Polartec Alpha Direct 4004 and Argon 49 for summer blanket/quilt?
Jan 20, 2023 at 3:28 pm #3770942
I want to make an uberlight 55 degree summer blanket 80″ X 54″ (rectangle) with some simple grosgrain attachment loops all around. Maybe even a drawstring on one end with Kam snaps and a poncho head slot in the middle. Instead of 6 oz down I thought the Polartec Alpha might be better at about the same price.
The Alpha Direct 4004 is 2.5 oz per square yd and the Argon 49, as its name implies, .49 oz/sq yd. I’m only looking at using the Argon for the top side to block wind, provide a little water resistance and add just a bit of heat retention. The Alpha Direct is supposed to be fine against the skin. What’s more though it has super good drying qualities and excellent warmth to weight ratio. I calculated the final weight would be 10.5 to 11 oz.
What are your thoughts on this idea? The blanket would be lighter than any Apex blanket or quilt I could make. The Alpha Direct sells for $25 per yard at RSBTR. https://ripstopbytheroll.com/collections/synthetic-insulation/products/polartec-alpha-direct-4004Jan 20, 2023 at 4:15 pm #3770946Eric BlancheBPL Member
@eblancheLocale: Northeast US
Yes, makes sense. Go for it!
Technically, straight Alpha is what was intended on being used for that purpose. I don’t see any reason why AD wouldn’t work.Jan 20, 2023 at 5:19 pm #3770960
Seems like a decent solution.
Do you run cold? Reason why I ask, is because for myself, that would be overkill for 55*F. At home, I sleep completely au naturale under a thin, very breathable sheet at temps between 65 to 67, and I’m completely fine. That’s with no wind obviously. If I wore a light insulated jacket (or a baselayer+mid layer+wind jacket), pants, warm socks, etc and used an UL bivy that blocks wind well (perhaps also heat reflecting one like the SOL Escape bivy), I would be completely fine at 55*F and probably could push it down to around 50. And I assume that most of the above, minus the bivy, would be things you would be bringing anyways, so no extra weight and expense.
On a side note, for cheaper alternatives to Alpha Direct. Alpha Direct is not some kind of super specialized material. It is basically just fuzzy/slightly furry polyester fabric that is breathable. If people are looking to save money, going down to Joanne Fabrics or the like, and looking at their lightest, synthetic faux fur type fabrics will get you similar insulation per weight wise at much less cost (especially if you use a coupon like I usually do).
Another inexpensive alternative is taking a couple layers of some of that really light weight non woven polypropylene material and sewing it within a stronger, woven, more wind resistant UL nylon fabric (like Argon 49) to increase durability. Keep in mind that polypropylene is 35% lighter than polyester while also being less thermally conductive. And the above stuff is dirt cheap, like literally. The downside of the non woven, light stuff is that it is kind of fragile, but that is why you would sew it within a matrix of the woven nylon, and double over the seam areas of the PP material (so if you have two layers, folding it over and sewing would give you four layers, not including the more robust nylon).
Also, it would be extremely water resistant and would dry significantly faster than even Alpha Direct. PP has a low enough surface energy that it has a built in, natural DWR so to speak. As long as it doesn’t get really dirty (the nylon cover would help with this), it will always repel water and doesn’t absorb any into the material itself (just in the in between spaces of the material).
Some years back, there was a discussion about Milo’s bivies made out of a (more robust) polypropylene non woven fabric. People who had used them, commented on how surprisingly warm they were. Richard Nisley got involved and pointed to a combo of the low density of the material with low CFM combined with a thermally resistant material (lower conductivity than every other fabric material) made for a warm for the weight material. (Incidentally, 35% polypropylene/olefin fibers are the “secret sauce” to thinsulate insulation).
Anyways, if you’re looking to save weight and cost, then that latter, 2nd solution would be your best bet, while also being extremely water resistant and extremely quick drying. But for self, since I run apparently warmer than the average, I would just wear clothes and with my SOL Escape bivy, I would be fine for those temps.Jan 20, 2023 at 5:49 pm #3770964
Oh, and if you wanted to increase the warmth per weight of the PP layers, you could mechanically fuzz them up, so they they are better at stilling a greater amount of air. A great way to do that would be to take one of those 20 or so dollar Harbor Freight orbital buffers/polishers and put one of those cheap wool covers on it and lightly buff it (and incidentally, these combined with a sheet over your skin, make awesome massagers if you have a massage partner, but MUST BE the orbital type! [unless friction burning is something you are into]).Jan 20, 2023 at 7:59 pm #3770975nunatakBPL Member
I made an Alpha Direct 4004 76″ long zipper less – hood less mummy bag with a top girth of 64″, foot girth of 46″.
