Current synthetic insulation pieces may provide warmth, even when wet, and be extremely easy to pack down, but do not exactly breathe well when used in high activity situations. Some brands have tried to address this problem with hybrid pieces, where breathable fabrics replace insulation in places you tend to sweat the most. Polartec has decided to take a different approach, instead reinventing synthetic insulation altogether to create a warm, stable, air permeable layer that can be combined with more breathable fabrics.
Unlike down and current synthetic insulation that freely float inside your jacket creating loft, the new Polartec Alpha is a thin, highly stable, woven or knit sheet of high loft fibers that creates a unique insulation layer. Below you will find a picture of what this layer looks like up close.
Polartec Alpha provides warmth while allowing for air exchange when you are working hard in order to keep you comfortable. The insulation layer used in Alpha is no less than twice as breathable as the current market leading synthetic. Polartec claims that the insulation will also dry 60% faster if it does happen to become wet. Highly compressible, it also provides inherent wind resistance and warmth without weight.
As Alpha does not require a vapor barrier to maintain loft and therefore continue working properly, the new insulation allows for the use of more open and breathable fabrics on the outer and inner layers of insulated garments. Polartec has paired Alpha with more breathable yet wind and water resistant face fabrics and a smooth inner liner which can slide easily over other layers.
The Alpha pieces can function either as outerwear or a well-functioning mid-layer when paired with hard or soft shells in more nasty weather conditions. Brands adopting Polartec Alpha for the initial launch (Fall 2013) include: 66º North, Eddie Bauer, Eider, Mammut, Marmot, Montane, Mountain Equipment, Rab, Ternua, Terry Cycle, The North Face, Trangoworld, Vaude and Westcomb.
I look forward to testing out Polartec Alpha for myself to see if it really makes a difference and of course, will let you know as soon as I do.