One Jacket for All Conditions?

Staff Writer
New gas-inflation technology aims to dial up the insulation

Looking for innovation in outerwear?  How about an an argon-gas insulated jacket that keeps you warm at any temperature or activity level?  That's the newest project for Klymit, the outdoor gear company based in Ogden, UT. 

A jacket now being developed by Klymit will use the same NobelTek warmth technology that received rave reviews from Backpacker's Jonathon Dorn, who tested a gas-filled vest on Colorado's Longs Peak and wrote that it “reflected body heat like no other … not even the fluffiest 900-fill down.” 

The new jacket, called the Ulaar, will be the first to use this technology, said Klymit's president, Cory Tholl. The company hopes the jacket will be able to function just as easily as a windbreaker or a ski parka by means of built-in adjustable gas chambers.  These pockets can be filled with dry air or argon, the same gas used between panes in insulated windows. Argon, a non-toxic, non-flammable gas, traps heat three times better than dead air due to its low thermal conductivity. Klymit is the first company to use it in apparel.

The jacket will come with a hand-pump for dry air, as well as argon canisters that click into the same connector. With either air or argon, the more you add, the more insulation it provides.  As the chambers inflate, the jacket conforms to the body, captures its heat and recirculates the warmth. Gas pressure is released through a small valve at the chest. If any of the chambers pop or get damaged, a patch kit can help repair leaks. Regular air provides sufficient insulation under warmer conditions, and argon provides more at lower temperatures. 

The air pump allows for an indefinite number of inflations, but the argon canisters need to be replaced when empty. They cost $20 for a pack of three, which Tholl says will last between 2 to 5 complete inflations, depending on the size of the jacket.

The Ulaar jacket will also have an articulated hood, water resistant zippers, a waist-cinch, and a bamboo, charcoal-infused liner to reduce odor.  Prototypes have already been tested in Colorado, Idaho, Utah and the United Kingdom. "It’s performing really well,” Tholl said.

One obvious issue with the air-tight inflation design is breathability, one of the key considerations factored into the design of most outdoor apparel. Tholl said the key to staying comfortable is to not overinflate the jacket.

“If you are doing high aerobic exercises or you start to sweat, you can deflate it so it comes away from your body and allows air between you and the jacket to let you sweat it off,” he said, adding that the bamboo-charcoal lining helps to absorb and disperse moisture.  

The company hopes to finish product development of the jacket with funding raised on Kickstarter. So far donors have contributed just over $33,000 of the $40,000 goal on Kickstarter. If the concept is successful, the Ulaar jacket should be available in spring 2013 for around $500, Tholl says.

Via Outside and GearJunkie.