Beyond the well-known Mylar emergency blanket, there's a healthy market of light, portable emergency gear and wearables built for fending off hypothermia and providing insulation in cold-weather survival situations. The XeroVest from Delaware-based XeroGear brings some fresh blood to that market. This emergency vest packs small and light and inflates into form, relying on air pockets and heat reflective design to create an insulating barrier.
From tilting three-wheelers to inflatable vests ... XeroGear is the brainchild of Ian Bruce, also the founder of Venture Vehicles. We looked at Venture, now called Persu, way back in 2007, and Bruce has since moved on to focus on other projects and ideas. One of those ideas is the XeroVest.
The XeroVest is designed as a single-use emergency tool and rides in your backpack or glove compartment as a small, 2-oz (57g) package. If you find yourself underdressed in the wilderness, facing angry, violent cold, you pop the vest out, blow it into shape with the collar-integrated valve, and enjoy better core insulation fit snugly around your body.
The new vest uses a combination of heat-reflective technology and air-trapping inflatable design to help keep you warm in cold survival scenarios. The reflective interior lining works with the inflatable air pockets to keep body heat right where you want it. XeroGear claims that the design prevents 80 to 90 percent of radiant heat loss.
The XeroVest's two-layer nylon construction offers wind and moisture protection, and integrated ventilation holes let you breathe so you don't get sweaty and damp below the vest. The vest secures with a front closure and features a radar-reflective exterior to help rescuers find you should you need formal search and rescue.
An air-filled vest may not sound particularly warm, but even high-performance insulations like down and aerogel are based on trapped air. It's that trapped air that prevents body heat from radiating out, keeping you warm in the cold. Blizzard Survival Reflexcell jackets and products also rely on a combination of heat reflection and trapped air, albeit with a honeycomb design instead of inflation.
We've seen wearable inflatable insulation before, too, most notably in products from Klymit and related outfit NuDown. Those companies have focused more on full-fledged outerwear and layering, which has always seemed to suffer some drawbacks, including high prices when compared to other insulators. It's natural to question why you're paying $650 (current listed price of the NuDown Squaw Peak) for a jacket insulated with nothing more than the common air we breathe for free. XeroGear's strategy of using the concept of inflatable insulation as a cheap, lightweight, packable emergency solution might just prove more attractive to outdoor consumers.
XeroGear refined the vest design though four different prototypes, and last September, it worked with Cornell University to test the insulating and breathability properties of the final version. From there, it moved on to field testing and is now preparing to move to market.
XeroGear has launched a Kickstarter campaign to get the XeroVest out there, with pledges for an adult-sized vest priced at $9. Bruce tells us that it has thousands of production samples ready to ship, and plans call for sending out the first deliveries to Kickstarter backers late next month. Money raised will be put toward tooling, merchandising and development of future products, including a child's vest.