Observations - "Our 2 Cents Worth"

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We have added this page to our website, so that we can share some of our thoughts or opinions on what we think is important for you to be aware of in the World of technical outdoor garments and gear.  Some of us have spent thousands of dollars investing in various types of outdoor gear and accessories over the years, sadly to be disappointed in the performance of many of those items that we purchased, especially those high priced fancy brand named "logoed" items.  As we've found out and many of you have as well, "you don't always get what you paid for".

You can call "Our 2 Cents Worth" our very own one sided blog or editorial page, but we only post our opinions on subject's that we have some expertise or experience in and feel that it is something that we can share with you, so that you don't make some of the same purchasing mistakes like we have in the past. The driving force behind our small but ever growing Technical Advantage Gear product line, was to develop outdoor Winter gear that actually works and "does" really keep you extremely warm during the cold weather months that we experience every year in the northern half of the United States.

If you're interested in learning something new, or just have some time to read what we are "rambling" about, we segment our comments by subject below, so you can pick and choose the ones that you would like to read about.

Posted Subject Summary:  {click on one for more information}  
Subject:  North End Commuter Scarf & other scarf news
Subject:  Latest Gear Innovations by the Big Guys in a Retail Store Near You
Subject:  Kit for Cold Weather
Subject:  Rambling Thoughts on Mittens
Subject:  More on Fabric Testing & Merits of Project 100 Certification
Subject:  Technical Fabric Testing - Project 100 Certified - Learn to Read Labels
Subject:  Project 100 Certified - 100% Thermal Windblocking Protection
Subject:  Charitable Sponsorship - Ice Run 2012 Siberia
Subject:  Sponsorship & Charitable Giving
Subject:  We Teach - We Learn
Subject:  Headaches of the Petroleum Factor
Subject:  Should We Price Our Gear Like Everyone Else Does?
Subject:  If You Made an "oops" When You Ordered  - Here's What to do
Subject:  Recommended User Temperature Ranges on Our Gear
Subject:
 Streamlined Ordering for Mountain Climbing & Mushers Gear
Subject:  Technical Advantage Gear Field Engineering & Testing
Subject:  Lead - Lead - Made in the Far East - Lead - Lead
Subject:  New Products + New Applications = New Customers in 2010-2011
Subject:  Our Customer Shipping & Handling Rebates - Please Read
Subject:  Understanding "Gram Weight" Advertising on Cold Weather Gear - Is it really just a Gimmick to get your CA$H?
Subject:
 Gear Weight vs Actual Outdoor Element Performance
Subject:
 Prairie Snowstorm Dog Jackets - Not Just for Cold Weather Protection
Subject:
 Interesting USA Trade Statistics
Subject:  Roughneck HHL 2.5 Hat
Subject:  
Aging, Arthritis, Diabetes, Heritary, Raynauds & Other Blood Flow Afflictions "New" Cold Weather Gear Additions
Subject:  
People Helping People - Charitable Sponsorship
Subject:
 Why Don't My GLOVES Work When the Temperatures Drop
Subject:  Wind Therm Base Layer Long Underwear Tops & Bottoms
Subject:
 Insulation Values & CLO vs R-Value
Subject:
 Best or Warmest Winter Mittens for Snow Downhill Skiing
Subject:
 Hardfaced Technical Fabric Use on New Technical Advantage Gear Items
Subject:
 The "New" XWick Factor in High Exertion Expedition Gear
Subject:  Technical Advantage Gear Going to the Top of the World
Subject:  
Using PayPal on Our Website - PLEASE READ
Subject:  Export or Overseas Customer Gear Buying Opportunities
Subject:  Customer Order Shipments from Technical Advantage Gear
Subject:  Compression Insulated Mitts vs Layering System Built Mitts
Subject:  Why We Use Synthetic Polyester Fabric vs Using Wool

Subject:  Comparing Our New Kap Bridgman Arctic Thermal Hats
Subject:  The Uuuuhhhh Ahhhhhh Factor
Subject:  Nutrition for Winter Training & Racing
Subject:  Disecting Our New Prairie Snowstorm Mitts
Subject:  3M Thinsulate Insulation & Understanding Sewn On Mitt Labels
Subject:  Latest Comparison of Other Arctic Musher Style Mitts
Subject:  Neoprene Wrist Wraps
Subject:  What to Look for on the Garment Tags When Buying Winter Close-Outs
Subject:  The Fallacy that Soft Means Warm
Subject:  The Use of Fabric Softners on Technical Garments
Subject:  Polar Fleece is Just Polar Fleece Right?
Subject:  Why Your Winter Mitts Fail to Keep Your Hands & Fingers Warm
Subject:  What do we Consider to be Cold Weather?

 


 

Date

Subject

 

2013

North End Commuter Scarf & other scarf news

 

 

In thinking of titles for this 2 Cents Worth topic, we thought about "A scarf is a scarf is a scarf...right?"  But in our better judgement, perhaps a more appropriate title is "Why doesn't my scarf work and why does the wind always bite into my face even though I have the scarf wrapped around my head"?  Finally, we just titled it as reference above, deciding the name introduction was more important, along with the highlights of our new scarf vs the rest of the world.