It is built with a full 7d super low CFM ripstop shell, and a top draw string closure. Weight is about 350g.
My trips rarely go to areas with a night time low of 55°F so this is an overbag for a much warmer down mummy to control frost issues in my tent and to add what I gauge as 5-8°F to the sleep system.
It has proven exceptionally useful on many trips over the last three winters.Jan 20, 2023 at 8:22 pm #3770977
@ Monte @ nunatak
Took the words right out of my mouth. I was thinking this concept just last week. At first to make a liner of just alpha direct for the inside of my down bag for the shoulder season. Then of making an over quilt with possible shell that would attach to the side points on my down quilt for moisture management. Came across Nunataks creation on their site and it got me buzzing. Glad to see others are thinking the same ideas.Jan 21, 2023 at 1:44 am #3770982
Jan, how does the Alpha Direct overbag compare to one made with Apex? Lighter? Less compressible? Better moisture management?Jan 21, 2023 at 2:49 am #3770983Mark VerberBPL Member
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
You definitely want something blocking air movement, the lightest breeze is easily felt. I have been considering something similar for some hut to hut trips in 2023 so I ran a simple experiment last year of sleeping sleep in 55-65F wearing nothing but a 90gsm alpha direct hoody with a 48×60″ piece of 120gsm alpha direct covering my lower body inside a dwr bivy or a silk sleep sack. Worked quite well.Jan 21, 2023 at 3:26 am #3770984
Now I take it that the older original Alpha which preceded the newer Direct needs to be sandwiched between 2 shell pieces (such as with Apex or Primaloft)? The reason I ask is because discoveryfabrics.com has some different weights of the older Alpha (seconds) marked down $15 to $17 per yard, but if it’s not good against the skin and requires a layer on each side than I’d rather spend the extra on the Direct. https://discoveryfabrics.com/en-us/products/polartec-alpha-insulation?variant=39934359797845
discoveryfabrics.com also has the Alpha Direct 4028 which weighs 2.0 oz per square yard at $22/yd. They have a couple of much heavier weights too but they aren’t something I’d be interested in for this project. https://discoveryfabrics.com/en-us/products/polartec-alpha-direct?variant=40179847331925
Thank nunatak, I had no idea you or anyone else had made a quilt or over bag with the Alpha Direct.Jan 21, 2023 at 6:34 am #3770986
To answer my own question, Jan posted this blog entry comparing Alpha D to Apex:
To summarize, they both work well as an overbag. Alpha stands up better to compression and is more consistent than Apex. Alpha doesn’t need an inner fabric layer. For the outer fabric, best to use a fabric with a very low CFM.
That post is from Dec 2021. I wonder if Jan doesn’t have anything to add?Jan 21, 2023 at 8:06 am #3770989nunatakBPL Member
This is bordering of thread deviation, but here:
As we know one aim with synthetic overbags in winter is to maintain the dew point in the quick drying synthetic insulation. Depending on temperature conditions this is likely not fully achieved with Alpha (any weight) or Apex 2.5.
Ideally one needs high loft synthetic in the overbag but I don’t trust anything on the market currently. The bulk is hideous, but maybe manageable with concessions ; however the decrease in performance from regular use is real and sometimes all too rapid.
So what do I get from the Alpha bags?
Very low bulk plus long stable life span. The Alpha recovers well from compression, ie stuffing and sleeping on, and the way it drapes and folds makes it good at filling empty corners in the pack. It is not unnoticeable, but darn close.
Moderate temp boost. My sealed winter tent adds about 10-12°F, the overbag 5-8°F. I use a 15°F Alpinist with regular base layers and down booties, with an option to wear a Skaha down sweater. Together this allows comfortable sleep to -10°, with no worries about slightly lower temps.
