Sporting equipment has seen a steady evolution over the past few decades. The characteristics of these outdoor sporting goods range from simplified and eco-friendly designs, made from wood and twine, to high-tech specialized gear, made from futuristic materials like carbon fiber and Kevlar. The research behind all this high-tech sporting equipment has also allowed elite athletes to push themselves like they have never done before.
The durability and flexibility of new sporting goods allows athletes to climb mountains and cross difficult terrain. Exceptional technology advancements have further allowed several daredevil individuals to cover awe-inspiring distances and accomplish great feats.
Since its evolution, mankind has tried to combat Mother Nature and beat her at her own game by manufacturing outdoor clothing from natural materials like wool and cotton. Thus, for hundreds of years, these materials remained the apex of attention for clothing production companies. However, textile manufacturers soon realized the importance of incorporating technology into the design and production of sturdier and more durable clothes that would be able to sustain harsher natural conditions.
In the past, though, manufacturers and designers were unable to find a solution that would surpass the woes of harsh climates and allow athletes to function without limiting their physical abilities. With a slow pace of innovation in the fabric field, athletes continued to battle difficult and uncomfortable situations.
However, several clothing manufacturers are now getting their inspiration from video games and action movies to produce next-generation clothing material that will potentially replace standard cotton or wool. However, only time will tell if these high-tech materials will live up to the hype and be a major breakthrough in the outdoor apparel industry.]
One of these materials is Zero-Loft Aerogels. For centuries, man-made material has failed to decrease the warmth to weight ratio. Mountain climbers and snow skaters often face the difficulty of wearing heavy puffy jackets to ward off the extreme cold. Zero-Loft Aerogels is designed for the main objective of insulating athletes from extreme cold conditions. It is manufactured from a thin, silica-based gel.
This flexible material incorporates 90% air and offers three times more warmth than a standard puffy jacket. It is also resistant to moisture and pressure and maintains its thermal and insulating properties, regardless of the weather conditions. Moreover, not only does it work against the cold, but it also works against extreme heat. So, due to its extremely low thermal conductivity, Aerogel has the ability to protect runners from significant heat found in deserts and tropical locations.
One of the other innovative additions to the outdoor clothing material scene is Hydrophobic Down. It is a smart and simple solution that provides insulation and protection against moisture and water. The material is coated with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR), which gives it its water repellent properties. In contrast to other materials, Hydrophobic Down maintains 80% of its loft after being exposed to three minutes of rain. This basically means that it will function efficiently in a sea storm or a flood.
Another product that is making waves in the high-tech fabric industry is from Gore-Tex, which is slowly becoming a market leader in the waterproof fabric industry. Gore-Tex fiber not only insulates against water and wind but also provides sufficient breathability.
Although these clothing innovations are not as exciting as hardware advancements, they have the ability to create a significant impact on the future performance of outdoor athletes.