 Wow, what a mess when you start searching on the internet to see what is available for Winter scarfs and luckily we were sitting down when we saw the retail pricing.  In a nutshell, we found the same consistent manufacturing theme, which was "built from (1) one layer of material or fabric, type of material or fabric varied based on how frilly & fruity the scarf looked and prices on the low end from the high twenty dollar range, many in the thirty to forty dollar range and a few "non-cashmere" scarves that were made from not so smart wool pushing the $80.00 to $90.00 dollar price range.  The one consist trait that they all had, in our opinion, is that they were all failures because they were not constructed from technical materials that provide any substantial amount of "thermal windblocking protection", therefore the breezes blow right through them.  Any wonder why your face is red and cold when you get to work or inside of the house after you peel the scaft off of your face?

We don't know what the statistics are for how people dress when commuting to and from work, but we do know that a certain percentage always dresses up and prepares for the worse case senerios that the weather can dish out, another percentage prepares wearing the bare minimums when running out the door and the last segment of people are those that get to work with wet shoes, no boots of course and they will not wear a Winter hat, neck gaiter or scarf because they don't want their hair to be messed up, matted, presumed greasy looking, or standing on end from static electrictiy.  Instead they arrive at work or back home with wind blow hair, perhaps wet from rain or snow and salt stains on their shoes.  Ring any bells?  Yes, the melting pot of commuters and their dynamic personalities.

Technical Advantage Gear has cold weather gear solutions for all three groups of people and chances are that people in the first group, the always prepared for the Winter Armagedon, are already a customer of ours.  Smart people and we thank you for your business and your body thanks you for helping it to actually stay warmer when out in the cold weather elements.

Like all 100% of our gear items that are designed and made to be directly exposed and worn right out in the elements, they are all built with a layering systems that provides "Certified 100% Thermal Windblocking Protection", in other words, they block out 100% of the cold & dry air and 100% of the cold & damp air, depending on where you live around the World.  If you block out the cold air and it "does not" penetrate through the fabric material, guess what....your body part(s) actually stay warmer and can retain a higher percentage of the heat that your body is producing.  A novel concept, huh?

The "new" North End Commuter Scarf, best we can tell, is about the only one in the World that is actually built with a 2 layer technical fabric system, which provides not only 100% thermal windblocking protection, but it also provides "warmest in the World" combined 2 layer warmth for the end user.  The outer shell layer also provides DWR water repellent protection, so it will shed the moisture from the rain or snow that tries to make your journey to and from work miserable on certain ocassions.  We also added the innovation of what we call "Position Loc" which is a slot sewn into one of the inside ends of the scarf, which allows you to slide the other end through the slot and secure the entire scarf tight up to the neck and chin area and the scarf will maintain its protective closed position, so the elements can sneak in.

We can't fix "every" existing cold weather gear item in the World that already exists, but this is another one that is offically knocked or crossed off of the "to do" list.  For the majority of people that at least wear some items to stay warm coming and going from work, this will be an excellent up grade to your gear selection.  For those who have perfected the "salt stains on the shoes" look with the red frozen face and wind blown hair, make the resolution to at least buy one of these to keep you upper chest core warm, your front and rear neck warmer and minimize the number of days that you show up to work with a red, nearly frost bitten face, because you pulled and wrapped your new North End Commuter scarf up onto your face and cheeks.  You may still show up with the wind blow hair and salt stained shoes, but at least you were much warmer in doing so.

The 46 inch length is perfect for teens, women and men and in comes in the colors of Black and Red.  We designed it with Commuters in mind, but if you need to go somewhere around the World where temperatures are going to hit -50F, as they say...."don't leave home without it" and that's Our 2 Cents Worth!

 


 

2013

Latest Gear Innovations by the Big Guys - in a Retail Store Near You

 

 

Maybe we're just missing out on seeing what's really being innovated by the big guys in the World of outdoor clothing and cold weather gear, or...maybe....nothing has been changing on their end in terms of making their clothing lines worth the money that you invest in trying to stay warm in the Winter time?  We still see the underlying theme of continuing to still use plain "fleece" material in just about everything, like hats, scarves, pull-overs and soft shell jackets, which we all have been educated on by now to know that "plain fleece" by itself, offers very poor thermal windblocking protection.  And ouch....their pricing?

I remember when the average logoed long sleeve cotton shirt sold for $12.00 to $15.00 each, you know the ones that had a great silk screened adventure scene on the backside?  This year those same long sleeve shirts with logo and scene are retailing for $29.99 to $39.99 depending on the brand.  Better yet, remember the big name logo "hooded sweatshirts?  You know the ones you could pick up for $30.00 to $40.00 dollars each, you bought them for the logo name and not the actual warmth....well the battle for the logoed sweatshirts at a store near you is in full swing.  The only difference is that the same hooded sweatshirts are retailing for $69.99 to $79.99 each.  Perhaps slightly warmer....who knows....but the pricing strategy on a Far East sourced sweatshirt that probably cost the manufacturer about $3.00 to $4.00 each.......?

