This article has been broken into 3 parts.
- Part 1 which covers clothing.
- Part 2 which covers gear and accessories.
- Part 3 which covers skiing accessories.
It’s that time of year again!
Having had so much fun last year and, at a modest six hour train journey away being relatively local, I signed up for another report on the ISPO sports and outdoor trade show in Munich. I decided to just do three days this year, as I found the fourth a bit tedious in 2015. That meant a bit more organization and a tighter schedule. I also wanted to improve on last year’s photos: smartphones will take a nice picture; it’s just a matter of holding them steady enough. To that end I bought a lightweight tripod and smartphone adapter. I think the photos are much sharper as a result, I hope you enjoy them. Of course, eventually the fun is over and one gets down to the nitty-gritty of sorting through the small mountain of USB sticks, business cards and brochures.
Where shall we start? Well, last year I focused quite heavily on raw materials, so naturally I went back to some of the same manufacturers to see how things were going. One of my first ports of call was Ardmel Group, which is the parent company of Keela. As you may recall from last year, Ardmel is currently locked in a complex legal battle with W.L. Gore over the claim ‘Guaranteed to Keep You Dry’ in Gore’s advertising literature. The argument, of course, runs much deeper, and raises questions about exactly which criteria should be applied when evaluating, and consequently promoting, outdoor clothing. As we all know only too well, physical activity means sweat and water vapour building up on the inside, irrespective of what is going on outside; although heavy rain also negates any breathability the fabric poses when completely dry. Well, as you can imagine, due legal process, all too often wielded punitively in its own right, is not doing very much right now, so no news to report on that front I’m afraid. However, Ardmel also decided to lodge a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK. Basically, they complained that the phrase ‘Guaranteed to Keep You Dry’ misleads the consumer and thus amounts to false advertising. They were good enough to let me take away a copy of the ASA’s response, which I’m sure will be of great interest to BPL readers. It is duly reproduced below.
Clear as mud?
Personally, I find this response both presumptuous and somewhat contradictory: presumptuous, in its unqualified definition of the average consumer; contradictory, in that the average consumer interprets the claim ‘Guaranteed to Keep You Dry’ to mean that the fabric is also breathable, but understands that physical exertion will obviously impinge on this breathability. I’m sure someone with better retail sales knowledge could produce a better definition of the ‘average consumer’; most of the people I talked to at ISPO readily admitted that most of the gear on show will end up on the high street rather than up a mountain. Moreover, I think the letter is very badly written, and that its dual use of the linking adverbial ‘however’ seems particularly vague and rambling, as if the author is not quite sure of what they are trying to say. The matter may well be worth appealing, but to be honest, if meaningful change is to come, it will probably come from the markets before it is secured by the rule of law(yers). This unfortunate fact of life is by no means lost on Ardmel. To try and get things moving they offer their own solution to the problem of water vapour build up – a double breathable membrane with the moniker ‘System Dual Protection’ – license free to interested manufacturers. All they ask is that manufacturers recognize that the technology belongs to Ardmel with the addition of a System Dual Protection’ tag in the construction. This, I think, is a smart move on their part. Maier Sports and Sherpa are already offering SDP technology in their product lines, whilst Bergens and Alaska are showing interest. An additional membrane means more weight in the finished garment of course, but with fabric weights coming down all the time, even these dual membrane pieces now rival traditional breathable technologies. Keela themselves have produced the Saxon jacket, pictured below:
A new lightweight double membrane jacket from Keela.
The piece was finished quite literally, just before the show, so unfortunately no one knows as yet how heavy it is. It felt lighter than 17 oz (500 g) to me. Hopefully I can contact Keela to get a specific figure before the end of this run of articles. In the photo below you can just make out the transparent inner membrane against the white outer membrane:
Lighter and lighter…
The SDP technology itself could easily be made lighter still, given that there are now 7 micron membranes on 7 denier face fabrics available. It just depends on how much money you want to throw at it. Keela have generously offered to construct what they call a half and half version of the Saxon jacket for BPL to test. One half of the jacket is lined with a double membrane, the other with just a single membrane, which allows a more direct comparison to be made. After all this talk, it’s only fitting that some of Keela’s claims are held up to scrutiny. Hopefully this sample, along with some others, will be forwarded to one of the BPL team in the near future.
