Gear Up

By Camille Platt


There’s something about loving the outdoors that makes a backpacker, a cyclist, a climber, or a fly fisherman dream big about what’s possible in the industry. Put that passion into a business located in an area that is all things outdoor adventure, and sales and profits are sure to flourish. In Chattanooga, the outdoor scene has propelled the innovation of new gear and apparel, changing industry standards for adventure, comfort, and style.

Here are five new products fueled by entrepreneurs embracing what Chattanooga has to offer by way of water, woods, and boulder.




“LOFT” technology to kick the chill in hammock camping

A basic hammock will only get you so far. After the initial purchase, you’re often still on the hook for straps, a rain fly, a top quilt, and an underquilt. If you tend to get cold, which is common given the way air travels beneath your backside, you’ll need a sleeping bag as well. While hammock camping with friends on Lake Ocoee in 2013, Seth Hill decided there had to be a way to condense these features into a single product manufactured specifically to keep you warm. A graduate of Southern Adventist University with degrees in business management and business administration, Hill launched Swayy in 2018. “You can essentially go camping with your entire sleep system at 3.5 pounds rather than adding up all the cost and weight of the other stuff,” he explains. Swayy’s patent-pending technology traps pockets of air inside to hold warmth.

Hill’s journey was initially inspired by a year he spent in the Philippines. He had been working in construction management, but overseas he befriended a family known for innovating sunglasses and water bottles for the outdoor industry. “I was really inspired by that. Even when I was 6 years old, I’d be picking apples in the backyard in the fall, washing them up in my Little Tykes container, bagging them up, and selling them on the street. Entrepreneurship has always spoken to me, but it wasn’t until I got back to the U.S. that I realized I had such an opportunity to make something of myself.”

Hill credits his early success with Swayy to opportunities for global travel, as well as the support Chattanooga offers local innovators by way of The Company Lab. “There’s a lot of networks here within the outdoor industry and within the entrepreneurial scene,” he says. “If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that persistence ends up being the winner of all. Money does so much, but it’s people that ultimately get things done.”


Titanium frames for mixed-terrains

Gravel riding will take a cyclist through a range of unpaved terrain – from smooth dirt trails to forest roads with rock exposed. It’s a hybrid of road and mountain biking, and Lynskey Performance is capitalizing on the industry. The Lynskey family designed and built the first fully functional Litespeed titanium bicycle frame in the 1980s. In 2006, the family returned to the trade and developed a niche in a market dominated by carbon fiber. Gravel riding put titanium – and Lynskey Performance – in the spotlight. “It’s a material that is lightweight. It’s durable. It’s two times the strength of steel. It doesn’t corrode. If you have a wreck on it, it can be repaired,” says Global Marketing Director Mike Biddle. “It’s the perfect material for this type of riding.”

Lynskey Performance is a direct-to-consumer business model also specializing in custom frames. The GR 270 Gravel Bike, Adventure Edition, was rated best in its category for gravel and mixed surfaces by Outside Magazine. The PRO GR Gravel Bike is the first and only hand-built gravel frame with the Lynskey signature 6AL/4V titanium gravel tubeset.

In the company shop off Bonny Oaks Drive, roughly 30 metalworking employees total more than 400 years of experience in the industry, including company president and master bike builder, David Lynskey. The company’s primary customer draw, Biddle says, is that the bicycles are handbuilt in Chattanooga. “Our biggest selling point is that it’s made in the U.S.A. That’s what people want all over the world,” he explains. “Our second biggest customer is Australia; they want a bike made in the U.S. because if it’s made in the U.S., the quality is there.”

Chattanooga is the perfect spot to develop and test titanium bicycles because of the numerous opportunities for cyclists who prefer road, mountain, or gravel. In gravel riding alone, Cherokee National Forest on Hwy 64 provides access to Forest Roads 45 and 221. A greenway that runs on the Brainerd Levee has trailheads at Shallowford Road in Brainerd and Camp Jordan Park in East Ridge. Forest service roads also depart from the Ocoee Whitewater Center near Ducktown, Tennessee.

(first) Photo by Nick Rader (second) Photo by Chris Loizeaux


Travel pants that pull double duty

Nick Rader is an international traveler who once took a six-month motorcycle drive from South Africa to Norway wearing a single pair of pants, a fashion move he hoped could transition from Mount Kilimanjaro in the daytime to a club at night. (Spoiler: He looked rough.) Chris Loizeaux is a local graphic designer, apparel designer, and former owner of a local fly-fishing shop who has visited 45 states for backpacking and water sports. The pair first met when rain had them stuck in a cabin, and they became fast friends drinking beer and sketching their vision for the perfect adventure and travel pant.

The problem with typical outdoor pants, Loizeaux says, is bulk. Pockets, seams, and zippers are placed at angles and locations that give the appearance of function but actually aren’t functional at all. Trekka’s first apparel product is The Traveler Pant, a lightweight chino with 16 features in the fabric, including four-way stretch, bug repellant, quick dry, UV protection, and odor resistance. In lieu of cargo pockets, The Traveler features two hidden zipper pockets directly behind the main pockets.