I guess the lesson that we learned this year from searching the gear racks at the local Sporting Goods stores, is that we better get off of our butts and get into the really profitable long sleeve t-shirt and hooded sweatshirt business.  It certainly would make the bottom line of the business look more attractive?  Here we thought true innovation was building a better product that actually keeps the end user warmer - longer? That's Our 2 Cents Worth!

 


 

 

"Kit" For Cold Weather

 

 

In our Country and in many other's, we use the general term of "Gear" as the common place terminology for the clothing and accessory items that we wear, put on or use in our work and play in the outdoors.  We probably use the word "gear" within the confines of our website, easily hundreds of times, under the assumption that everyone "around the World" uses it with the same commonplace, but as we learned earlier this year, this is not true.

We got involved with a charitable sponsorship project earlier this year, with the initial e-mail outlining the endeavor and soliciting our support with a donation of some "Kit".  The endeavor challenge being the Ice Run 2012 in Siberia sounded interesting, the charities the two gentlemen were raising funds for sounded interesting, but we were left "scratching our heads", at least initially, when it came to what they were seeking in terms of "kit".  Our e-mail solicitors/requesters, one from England and one from New Zealand were coordinating activities in the UK(United Kingdom) in preparation for there early March - 2012 motorcycle race in the wilds of Siberia, when they first made initial contact with us.

Slowly, it must have been a Monday morning in terms of our thought process and after a review and read of their website, we determined that their request for "Kit" was a request for some or our Cold Weather "Gear" & Accessory items.  Case solved, our term of Gear ='s their term for Kit.  How widespread around the World the terminology of Kit is, were not sure, but to draw more search engine internet customers to our website from around the World, well we'll have to do a better job of incorporating the word within.

Sometimes the learning process of something new drops right into your lap and it creates the opportunity to continue the education process in global learning.  So to our valued customers in the United Kingdom and around the World that use the term Kit, for today and for the purposes of this article, we will re-name ourselves in this sentence only as "Technical Advantage Kit" and we're sorry that we made your internet searches a little more difficult over the years in finding our website, as we really do appreicate your business.  Kit - Kit - Kit - Kit and that's Our 2 Cents Worth!

 

 

 

"Rambling Thoughts on Mittens"

 

 

We, on ocassion receive some interesting phone calls or e-mails with questions regarding our mittens, unfortunately many of them come before people take "any time" to read a thing about our mittens before they ask their questions.  Yes, we are always here to help out potential customers, but some days we wonder why we put so much effort into constructing and developing the information that we write and place within our website?

Questions regarding which mitten is best for the potential end user or hand sizing questions are always the most important and we always strive to put people into "what they actually need" and not into "how much money" we can get them to spend.  In other words, like with most of our gear items, we end up getting customers to spend only what they really need to spend for their situation, which ends up directing them down in "price points" for consideration and not into selling them into something that they really don't need, nor do they need to spend the extra money on.  With that said and at the end of the day however, you as the customer get to make the final purchasing decision when clicking the buttons to place the order via our website.

When it comes to pricing on our Prairie Snowstorm or Extreme Element Arctic Thermal Series Mittens, like all of our gear, we do not sell it at full "market potential" pricing, therefore you continue to get "more asset value" for the money that you choose to invest with us.  Because of how we build our mittens, what we incorporate into them and their resulting thermal R-values or CLO units, there really isn't much of anything that compares competitively in total and pure performance and certainly nothing around the price points that we sell them at.  We don't build "loosey-goosy mushie feeling mittens", rather they are built with solid layering systems with resulting individual asset values and they have a "robust" feel and finish to ensure total top and bottom side equalized warmth.  On top of that, we have yet to find or cut apart any competitive brands of mittens that do what our mittens do, in terms of minimizing or eliminating the effects of conductive or convective heat loss!

Our Prairie Snowstorm G2 Series Mittens with their incorporated total asset values should easily be selling in the neighborhood of $200.00 per pair, but we don't.  Our Extreme Element Arctic Thermal Series Mittens, the warmest mittens in the World in their class as well, should easily be selling in the neighborhood of $300.00, but again "we don't".  Many people still think that if I spend the most money on something, that it's "always" going to be the "best", but this simply is not true.

We develop, design and engineer our gear to be the best in the World in terms of performance and then we price it with enough margin to cover our bills, to slice out a chunk to give to the charities that we support and then to have some cash left in the bank to challenge the next year ahead.  Unlike the big name logo brands, we don't buy our gear items overseas and then mark then up 300% to 400% and then offer all kinds of deep discounts and free freight options, rather we mark them up enough to cover our operational costs and then we sell them at everyday low prices, some are 50% cheaper then the inferior higher priced goods of the "big boy's".  Yes...money left on the table and for now....so be it.

