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 youíre paying for. When it comes to quality assurance, winter gear manufacturers donít mess around.
ďWe test for color fastness, strength, shrink factor, flexibility, breathability and water repellency,Ē 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. ďThere are some things you just canít tell in a lab environment,Ē says Walker Ferguson, Patagoniaís field-testing manager. For the companyís 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.
ďOur biggest area of revisions have to do with comfort, something thatís hard to test in a lab,Ē he says. ďOut in the field, we often discover the garment feels bulky even though itís waterproof, or itís really light but not durable enough,Ē says Walker Ferguson, Patagoniaís field-testing manager. Luckily, this seasonís gear stood up to the elements.
The only downside? ďBoth of our designers got injured trying to keep up with the pros who tested on the slopes. They were a little embarrassed!Ē