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Technology

What we use in our products.

What is Polygiene?

Polygiene anti-odour treatmentWear more, wash less: it’s every busy adventurer’s dream…
We apply Polygiene™ to garments so that they smell less with wear and need washing less between use: ideal for that multi day getaway (and you’re doing your bit for the environment too).
 
Polygiene ™ is a silver based treatment that we apply during fabric production. The silver chloride prevents the growth of the bacteria that makes your clothes pong without interfering with the skin’s natural bacteria flora, so it’s comfortable and safe next to your skin. Polygiene ™ is bluesign ® approved (meeting the highest environmental standards) and lasts as long as your clothes do, so you’ll never need to reproof them.
 
The catch? There isn’t one! You can wear this garment day in, day out, and day back in again without causing a stink – winner!

How water resistant are our zips?

The zips we use are highly water resistant but they are not waterproof. Pockets internal and external may be susceptible to water ingress or condensation, remember this if you put your expensive gadgets in your pockets without additional protection such as a dry bag.

YKK Aquaguard zips (with a PU coating) are highly water resistant but not *waterproof*. These are used on the Balance, Pulsar and Parallax styles (also found on many high end waterproofs from other brands). The Gravitas uses a special water repellent zip which does not have a PU coating, which makes it lighter and more flexible but less resistant to water - it’s more like a DWR treatment. There is a storm flap behind the zip though, to add another layer of protection.

What are the advantages of titanium?

Titanium is one of the most abundant elements on earth. Lightweight and very very strong. It is super inert - this is a benefit environmentally as it is recyclable plus its resistance to corrosion means it doesn't pollute air, land and oceans. It also makes for superb cookware as there's no metallic taste.

Which fabric? Our bike luggage fabrics explained

We feel pretty jammy having a UK factory because it gives us the freedom to make backpacks and bike packing luggage out of pretty much anything we want.

As much as a satin and taffeta frame bag with ribbon attachment points would look fabulous, they probably wouldn't last that long. Instead, we've chosen fabrics that we think gives a great range for the discerning bikepacker.

VX21

A 4-layer, 210 denier laminated nylon fabric with a DWR finish: VX21 (or X-Pac to its friends) is a high tech, ultralight sandwich of materials that is highly abrasion and tear resistant, low-stretch, and waterproof.

The ripstop nylon face fabric makes the bag super durable, whilst the diamond pattern dacron makes the fabric stiffer and water resistant. All this comes together to create an all-round fabric that weighs just 230 g per square metre, enabling us to create stable, tough, weatherproof and lightweight packs and luggage.

VX07

Like VX21, VX07 is a 4 layer laminated fabric with a DWR finish. It’s also tear resistant, waterproof, and low-stretch, which makes for highly durable, stable, and weatherproof packs and bags.

VX07 uses a 70 denier ripstop nylon face fabric, which makes it extremely lightweight, weighing just 162 g per square metre.

500D Cordura

Tougher than VX21 and weighing only a little more, 500D Cordura is waterproof and highly abrasion resistant, so we often use it to make hardcore bags without adding much extra weight. The clear PU coating repel dirt and water too, giving your stuff a bit of protection and making it easier to wipe down.

At 240 g per square metre, 500D Cordura is slightly heavier than VX21 but handles wear and tear much better.

1100D Cordura

The toughest of the tough! Being exceptionally abrasion resistant with a durable PU coating to repel dirt and water, 1100D Cordura is the ideal fabric for lovers of gnarly trails and people who fall off a lot.

Weighing 380 g per square metre, 1100D Cordura is a bit heavier than the other fabric options but will shrug off the roughest of treatment.

Why merino?

Merino wool is a brilliant material for technical clothing for a whole load of reasons. It wicks sweat and moisture away from your body when you are being active and, unlike materials like cotton, it stays warm when it's wet. Another brilliant property of merino wool is that it is antibacterial. This means it stays smelling fresh (or at least fresher) even after several uses, making it brilliant for multi-day activities like a weekend bike-packing adventure or a climbing trip. Merino is also really soft and comfy too!

What is mulesing-free merino?

