weve had a month of trips to the mountains with sub-zero temps now, covering everything from humid approaches, long days of snow, rain, days and days on ice, nights and nights in tents and volume-oriented training explicitly to test bodies and gear.
a selection of proto designs and proto textiles have circulated thru the process, coming into their 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation of trialing with a lot more ahead, much of it designed to stress the system as much as the individual components.
long slogs up varied terrain puts pressure on systems, showing any issues with venting/moisture rapidly. photo Tony/Climb Japan
initial data is interesting, and without giving too much away is presented here. reading between the lines for those in the know will prove interesting:
our testing expectations have been too narrow: so many factors have arisen that have surprised us we need to expand our perspective. things we ignored as having been covered, once shifted by their surrounding elements, have become attention spiking. other things we deemed as minor, basic adaptions (even things we removed) in a domino-effect have lead to unforeseen outcomes.
this further highlights the system concept – and why its so slow to gain traction – seemingly small elements in established products, once intentionally incorporated with other intentional designs can produce results that need serious attention.
many producers simply don’t have that freedom – indeed many consumers wouldn’t stand for it…
some textiles are better than expected: some are yet-unreleased glimpses of the future and others are simply old favourites used in a way that lets them work properly. sometimes a seemingly small detail or shift in a fabrics niche use is all that’s needed to unleash its properties.
some system elements are unexpectedly profound: things we included for one reason turn out to work exceptionally well for others – leaving us scratching our heads wondering how we didn’t see it before us, and honing the edge to what else may be going on. particularly in regards to innovative load bearing systems, we are finding applications spreading sideways to increase efficiency in other areas
some accepted design elements are woefully bad, nay, unacceptable: some things we included either as adaptions of industry standards or simply without question, when interfaced with newer developments, prove unacceptable – some to the point of ‘getting the scissors’, ie radical modification in the field.
development in some areas has shown glaring holes in previously sophisticated systems: clothing, sleeping and rope systems that seemed streamlined when no other option was on the table, when thrown into the grinder of new technologies and ideas suddenly appear limited and two-dimensional.
“Simple Sophistication” still wins the day: the le Corbusier maxim still stands. sophisticated designing using all available technologies, refined to their minimal function elements is still the way forward, reducing limitations imposed by over adaption.
functioning systems really do make a quantifiable difference: across the last 6 weeks the tested elements have been thrown up side by side against a wide range of other standards (including previous incarnations in the same design-directive’, and every time the proto has excelled because of its systemization. standalone designs are difficult to quantify, but systems show up problems in obvious ways – moisture trapped in certain places, speed of venting, interfaces with other gear, time spent adjusting etc.
mismatched systems usually compound problems within them, overloading the properties of one element to make up for failings in another. meta-systems don’t do this, resulting in less time fiddling with things, the process of which extrapolates to pool into larger issues
the result is there is no result yet – 4 weeks is not nearly enough time to realistically test anything. all these results show us is that its worth continuing and stepping up the process, and that we need to be better prepared for unexpected results. with a system on the line we are pairing seemingly unrelated elements together – stove systems to sleeping mats, crampons to gloves, energy bars to underwear (not in that way…), baselayers to tent fabrics, rope bags to gloves. its exciting but brain gymnastic stuff. a lot of coffee is being drunk, even by our standards.
many thanks to those involved in the Teton Mountain Feedback Project, including those weathering the selection criteria, you know who you are. your involvement goes beyond simply trying out gear systems for climbers.
its what cant be seen that usually matters: innovations in fabrics and applications require extensive yet subtle testing