Speaking of lighter and lighter membranes, I ambled over to Pertex to ask how things were going there. They were busy promoting their new Pertex Shield Plus fabric which employs a hydrophilic membrane. Normal Pertex Shield has a 10,000mm hydrostatic head and 7000g (MVTR) A1, whereas, Pertex Shield Plus has a 20,000mm hydrostatic head and boasts a much improved 20,000g (MVTR) B1 breathability rating. Also new on the Pertex order books is Pertex Shield AP, the AP standing for Air Porous. Pertex Shield AP employs an air porous membrane, greatly increasing breathability. Unfortunately I could not find the exact figures on the Pertex website, but I think it’s safe to say that Shield AP represents a comparable improvement in performance to Shield Plus. Shield Plus available now in a 7 denier option, whilst the rep said Shield AP will certainly work on 7 denier fabrics, so it may take some liaising with Pertex to get it made. The 7 denier Shield Plus is just a few moths old, in fact, Pertex is offering a fabric known internally as Pertex Sheild Plus Triple 7 – 7d face, 7 micron membrane and 7 d jersey knit liner – that is yet to be utilized by any manufacturer in the world. The rep told me that Pertex was aware that their fabrics were sold to the MYOG community, but supplying outlets like Thru-Hiker and Extremextil was something they initially resisted. The main reason being that they are a component brand and big customers don’t like their top of the range fabric turning up in people’s homespun gear. However, he said, and I quote ‘attitudes are changing’. Pertex it seems, like other companies, is beginning to sense the huge benefits engaging with online communities can have on corporate reputation. One of the reasons we don’t see more of it in the outdoor retail sector is that, like everything in big business, online reputation management is done to a budget. Readers may be interested to know that Quantum GL now comes in a matt finish as well as the normal shiny version. According to the rep, European customers prefer the matt finish, whilst producers in the US prefer the shiny finish because ‘it looks lighter’. Pertex throws in some titanium dioxide to take off the sheen once the fabric has been calandered. They recommend having the shiny side facing the down so that it is harder for a stray quill in the down to snag and push through to the outside. However, in an ideal world the fabric should be calandered on both sides.
I had a very interesting conversation with the rep from Toray. They had sewn up some nice factory prototypes with their new insulation material ‘3DeFX+’. I reported on this new ‘stretch’ insulation last year, but it was nice to see it turned into something wearable:
On your mark, get set, drool!
It might not look like much, but it had a wonderfully soft feel to it, and I mean ‘really nice’. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how much I would have liked to have taken that away for testing; out of the question of course. Toray were also showcasing their new ‘Plant Based’ technology:
30 – 40% Plant based Dermizax.
Dermizax is actually available from Extremtextil, the samples above are the new 30 – 40% plant based version. Toray is aiming to be 100% plant based by 2020, a wise decision given the fluctuations in oil price. For nylon fabrics they use castor beans, and for polyester fabrics they use waste molasses, so the new supply chain will hopefully be gentle on the environment unlike say, palm oil production. They also had a new fleece product on the stand called ‘Karuishi’. The fleece is woven with a new patented weaving technique and according to Toray, a 4.5 oz (125 g) Karuishi cloth has the same clo value as a traditional 7.1 oz (200 g) fleece cloth. Besides that, the rep also told me that Toray is definitely working on a 5 denier nylon textile, even though they are extremely skeptical as to whether it will be good for anything. So far, they have only been able to produce very small quantities as the thread breaks too easily. You can’t blame them for being skeptical about the end uses of a fabric they are not technically capable of producing. I’m sure the irony of this situation is not lost on you the esteemed reader. Here we have companies expending untold resources on the production of something they themselves doubt to be any practical use, whilst, more often that not, manufacturers fail to realize the full benefit of the materials they do have either because of the pernicious influence of high street fashion, or in order to use raw materials that outperform everything else on paper and in the laboratory, but not in the real world. The fact is, technology sells, as does fashion. Unfortunately, it often sells better than the things of which it is merely a component. Not that I think we shouldn’t be appreciative of companies with significant financial leverage using these high end materials for their own marketing purposes, it would be unfair to suggest there has been no benefit for us.
Thinsulate was still pushing their new ‘Featherless’ insulation:
Impossible to see, but when you press a button water drips down through the tubes.
