Our first chance to see Lowe Alpine's new clothing collection in the flesh.
In an odd way it was as if nothing had ever been any different: a showroom in Kendal hung with brand new Lowe Alpine kit in familiar colours, the labels saying 'Triplepoint' and 'Dryflo', even gawd help us, the classic Mountain Cap.
But it has. It's around half a decade since Lowe's clothing designers were based in Kendal and a couple of years since Lowe Alpine's then Italian owners discontinued the clothing line and sold the company to Equip, the owners of Rab, Pod and outdoordesigns.
But now Lowe's back. British owned, based in the heart of the Lake District where pockets are pockets not weird fashion statements and, after a two-year gap, poised to launch its new clothing line this winter.
So what's it all about?
Well, what is it all about? How does the brand sit with Rab? What's the new kit like?
Well, after seeing the stuff in the flesh, our guess is that the idea is for Rab to focus on technical mountain kit, while Lowe Alpine does a more general gig. That's not to say that Lowe Alpine's new range is aimed exclusively at walkers, the top end Triplepoint AP shell, for example is a a sleek mountian jacket, but that's probably the big picture.
The other thing we noticed was a massive accessories collection, something Lowe Alpine has always been known for. Anyway, what you're really wondering is what's the new stuff like? Well...
It's all about the Triplepoint brand - we told you this the other week - but there are three types of the stuff now. Triplepoint AP - the AP stands for Air Permeable - is the new top of the range breathable fabric and it uses a membrane from GE, who produce eVent.
There's just the one Triplepoint AP - TPAP? - jacket and it's a sleek, technical mountain shell, see left in Lowe green with water-resistant zips, twin Napoleon pockets and a helmet-compatible hood with a wired peak. Nothing complicated or swanky, just a medium-cut, 440g all-round mountain shelll jacket with mesh-lined venting pockets.
It's a little looser than a Rab equivalent, we think, called the Taiga Jacket and once it's on sale in the autumn will be priced at £230. We'd expect breathability to be somewhat similar to eVent for fairly obvious reasons. Nothing dramatic, but feels like a tough, effective, mountain shell jacket.
Based On Sympatex
Next fabric down is Triplepoint Eco, which uses a Sympatex membrane. The Eco bit is because Sympatex is based on polyester which means it can be recycled, unlike PTFE membranes. It's a little misleading because right now, finding a way of recyling the membrane isn't obvious, but somewhere down the line it may become so.
At any rate, it's a tough-feeling, three-layer fabric with a durable polyamide face. The main difference though is that the jacket we saw, the Teton Jacket is a more generously cut, less technical bit of kit that has proper belt and braces double storm flap main zip coverage, conventional 'hand-warmer' pockets and a roomy mountain hood with a wired peak.
In other words, more of a traditional mountain-walking jacket, while the Taiga has more of a mountainering feel to it. There's lots of room for layering underneath too and the asking price will be £200. Weight is a claimed 570g, so not light, but equally not particularly heavy either.
TPC Is Back...
Last but not least, Triplepoint Ceramic returns except whereas it used to be the brand's top-end fabric, it's not the bottom of the line. We were quite surprised to learn that it is genuinely the same fabric as the original TPC from the same factory in Japan, though it now comes with a mesh drop liner.
We saw the Sentinel Jacket - left - a £170 hill and mountain walking jacet with a sleeker look than the Teton and just two hand-warmer and an internal zipped pocket.
Stormweave Soft Shell
Also back is Stormweave. It's a non-membrane, super tough feeling, stretchy, weather-resistant soft shell fabric that's used in a jacket called the Perfect Storm. Geddit? Anyway, it's compete with a great big mountain hood and hand-warmer and chest pockets.
Looks and feels sort of no frills functional, with a generous sort of all-day mountain cut to it rather than figure-hugging technical lines. It'll sell for £120.
Also in the line-up is a membrane-based, windproof fabric called Stormbloc that has a micro-gridded, microfleece liner for a bit of added warmth in winter conditions.
A little more unconventional, though not pictures is something called the Chimera Jacket which mixes PrlmaLoft One insulation on the torso with stretch fleece sleeves. We don't seem to have photographed it though.
To be honest, we reckon more people are going to be taken with the Camp 5 Belay Jacket, a lightweight, 460g overlayering jacket with a helmet hood that uses a combination of Pertex and 100-weight PrimaLoft. It's neat and should work just as well for walkers as for climbers. Price tag: £150.
There's also the Glacier Puff jacket - at least that's what our notes seem to say - which doesn't use branded fabrics or fill, but should do a decent job thanks to 3D crimped, recycled, synthetic fill using high-void hollow fibres, which should make it decently warm and cheaper, at £120, than the Camp 5.
DryFlo With Added Cocona
Fleece? Yes, there's some of that too, all branded Aleutian, but the other big name return is DryFlo. There's a fair bit of it in two different weights 120g or 150g. As ever it's a wicking polyester fabric using thicker filaments on the inside of the material to move moisture outwards. It also has a Microban, anti-microbial treatment and, this is the best big, added Cocona.
We love Cocona, its made from carbonised coconut husks and seriously improves wicking and drying performance - Rabs MeCo for example, is great stuff. Watch this space - we reckon the stuff will rock.
In A Nutshell
And that's it for clothing. If we had to sum it up, we'd say it looks like a small but dependable range of solid hill and mountain walking kit with the odd bit - the Taiga and the Belay Jacket for example - targeted a little more towards the techicall mountaineering end of things.
It's good to see Lowe Alpine back in the clothing mix and we're looking forward to trying the kit in due course.
Current Lowe Alpine range can be found at www.lowealpine.com.