Polychromelab waterproof-breathable jackets reverse to keep you warmer (or cooler)
By C.C. Weiss
July 20, 2012
Polychromelab fabric is a three-layer waterproof-breathable fabric with a unique climate control system. The fabric is designed to be reversible and uses a black application on one side and a silver application on the other. The different colors work with external and internal conditions to cool you down or warm you up.
When it comes to winter jackets, a lightweight shell made of waterproof-breathable fabric like GORE-TEX or Polartec Neoshell has proven to be a preferred solution. These jackets typically rely on external elements, such as layering and zippered vents, to adjust to different temperatures.
Austrian-designed Polychromelab fabric uses a more integrated solution for temperature management. The stretchy three-layer fabric is both waterproof (15,000 mm) and breathable. Instead of relying solely on separate insulation for warmth, the fabric itself offers a dual warming function. The black exterior layer absorbs sunlight, and the reflective interior layer radiates your body heat back at you. The combined effect is said to keep you warmer in cold weather.
Of course, some winter activities involve both warm elements - like climbing a mountain under the pounding alpine sun - and cold elements - like skiing into the wind later that afternoon. So, unlike any other shell fabric we've ever seen, Polychromelab is reversible. Both layers of the jacket have a soft hand that's comfortable enough to wear against your skin. When reversed, the light silver layer of fabric serves to reflect light and heat away from your body. The design firm claims that the fabric can stay two to three degrees cooler (or warmer) than other waterproof-breathable fabrics.
In addition to its temperature management advantages, the fabric allows you to dry out and cool down if things become too sweaty inside. By reversing the jacket, you can air that sweat out and keep warmer and drier underneath.
At first we'd be inclined to dismiss such a simple solution as marketing, but Polychromelab's two jackets have been making noise at major award ceremonies around Europe all year. It recently added an OutDoor Industry Award to a shelf that also includes an iF design award and ISPO BrandNew Award.
Polychromelab developed and tested the fabric over the course of two years. So far, it's used the innovative fabric for two styles: an alpine-oriented Hybrid Jacket for full winter use and a lighter Fast Forward Hybrid Jacket, which appears to be more of a lightweight running/backpacking garment. It is also working on additional fabrics and products.
Polychromelab doesn't list any pricing, but its blog does mention that its first jacket will be out around September. While color options will be a little limited by the fabric's design, Polychromelab says that other dark/reflective combinations besides black/silver are possible. We'd be surprised if this fabric doesn't also start showing up on other manufacturers' ski shells over the next few years.