You might be surprised at the lengths some winter gear manufacturers go to in order to ensure quality products. / Digital Vision / Getty Images
One in four Americans plan to buy a new jacket this season, according to the consumer research company Leisure Trends. But before you dole out the dough for a new parka, you might be surprised by what you’re paying for. When it comes to quality assurance, winter gear manufacturers don’t mess around.
“We test for color fastness, strength, shrink factor, flexibility, breathability and water repellency,” says David Daponte, senior manager of quality assurance and testing at L.L. Bean. Once the raw materials pass the lab, they are tested in extreme conditions.
Similarly at Patagonia, designers go through four or five different fabric options in the lab before facing the elements. “There are some things you just can’t tell in a lab environment,” says Walker Ferguson, Patagonia’s field-testing manager. For the company’s latest newest slope must-have, the PowSlayer bibs and jacket, Patagonia sent a testing team all the way to Chile, where they skied, snowboarded and took diligent notes.
“Our biggest area of revisions have to do with comfort, something that’s hard to test in a lab,” he says. “Out in the field, we often discover the garment feels bulky even though it’s waterproof, or it’s really light but not durable enough,” says Walker Ferguson, Patagonia’s field-testing manager. Luckily, this season’s gear stood up to the elements.
The only downside? “Both of our designers got injured trying to keep up with the pros who tested on the slopes. They were a little embarrassed!”