Editor’s Note: This article was opened to the public on July 22, 2010. To subscribe and see Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2010 articles as they are published, click here.
Aimed at backpackers, the Red Rock variant of the Kinetic vest uses a 40 denier Nylon Dobby shell to minimize weight and packed size (shown inflated).
I first reported on the Klymit inflatable insulation technology a year ago at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, 2008. They were developing an apparel insulation technology based on filling a flexible bladder with noble gas, such as Argon. Klymit claims the system to be more compressible and provides a higher warmth-per-thickness ratio than conventional fiber insulations, while allowing the user to adjust the volume of insulation – and therefore warmth – on the fly. At the time, Klymit was still developing their noble gas technology, seeking partners, and showing prototypes. This year, they are launching their first product… and it’s targeted at lightweight backpackers and packrafters.
In addition to the actual garment, a Klymit system also includes a "Klymitizer" inflator, and one or more "HotShot Kanisters" of Argon gas. The Klymitizer weighs 1.6 ounces (45 grams) and each HotShot cartridge contains 8 grams of Argon and weighs 2.0 ounces (58 grams) when full. Each cartridge is said to provide five inflations of the Kinetic vest in size medium. In some applications, the vest could be pre-inflated and the inflator plus cartridges could conceivably be left at the trailhead and not affect packed weight. However, you’d then lose the ability to adjust the amount of insulation on the fly, and the packed size of the fully inflated vest would increase dramatically.
The all-inclusive weight of the system is 260 grams for a medium Red Rock vest, 45 grams for the inflator, and 58 grams for a cartridge. This totals 363 grams (12.8 ounces). A weight-conscious backpacker certainly has many conventional synthetic and down-filled alternative garments available at or below this weight. It’s the unique ability to adjust the Klymit insulation on the fly to match conditions and exertion levels that may justify its weight penalty, allowing it to be used both in camp and on the move. Also, bear in mind that unlike fiberfill and especially goose down, the Klymit system is not affected by moisture. A hiker wearing a Red Rock vest could potentially improve his overall efficiency by reducing or eliminating layering changes in cold rain or snow.
For packrafters, Klymit is also launching the Amphibian version of the Kinetic vest. The Amphibian features a non-absorbent 40×50 denier shell fabric that dries quickly once out of the water. Klymit does not market the Kinetic vest towards, nor is it USCG certified as, nor even designed to be, a Personal Floatation Device (PFD). Nevertheless, a size medium Kinetic vest contains approximately three liters of gas when fully inflated, which provides almost seven pounds of buoyancy. For comparison, a foam USCG Type III PFD provides a minimum of 15.5 pounds of buoyancy. Still, perhaps the Kinetic vest could provide supplemental floatation when used with an appropriately certified PFD for watersports. Lacking an appropriate PFD, packrafters on flat water, who might otherwise consider stuffing a sleeping pad inside their clothing for floatation, may want to take a hard look at the Amphibian as an alternative.
[Note: neither the author nor Backpacking Light advocate operating any watercraft without wearing an appropriately certified Personal Floatation Device.]
The Amphibian version of the Kinetic vest features a quick-drying shell for watersports use (shown deflated).
|Red (Red Rock), Blue (Amphibian)|
Weight of Vest, size Medium (claimed):
|9.2 oz (260 g)|
Weight of Inflator (claimed):
|1.6oz (45 g)|
Weight of Argon Cartridge (claimed):
|2.1 oz (58 g)|
Inflated Gas Volume:
|approx. 3 Liters|
Fills Per Cartridge:
|$199 (Includes vest, inflator, and three gas cartridges)|