FLIPPING THE FLUX PART2: 1+1=3. THE TETON MOUNTAIN PROJECT SYSTEM

PART 2

teton bros polartec pertex primaloft clothing system

from concept to application The Teton Mountain Project System has been realistic in its demands

The proto-system being tested this winter at TMP is the result of accumulative failures across a wide range of tests. We don’t claim it to be the end of the evolution – rather the beginning. We don’t know the end, but we do know it will take stepping out of the regular production process to get there.

Several systems already exist; Mountain Hardwear and The North Face both currently have systems out that are pointed in the right direction, and several other companies have bits of the puzzle squared but not joined together yet. The MHW and TNF systems are significant departures from the Frankenstein systems, but lack development in the system-flux area, which compromises the components.

Perhaps the most integrated system out there is the new ski mountaineering range from La Sportiva – potentially speaking about the future of dedicated meta-systems than any other. Aside from intentionally working together, the elements that allow it to interface with boots, gloves, goggles etc is something climbers have much to learn from.

All are combinations of very good standalone designs, using innovative textiles and construction, often in new ways. All are based on the demands of actual, serious users, with less compromise for the weekend market than is usually seen (understanding market trickle-down is important here), and all three systems have made advances in the ergonomics of system use – but each system still faces the usual internal flux problems in the same old ways.

By focusing more towards one element of function they negate the root of most system-failures with the same mistakes most clothing systems make: confusing properties with function.

Yes, the system may insulate well – but that can be better achieved (ie with more sensitivity across a broader range of demands) by function than by reliance on material properties that are more easily compromised. The process has begun, but is slowed by industrial limitations, many of which the Teton Mountain Project is fortunate to avoid.

teton bros mountain project warmshell coolshell meta-system

 new technology, new applications, new interfaces, new freedoms

TMP uses different ways of resolving the same issues every system faces. All demands of a system (ie loss of convection, retention of radiation etc) can be met in multiple ways, with almost all producers choosing the least sophisticated for market friendliness, which matters when you have 30,000 units on shelves. Solving problems at their end manifestation makes more sense to big producers than solving at its inception.

TMP doesn’t have that limitation.

You could say the TMP system is ‘inception based’ – designed to minimize problems that require solutions based on bulk.

Meta-systems defy the usual base-mid-shell-insulation paradigm, and the TMP skunkhouse team jettisoned those notions very fast. At R&D level meta-systems throw up interesting design projects that are not all simply reveling in the amazing textiles that have blown all definitions of how layering can work. With offerings from pertex, polartec and primaloft all flowing into each other, what was once a shell or insulation can now fit any number of roles.

We dont say this base, then that mid-layer followed by such and such a shell with either down or primaloft over the top – it doesn’t work like that: that’s how a Frankenstein system trying to work around its limitations works, not one designed from the ground up.

In the case of the meta-system – where each element works as much as a layer as it does a transition – common definitions are reassigned: mid-layers can act as baselayers, insulation can be used as a shell, baselayers are sometimes integrated with shells – it’s a fusing of microsystems, not of distinct layers. Where single garments can perform several different functions in several different areas, its incorrect to refer to them as a single contiguous layer

The TMP systems work because we have been privileged in our freedoms and ruthless in our applications. From skin level to the outer interfaces and beyond we have developed a system for managing effects that create a broad spectrum of microclimates. The system as a whole contains no extraneous elements. Every aspect of design is intuitive and ‘clean’. Separated into bits things appear stripped down and deconstructed – put together it all makes sense. The ways some garments function within the system-as-a-whole is exciting – with innovations coming from a wide design base that includes drysuits, rescue and military.

The TMP system directives:

  • Sea level to 7000m: complete range that functions for expedition use from the approach to the summit, minimizing carrying superfluous gear. Easily adaptable above 7000m

  • +35c to -35c: the baking approach to early morning summit pushes

  • Livable for up to 14 days: hygienic, ergonomic, comfortable and sleep-friendly properties requiring little or no change for short trips.

  • Interfacable with current designs: developed in conjunction with emerging designs for boots, helmets, gloves etc

  • Optimizing technologies: allowing the properties of the latest materials to function as close to optimum by minimizing interference from other factors.

Each of these directives was conceived on the basis of actual experience, and is tested doing the same things that made us want for them to begin with: one of the indicators of a good design is to observe that want evaporate.