Deal Watch: Massif snags Army contract for outdoor gear

Deal Watch: Massif snags Army contract for outdoor gear


A FEW YEARS ago, after the Ashland-based clothing company Massif Mountain Gear had already been selling its fire-resistant soft-shell jackets to individual units of the U.S. Army, executive vice president Chris Wasgatt got an email from the Army's top brass.

We know about your gear, the message said. We need to talk.

"I didn't know what to think at first," Wasgatt says. "These people could either place an order for a million jackets … or ban our gear and put us out of business."

Turns out the Army had no plans to put the firm out of business. Instead, they'd heard so much great feedback from soldiers about Massif's clothing — its comfort, breathability and range of motion — that they wanted to outfit all Army aviators in the gear. 

Fast-forward through a rigorous design, testing and procurement process, and Massif announced in August that the Army had chosen five of its garments — soft-shell jackets, pants and vests — to be part of its Fire Resistant Environmental Ensemble. The FREE multilayer system of cold weather garments aims to keep aviators and combat vehicle crews comfortable while also protecting them from flame hazards.

Massif, which employs close to 60 management, sales and design staff in Ashland, has already sold more than 100,000 jacket and pants sets to the Army; the company will begin filling orders under the new contract in January 2010, Wasgatt says.

Founded by Grand Teton National Park climbing ranger Randy Benham in 1999 partly to provide rangers there with high-performance, fire-resistant clothing — required gear for helicopter rescues — Massif also designed the Army Combat Shirt. Wasgatt says more than 1 million of the shirts, which have helped protect soldiers from IED-related fires in Iraq and Afghanistan, have already been sold.

Massif also now designs and supplies gear for the Air Force, Navy, FBI, NASA and other government agencies.

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