Chicken Tramper Ultralight Gear

The founders of an Upper Peninsula-based manufacturer creating quality outdoor gear received small business resources and advice from the MEDC


Founded by two mechanical engineers out of Michigan Tech, Chicken Tramper Ultralight Gear has emerged as a pioneering force in the outdoor gear manufacturing industry. Inspired by a 2018 hiking trip, Austin Gongos and Nathan Ackerman started Chicken Tramper with a mission to revolutionize outdoor gear by combining lightweight design with unparalleled durability. 

Chicken Tramper Ultralight Gear offers products ranging from fully framed long distance backpacks to a variety of accessories like smaller day packs, fanny packs, wallets, water bottle holders, and phone pockets. Their products cater to the diverse needs of outdoor enthusiasts, from seasoned hikers to weekend warriors. 

However, Austin and Nathan lacked a business background and faced many challenges early on. They turned to Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), which provided them with resources and connections to the right people. Through the MEDC, Chicken Tramper was able to secure many grants and equipment loans, as well as connect with industry veterans and the Continuous Involvement Group, which helped them streamline their production operations and make their processes run smoother and more efficiently.


Nathan’s biggest word of advice to other small business owners is to seek out help from others. Through the MEDC, his team was able to discover an abundance of resources available to small businesses, which has helped the business tremendously in learning more about operating a business. 

“My biggest advice is to reach out to others for help, namely the MEDC and Industry 4.0,” said Ackerman. “There are a ton of resources available to small businesses in Michigan, and many of them are free. As two engineers with no real business background, we have learned so many things just from asking the right people. The more you work with the MEDC, the more people you get to know, and the more you learn.”

Chicken Tramper Ultralight Gear has been named a SmartZone Best Small Business by Michigan Celebrates Small Business, the largest small business awards program in the state of Michigan, and the MEDC. Austin and Nathan will be honored and recognized during the 20th Annual Awards Gala held this May during Small Business Month, joining one of the most prestigious cohorts of small businesses in the nation. 




Learn more about the small business services and resources available from the MEDC.