Refugees fleeing their homes with little but the clothes on their backs face a multitude of challenges, the need for shelter often topping the list. To address this issue and several others, students at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London have created a jacket that doubles as a sleeping bag or tent.
A student team of 10 and their faculty tutors, Harriet Harris and Graham Brooker, designed the multi-function garment specifically with Syrian refugees in mind, who carry only but the barest of necessities on their arduous and unpredictable journey to Europe. The designers consulted with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) for details on the specific challenges faced by the refugees. The result was an item with three stages of use that address the conditions experienced on their journey, which is typically two to five weeks in length.
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The wearable shelter is made from Tyvek, a strong yet lightweight material found in express mail envelopes. It's difficult to tear, and allows water vapor to pass through but not liquid water. The garment is also lined with Mylar, an insulating material able to hold in body heat. In keeping with the goals of the project, the materials are cheap and sustainable and not intended as a long-term solution.
As a coat, the item resembles a loose-fitting knee-length parka with a large hood. Several large pockets are located on the inside front for holding and protecting important documents. The jacket zips easily into a sleeping bag, while lightweight kite rods slotted through seams convert it to a tent, with visual instructions printed inside.
Still in prototype stage, the team intends to conduct tests on the wearable shelter, with designs for both a child and winter version to come. A Kickstarter campaign has been launched to help fund the project, and runs until Feb. 19.
Backers are asked to donate at least £10 (about US$15) toward the project, with event invites and progress updates offered as a reward. The aim is to have the jacket ready for deployment in July. It will also be offered for sale as part of a buy one, give one campaign in the future.
You can watch the Kickstarter pitch video for the project below.