One of the biggest challenges of outdoor apparel is finding ways to effectively wick moisture away from the body, while also maintaining a high degree of wind and water resistance. More often than not, the technical fabrics that are used in modern outdoor gear are either very breathable or offer an excellent level of waterproofing, but seldom do both all that well. But a European company called Kjus has introduced a new ski jacket that takes an innovative and technical approach to this problem by using a process called “electro-osmosis.”
At first glance, the Kjus “Hydro_Bot” jacket, as the company styles it, looks a lot like many other ski jackets on the market. It features a helmet-compatible hood, strategically placed zippered pockets, and an athletic cut designed to keep skiers and snowboarders comfortable while on the slopes. However, inside that jacket is a new kind of membrane that promises to be a real game-changer when it comes to keeping the wearer warm and dry, both while being active and when standing still.
What makes that membrane unique as compared to Gore-Tex or The North Face’s Futurelight fabrics is that it is surrounded by a layer of conductive material that allows it to become porous when a small electrical charge is passed through it. This gives the wearer the ability to manually increase the level of breathability that the jacket offers, which in turn helps them to maintain a more consistent temperature or cool down when working up a sweat. Removing the current reverses the process, which in turn makes the jacket warmer.
This process of electro-osmosis is achieved thanks to a built-in battery pack that supplies the small amount of current that is needed to open the membrane. A button integrated into the design of the jacket turns that current off and on with a click, although Kjus says that the Hydro_Bot can also be paired with a smartphone via Bluetooth and controlled via an iOS and Android app as well. That same app can provide information on the current battery level while also keeping track of the wearer’s personalized sweat rate. By monitoring the level of perspiration that is being produced, the app will actually make suggestions on how to more effectively use the jacket or slow down an athlete’s rate of activity.
According to Kjus, the Hydro_Bot is up to ten times more effective at wicking away moisture than similar jackets that don’t include the electro-osmotic membrane. This translates to skiers and snowboarders not only remaining drier and more comfortable, but safer, too. Excess moisture can lead to hypothermia in cold conditions, but if this jacket performs as well as its marketing materials claim, it should help to alleviate those issues in all but the harshest of conditions.
Of course, all of this technology doesn’t come cheap. The Hydro_Bot jacket retails for $1,699 in the U.S. and is available exclusively on the Kjus website. That’s a lot of cash for a single jacket, although if it works it might be worth every penny.
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