From soldiers to hunters to video game makers, customers are going ballistic for Kryptek next generation camouflage.
“It’s like holding onto a tiger by its tail,” says Kryptek CEO Butch Whiting about his company’s spectacular rise. “If we would’ve assembled a team of 100 industry experts and asked them to accomplish what we’ve accomplished in the past year, they would’ve said we’re crazy.”
But Butch and his team aren’t crazy. They’re dogged. They’re tough. And ok, maybe just a bit crazy…
“We were in a third-world shithole in Iraq living vicariously through hunting DVDs when we came up with this concept,” flatly explains Butch, a former Army officer and Apache attack helicopter pilot.
He and co-founder Josh Cleghorn, a fellow Army pilot and Navy diver, had forged a very special friendship — a brotherhood really — over a decade spent on battlefields, desert training grounds and, when they could eke out the time, hunting trips.
“When you’re a soldier, you miss a lot of the little things that most people take for granted,” Butch says. “For us, a big part of that was time in the outdoors.”
Their concept? A high-tech line of hunting clothing and gear with features normally only available to elite military units. They were tired of the deficiencies of typical “civilian” gear and set out to create a new standard.
The two took on the project, which would eventually become Kryptek Outdoor Group, while still serving full-time in the U.S. Army. They developed a business plan, began designing product, and learned the ins and outs of the outdoor industry.
It wasn’t long before outdoor mega-retailer Cabela’s came calling. “To this day, I still don’t know how they heard about us,” Butch says. They launched their line in Cabela’s and a smattering of mom and pop stores across the country, running the company from wherever they happened to be. “For a long time our headquarters was wherever my laptop was.”
The company then got wind of a request for proposal from the U.S. Army for a new, modern camouflage design. Butch and Josh got to work.
As a couple of guys who spent their careers in environments that demanded peak performance for both success and survival, they approached the problem differently than most.
“Most camo is designed for its shelf appeal, so they focus on making it look good from a distance of about 48 inches,” Butch explains. “Kryptek is designed for performance in the field.”
And perform it did. Out of more than 60 companies that submitted designs, Kryptek’s received some of the highest marks, allowing it to advance to the final four. They were David, fighting against three Goliath, billion-dollar companies.
With so much riding on the effectiveness of these designs, the Army reportedly spent upwards of $10 million field testing the camo — including under night vision, where Kryptek is a particular standout. Congress would eventually pass a law seeking to unify camouflage across every branch of the armed forces, effectively scuttling the Army’s need for its own new design, but news of Kryptek’s performance spread like wildfire. Before long Butch, now living in Alaska, was fulfilling orders for retailers as well as U.S. and coalition military units around the world.
As demand accelerated, it became increasingly difficult for Butch to run operations of the fast-growing company from Alaska. He considered all of his options, and decided that with its access to the outdoors and burgeoning business climate, Boise was the place.
“I had to be in the Lower 48 for logistics,” says Butch, a Nampa High graduate who went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering before joining the Army. “Boise just kept coming up.”
Since making the move a bit more than a year ago, Kryptek’s explosive trajectory continues unabated. In addition to booming sales, the company’s camo has taken on it’s own celebrity. It’s featured in the multi-billion (with a “b”) dollar Call of Duty franchise, the upcoming Jurassic Park film, as well as The Expendables 3, Fast and Furious 7, and a host of acclaimed outdoor magazines and catalogs.
Despite, or maybe because of being designed for its functionality in the field, Kryptek’s camo has caught on beyond its core purpose. Police departments, independent retailers, designers and others are taking hold of the design, which blends traditional camouflage traits with a high-tech, modern warfare aesthetic.
This popular success has led to relationships with some of the biggest brands in the outdoor industry, such as Weatherby and Sportsman’s Warehouse. Kryptek has also partnered with Boise-based companies Lucky Bums and Gemtech to develop products.
Still, even with all this attention, Butch, Josh and their crew of hardcore hunting fanatics and battled-hardened brothers in arms retain their warrior ethos, driving forward with new products that outperform the competition in every way.
Boise may be a long way from Ninewa Province in Northern Iraq. But the grit, work ethic and honor that led to success there is alive and well today in Kryptek’s offices here.
“All we are is soldiers,” Butch says. “What we’ve accomplished is nothing short of miraculous and we’re just getting started.”
Note: See all patterns and products at Kryptek.com