Polartec – Alpha breathable puffy material

Working at home last week in a cold kitchen where even the dog was unwilling to set foot on the chilly laminate floor, a parcel arrived which looked somewhat like a pizza box. Unexpected, it wasn’t actually a pizza, but contained a letter to ‘Dear Industry Insider’ and a bright red puffy gilet from the team at Polartec.

So, as with all deliveries I cast the paperwork aside and donned the exciting new garment over my SubZero softshell jacket and carried on working. A funny thing happened after a couple of minutes; my arms felt cold!

Despite my lack of love for the Gilet style of clothing, the effect was pretty amazing. I wasn’t aware of how cold I was, sitting there in the unheated kitchen (the dog shivering at the door should have been a clue) but the Polartec Alpha sample warmed my core up so quickly that I became aware of my chilly arms in a conscious way. It really is a very warm material for its thickness.

So, intrigued, I set aside my work and read some of the gumph which introduced this new Alpha material; here’s a brief summary.

Polartec Alpha will be available on garments from late 2013 (I know, they’re such teases!)

It’s a ‘puffy’ insulation material, like Primaloft and other synthetic insulation.

Polartec say that it is, and here’s the main selling point, some 100% more breathable than other puffy materials, which means that when you need to wear a warm jacket and you start doing activity, you won’t get as sweaty and uncomfortable as fast. Useful for those times when you’re on a cold, damp hill and doing stop-start activities.

The insulating ‘puffy’ stuff is bound to a central layer, so it won’t migrate off in to clumps over time. It in encased between an inner layer of lightweight fabric and an outer layer of (on my sample) material which is shiny and slightly denser weave. I haven’t tested it against snagging on rocks or brambles yet, but it doesn’t strike me as very abrasion resistant. But that’s missing the point, which is that this is meant to let vapour out better than any other insulating material, so when the going is rough perhaps it won’t be your outer-most layer.

I’ll report more on the Polartec Alpha under various conditions. The sample I have is said to be DWR treated (so, water resistant), but that’s not tested yet. First impressions are that it’s very light-weight, packable (the sample came with what appears to be a 1L stuffbag) and breathable – I certainly haven’t felt sweaty yet.

To be continued…