Loizeaux and Rader also invented a neodymium magnetic button that offers the pants the ability to stretch while sitting. The result: a simplified, streamlined look that actually can transition from the trail to, perhaps, a date with ease. “We stripped our product down to the absolute basics and then rebuilt it in a way that didn’t require all the seams and zippers,” Loizeaux says. “It’s the fabric that really performs. We want something that is clean, classy, and going to stand the test of time.”

Both Rader and Loizeaux say Chattanooga is an ideal location for adventure because of its extensive river systems and creeks, as well as accessibility to trailheads and regional international airports. Building their brand locally also pays tribute to the city’s strong background in the textile industry. “It’s kind of a no-brainer to stay in our hometown,” Loizeaux adds. “We wouldn’t leave because we want to stay here and play. It’s a perfect extension of where we want to be and what we want to do, and it matches with the products we are developing.”


“We come from it with a lot of experience in owning pants that underperform but are overdesigned,” says Chris Loizeaux of Trekka. “We wanted a good classic design that doesn’t change year in and year out.”


Fast-drying friction for bouldering, sports climbing, gym climbing

Last summer, Bryan Woods was climbing in Squamish, British Columbia, and the humidity was making it difficult to get a hold on the rock. He tried a liquid chalk instead of a powder, and the way it reduced sweat on his hands was enough to convince him he needed to add a similar product to his brand, Crush Climbing. “The main ingredient in liquid chalks is magnesium carbonate, which is just chalk in powder form, and the second ingredient is alcohol. Basically, when you put it on your hands, it goes on like a lotion. It’s clear. But then about 10-20 seconds later, you can see it starting to dry,” Woods explains. “As that alcohol evaporates, it actually cools your hand down. Essentially, it’s changing phase from a liquid to a gas and taking all of that heat energy out of your hands.” The properties of liquid chalk also remove sweat, grease, and grime.

Originally from Florida, Woods used to visit Chattanooga with friends for access to bouldering at Rocktown in Lafayette, Georgia, and Stone Fort in Soddy-Daisy. “It didn’t take long before I was completely addicted, and I just had to move,” he says of his transition to living on the NorthShore three years ago. “I am completely obsessed with getting out as much as I can and rock climbing as much as humanly possible.”

Crush was born out of Woods’ desire to quit his job in mechanical engineering, spend more time outdoors, and help people climb more effectively while keeping costs low. His original product, the Crush Brush, is available in neon colors, which makes it easier to keep track of on a climb. It is larger than other brushes on the market, and it’s specifically designed for sandstone (found in the Southeast) and Western desert climbing (think Red Rock Canyon).

Woods adds that while Liquid Crush sells best on Amazon, running his business out of Chattanooga simply makes sense. “You’re meeting a lot of cool people, and you can ask them straight up about your product or ideas on the way to and from the wall,” he says. “That’s been pretty huge.”

Photos by Nathalie Dupré


A backpacking-enabled breakfast and dinner for the trail

Meg Brasel and her husband, Thomas, were weighing and measuring dehydrated and freeze-dried foods for a backpacking trip when an idea emerged. What if other hikers were willing to pay for someone to calculate their caloric and nutritional needs and create recipes easy to consume on the trail? The concept is simple: Tear the top off a pouch of blueberry oatmeal, cashew curry, or Italian couscous with pistachios, add boiling water, and wait 5-10 minutes for the meal to rehydrate.

Originally marketing meals to hikers covering 10+ miles a day on the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, today TrailDrops offers four breakfast options ($7 each) and four dinner options ($9 each) to casual backpackers needing to simplify packing for shorter trips. “What I realized is my customer is more of a busy working person, a lot of times with a family. It’s somebody who wants to get away for two or three days on the weekend, or maybe a five-day trip, and doesn’t have the time to prepare their own food or doesn’t have the knowledge about what to pack,” Brasel explains.

With her new target customer in mind, in 2018 Brasel sold 10 times as much product as she did in 2017. She is also looking to start scaling to larger commercial production available to retailers. What sets TrailDrops apart from other brands of dehydrated foods is weight of the food; Brasel’s meals total at least 100 calories per ounce, and when you’re looking to keep your backpack lightweight, more calories per ounce is simply more efficient. Additionally, the only preservatives Brasel uses in meals are salt and sugar. Although she’s tested each product to a year and a half, she gives each TrailDrop a shelf life of nine months, for freshness.

“Chattanooga is different than other places I’ve lived in that you can be on the water within 15 to 20 minutes of wherever you live. You can be on a trail within 20 minutes of wherever you live,” she says of operating an outdoors industry business here. “People who are in the habit of doing outdoor activities are looking for foods to complement those kinds of activities, and that’s good for our business.”


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