Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Alan Arnette Explains The Champion Everest Supersuit


Last week I posted a story about a new piece of gear coming from Champion and scheduled to be tested on Everest this year by the Climb With Us team. Dubbed the "Supersuit" this new gear is reportedly light, thin, and flexible, while offering the same weight as much thicker and bulkier down jackets and suits. According to PR from Champion, the Supersuit is just 3 millimeters thick, while traditional down gear is as much as 40 millimeters in thickness.

Champion's new technological wonder was unveiled a few weeks back at the Winter Outdoor Retailer show, and since then it has been met with a healthy dose of skepticism. I've read comments from climbers that are hopeful that this new gear delivers on its promise, while others have outright condemned the Supersuit to failure before it ever sees the light of day. They wonder how any such product could exist, let alone come from a company like Champion.

Fortunately for all of us, Alan Arnette is on the case, and the latest post to his blog has lots of insights and information on how the Supersuit works. As some have speculated, the suit uses Aerogel, a high tech product that Alan describes as: "warmer than down, can be compressed, is breathable and is virtually unbreakable. It keeps hots things hot and cold things cold." He then goes on to provide a history of the product, information on how it is manufactured, and the impact it could possibly have on the gear we'll be wearing in the near future.

Alan also points out that there has been other gear on the market that have used Aerogel in the recent past, including water bottles from CamelBak and Quiver, and a jacket from Burton that cost twice that of a regular version. He also points out that the material has been used on Everest before, with climber Anne Parmenter wearing a pair of Aerogel socks on her summit bid back in 2006. Reportedly, her main complaint was that the socks were too warm!

We'll all have to wait until this spring to see how the new Supersuit performs on Everest, but this article gives us all reason to be optimistic in my opinion. It sounds like it should live up to its promise of lighter, thinner, and warmer gear. The question remains though, how much is it going to cost? (And where can I get one?!?)