We ship all customer orders over $25.00 and many less then that via premium USPS Priority Mail Service and at the same time we also provide our customers with Shipping & Handling Rebates, whereby we credit you back the difference between what you were charged at the shopping cart checkout and what our actual processing & discounted shipping charges where for your individual order.  On top of that, we also provide a 5% order discount rebate on orders over $100.00 in merchandise, which is there to further offset shipping & handling expenses.

So when the question comes up about paying for a customers return and or exchange freight costs, get real....most other companies don't either and most other companies don't give Shipping & Handling Rebates as we do as well.   Most other companies don't automatically ship your orders within 24 hours for the fastest service via premium USPS Priority Mail Service and most other companies don't sell their imported goods at the "everyday low price for the asset value received" like we do.  I guess if we sold the Prairie Snowstorm G2 Mitts in the $200.00 price range like OR and MH, then perhaps we could address free shipping and endless free returns.  Unfortunately as our business is structured today in providing the best customer service and World Class Cold Weather Gear & Accessories at everyday low and competitive prices, were not going to be able to make everyone happy.

We do enjoy our conversations and e-mails with 99% of our customers and potential ones as well and we also don't mind throwing in some free suggestions or tips to also help to keep them warm on their next adventure.  We on occasion, why I don't know, still field some attack e-mails coming from people who just purchased some other brand of mittens and they want to sphew the technical words that they got off of the companies website from where they made their purchase.  We first tell them, "if your new mittens work for you, then great and keep on using them" as that is what the gear search is all about....finding gear items that work for you and your body.  

Unfortunately with these types of e-mails, the first e-mail becomes the tip of the iceberg and in their second e-mail they start with the insulation statics being used, gram weights, fiber coatings and on and on, including links that we should go to and read from the companies website and so forth.  Along with questions about our mittens, needless to say if they had "first read" information on our website, starting on the Products Tab, they could have gotton all of the initial information that they needed, along with a "cross section" picture of our layering system used and so forth.

Next we send them here to the Observation Tab and reference further articles to read about our mittens or gear, which I'm sure that they take no time to read, as they come back with other links from the brand of mitten that they just bought and finally after the 3rd or 4th e-mail in reply, they dissappear.  We're never quite sure of what their purpose was and why they wasted 3 to 4 hours of our time in replying, knowing all along that they had no interest in making a purchase, but we still play the game, every time leaving them with the final statement of "if your new mittens work for you, then great and keep on using them".  

Anyway...if you are serious about considering a pair of our mittens, or for that matter any of our gear items, then do give us a call or send us an e-mail if you still never clarification or explanation about the information that you just read from our website.  We are always very happy to help you out!  If you just bought some other brand of gear or mittens and you are very proud to own them, then send you e-mails to that manufacturer and tell them how much you enjoy them.

You should also ask them why they construct their mittens the way that they do, have them explain what the meaning of their insulation materials used is, whether the amount of insulating materials is equalized on the top and bottom sides and also find out what the Thermal R-value of insulation is for the top side of the mitten and what it is for the bottom side of the mitten?  You should also ask them how they constuct their mittens to minimize or eliminate the effects of conductive and convective heat loss, especially in light of the fact that the top & bottom sides of their mitt,  filled with fiberous insulating material is probably not equalized in thickness? As well, if their mittens are built with some type of nylon outer shell material which provides zero thermal value and because the trapped air on the inside of their mittens when squeezed or compressed escapes out and then re-inflates, your should also find out where the new air comes from?  Does it come from the inside of the mitten, from the cold air outside, or from both places?

I would also ask what type of technical fabric material they use for the inner most compartment surrounding the fingers and whether it has the moisture wicking capacity to keep your fingers dry and what amount of thermal value does this material add to the entire mitten?  Also, you should find out if their mittens provide for a secondary inner fabric material layer for protection, just in case you cut or tear the outer nylon fabric shell on a sharp object, so that the cold air is prevented from entering directly into the inner fiberous insulation material, along with any rain or wet snow that may be present as well?  We know what the reality is of these types of mittens are and that is why we build ours to be completely different and to eliminate any of these real life mitten issues.  But for your own satisfaction, you should seek the answers to all of these points and see what they tell you?  We can only imagine their answers, but as a consumer you should at least become an educated consumer of their brand, especially if that is what you chose to purchase!

Ok, we've "rambled enough" on mittens for now, but suffice it to say that we provide everything that you need to know about ours within the confines of our website.  We also take as many extra steps as we can afford to provide you with World Class Cold Weather Gear & Accessories and we keep setting new Global Benchmarks and Standards for others to follow in terms of performance and warmth.  We also provide excellence in order processing & timely premium shipping at extremely fair net costs to you and we price our Work Class Gear before market potential prices to keep it affordable to everyone.  We can't be all things to all people, but we're as close as we can afford to be.  Anyway, that's Our 2 Cents Worth!

 

 

 

More On Fabric Testing & Merits of Project 100 Certification

  

 

Further to our article below regarding "Technical Fabric Testing", our continued purpose of providing ocassional technical insider insight, is to further push you as a end user towards becoming a better informed and educated shopper with regards to Cold Weather Gear & Accessories.

