Into The Freezer... Video

Lara Dunn risks becoming a human-sized popsicle as Cotswold Outdoor shows off its winter insulation...

Posted: 20 November 2012
by Lara Dunn

It must have looked great on paper: hire a cold chamber in the middle of blazing July then invite a selection of journalists to marvel at your range of winter insulation. It would be well, different, refreshing, a break from the heat of summer. Erm, yes, but Cotswold Outdoor reckoned without the deep-sodden squib that was the summer of 2012.

And where was the shivering control subject eh? The short-strawed volunteer who'd prove that insulation really does stop you going hypothermic? Just as well we don't organise these things eh? Freelance journo Lara Dunn was there...

Into The Freezer...

Picture this if you will, a day in July, a perfect example of the glorious summer of 2012, rain hammering down, temperatures in the mid-teens. The location - glamorous Nuneaton, in pixie dust-sprinkled Warwickshire. So, an auspicious start for an outdoor adventure then? Actually, yes, for on this day, in this place, Cotswold Outdoors decided to host a rather unusual event…

Stood in what is effectively a super-sized, walk-in meat locker, I was glad that the insulated jackets Cotswold had chosen to stock for this winter actually did the job they are intended to. It was really rather chilly, even in comparison with the lacklustre summer weather outside.

The Mira Environmental Test Centre looks like some sort of top secret installation where clandestine research is conducted deep in darkest Warwickshire. In reality, it’s where all sorts of things, vehicles and equipment mainly, get tested to see how they respond to adverse weather conditions. The word “adverse” here covers everything from a bit of wind, through to temperatures from -40°C to +55°C, and even snow.

Mostly used by the military and by industry, the centre has also hosted high profile adventurers such as James Cracknell, prior to extreme expeditions.

Cotswold talked us through its range of insulated jackets for Winter 2012/13, covering everything from lightweight synthetics like the Jack Wolfskin Microheat and Rab’s Generator to fashionable winter warmers like the Merrell Chesham, down parkas such as the McMurdo from The North Face - spot the furry hood - and heavy duty expedition wear like Mountain Equipment’s Annapurna and Cho Oyu jackets. Something for pretty much everyone in other words.

The test chamber had been prepared and the idea was that we would all get a chance to see and, thank god, experience, the jackets performing under simulated winter conditions, with temperatures ranging from a balmy -5˚C right down to -20˚C with added windchill and snow.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the different levels of insulation and technical features in the jackets became evident in the deep cold of the test chamber, the thick warm ones were generally warmer, so no surprise there, but each and every one did just what it was designed to and kept the wearer from becoming an oversized meatsicle.

So there you go. If you're locked in cold-storage chamber, don't forget to wear your down jacket.

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