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 August 1, 1999

Outlast offers new way to keep bodies warm

BOULDER — Goldilocks would have loved a ski parka made with temperature-regulating Outlast material. She would have felt “not too hot, not too cold, but just right,” whether she was racing down the moguls or waiting in the lift line.

Gunbarrel’s Outlast Technologies Inc. develops and markets the unique technology that is being incorporated into outdoor sportswear such as skiing and cycling apparel, climbing boots, thermal underwear, gloves and hats.

The technology differs from traditional lofted insulation, which traps air to build heat, and can sometimes overheat you on exertion or chill you if it becomes compressed or wet. Outlast fibers actually monitor body heat and maintain a comfortable body temperature, whatever you do, wherever you go.

If that sounds futuristic, it is space-age technology. NASA originally developed temperature-regulating material in the mid-80s to protect astronauts from temperature extremes in space, where the air required for lofted insulation doesn’t exist.

Outlast Technologies, formed in 1990, acquired the rights to develop the technology for commercial use and quickly realized its potential for the outdoor-sports market. Among the many products incorporating Outlast temperature-regulating materials are Eddie Bauer EBTek parkas, Vasque mountaineering boots and Boeri ski helmets.

The company does not do any manufacturing, instead licensing production according to strict quality and performance controls. Outlast focuses on continued technology development, global brand marketing and cooperative marketing with manufacturers.

How does temperature regulation work?

The fibers contain tiny microcapsules that consist of a specialized blend of paraffin waxes in a durable shell. When heat is absorbed, the wax changes from a solid to a liquid state, allowing heat to be spread and stored throughout the garment. When you’re cold, the material detects your body temperature dropping and releases the stored heat back to your body for warmth.

“The absorbing, storing and releasing of body heat in a cyclical manner is what makes this unique as insulation,” explained President and Chief Executive Jonathan Erb. “It evens out the peaks and valleys of hot and cold, whether you’re in an exertion sport or simply going from the car to the outside on a cold winter day, then into a warm mall. You don’t notice it reacting — it reacts on your behalf.”

Outlast Technologies, founded by Bernard Perry and Ed Payne, spent its first seven years developing technology applications for the textile industry. Erb, who has an extensive background in brand management, was brought on board two years ago to lead the commercialization effort.

The company is financed by private stockholders and venture capital and expects to become profitable by the middle of next year. “We’re on a doubling of last year’s sales rate so far this year, and we expect to triple it as the year ends,” Erb noted. “We will reach $50 million in revenue three years from now, if things go according to plan and our trajectory continues.”

Boulder County’s active lifestyles make it an ideal location for the company. “We’re fortunate to be in proximity to an amazing array of first-class sports and outdoor companies,” Erb noted. “We get valuable input as to how our product should be developed. And from a user and retailer standpoint, there’s probably no better market in the world to be in than Boulder for the kinds of outdoor products that are used by great athletes as well as everyday athletes.”

Hard Corps Sports of Lafayette incorporates Outlast into its skiwear. “What Outlast does is provide a broadened comfort zone, and that definitely gives us an edge over our competitors,´ said Hard Corps President Skip Rapp. “But it is new technology, and it’s hard to say how long it will take to build awareness among retail buyers and consumers. However, people who are avid athletes can really get the word out quickly when something good comes down the pike.”

Brand marketing strategies will be key to Outlast’s success. “We are a value-added component, much like Goretex,” Erb explained. “In fact, Goretex is a very studied model for us. We want to be to thermal management what Goretex is to moisture management.”

Key to the branding effort is consistent product identification, required by licensees and provided directly from Outlast in the form of hang tags, permanent product labels and packaging. “If you pick up a Nordica ski boot, you see an Outlast brand label very prominently on the front of it,” Erb said. “We are helping manufacturers differentiate their product while we are also building our own brand identity.”

Outlast is expanding its end-use target markets to include home products, such as blankets, and workwear for people whose jobs take them in and out of doors frequently, such as law enforcement officers and package-delivery workers.

The potential market for Outlast is substantial. “They have an excellent opportunity,” according to Rob Cascella, a partner with investment banking firm Carolina Financial Group, which has helped raise venture capital funds for Outlast. “Goretex is about a billion-dollar business with roughly $300 million to $400 million in the apparel industry. I think Outlast’s potential is equal to or greater than that, given that it has broader applications.”

Erb is positive but noncommittal about the company’s future. “Our goal is to become cash-positive and therefore very independent. Then we’ll have a choice of destiny, whether it’s going public or positioning ourselves for acquisition. In this current market, it could be a manufacturer of lofted insulation that sees the value of a turnkey stair-step technology leap.”

BOULDER — Goldilocks would have loved a ski parka made with temperature-regulating Outlast material. She would have felt “not too hot, not too cold, but just right,” whether she was racing down the moguls or waiting in the lift line.

Gunbarrel’s Outlast Technologies Inc. develops and markets the unique technology that is being incorporated into outdoor sportswear such as skiing and cycling apparel, climbing boots, thermal underwear, gloves and hats.

The technology differs from traditional lofted insulation, which traps air to build heat, and can sometimes overheat you on exertion or chill…

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