Everest Supersuit Performance Update!

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. 🙂

Kraig Becker

4 thoughts on “Everest Supersuit Performance Update!”

  1. Sounds like marketing speak for a BIG failure! As I mentioned when this first came up, none of the technology is new. The radiant barrier problems were the same ones Moonstone face 20 years ago: only works close to body for reasonable performance (ie. a fleece underneath greatly cuts efficiency) and breathability is almost non-existent. When Thinsulate came out, it too was billed as the next great insulator. And then everyone discovered that the poor drape resulted in lots of big air spaces near the body (read: inefficient)–no more Thinsulate clothing in the active world. Aerogel is a great insulator (not new though) but using it in clothing can't get past that without a tight design that prevents using other layers. Notice there is no mention of durability, particularly in areas that are flexed, creased, and knelt upon. Nor do they mention how long it was worn at -40°. Yet they gloss over that it's unusable for anything but standing around.

    Reading between the lines, this sounds like a poorly conceived project driven by marketing. It only went to Camp 3 because it sucked–probably took it that high just to justify the cost of the expedition. Like the Reebok superduper mountaineering boots that were used on Everest a while ago, this will never go anywhere beyond marketing spew.

    OTOH they have always made nice underwear so the new products should be nice me-too pieces at a decent price point.

  2. Clyde: I can tell you that the information I received says that they wore the Supersuit "up to Camp 3". Does that mean they wore it from BC to C3? Don't know. But that is the quote that I have.

    They do mention durability in the report that I received as well, saying that the design group made "significant advancements in the textile applications of aerogel into a material called Zero-Loft, a nano-technology “super insulator.”

    They go on to say that benefits of the Supersuit over traditional down coats include "durability, its hydrophobic properties and the insulation improvements despite compression."

    Take that for what you will, as the suit is a long way from production, but if this report is taken at face value, they seem to have made some advances in the area. Aerogel remains VERY expensive though, so it was going to be awhile regardless of the performance.

    The other gear was worn at various stages of the expedition from BC to summit, and seems to be good stuff that will hit stores on schedule this Fall. Hopefully it is affordable too.

  3. I am looking for this update for over a week now. Thank god that I found it at last. Your post is very informative. I had so much fun reading your post and also the comments.

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