Before we initiated our "Project 100 Certification" process, we estimated that at least 90% of our existing product range was already meeting the standards of providing 100% thermal windblocking protection and the gear items that "were not" at that level, were intentionally designed not to be, based on other engineered purposes.  Plus, in most cases due to our ever present "technical fabric layering systems" that we incorporate into all of our gear items, the extra layers always added more buffering for the cold air & breezes then you could get from most other brands that are avaialble anywhere on the planet and we sell you more total asset value for less money then the competition.

If you've read the article that we posted below, then there is some growing hope that you will not be throwing as much of your hard earned money away investing in other brands of gear items that are just not going to actually keep you warm.  Why, for example would you want to spend $30.00 on a one layered 95% windblocking MH beanie style hat at an outfitter retail store, when for a couple of bucks less you , could buy one from us that is manufactured with a 2 layered fabric system and it is certified to be 100% thermal windblocking, on top of having a second layer on the inside that offers additional insulating warmth?  Or, why would you spend $40.00 to $50.00 on a single layered NF branded knit hat that you know the air is going to penetrate through, when for $39.99 you can buy the "warmest hat in the world" from us, that is built with 4 layers of total asset value and our hat is going to keep you head exceptionally warm anywhere on Earth?

Yes, we understand that consumers like to buy "stuff" based on logo name, style, texture and color and of course we at Technical Advantage Gear cannot be all things to all people to satisfy everyones individual tastes.  What we can offer is cold weather gear and accessories that are always designed and built on an end user "performance & asset value basis" and we provide them to you at price points that are less or far less then what others are selling them for and we're still able to do this while manufacturing them right here in the USA and not having them sewn in the Far East like most other USA associated brands are doing.

So, if you haven't, read the next article below, please do, digest it and start learning how to read what is important on the "hangie" tags that are on cold weather gear items in the store.  If you have to buy something or some other gear items because you don't like our style or color, or because we don't supply it, then as a newly further educated shopper, you may want to start saving some money by changing your existing shopping patterns.  By that we mean, instead of buying that single layered hat, jacket or vest that is higher in price because the tag states it is 95% windblocking, you may want to look for an opt for one that is built with say "300 wht HD" plain fleece, because the actual windblocking protection is going to be reasonable similar and the plain fleece one is generally going to save you a considerable amount of money.

Anyway, please know, enjoy and appreciate the fact that we do like to educate everyone that visits our website, as the information is free of charge.  We also hope that viewers of our website also appreciate the fact that we do provide "more information" on our products then anyone else does on the internet and that we also try to explain what things mean and why they are important to "you"!  Our mission is to provide you with technical information that no one else wants to share with you, so that you can make better informed purchasing decisions in the future and we hope that a few of them will be with us and that's Our 2 Cents Worth!

 

 

 

Technical Fabric Testing - Project 100 - Learn to Read Labels

 

 

We're testing "nut's" at Technical Advantage Gear, therefore the reason why we produce cutting edge Gear items within our product line.  If we can't design and produce an item with the highest asset values available for it's market class, then you never see it and we don't sell it.

We spend a lot of time cuttting competitive items apart to see what "doesn't" make them work and we also analyze the material's that are used in putting them together.  This process helps to not only educates us as to what is out in the marketplace, but it also helps us to determine which items we may develop in the future and well as determining which items are hopeless.

In the last couple of years, we decided to set up an "air penetration test stand" in our small lab area, so that we could actually start testing and evaluating various types of technical fabric materials that are used in the cold weather gear industry.  We tested our mainstay synthetic polyester fabrics with their "manufacturer stated test specifications and we also tested a few others.  Suffice it to say, the test results were surprising across the board.

We used a variable speed Velocity Air Flow Fan at three measured but varying wind speed settings, which pushed the air flow into the the technical fabrics that were stretched over one side of the test stand box frame, with the air flow under constant measurement at each different fan speed setting with the use of a calibrated Professional Lutron YK800 HD Metal Vane Anemometer w/low friction bearing.  The air flow penetration (output) was measured through a single port hole tube on the backside of the test stand box structure, though the use of a very highly sensitive Alnor Series 6000P Velometer with Lo-Flow Probe.  Perhaps not the same exact testing apparatus that you would find in a multi-million dollar research lab, but it allowed us to chart data, analyze and draw conclusions.

We measure input flow rate in both FPM(feet per minute) and MPH(miles per hour).  For our purposes here and for ease of understanding, we will reference MPH and consider the average wind speeds to be Low:  6.5mph @ Fan Speed Setting #1; Medium:  8mph @ Fan Speed Setting #2 and High:  10mph @ Fan Speed Setting #3.  (hang in there, the meat of the information is in this next couple of paragraph's below)

What "shocked" us, is that the technical fabrics that tout a 95% windblocking capacity specification on the tags that you read in the store hanging off of them, at the fan speed Low(6.5mph ave.) actually offered the same windblocking protection as a Heavyweight 300 weight fleece that does not spec out any windblocking protection what so ever.  In a nutshell, a 95% Windblocking synthetic polyester technical fabric, based on our lab testing, actually only produces a windblocking capacity with a variable averaging wind speed of 6.5mph, of less then 30% and not the published 95% windblocking capacity.  At the Medium Fan Speed setting, averaging 8mph, the 95% Windblocking material only offered 3% to 4% protection, 0% wind protection in the HD 300 weight fleece and at the High Fan Speed, 10mph average, all registered 0% windblocking protection.

