.C., and Kim was in Boston, working for the Shackleton School, an experiential, expedition-based high school.

Coup and Kim, who both earned graduate degrees in public policy and business from Harvard, were not particularly in love with the East Coast and ready for new challenges. "We started thinking out the box," said Kim of their move west in 1998.

GoLite produces outdoor clothing and equipment, including backpacks for hiking and rock climbing, shelter canopies, and "sleep systems." On the company Web site (www.golite.com), each item is listed with its weight in ounces. A typical multi-day backpack without food and water weighs 40 pounds or more. With GoLite's system, you can gear up carrying under 10 pounds. Their philosophy: less weight means more fun.

In 2000, the start-up operated with four employees and met its target of $1 million in sales. This year the company, having grown to 17 employees, including Mike Errecart '01, is on track to show its first profit with projected sales of $6 million.

By Elizabeth Covington '85

Elizabeth Covington is a freelance writer who lives in Ophir, Colorado.