the people at polartec are smart. rather than bettering Primaloft they have reassessed the function of synthetic insulation in the light of how it is/can be used in current systems.

iceclimbingjapan polartec alpha

by developing an entire system of fabrics – encompassing new perspectives on shells such as neoshell, and baselayers such as wool blends and low volume weaves – they have reinterpreted the what, why, how and where of applying synthetic insulations

polartec alpha neoshell

-15c, -25cWc, 60kmph wind, 15% humidity, 900-2900m: setting a baseline for the TMP Alpha system trials

in the same way that neoshell was put up against goretex even tho they addressed 2 different factors, Alpha will no doubt be compared to primaloft regardless of how different the two textiles applications are – a big mistake as the 2 insulations act very differently. TMPs early trials of Alpha are being collated (the industry lab trials are another matter for later) and the differences are obvious; Alpha is better for one thing, Primaloft is better for another.

the latest test was an old standard that gives a good broad range of factors (no test covers everything, so different scenarios will follow) – the north side of Mt Fuji. test factors include:

  • cold, -5c to -18c

  • windy, 20-70kmph/WC -28c

  • 2000m of altitude gain spanning a broad spectrum of conditions 

  • constant activity under 15kg load at about the 1000kcal an hour rate.

being a TMP test we were evaluating a system specific to our own demands, combining Alpha with low-volume powerdry layers, mid weight neoshell, powershield O2 and an outer ‘belay jacket’ insulation, ie fairly standard greater ranges set up (as in no microlight shells, complicated hybrids or unsystemized softshells – one needs to test the standard before messing with the alternatives). from this baseline test we branch out into other stressors and applications that take Alpha in other directions (anyone taking part in the Feedback Project will be familiar with what that means)

with the 2 to choose from each functions very differently:


the what: optimally transpiring insulation 

the why: to minimize moisture build-up within a system

the how: alpha traps heat better when between layers and loses less to moisture

the where: ideally as a mid layer, between other layers (either standalone or combined in the same garment) that interface with the skin and external moisture


the what: minimally moisture compromised insulation

the why: to minimize heat loss due to moisture build up

the how: Primaloft repells moisture better both inwardly and outwardly – sweat and rain

the where: ideally as a combined weather proof layer, using Primalofts moisture blocking properties to back up a light outer shell

iceclimbingjapan polartec alpha

competition or diversity? some of the data package that comes with the Alpha test samples

things get interesting when you consider the hybridization potential of Alpha with other insulations – the primary focus of the Fuji tests where we mixed it up with Primaloft, down and others. we found that when combined Alpha advanced the systemizing of fabrics and insulation remarkably, boosting all other insulating elements radically by both ejecting more moisture and retaining more heat than anything else by far. Alpha we found to be so controllable in its functions it takes time to learn to pilot, something that will prove interesting when it hits the general market in 2013. for those used to the finer qualities of manipulating primaloft, Alpha will open up whole new worlds of what insulation can do.

with Alpha we can manipulate how moisture/heat enters and leaves the textile to a very high degree – its myopic to view it as a standalone entity. as a system-element with Alpha we can control what goes around it to act in sophisticated ways, with the neoshell variants as an obvious contender, but also the powershield family and other polartec genres, as well as the incredible new textiles from pertex.

neoshell iceclimbingjapan

Neoshell: which one?

indeed, going thru the looking glass, Primaloft hasn’t sat on its ass as all this goes on – developing new fabrics to house their new insulations, with exciting new hybrid textiles that will reset the game further when they too are released. by this time next year insulation in all its forms will have new parameters.

primaloft merino iceclimbingjapan

plenty going on over at Primaloft too: new directions

*in all cases we refer to the Primaloft One variation in the same g/m2.