We also tested some of the 97% to 98% spec'd windblocking materials as well and they didn't drop off of the charts quite as bad, again based on our testing.  At the Low Fan Speed 6.5mph, average windblocking protection was about 82%, at the Medium Fan Speed 8mph, the windblocking protection was around 69% and at the High Fan Speed averaging 10mph the windblocking protection was around 53%.

The postive in our air penetration testing, was the technical fabric that we use a considerable amount of, which is sped'd at 100% thermal windblocking protection.  "Raise your eye's to the skies and salute", because in all (3) three of the variable averaging wind speeds, it still tested out to be 100% windblocking.

The sad part with the testing that we conducted and the packet of data and supporting documents that measured over a 1/2 inch thick, is that it fell on completely "deaf" ears with our fabric mill suppliers and second, you as a consumer may not be getting what you paid for in the store in terms of items that you are buying with windblocking protection that is stated on the labels.

Now the good new's....Ok the great new's....Project 100 Certified items made available only by Technical Advantage Gear.....another first!  Many of our gear items were "always" built with the 100% Thermal Windblocking technical fabrics that lab tested out to be 100% protection on their outer shell layers.  Now however we decided to expand the protection coverage and have incorporated this concept further across the board, to include many other gear items as well.  Any item that you see on our website under the "Products" tab and we have been making the running update production changes for two years now and haven't told you that, that is noted as "Project 100 Certified - 100% Thermal Windblocking Protection", now provides you with the highest standards for windblocking protection in the World.

We still will use some of the 95% and 97%/98% manufacturer spec'd windblocking techncial fabrics on outer shell layers due to their hardfacing or abrasion resistance characterics, however now the next layer in(that you may not see) has been replaced with a layer of  the "100% thermal windblocking technical fabric" and now you yet again have a new standard set by Technical Advantage Gear.  There was nothing wrong with the layering systems that we used in the past, as you always got so much more asset value for the money invested with us versus other competitive brands, however now we just raised the Global Benchmark, unfortunately that most don't care to follow.  They will continue to build for "pretty" and we'll continue to build our gears items based on "actual performance"!

So what did we learn?  Well, if there is a certain gear item in the store that you want to purchase because you like how it looks, start to read the "dangling" tags that hang off of it.  If it is an item that states 95% or 97/98% windblocking protection only, determine where and when you are going to be using it and see how that price compares to something that is say made from a different material, say even a heavyweight fleece and then compare the price points and see if the extra investment is worth it or not, now that you know that you may not actually be getting what you paid for.  Yes, we do understand that we don't make everything that "trips your trigger", but when we do, at least you know that we build our cold weather gear items to the highest standards in the World, many that we have established ourselves.

If you haven't read the next article below about our "Project 100 Certified" process, please do when you have the time.  Our segment of the Cold Weather Gear & Accessory business is to provide our customers with "World Class" products that you don't find in the store or on the Internet, we build them to actually work and work in keeping your warmer - longer and we complete our daily process by providing Customer Service & Shipping that is second to no one in the World.  We also take pride in trying to provide valuable information that helps to make you an educated & informed shopper, so that you will be more effective in your gear investments in the future and that's Our 2 Cents Worth!

 


 

 

Project 100 Certified - 100% Thermal Windblocking Protection

 

 

We've always prided ourselves on building the warmest cold weather gear & accessories on the Planet and have managed to do so by building our gear with the finest techncial fabrics and insulating materials that exist in the World.  We also get greater output and asset values, because we build our gear using "layering systems" of the technical fabrics that we use, which gives your greater warmth for the money that you invest in each gear item that you choose to buy from us.  At the same time, we don't "f" around with the pricing & discount structure, therefore you get the most competitive price from us everyday of the year.  Thank you for your business!

We also believe in pushing the "performance bar" to a higher level each day, week and month of the year and really just end up competing against ourselves in turning out even higher levels of output in our gear, where ever it may end up being used around the Globe.  To stay on top of our performance standards, we also need to stay informed and abreast of what is being offered in the market place that may be vaguely similar to some of our gear items. We also have been spending more time in verifying the specifications that are set by technical fabric manufacturers, to see if what they say if true, actually is?

We started testing techical fabrics that we use in our own production, along with others that we don't, starting late last Spring and the testing was oriented toward air penetration through the fabric.  We tested manufacture spec'd 100% thermal windblocking, 98% thermal windblocking, 95% thermal windblocking and even various mid-range & heavy weight synthetic polyester fleeces, that aren't spec'd with any major windblocking capacity.

