Gear and apparel companies are constantly in pursuit of creating products worthy of being deemed with the industry’s most coveted superlatives: warmest, lightest, thinnest, most innovative.
NuDown, a small company out of Reno, Nevada is seeking to define a new sector: variability.
The crux of their IP is the idea of wearing one jacket and allowing the wearer to be in total control of their own insulation, not by layering systems or ventilation, but by inflating (or deflating) the air in their jacket.
The technology used by NuDown was developed by Klymit, but NuDown decided to throw weight behind the idea that warmth is a product of air after Jeff Picket of the Connor Group bought out the apparel side of Klymit and started NuDown in 2013.
“The idea of using just air for insulation and warmth is a very old idea,” said CEO Bob Hall. “It’s the air that keeps you warm. It’s not the feathers or the fiber, those are just structures to create air space to keep you warm.”
When most people think of a warm outer layer they likely think of the puffy down jackets sold by nearly every major outfitter.
NuDown is trying to change how people think of warmth, and their technology can be looked at as an alternative to down (a fiber that’s not the most environmentally sound). Their first round of products came out in late 2014 and included one vest and one jacket, which they view as a test run of the technology. Their 2015 line is almost completely different.
“The only thing that’s the same is the core technology,” said Hall. With their initial run there was two things that NuDown wanted to prove, according to Hall: that air keeps you just as warm as down (true) and that the insulation is in fact variable (Hall says you can get a 30-degree range of insulation value).
NuDown’s garments use inflatable air chambers to capture body heat. The products come with a hand pump (like one you might squeeze to take someone’s blood pressure) that fill the chambers. They say 20 pumps will do for an average cold day and 40+ pumps when it’s “the cruelest of colds.”
If you pump the jacket all the way up in the morning, you can release air easily as you warm up. And while you may feel kind of dorky hand pumping your jacket, it doesn’t take very long to do so.
In September 2015 NuDown will launch six styles (three for men and three for women) that include two jackets and one vest ranging from $450-800.
The Squaw Peak jacket ($650) features visible inflation “baffles” while the Tallac jacket (from $750) suspends the baffles on the inside with a shell draped over the top for a different kind of look.
Right now the company is working on educating gear heads about their new technology, said Hall. It’s the air that keeps you warm, not the feathers. Once they’ve done that they’ll start pushing a companion product: argon gas (which is used in insulated pane windows). Argon gas canisters are available for purchase on the NuDown website and offer another alternative for insulation.
“The science on argon is rock solid,” said Hall. “Argon gas has the thermal insulating capacity that is triple that of air.”
Consumers can explore NuDown technology and products on their website.