For Veterans Day, which is on Friday this year, I want to highlight outdoor gear companies that are owned or run by U.S. veterans. Not only do these brands make bomber products, but they also work to get former soldiers good jobs when they return to civilian life.
This Yakima, Washington–based company makes durable recycled-aluminum water bottles and gives hiring preference to veterans, calling the practice “ethical discrimination.” The result? More than a third of its workforce served in the armed forces.
Combat Flip Flops
Founders Matthew Griffin and Donald Lee both served as Army Rangers. Combined, they have been on seven tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now they’re using their business to help war-torn countries. The company makes its sandals in Colombia to support the local economy, employs Afghan women to make sarongs (a chunk of those profits go to women’s schools in that country), and sells bracelets from Laos that help fund the cleanup of unexploded bombs.
GoRuck, based in Jacksonville, Florida, builds military-inspired rucksacks, employs veterans, and donates some of its profits to veterans’ organizations such as Team Red, White, and Blue and the Green Beret Foundation. The company also puts on events, including local “rucking” hike meetups and War Stories gatherings, where veterans can connect and share experiences.
Kota Longboards, like GoRuck, employs veterans and supports a host of veterans’ organizations, such as the Navy SEAL Foundation and the Wounded Warrior Project. The company, based in Denver, Colorado, uses military designs on its boards. It’s also in the process of forming its own nonprofit, called Carve It for Life, that will use longboarding as a form of healing for veterans and first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sword and Plough
Run by two sisters who grew up in a military family, Sword and Plough takes old military surplus gear and repurposes it into fashionable bags. Veterans are employed in every part of the business—as designers, sewers, models, and more. Ten percent of all profits go to help veterans’ organizations.
Ranger Coffee is a veteran-owned coffee company that donates a full 50 percent of its profits to nonprofits that help former soldiers. The coffee’s good, too.