We set up our own air flow test box and monitored variable fan air speeds with an anemometer and measured air penetration on the output side through the use of a highly sensitive velometer.  We use three different input fan speeds, Level 1 of around 6 mph, Level 2 around 8 mph and Level 3 averaging around 10 mph and the results were very interesting.  What we will profess in our own confidential test results, is that the only true manufacturer spec'd technical fabric for windblocking capacity, was the fabric that we use most,  which is claimed and tested out to be 100% thermal windblocking.  All the rest and their manufacturer spec's, were somewhat disappointing.

The good thing for our gear and customers, is that we already build a very high percentage of our gear with 100% thermal windblocking outer shells and other gear that does use this type of technical material, is ususally built with a lesser windblocking spec combined with perhaps a second layer of the same material plus other internal layers of insulating warmth.  Again, a desigh benchmark and standard that we offer that the rest of the World doesn't!

The long and short of what our test results produced on the technical material testing that we conducted, was first we found out that the actual manufacturers of the technical materials tested didn't really give a crap regarding our test data and second, we decided irregardless of any response from them, we were going to up the output performance on more of our gear items and strive for Project 100 Certification, which is something no one else in the World does.  Our gear - Our Performance Standard and our continuous improvement to strive for 100% Thermal Windblocking Protection within as many gear items that we manufacture and sell.  Most of the enhancements that have been cut into production already, have been done without any change that you would have noticed, as most of the technical material changes have been made to internal layers.  In some cases the actual thermal insulation value of an item may have dropped a very slight amount, however the actual performance "out in the elements" has been enhanced by blocking out 100% of the cold air penetration.  Over 75% of our existing product line already was being built with 100% Thermal Windblocking Outer Shells and now the overall percentage has increased climbed even closer to 100%.

So look for our Project 100 Certified - 100% Thermal Windblocking Protection seal, so you can tell whether all of the cool and cold weather breezes are going to be blocked out on any given gear item that we build, as referenced under out Product Tabs on our website.  The best keeps getting better & that's Our 2 Cents Worth!

 


 

 

Charitable Sponsorship - Ice Run 2012 Siberia

 

 

It seems like about every 3 years, the right Charitable Sponsorship request drops down in front of us and then we have to decide whether we are going to bite on it or not.  Well, recently one of those requests found its way to us via e-mail, we checked it out and decided it was time to play and channel some effort, gear and goodies to support their Charitable Fund Raising Cause.

This years adventure that we are sponsoring with the warmest gear in the World, features a gentleman from England and one from New Zealand who have enhanced their Charitable Fund Raising efforts by participating in the 2012 Ice Run in Siberia.  Basically it is a race of about 12 or so (2) person teams from around the World that are running or racing vintage motorcyles with sidecars down a River in Siberia, un-supported, for the approximate 1000 mile distance, in temperatures that will make the little guy not want to come back out until Summer...ha..ha...

They get the pleasure of driving in the snow, on the ice if they can find it under the snow, in extreme cold weather temperatures, wild animals watching on and with only 4 to 5 hours of daylight each day.  When they get tired, they get to pitch the tent and sleep out in the elements until it's time to hop back on the bike and into the side car to futher complete the race.

If you're interested in finding out more about these two crazy dudes with generous hearts, in terms of rasing money to support charities that help out those in need, then you can read more of their great website information at www.icerun2012.com .

People helping People helping People in need.  What a great thing and that's Our 2 Cents Worth!

 


 

 

Sponsorship & Charitable Giving

 

 

Sponsorship and Charitable Giving are two very interesting subjects and they tend to evolve and change over time within businesses.  We get more requests for sponsorship loot then we get from Charities looking for a contibution, but at the end of the day we steer our own ship in terms of who and how we choose to help others.

In the early years of our business, we were very supportive of helping others out on their lifetime adventures and usually, but not always would supply some sponsorship gear to help them out. Our main requriement or request was that they send us some pictures of their adventure with our gear in action that we could use in the future on our website or for other printed medium for getting the free loot, as well as requesting some feedback on how the gear worked for them.  Simple right?  We always would get the yeah, sure, no problem, would send the gear item(s) out and 9 times out of 10 we would never hear from the sponsee unless we chased them down after the event activity.  Even then, on occassion, we could get replies like "well contact so and so Photography and ask them for a picture of what you want", which then meant "so and so photography" also wanted some free loot on top of the free loot given out, in order to consider shaking loose a "jpg" for us to have/use and of course for mentioning their name, website and on and on.

The same goes with donating items for raffles & silent auctions for clubs.  Tell us what we want to hear, get the free loot and never be heard from again and that lack of response rate is at about 99%.  The philosophy of giving out the goodies for free, is done for the "enhanced exposure" for you product, with the asssumption that all this new business will follow...well guess what, it doesn't.  The winners of the loot benefit, but never reach into their pockets to buy anything from you in the future, nor do the people that didn't win the loot because they are still mad that they didn't get anything for free.

