Hanesbrands – probably more associated with underwear than climbing gear – has been partnering with Clarke over the last two years to design and test innovative apparel. Along these lines, the company has been sponsoring a project called Expedition Hanesbrand has a special website covering the Clarke’s trek up Everest.
According to the website, at just 3 millimeters thick, the Champion Supersuit is the thinnest extreme-weather apparel gear ever designed and tested at high altitude on Mount Everest.
The garment is consists of four layers.
- An wind-barrier outer layer made of polyester fabric,
- An insulation Layer made of Element 21’s Zeroloft, a material licensed from Aspen Aerogel (based on amorphous silica gel),
- A reflective layer of radiant foil to reflect body heat, and
- An inner wicking layer made of polyester.
Hanesbrands claimed in January that the Supersuit is “the first commercially viable application” of this Zeroloft Aspen Aerogel and “a breakthrough for the apparel industry.” They say this aerogel layer has four times the thermal insulation of goose down. (For the record, it should be noted that the Zeroloft’s website demonstrates what appears to be other commercial applications, such as jackets, insoles and sleeping pads. Maybe “commercially viable” is the key phrase. Aspen Aerogels also has a video of some of these applications here.)
Clarke’s ascent of Everest is apparently the climax of a 30-month R&D effort that involves aerogel and other high-tech wools and synthetic materials. The goal has been to develop a system of head-to-toe expedition apparel.
Element 21 is a company involved in creating applications that use high-tech materials in sports industry (e.g., golf and fishing) and obtained a manufacturing license from Aspen Aerogel for Zeroloft earlier this year.
Champion is Hanesbrands’ line of outdoor apparel. Russell Outdoors has also announced plans to work with Element 21 to introduce a line of Zeroloft outdoor clothing.