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Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2014 Preview: Winter "Technical" Apparel (Emphasis Added)

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The current winter season garments from some of the most prominent outerwear brands that are “phenomenally” warm outerwear are — I personally believe — garments that these companies have never used themselves in cold weather. If they did, they would not have made them. These garments that I am referring too are quilted with one inch vertical lines, 2 x 3 inch diamonds or 1 x 1 ½ inch rectangles. Aside from the multitude of stitches which are all cold spots there isn’t much room to put in either down or polyester fiberfill. The end result is that these garments are not particularly worthwhile as winter garments.

Now these companies that will be showing at the Outdoor Retailer Show in January 2014 their newest and greatest technicalwinter outerwear apparel to the gullible retail buyers for sale to consumers for fall of 2014.

What I find of great interest is the fact that some of these companies are now incorporating polyester fiberfill mixed with down and at least in one case they are using a continuous filament fiberfill made in Asia rather than buying the Climashield which I believe is the finest insulating material in the world and shipping it to their contractor in Asia. But as I have mentioned before this company Columbia will not use any material that is not available i.e. manufactured in Asia. To buy an American made material and ship there is out of the question. So they settle for a product that is not second best but in my opinion worthless. How many companies will be using this continuous filament fiber product remains to be seen.

What I did read is, and I quote “Adidas, Black Diamond, and Helly Hanson will debut insulation with Primaloft ‘s new Down Blend fill, which literally blends down clusters and short staple synthetic fibers together to maintain loft, softness and compressibility.” Of course every jacket pictured is quilted. According to the article one of the reasons for this blend has to do with the cost of down. I am told maybe what is sold as 600 fill down is about $35.00 per pound and of course polyester fiber is $1.50 or so a pound in the USA, so it is probably $0.40 a pound in Asia. The suggested retail prices look to be the same as 100 percent down parkas available this year. The writer of the article poses some interesting questions, I quote; “Will the consumers accept what could be described as “watered-down down? Is performance actually improved? And at what point in a mix are benefits compromised?” There is not only no improvement but long term there will be an interesting problem, and that will occur in laundering, something these companies do not want their customers to do with these garments i.e. wash them. If you wash a down garment and put it in a dryer it takes a while to dry but once dry all of the down now clean lofts back to original thickness. When you launder un-bonded polyester fiber it has a tendency to pack into itself. This is similar to picking up a handful of snow and rolling it in your hands. Many years ago I saw this effect with un-bonded DuPont fibers. Since there are down clusters also mixed in these polyester fibers will more than likely twist some of the down filaments in as well further reducing the initial thickness of the insulation.

I also recall many years ago when Jansport was a growing company making an interesting sleeping bag. They started making a down top sleeping bag with Polar Guard on the bottom of the bag. They thought that the Polar Guard bottom would correctly so offer greater bottom insulation. However, they stopped making them after a short time due to a lack of sales. I have no idea how these bags performed, I think they should have performed better than a down bag with down on the bottom, but the consumer didn’t think so, so they stopped making them. I wouldn’t be surprised if these “abortion” garments are an equal failure.

The problem all of these companies have is the fact that not one of these companies has in their employ a person or persons that actually have knowledge of insulations.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again “buyer beware”.

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