RENO, Nev. — In the spring of 2014, Mark Tsigounis was in the middle of taking his hiking hobby to great lengths — literally.
Tsigounis, like thousands of hikers every year, was in the midst of traversing the forests, wild lands and mountains of the Appalachian Trail, a 2,190-footpath stretching from Georgia to Maine.
Naturally, one of the essential items inside Tsigounis’ backpack was an insulated water bottle. Along his journey, however, he realized that he wished his bottle could do much more than keep his water cold and coffee hot.
“On the A.T., one thing we always said is if your insulated bottle doesn’t do more than one thing, it’s probably useless,” said Tsigounis, a New Jersey native who now lives in Truckee. “That philosophy always stuck with me. Insulated bottles are super cool — they kept your colds cold, and your hots hot. But, I thought they should do way more.”
Following a subsequent three-month backpacking trip through South America with his wife, Anna, an inspired Tsigounis decided to jump on the entrepreneurial path and develop the very product he felt was missing in the adventure travel market.
After moving with Anna to Truckee in 2017, Tsigounis was accepted into the University of Nevada, Reno Innevation Center’s incubator and launched an outdoor and sporting goods startup, Hibear.
Three years later, Tsigounis is preparing to put the company’s innovative “All-Day Adventure Flask” in hands of hikers and backpackers.
More than an everyday water bottle, the 32-ounce flask can store and even craft beverages — from cold brew coffee to pour-over coffee to cocktails. Hibear’s vacuum-insulated bottle has built-in steel filters, a cocktail strainer, a pour-over lid, a removable mug and more.
As such, Hibear calls it the “Swiss Army Knife of insulated bottles.”
“We saw a real opportunity there that most people that love coffee or tea or cocktails should have a really cool tool that they can bring with them everywhere and use all day,” Tsigounis said. “With backpacking, you’re meeting a lot more people and travelers in different hubs. And one thing that brings people together are beverages.”
To say the outdoor community is thirsty for such a product would be an understatement.
On Sept. 8, the company launched a Kickstarter to take preorders for its All-Day Adventure Flask, with a funding goal of $10,000. Within 45 minutes, the company hit its goal. Nearly a month later, as of early October, Hibear has raised more than $90,000 with more than 1,130 backers.
“We’re pretty stoked about that,” Tsigounis said. “We started building the All-Day Adventure Flask specifically for the adventure, travel and outdoor enthusiast. We have over 1,000 backers who raised their hand and said, ‘hey, I’ll support your product.’ To us, that means the world. We really hope they like it.”
Along with its versatility, the design of Hibear’s All-Day Adventure Flask is also turning heads. In fact, Hibear’s insulated bottle received a 2020 Red Dot Design Award, an international design competition for product design.
Tsigounis noted that the company’s commitment to sustainability fueled the design of its product, which reduces single-use plastic in efforts to protect natural spaces.
Moreover, as a 1% For the Planet member, Hibear pledges to commit a percentage of the profits from its All-Day Adventure Flask toward environmental causes.
“This is one product that sets off the whole company and there is a lot more to come from us in terms of other products we want to develop for our customer base,” he explained. “But that just depends on what our people want from us.”
For now, Tsigounis said Hibear is aiming to ship the 32-ounce utility flask to consumers in May 2021, coinciding with the launch of its direct-to-consumer website. He said the company is in pre-production and dialing in its supply chain, manufacturing and distribution channels.
Tsigounis said he’s relied heavily on freelancers to help with the graphic design, public relations and marketing for the project. He added that the startup community of greater Reno-Tahoe has helped encourage and guide him along the way.
“There’s something special about the Reno-Tahoe-Truckee area,” Tsigounis said. “They’re very welcoming and very excited about Reno business and how we can help one another and share contacts. Every time I’ve met another founder, adviser or coach, they always want to introduce me to somebody else to get you to the next level.”