Hypothermia kills, so why have fur (and feathers) evolved?
Evolution has developed some incredible things: the eye, the brain, the immune system - all brought about through the crucible of hard fought survival. So why do animals that live in the harshest environments on earth wear feathers and fur outside of their skins?
Membrane garments act like a waterproof skin. The problem is that the membrane stops breathing when it gets chilled, trapping liquid water inside. This leaves you cold and damp and your membrane clothing system dries slowly.
Animals don’t wear their skin on the outside because fur and feathers have unique properties that prevent water from getting in while allowing condensation to escape. Fur Technology continues to breathe in persistent wet weather and dries incredibly quickly.
There are 4 key elements to garments using Fur (and feather) Technology:
- The outer fabric acts like the windproof flight feathers of birds or the guard hairs in two layer waterproof fur
- The technical inner fur layer faces outwards, directing water away and absorbing the momentum of wind driven rain
- Durable water repellency, comparable to the natural oils found in feathers and fur, are applied to both layers
- Detailed design prevents water ingress and allows drainage
Together these 4 elements work in a number of different ways:
- Our fabrics have minimal resistance to water vapour on its journey away from the body. Considerably lower than any membrane softshell or hardshell!
- In persistent wet weather, condensation inevitably occurs in the outermost layer, as vapour meets rain. The outer fabric wets out, changing from water hating to water loving, sucking condensation from the inner fur layer and removing it from your clothing system. Cold and wet membrane hardshells and softshells do not breathe in these circumstances and they trap condensation in your clothing system.
- Water that gets into the fur layer drains away towards the outer fabric, keeping your insulation dry. Conventional layering or softshell systems typically use water absorbing or wicking insulation that wets easily, absorbing water!
- Wind evaporates water from the outer fabric, drawing condensation from the inner fur layer. Wind cannot remove water from inside a membrane system because they are impermeable to liquid and evaporation from the outer fabric has the effect of further chilling the membrane, preventing breathability!
- Membrane garments are also prone to puncture and seam tape can delaminate. Our seams are sealed by the technical fur lining and don’t require tape, enhancing breathability significantly.
- FurTech garments are immune to damage by thorns and tears are easily repaired: sew the outer separate from the inner and re-proof. Membrane garments puncture easily and repairs require sealing.
- Membranes are laminated to fabrics or applied as a paste. This stiffens the fabric, often creating a noisy garment. Also, the membrane in the hood muffles sound. FurTech garments are quiet and the hood allows conversation and belay shouts to be heard.
Core Temperature is Crucial to Survival
Even animals that survive desert days and nights wear feathers and fur. They use many ways to control their temperature. Birds for example, may spread their flight feathers to allow air to circulate close to the skin.
Our jackets use enormous rain vents (pit zips). These are more effective than vents in conventional waterproofs because they use a single, easy to operate zip to vent directly through the integral insulation to your base layer.
Unlike some other products our pit zips can be used to vent even in heavy rain. The vent is held open automatically by the zip fabric to form cowls at the front and back which prevent water ingress unless conditions are particularly windy or you have your arms raised.
Arm movement helps to circulate air through the vents very effectively.
When climbing with slings, body coils and sack you can save the hassle of removing the jacket by slipping your arms out of the pit zips and tucking the sleeves back in the jacket or under your sack straps…. particularly useful when trying to get off a glacier before the snow bridges get too soft!
Sometimes it is useful to keep cool by folding up the cuffs a notch, un-zipping the front and fastening the base of the jacket behind your back.
Adding hats and gloves to increase insulation means that you can often avoid changing layers during the day, reducing the faff factor and increasing speed across the ground.
How does a conventional 3 layer system work in the rain?
“I remember years ago, slogging up Grisedale Pike in warm drizzly conditions wearing my waterproof membrane over a synthetic base layer. It was pouring down, cold and blustery at the top and I was soon chilled. Pressing on to try and keep warm I was hoping for a break in the weather in order to add some insulation. During a slight lull I quickly stripped my waterproof off and added a fleece. Nevertheless it got soaked and my base layer was saturated. Result: cold, wet and miserable.
Using FurTech in similar conditions I’m a little warm after 15 minutes of hard walking but stay comfortable and protected as conditions worsen with altitude.”
FurTech is Naturally Light
In the natural world everything has a cost and a benefit. Birds even have hollow bones in order to make flight easier and Feather and Fur Technology follows this principle.
FurTech is significantly lighter than a hardshell and hooded fleece with pit zips. We cut out the need for membranes, tape sealing, extra zips and trim.
You may be able to find a lighter waterproof but you will not be able to find a lighter system that can be worn through such a wide range of situations and conditions without the hassle of changing layers. Less hassle translates to faster progress and more enjoyment. Fast doesn’t just mean light, it means hassle free with less need for stops and a reduced faff factor.
In comparison to other softshells, FurTech saves you the weight of carrying a waterproof just in case it rains and removes the hassle of changing. (Also, by putting a hardshell over a wet softshell you can paralyse the hardshells’ breathability.)
FurTech is excellent value when compared to the cost of a high performance waterproof AND fleece or softshell.
“Many people will perceive FurTech garments as only suitable for the cooler months but I even get away with using them in hot wet conditions. In the summer they are useful for changeable mountain weather.
In winter I wear thicker or multiple base layers to broadly regulate my temperature and add a synthetic insulated jacket over the top for stops. A group shelter or clan tent is also useful.”