Mulesing is a method used by some sheep farmers to prevent them loosing sheep to flystrike. It's an economical way of preventing their sheep from being killed by infections caused by insects. Seems alright so far, but the process of mulesing is pretty grim in reality. Unfortunately the process of mulesing involves cutting away skin from around a sheep’s back end that would otherwise grow wool. When this wool gets clogged by a sheep’s "business" it attracts the insects that can cause flystrike. At Alpkit we don't much like the idea of mulesing. There are other, much nicer ways to keep sheep safe from these insects, such as regular shearing around the back. This is more expensive in the long run, but we think it's worth the little extra cost for a much happier sheep. You can rest assured that any merino product from Alpkit came from sheep that got a regular clean and trim instead of the cheeper alternative of mulesing.

What's great about wool?

Wool is a naturally insulating and breathable material. It traps lots of tiny warm air pockets in its structure and has a method of absorbing your body’s water vapour into its fibres, before then releasing it into the outside air. Amazingly wool can absorb up to 35% of its weight in water before feeling wet and clingy and maintains around 80% of its warmth when wet. It’s also what’s known as an ‘active fibre’: keeping you warm in the cold and cool in the heat. Think about it: how many times have you seen a sheep de-layer?! Obviously cloven hooves create a major logistical challenge but, you know... Wool: it’s bloody wonderous.

Unlike that ripe old fleece you keep forgetting to wash, wool is naturally odour resistant. Its moisture management properties help to prevent the warm, damp environment that bacteria thrive in and it can also lock away smells within the fibre itself, only releasing them in washing. In fact, an airing-out in a stiff breeze is all you’ll need to do to look after your Berwyn most of the time. Not forgetting that wool is 100% natural, biodegradable and renewable (sheep produce new fleece and sheep produce new sheep... usually in spring... they gambol... you know all this...) – what's not to like?

What is the difference between fill weight and fill power?

Quantity of fill
The more down you have in a bag the warmer it is, this is known as the Fill weight, (don’t confuse this with “Fill power” which is a measure of how good the down is: not all down is the same) This means that you can have a sleeping bag which either has:
Low fill power and Higher Fill weight (cheaper but bulkier and heavier)
Or
Low fill weight and high Fill power (more expensive but more compact and lighter)

Fill Power
There is no substitute for good quality down and the easiest way to measure this is to check out its Fill Power, the higher the number the better it is. But attention, just because some thing has an extra hundred here and there doesn’t mean it substantially better.

The numbers game
In the last few years several brands have developed 900 fill power. Be aware, evolution doesn’t happen so fast, they haven’t developed Superduck. What they have done is get a bit better at sorting the pure down from the feathers and a awful lot better at getting the best test results from the same down quality they used before.

For what to look for when choosing a down sleeping bag, have a read of our handy guide.

What is goose/ duck down?

The fine feathers plucked from chest area of a plump waterfowl. Goose down is what fills our sleeping bags. Down is very good at keeping you warm, but if you can’t keep the bag dry then it cannot do it’s job well.

Fowl language
Ducks and Geese are the main source of down, but just what is down! Alright we are getting to it. Like all genuine birds these plump waterfowl have several types of feather. Some help keep them up in the air, some keep them warm, some keep them streamlined when floating about on the water and others well they don’t even know what they are themselves.

Flight Feathers
These are the most important feathers that a bird owns, without them they would fly as well as a dog, they would also need a lot more of the small fluffy downy ones as they would be walking out of the artic. Because they are so good at helping a bird fly, they are not much use as insulation.

Contour Feathers
These are the little critters that don’t know what they are. They look like feathers on the top portion and then turn in to loose fluffy feathers towards the base of their stems.

Down Plumage
Down feathers are small with no interlocking barbules and rachis that are soft and poorly developed. They grow continuously and never moult and lie under the contour feathers. On the majority of birds they are found on the breast and belly. This is the mythical down.

For what to look for when choosing a down sleeping bag, have a read of our handy guide.