Moisture management. With the dew point still hovering in the down loft, the mummy gains moisture over time for sure. The Alpha bag is slowing this process, but not stopping it. Good enough tho, considering the low weight and bulk.
A sealed winter tent is warm but full of moisture concerns. The pseudo waterproof/breathable 7d outer skin stops frosty condensation and eliminates the dreaded effects of rubbing against wet tent walls. All the same the Alpha component keeps any condensation that forms on the inside of the 7d from wetting out the sleeping bag. The overbag can be seen as a ‘waterproof’ bivy without the issues usually rendering those useless.
With the durability of Alpha I don’t cringe at using this bag a lot.
It allows me to extend the use of a 40°F minimalist quilt into the shoulder seasons, or a light 28°F zipper less down bag during the colder nights of fall.
Sometimes I pull it during breaks if it is gnarly out. Great for warming feet that just spent hours in wet trail runners, or wrapping the dog.
It goes on winter day skis together with a ‘space blanket’ bag for emergencies.
EtcJan 21, 2023 at 9:11 am #3770997
Re: synthetic insulation in general, have you tried any of the new Primaloft infused with aerogel products? Theoretically, these should retain more insulation value than regular synthetic insulation when losing loft due to compression cycles–due to the very low thermal conductivity of the aerogel particles that are are infused/embedded into the polyester material and fibers themselves.
(I would like to see them eventually do similar with a high tenacity polypropylene. Such a combo might start to get close to the warmth per weight ratio of higher quality downs).Jan 21, 2023 at 11:11 am #3771004
Thanks, Jan, for sharing all that. Sounds like Alpha is an excellent choice over Apex 2.5 if one understands the advantages and limitations.Jan 21, 2023 at 8:55 pm #3771045Bill in RoswellBPL Member
@roadscrape88-2Locale: Roswell, GA, USA
FYI Timmer makes AD – Argon over bags. I was thinking an AD inner could really add some temp warmth to a 30F or 20F quilt for less weight than a S2S liner bag.Jan 22, 2023 at 11:00 am #3771076
Thanks Bill, I wasn’t aware that Timmermade offered Alpha Direct/Argon 67 overbags. I thought I had some kind of novel idea but as usual I’m late to the party.
I wish Timmermade provided more information though. Specs say 58″ X 81″ but I assume that’s just the head end they are referring to in terms of 58″ width. Also the weight is listed as “12 to 15 oz depending on color”. I’m confused as to how there could be such a difference because I figured all Argon 67 and AD 4004 weighed the same. Using Argon 49 instead would cut the weight by 1 oz. https://timmermade.com/product/alpha-direct-4004-overbag/
I see Timmermade also has Alpha Direct overbags with no shell. Yes, I believe they would be far better than S2S Reactor and Reactor Extreme bag liners. I had both S2S liners and found them to be waaaaay overrated in terms of warmth. And at 9 oz the AD would be 4 oz lighter than the Reactor Extreme and about the same as the Reactor.Jan 23, 2023 at 5:18 pm #3771213Iago VazquezBPL Member
@iagoLocale: Boston & Galicia, Spain
@ Monte: When I ordered my Alpha hoodie from Timmermade, he mentioned that some colors weigh more than others. I think I read some threads here where folks mention that some colors from other manufacturers also seem to have some variation in how “dense” the material is. I only have a sample of one, so I can’t really offer much beyond that.Jan 23, 2023 at 8:41 pm #3771231
I am curious about this. Senchi Designs mentions it also. How can the color of dye, reflect to the weight of the fabric, within the same fabric weight class? -makes no senseJan 24, 2023 at 4:55 pm #3771346
Oh, I have lots of questions in general.. I get that this material is supposed to be pretty durable, and enough so to be used as active insulation (in that sense, it is specialized–that and the wicking, and perhaps also somewhat the insulation to weight ratio). Maybe that does set it apart from the kabillion other iterations of furry+fuzzy breathable polyester fabrics out there, but is this really necessary/needed for a much more static use in relation to sleeping insulation (especially since you don’t need very good wicking properties for such a use)? My initial thought and impression is no, and that it is way over priced for such a use.