The demonstration setup was a lot better than last year’s, and a good way to show how there is no reduction in volume, and thus clo value, when Thinsulate Featherless gets wet. I found out a bit more about the material this year. It is a continuous filament insulation material equivalent to about 600 (US) cu. in. down. I also found out, thanks to other traders, that Thinsulate is working on new versions of their ‘Featherless’ insulation, and that some manufacturers feel that, in terms of warmth to weight, its performance is even better than that of its leading competitors. Manufacturers like Spyder, Bench, Merrel, Quiksilver, Carhartt and Rossignol have all added ‘Featherless’ to their range. And before you say, ‘but I wouldn’t touch any of their gear with a bargepole’, even Rab have added some ‘Featherless’ garments to their range:
From left to right: Men’s Nebula Jacket, Women’s Nebula Jacket and two Nimbus Jackets (unisex).
These jackets, like those that follow, will be out fall/winter 2015. They are so new the Nimbus jackets were not even in the workbook. It took a few emails with the rep to get all the relevant information. The Nebula jacket is available in both a men’s and women’s version and will weigh about 20.5 oz (580 g) (large). It has a Pertex Endurance shell and 8.6 oz (244 g) of ‘Cirrus’ powered by 3M Featherless insulation. It looks like a pretty warm cold weather jacket, and so should probably not be compared with the very lightest synthetic jackets available. It will cost $240. The Nimbus jacket is lighter at 16.0 oz (455 g). The Nimbus has a Pertex Quantum shell but is only available in a unisex fit. It will cost $210. For ultralight use there will be an ‘Ether X Jacket’ weighing 9 oz (240 g). The Ether X again uses Pertex Quantum GL inside and out, but with PrimaLoft Gold (1.5 oz / m2) insulation. The Ether X will cost $195. I’m afraid I didn’t get a picture of the Ether X. When questioned as to why Rab chose Thinsulate Featherless, the rep said that Rab is always interested in new developments and, being a British company, they wanted to make some gear for damp UK weather conditions. Last year, Rab was only just beginning to incorporate hydrophobic down (from Nikwax) into their range. This year they unveiled the new Continuum Pull-on:
On test soon???
The Continuum Pull-on has Pertex Quantum GL inside and out and is filled with 850 (US) fp hydrophobic down. It weighs 7.4 oz (210 g) (large) and will cost $270. So, not the lightest, but not the most expensive either. Polartec Alpha insulation is proving very popular with manufacturers at the moment, and Rab had their offering on display:
The Rab Paradox Pull-on
The Paradox Pull-on weighs 13.0 oz (360 g) (large) and has a high gauge stretch polyester outer. According to Rab, Polartec Alpha has a better drying time and a better warmth to weight ratio than a conventional fleece. Of course, the drying time of the other materials used in such garments may prove to be a limiting factor. Unveiled last year, Rab’s new Flashpoint jacket has been in the shops for a week or two now:
A fully featured waterproof breathable jacket for 6.3 oz (180 g).
Hopefully, this jacket and the others featured here will be reviewed by the team in the coming weeks.
Montane has always been well known for their very light weight offerings, but they haven’t released much new ultralight gear in quite a while. This year saw the release of their new Fireball Verso Pull-on:
Fireball Verso Pull-on with Hypervent outer showing.
The Fireball Verso Pull-on has Pertex Quantum Rip-stop on one side, and Hypervent on the other. For insulation it has PrimaLoft Silver. Keen eyed readers may notice the invisible zipper for the breast pocket; a nice touch, and quite easy to do on a home sewing machine once you’ve seen it done. That said, I can’t help but wonder if this is just more high street fashion creeping in. The Fireball Verso Pull-on is quite light, however, at about 8.6 oz (244 g) (medium). It should retail for about £100, so not too expensive either. As the name implies, it can be reversed, if desired, to a more windproof (less breathable?) configuration:
Pertex Quantum Rip-stop inner becomes windproof outer.