Sleeping bag comfort ratings

The EN13537 test involves a heated mannequin, a sleeping bag, a sleeping mat, a few other bits, controlled conditions and a scientist. It aims to simulate an actual person sleeping in a bag, where the bag is the only variable. There are 3 figures that drop out of this test. Here, word for word are the precise definitions as per the EN 13537 standard.  We urge you to read between the lines, the language used is precise and has been very carefully chosen.

Comfort Temperature (T comf)
Lower limit of the comfort range down to which a sleeping bag user with a relaxed posture such as lying on their back is globally in thermal equilibrium and just not feeling cold (related to standard woman and in standard conditions of use).

Limit Temperature (T lim)
Lower limit at which a sleeping bag user with a curled up body posture is globally in thermal equilibrium and just not feeling cold (related to standard man and in standard conditions of use).

Extreme Temperature (T ext)
Lower extreme temperature where the risk of health damage by hypothermia occurs (related to a standard woman and in standard conditions of use).

To do the topic justice it requires further reading, but just like when you click that 'I have read the terms and conditions' tick box before you upgrade your phone we can rarely be bothered. The topic is long, hotly debated and long so we have left that for another page.

How our sleeping bags are tested

The Alpkit Sleep Limit is a single figure based on the combined experience of us, our customers and our Alpkiteers spending many nights out, all year round, in all conditions and is backed up by thermal testing and years of expertise with fill, materials and construction methods.

Our sleeping bags are tested using the Leeds Comfort Model in the labs at Leeds University. The results of these tests are interpolated to give an equivalent EN13537 rating so that you can easily compare our sleeping bags with other brands.

The Leeds Comfort Model

Test Method
The tests are performed according to BS 4745:1990 utilising a single plate togmeter with a 50 cm diameter. Sleeping bags are allowed to loft for a minimum of 4 hours prior to testing and the temperatures are measured in a central location where the chest bone of a sleeper would be.

Results
EN 13573 values are provided for comparison and are based on a calculation derived from comparative tests on identical sleeping bags.

Season Night temperature Required thermal insulation (Togs)
Summer 15 to 18 3 to 5
Spring / Autumn 10 to 0 5 to 8
Winter 3 to -10 7 to 10
Mountain -5 to -20 9 to 12
Polar / High mountain -15 to -40 11 to 20+

As far as thermal testing is important, it is just one tool we use to recommend the suitability of our sleeping bags for any given condition. This is why our recommended Alpkit Sleep Limit can differ from results recorded under laboratory conditions.

Why don't we use R values for our sleeping mats

Why don’t Alpkit use R values?

Currently, we don’t use R values to help you compare the thermal resistance of different sleeping mats. This is because there is currently no internationally agreed standard for testing or rating how warm a camping mattress is. Until a standard is introduced, we reckon good, old-fashioned advice and experience is generally the best way to choose your sleeping mat.

Currently there is no standardised method of testing R values which means each brand might have their own method of testing which yields its own results. These results can be misleading, and as customers this makes it hard to compare mats manufactured by different brands.

That’s not to say that R-values aren’t helpful: if you’re looking at a huge range of mats made by one company (for example, Thermorest), R values are a helpful tool for deciding which mat within the range is best for the conditions that you’ll be facing. It’s just that if you’re comparing mats across a range of manufacturers, the R value holds less stock.

We are part of the EOG working group for the new international standard for R values, and are eagerly awaiting its introduction. This standard will most likely be the 19-ASTM WK35667_Standard Test Method for Thermal Resistance of Camping Mattresses.  Once introduced, this standard will produce a much more accurate reflection of the thermal resistance of sleeping mats manufactured by different companies.

So how do we choose an Alpkit Sleeping mat without the help of R values?

Our range of sleeping mats is simple and purposeful, so we prefer to use our experience and knowledge to help you get the right mat for the conditions you’ll be facing.

We, our Alpkiteers, and our customers have been using our sleeping mats across the world for over a decade, in the coldest, dampest and most miserable conditions that the UK could throw at us, and our self-inflating mats can handle these conditions. Remember, a lot of sleeping comfortably comes down to how you set up your sleep system, read our SLEEP better Spotlight for more.

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