But I am used to being in the minority camp on many issues.Jan 25, 2023 at 1:27 am #3771370Mark VerberBPL Member
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Your right that advantage of alpha direct not absorbing water (so it definitely doesn’t wick) is not normally important when sleeping. What’s good is that it is compressible, and it’s warmer / weight than other fuzzy breathable polyesters. Unlikely puffy synthetics or down it doesn’t need to be enclosed in fabric, so if you need just modest insulation it’s likely the lightest / smallest volume solution.
My application is 50-65F sleeping in a alberque, hostel or hut which provides only a mattress (no linens or blankets). A 3oz sleep sack to separate me from mattress + 5oz piece of alpha direct 120 used as a quilt/blanket ($24) meets my needs.
I will likely use my “blanket” plus DWR bivy for hot weather back country backpacking.Jan 25, 2023 at 5:13 pm #3771433
Hi Mark, I’m surprised that they would make an active insulation that doesn’t wick at least somewhat well. Good to know though and thank you for the head’s up on that.
(I can’t imagine that there is a significant difference, insulation wise, between this and other fuzzy+furry fabrics of a similar thickness etc. How would that work? Are the fibers hollow, super fine, specially shaped, or the like?)Jan 27, 2023 at 8:11 am #3771551
So I wonder which Alpha Direct 4004 colors are the lightest weight? I e-mailed discoveryfabrics posing that question and I’ll see if they reply back. RSBTR only has the black so if I learned it’s one of the heavier options I’d bite the extra shipping cost from BC to get a significantly lighter weight color. I don’t want to make an AD quilt that comes in over 11 oz.
I assume Timmermade’s AD overbags are 58″ X 81″ rectangles and if that’s the case I could design a Revelation shaped quilt 4 inches narrower on the top half (54″) and then tapering to 44″ at foot. That would cut at least 2 oz off finished weight (with Argon 49) from the Timmermade overbag.
Edit to add: I just discovered this info from TM website which says grey is the lightest. https://timmermade.com/product/polartec-alpha-direct-4004-fabric-by-the-yard/Jan 27, 2023 at 4:24 pm #3771602
I guess my initial thought process wasn’t whether it absorbed or wicked moisture. But rather, since it’s so breathable, the excessive moisture created in sleep, wouldn’t stay entrapped inside of it and evaporate out easily. Just conjecture on my part whether this would be beneficial in this type of application or not.Feb 13, 2023 at 9:42 pm #3773232Paul McLaughlinBPL Member
I made a climashield overquilt with 2.5 oz clima and .67 liner and shell. Sized as an overbag, 12oz. I gotta believe you can make one with argon shells that will be lighter, warmer and cheaper than the A.D. rig . I made some pants out of A.D. and they are great but man that stuff is pricey.Feb 14, 2023 at 2:19 pm #3773270
I found the Alpha Direct 4004 difficult to sew with my Janome home machine but I managed to figure out a way to make the quilt solid and functional anyway. Not a work of art or professional looking enough to sell, however I tested it in my house with the thermostat turned down to 53* F (also checked temp with thermometer). I wore sweatpants with a midweight base layer and laid on a mattress, not a heat reflecting sleeping pad. I was warm enough and I’m very impressed with the warmth to weight ratio of the Alpha Direct. I’d say it’s as warm as my Revelation Apex 50.
Unfolded the quilt measures 54″ X 80″ (rectangle). I used Argon 49 for top shell. Weight without 3/8″ elastic pad straps is 10.8 oz. Features drawstring closure foot end and shockcord closure at head (both uncinched in pic) Has a 22″ footbox with 8 Kam snaps.
I struggled to sew the Argon 49 and AD 4004 together because of the way the AD stretches so much. I tried it with and without a walking foot. Finally I just cut 1.5″ wide strips of 0.8 DCF and folded them to sandwich the edges of the Argon 49 and Alpha Direct together 3/4″ all around. I’m sure there’s a better way with a professional machine but the quilt/blanket will very much fit my needs for SUL summer warmth.Feb 18, 2023 at 4:30 pm #3773509
Let us know how it performs Monte.
I had difficulty sewing with Argon in the past. No professional sewer here. DIY machine. I was able to make it work best by adjusting the foot advance for very light fabric and upped the speed. I felt out of control fast. Fortunately only straight lines. This improved the finished results for me though. I thought Alpha Direct only stretches in one direction? Wonder if positioning fabric against the grain of stretch would alleviate that while sewing. Novice question really. Maybe not possible or convenient
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