Over the past month and a half or so, I’ve had a number of readers e-mail me wondering how the Everest Supersuit, designed and tested on the mountain by Expedition Hanesbrands, performed while in the Himalaya.
It’s easy to understand why there is so much curiosity and excitement around the suit, as it promises all the warmth of a traditional down filled parka, but at a fraction of the bulkiness. In fact, a typical down suit is as much as 40 mm thick, while the Supersuit is a mere 3 mm. A major breakthrough for climbers, all made possible thanks to the wonders of aerogel.
Earlier today I received a report on the performance of the Supersuit, and a number of other gear items that Hanesbrands tested this past spring, and I think it is safe to say that Champion is quite happy with the results.
The Supersuit was worn up to Camp 3 (located at 24,000 feet) on Everest, and in temperatures as low as -40ºF, and was described by expedition leader Jamie Clarke as the warmest coat he had ever worn. Considering how light and thin the jacket is, that is very impressive.
The Supersuit does still have a few hurdles to cross yet however, as the report also says that it performed best in extreme temperatures when rigorous aerobic activities were not taking place.
The radiant foil layer that was included in the garments worked so well at reflecting heat back at the person wearing the suit, that it actually became to warm to wear while undertaking strenuous activities. The foil also prevented the escape of moisture, which brought on its own challenges for the climbers too.
The Champion design team, who came up with the Supersuit are said to be more than happy with the performance results from Everest. The tests showed the potential for gear manufacturers to make major breakthroughs in the design and creation of extreme weather gear using aerogel, delivering products that are extremely warm, yet thin and lightweight at the same time.
The bottom line is that as a test product, the Supersuit was a BIG success, but it isn’t quite ready for production just yet.
The Supersuit wasn’t the only piece of gear that the team tested either. They also put a variety of new base layers, soft and hard shells, and even socks to the test, with all of the gear said to have performed at or above expectations.
This is good news for us consumers, who will soon see more options available for our own adventurous expeditions, whether it is sledding in the backyard or climbing a Himalayan peak of our own. Much of the gear is now moving into production and we can expect it to hit stores this Fall under the Champion and Duofold labels.
So there you have it folks. It sounds like the Supersuit was pretty impressive, and aerogel could very well be the future of extreme weather gear.
There are still a few kinks to work out of the designs, but wearing a coat that is just 3 mm thick at 24,000 feet, and in -40ºF temperatures, sounds like an amazing prospect. Lets hope we don’t have to wait too long to see this actually in our gear closets. 🙂
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