Insulating oneself from the cold weather can end up a somewhat bulky affair, as extra padding serves as an effective means of keeping heat from escaping your body. Though attempts have been made in the past to slim the profile of winter outerwear, the future, it seems, lies in a technology invented by NASA: aerogel insulation.
This technology is behind a new chic slim-line jacket seeking funding on Kickstarter -- the Lukla Endeavour, named for the village of Lukla in Nepal, where many treks begin, and the famous space shuttle.
"Aerogel is the least thermally conductive solid on the planet. In other words, it allows virtually no heat transfer from one side of the material to the other," explained Rithvik Venna, one of Lukla's three co-founders. "This means that you can take a 3 millimeter piece of aerogel and place your hand firmly on one side and blast the other side with liquid nitrogen (-321 degrees F) and your hand will remain at body temperature. It functions by trapping inside the air pockets of the material (aerogel= 98% air)."
Lukla isn't the first company to attempt to integrate aerogel into winter jackets. Burton stopped selling its $550 Ronin Katana Jacket, made in partnership with NASA aerogel supplier Aspen Aerogels, in the mid-2000s, and Hanes' Champion Supersuit, announced in 2010, never made its way to market.
The Lukla Endeavour, however, offers a lower price point, with a special Kickstarter price of $350 (Kickstarter early bird is $250; retail will be between $400 and $500, but is yet to be finalised); eight convenient and cunningly placed pockets, six outside and two inside; waterproof zips to keep your stuff from getting wet; a removable hood; zips under the arms, so you can open up the jacket to cool down if you get too warm; and adjustable powder skirt.
It's also kept breathable by careful placement of the aerogel panels.
"Aerogel is used throughout the whole jacket, but the key is how the aerogel is placed. We place the aerogel panels in specific locations, based on thermal mapping of the body, to increase breathability," Venna explained.
"The implementation of aerogel in the jackets is designed to reduce the bulk that you find in most jackets. This is because 30 millimetres of goose down (industry standard) is comparable in insulation to roughly 2 mm of aerogel. We have also worked tirelessly to have the most flexible aerogel to allow for optimal mobility."
The Lukla Endeavour is, at time of writing, being offered as a reward for an early bird pledge of $250 on Kickstarter, where you can also find out more about the jacket and the team of scientists behind it.