There is more light weight gear in the pipeline at Montane, and it will form part of Montane’s expanded ‘Via Running’ range. Much is changing at Montane at the moment: they have recently become a Goretex licensee; the first UK company in 17 years to be licensed by Goretex. Of course, that is not great news for fans of eVent, because it will have to be phased out under the terms of Gore’s licensing. Montane, however, is very excited about it. Montane has also become the first company in the world to commit to applying the RDS (responsible down standard) across its entire range of clothing. Montane customers will now be able to trace the down in their clothing from the beginning of the supply chain right through to the end thanks to Allied Feather and Down’s ‘Track My Down’ service. It’s good to see some substantial change in an industry where sustainability and ethics could so easily become mere greenwash. Montane has brought out a new jacket using PrimaLft’s gold down blend:
The New Montane Black Ice 2.0 jacket.
The jacket is designed for more extreme conditions, so is in the mid to heavy weight range of cold weather insulated jackets. It has a box wall construction over the torso and a 38g/m
The new Montane Hi-q Luxe synthetic insulated jacket.
The Hi-q Luxe uses the new PrimaLoft Gold Luxe synthetic insulation, which is exclusive to Montane. When wet it has a clo value of 0.93 clo/oz/yd2. Altogether, the jacket weighs 20.2 oz (574 g) (Montane describes this as ultralight, hmm), and it will sell for $255. It has a Pertex Quantum Rip-stop shell with DWR. Speaking of DWR, there was an interesting press breakfast on the Montane stand on the second day. A rep from Allied down and one from Montane both gave a short presentation. The Allied down rep said they are using a C6 treatment at the moment, but Allied Down will be 100% FC free by 2016. C6 treatments have been here and gone in the blink of an eye it seems.
I went to have a look at the Mountain Equipment stand this year, as I had missed them out for some reason last year. They were showing off their new ‘Dewline’ down jacket range:
The Mountain Equipment Dewline Hooded Jacket
The Dewline hoodie weighs 15.5 oz (440 g) and has a 20 denier inner and outer (Mountain Equipment don’t use any ballistics lighter than 20d). You can see the lighter jacket version behind it on the rack; that weighs 13.2 oz (375 g), so is at the top end of the ultralight down jacket scale. However, when you consider that 6.0 oz (170 g) of that weight is the water resistant down insulation, you clearly have a very warm jacket. There is a vest for summer use:
The Mountain Equipment Dewline Vest.
The Dewline vest weighs 10.1 oz (285 g), of which, 3.7 oz (105 g) is 700 fp water resistant down. The Dewline range is certainly feature rich, and comes with a full length zip rather than the popular ½ zip pullover style. Personally, I quite like a full zip, because it allows me to attach Velcro tabs to the inside of the jacket and fix it to more Velcro tabs sewn on to the top of my quilt. That way, a spread out jacket can cover my whole torso and the top of my legs. I’m also not crushing any down uselessly underneath me, whilst the sleeves can be tucked under the jacket, giving even more insulation over the chest. Best of all, I don’t have to wear so much underneath, so I feel more comfortable. When I got home and started looking through the Mountain Equipment workbook I found this:
The Mountain Equipment Compressor Hooded Jacket.
Apologies for the stock photo; for some reason the rep didn’t show me the item when I asked about ultralight gear, although we did get talking about the new Compressor Pant:
The Mountain Equipment Compressor Pant.
The Compressor Hooded Jacket weighs in at 13.4 oz (380 g), making it quite light compared to the other synthetic jackets I saw at the show. It uses PrimaLoft Gold synthetic insulation, although the workbook doesn’t say how much overall. The Compressor Pant weighs11.8 oz (335 g) and also comes in a ¾ version weighing 8.5 oz (240 g):
The Mountain Equipment Compressor ¾ Pant.
Again, whilst these garments are not at the ultralight end of the scale, it remains to be seen how much warmth they provide.
Whilst walking round ISPO one sees so much new and innovative gear it is always a challenge deciding what to include in the article. One item I just couldn’t leave out was this amazing new jacket from a little known break-out manufacturer:
Some of the manufacturer’s claims may be a little inflated.
As you can see, it boasts the very latest in cutting edge hybrid materials and bonded construction. According to the rep, Goretex experimented with the technology but couldn’t get it to work because they tried a sew and tape approach. The jacket bears an uncanny resemblance to technology currently being developed by Klymit. Perhaps this is an example of ‘creative’ R&D on the part of our Asian partners. Good ideas spread fast, bad ones even faster it seems.