OR: Champion Unveils An Ultrathin Parka That Provides Equal Insulation as Thick Goose Down

At last week's Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, Champion Athletic Apparel exhibited its final prototype of its Champion Supersuit that the company says will be the thinnest extreme-weather apparel gear ever designed and tested at high altitude on Mount Everest.

The Champion Supersuit insulation is just three millimeters thick, compared with a typical goose-down jacket thickness of 40 millimeters, and uses a nanotechnology insulation layer and a proprietary radiant warmth system. The result according to Champion is a breakthrough ultrathin cold-weather garment that is no thicker than a typical computer mouse pad but provides equal insulating properties, greater mobility, and superior wind resistance than typical extreme weather gear.

"The Champion Supersuit uses advanced technology to conserve, capture and return heat unlike any other extreme-weather apparel currently being used on Everest," said Mike Abbott, director of research and development for Hanesbrands Inc., the parent company of Champion apparel. "It has been a rewarding research and development project. By developing the Supersuit and other garment layers to be used on Everest, we have identified new Champion products to roll out and new features and enhancements to potentially add to our everyday line of Champion Athletic Apparel."

Champion is outfitting a Mount Everest climbing team led by mountaineer Jamie Clarke with cutting-edge socks, base layer, insulating layers, soft shell jackets and pants, hard shell jackets and pants, and the Champion Supersuit. Clarke has been testing the gear and will wear a one-piece full-body Supersuit on Everest in April and May to keep him warm and mobile in the high winds and severe cold on the highest reaches of the 29,035-foot mountain.

"We were given the challenge to develop a summit suit that would advance the state of cold-weather gear, that wouldn't look like anything else on the market, and that would protect climbers against extreme temperatures and conditions on Mount Everest," Abbott said. "We have worked with several technology partners in and out of the apparel industry, including Element 21 Golf Company, which supplies the nanotechnology insulating material for the Champion Supersuit. We have made some significant breakthroughs, including the ability to use the nano insulation in commercially viable apparel products for the first time."

The Champion Supersuit is made up of four layers, each with unique characteristics to preserve warmth. The Supersuit is designed to prevent the loss of heat via air movement (convection), promote the insulating effect of still air (prevent conduction), and capture heat produced by the body (radiant heat source). Details of the layers include:

Supersuit Outer Layer (anti-convection). A hard-shell polyester fabric mated to a wind-barrier membrane prevents sub-zero winds from penetrating the inner layers and conveying heat away from the body. Blocking strong winds in extreme cold conditions prevents compromising the effectiveness of the insulating and radiating layers of the Supersuit.

Supersuit Nanotechnology Insulation Layer (anti-conduction). The Champion Supersuit is the first commercially viable application of Element 21's Zeroloft Aspen Aerogels, which allow the Supersuit to be so thin. Zeroloft insulation has four times the thermal insulation of goose down because the transparent solid gel is made up of nano-sized multisided spheres that have so much surface area that air movement is restricted, which reduces conduction and prevents heat loss.

The technology utilizes Zeroloft Aspen Aerogels insulation in the Champion Supersuit.

Aerogel is made of puffed glass and is the lightest solid on earth. It has historically been used by the natural gas and oil industries to insulate deep-water pipelines.

"Our expertise and relationships in the textile science industry allowed us to find a material that no one else was using," Abbott said. "We search for proven concepts and materials and determine how to reapply them in the apparel industry. We felt that aerogel had a lot of potential to give our climbing team more mobility while protecting them from the elements."

An additional side benefit of the development of gear for the Everest expedition is that Hanesbrands says it also plans to use aerogel to insulate equipment in its manufacturing facilities as a way to reduce energy consumption.

The Champion and Duofold brands say they will use the Everest project's research discoveries for new products and enhanced products in the coming year. The first products inspired by or influenced by the Everest project will come to market in fall 2010, according to the brand.
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