Polartec Alpha: active protection for high-performance situations

An intelligent material that regulates body temperature during intense activity in cold conditions.

Polartec Alpha fiber was created as the solution to the need for thermal insulation in “contradictory” situations: when heat and protection is required from inclement winter weather on the mountain, but intense activity generates a lot of heat that has to be managed.

The clearest example is modern, fast, even competitive mountain skiing: very physical, intense activity while going uphill generates a lot of sweat from which the skier needs thermal protection to prevent the intense cold that can freeze that sweat, followed by quick descents that can cause the skier to get sudden chills if sweaty.

Normal fibers and down are unable to wick away this excess sweat, generating a lot of moisture and overheating when going uphill. Polartec Alpha, a system with enhanced breathability, improves sweat management: it keeps you warm as you climb and prevents overheating and excess humidity, in turn preventing moisture from cooling when you’re stopped or descending. It keeps you warm and dry, rather than hot and wet.

Broadly speaking, what Polartec did was create a central mesh covered by a low-density hydrophobic fiber that dries almost instantly. This central mesh and low density combine to allow air to circulate so that sweat and heat can quickly dissipate.

The outer fabric, therefore, has to be breathable; the brand typically uses a type of Pertex or similar lightweight fabric that protects like a softshell, warm enough to protect you from snow, wind, and light rain.

The ingeniousness of the system is that, due to the difference in internal-external temperature, the greater the heat generated by the body, the more the air circulation works. In other words, the garment “warms” you the more you need the heat; when you stop sweating or stop moving, the air circulates less than when you’re engaged in more strenuous activity.

Of course, the system has its drawbacks. Due to the central mesh, the same weight retains less heat than other standard fibers. This is an advantage for intense activity, but those who need more heat protection will prefer more traditional systems.

Although it is extremely versatile, it was designed for high-level, fast, competition skiing, and in no case replaces a regular down or fiber jacket, but rather solves some of the problems that arise in certain cold-weather circumstances.

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