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Active Insulation Technology—Designed For U.S. Special Forces, So You Know It Works

Author: Claire Wallace Smiley

October 11, 2017

It’s back: the transition from warm to cold. Time to remember how to layer for outdoor adventures during the unpredictable weather of shoulder season. Or is it?

In the past, moving in the outdoors during shoulder season presented the following scenario: you move, you warm up, you sweat, you stop, you get chilled. But we’ve been looking at ways to avoid the discomfort (and danger) of cold weather sweating, and the adventure scientists at Outdoor Research have designed a series of collections to solve this conundrum. The versatile pieces found in their Active Insulation Collection are made possible with Polartec® Alpha® and Alpha® Direct, the game-changing technology that actually adjusts to your output level so you can work hard while staying dry, light, and comfortable throughout your entire adventure… without adding or removing layers.

Polartec’s first version of breathable insulation, Polartec® Alpha®, was invented for the U.S. Special Forces. Soldiers in cold climates needed insulation that wasn’t bulky, was resistant against abrasions, worked for stop-and-go activities, and dried quickly when they built up a sweat. No soldier wants to move across a cold battlefield in a 800g puffy jacket, overheating in the process, or have a ripped sleeve expose themselves to the enemy. Under these conditions, and under layers of battlefield equipment, removing layers is not an option. No well-trained soldier is going to pause a battle or training exercise to remove his or her jacket. In this high-stakes line of work, you need clothing that adapts to your activity level and the conditions. And the exciting news for the rest of us is that what helps soldiers perform under adverse or changing circumstances can also benefit everyday outdoor adventurers in similar climates.

What’s the science? Patented low-density fibers between air-permeable woven layers create a more efficient fabric for regulating warmth and transferring moisture. Polartec Alpha®, and the newest iteration, Alpha® Direct, increase thermal adaptability over a wide range of physical activities. For its weight, it’s surprisingly warm and easily packable. Soft and fuzzy against the skin, Alpha® Direct eliminates the need for an interior jacket liner, delivering even more breathability. In other words, the jacket you wear rock climbing is also the right choice for a cold morning run or urban bike commute.

Climates can be complicated. Layers don’t have to be. You can find Polartec Alpha® in three of our most popular apparel collections:

Deviator Collection: Award-winning lightweight Active Insulation piece with the perfect balance of insulating warmth and air permeability for high-exertion activities.

Ascendant Collection: Midweight Active Insulation layer that provides movement-mirroring stretch, resilient weather protection, and incredible breathability.

Uberlayer Hooded Jacket: The warmest piece in our Active Insulation line that layers with ease, while performing with style during cold morning starts and aerobic climbs or ski tours.

No one wants to be chilled by sweat when playing outside. You want to focus on moving, not removing layers. When you head outdoors, reach for fast-drying, thermo-regulating Polartec Alpha® and Alpha® Direct apparel by Outdoor Research and leave the chills behind.

Claire Wallace Smiley

A lover of all things fabric innovation, Claire Wallace Smiley oversees digital marketing at Polartec. She lives in Boston with her husband Doug and Pembroke Welsh Corgi Fergus. A
former DI rower, you can now find Claire running marathons, SUPing with her pup, and searching for the perfect donut.