Open main menu

Outdoor Retailer: Klymit NobleTek

Klymit Amphibian Klymit's Amphibian vest retails for $199.95

I checked out the Klymit booth on Friday to get the facts behind the buzz this outdoor-tech start-up is trying to generate. Klymit's idea: using trapped gases instead of down or synthetic insulation.

Klymit founder Nate Alder reasoned that if scuba divers in extremely cold seas used "noble" gases (argon, xenon, krypton) for insulation, skiers and snowboarders could do the same. The trick was moving the idea from idea to marketplace. 

What's on the market now: A collection of vests that sandwich an inflatable plastic layer between two soft-shell fabric layers. A pump and pressurized noble-gas cartridge inflate the insulating layer via a small hose in one of the pockets. In action, a skier or hiker inflates the vest before starting out, then releases gas via a valve above the left breast  when they start to feel like they're heating up. Less gas means less insulation, creating an opportunity to regulate heat without removing layers.

This video shows how the Klymit system works.

The vest I tried on felt like a typical soft-shell -- light but perhaps a bit stiff. The main questions down the road will be about durability, flexibility, and people's willingness to fiddle with the technology.  

The vests, available at the Klymit web store, come with a "klymitizer" to inject the gas, and three small gas cartridges. Shell jackets to accompany them are to be available in mid-2010 for $150 to $225.


I can see it now. I am on a hike and pop my jacket.

That is a very valid concern DrReaper. Fortunately we have actually never had a single puncture from any users thus far for a few reasons. One is because the fabric is actually much more durable than you would think, and it is also use primarily as a mid layer under an outer shell protecting it even more.

In the unlikely event that it does get a puncture, we supply each vest with a patch kit for easy and quick repair. There are some projects under way using cut, tare, and puncture proof fabrics for military use, where we have actually broken hypodermic needles trying to penetrate the fabric as well.

It's an interesting idea, but many hikers add and remove layers many times during a hike as they alternate between level hikes, steep inclines, and breaks. Even if one didn't mind continually adjusting the vest, how much extra gas must one carry to accomodate this practice?

Two comments hit me about this concept:

1. The noble gas thing seems gimmicky. Since the gas reacting with other materials isn’t an issue, the cost and weight or this garment could be lowered simply by inflating it like a thermarest pad.

2. The non-breathable nature of this garment will endow it with vapor barrier-like qualities, thus any underlying layers of clothing are apt to become saturated with moisture.


This post has been locked and is not accepting new comments