Sponsorship is an interesting concept and in some "sporting environ's", because it is someones "dream" to do the activity, they automatically think that everyone else should give them cash, food and clothing and everything else they need, just so they can say that they were able to fulfill their "dream", until of course the next one comes along.  Yeah, I have one to.  I want to go the International Space Station,  so could your please "all" send me some money toward the $30 million it's going to cost to train and fly on a Russian Rocket, there and back?

Anyway, yes we still do help out with ocassional sponsorship items, but less and less if it is for someone who has never purchased or used any of our gear items before making the request.  If you haven't used it prior, how can you honestly tell us on the telephone during your request speech of just how great our stuff really is?

The main and primary sponsorship that we have any interest in entertaining in recent years is in regard to "Charitable Fund Raising Causes" that link up with registered Charities that help people in need, be it here or around the World some where.  The one's that we have gotton involved with, usually every couple three years have started with the sponsee's establishing a nice and informative website featuring a lot of great information and and instant way for people to make their charitable contributions right on line.  The highlight of the major fund raising campaigns usually feature some major adventure or challenge that has been selected and the one's that we have helped sponsor with some of our gear have been pretty entertaining to say the least.  The last one we got involved with and the current one, have either, or have plans to raise in excess of $15,000 to $20000's.  Hooray, people helping others helping others!

As far as "where do our profits get spent" outside of paying the bills and expenses of the Gear Business, well, surprisingly to most will be the fact that we give away as much as we can of our profits and then we give some more.  Our (2)two main Charities that we have selected and donate to, in helping out those in need are in two different parts of the USA.

We work with one Charity up in our geographical area that feeds, clothes and shelters the Homeless and newly ecomonically poor and we do things with them that are focused on clothing people that live and have to endure many nights sleeping out on the streets, all the while trying to survive for another night or day.  We coordinate these activities inconjuction with the Masonic Lodge of Minnesota, who inturn makes the donations to the Mission that gets the goods.  We like to remain anonomous, so to speak and therefore we proundly let the credit go else where.

We also make cash donations to a wonderful Food Bank located in the Southeastern USA/Gulf Coast that turns every ($1.00 of cash donation) into $6.00 worth of food to feed the hungry....truly remarkable.  We love them to death as well!

The other thing that we do for all of our existing and potential customers, is to make the warmest gear on the Planet and to price and sell it at "everyday low prices" to keep it affordable, instead of doing like the rest of the market that establishes a suggested retail mark-up of 300% and then "yo-yo" discounts it every other week of the selling season.  Anyway, that's Our 2 Cents Worth!

 


 

 

We Teach - We Learned

 

 

We spend an inordinate amount of time behind the scenes in educating ourselves about many things related to what we engineer, the technical materials that we use, how best to use them, what's going on in the market place, what do we need to learn about factors that affect people's daily comfort and then we share the information on our website or via the phone to make you better informed shoppers.  We relay and outline the attributes & asset values that our gear items offer and we don't make up or over promise on the actual performance that you will receive when you wear one or several of our Technical Advantage Gear items.  Basically, we try and provide you with more information on our website then virtually most other's and it's there if you choose to read it.  If some information is not referenced on our website related to one of our gear items, then pick your cell phone up and give us a call (715)425.2129 and we'll always do our best to help you out.  We Teach.

On the other hand, we process and ship orders all around the United States, Canada and to many Countries around the World, a small percentage of the time knowing what & where it actually is going to be used, but the majority of the time we haven't got a clue.  Not that it makes any difference because we just made another sale.  What always catches our curiosity is when large dollar amounts of our warmest gear is being purchased by customers that live in areas with what we consider to be mild Winter seasons as compared to ours here in Wisconsin?  Maybe our natural curiousity has grown over the years, just like the length of Winter seems to have grown each year that we have gotten older...hmmm.

Many times we know when our gear is being used on climbing expeditions to the Himalaya's, Mt McKinley, South America, Africa or for adventures above the Arctic Circle or Antarctica, primarily because we end up talking or e-mailing with these customers before they order their gear.  We love to help out and service the adventure - challenge seekers on the Planet, but the main stay of our business is still the everyday user and especially those that have jobs that keep them working outside in the elements during the cold weather months.

As the World has changed, the economy has changed and to stay competitive, so too have business had to adapt and change.  In our domestic and worldly travels, we've never given much thought to how Railroad cars get spotted and moved around state by state or to who or where the person is from that is captaining the large tugboat that's towing in a super container sized oil tanker full of crude oil into port?  As assumptions go...you just assume that they're local people working a local job out of the rail yard or sea port, right?  Well the answer is not always.

As it turns out, these two types of businesses for example, have turned more mobil with their work forces over the years, ok, a lot more then you would imagine.  Tug Boat captains are flown to different ports around North America, just like Railroad linemen are flown to different states to clear & move rail cars sitting abandon on tracks in small town America.  They do these jobs in one location for a matter of weeks or perhaps months, lodging at night in nice and not so nice accomodations along the way.

For our business, we were able to grow our penetration further into the Outdoor Working World of the Railroad business and at the same time we officially as "we know" have a good start in the Shipping Port Marine business with the initial and referral business that we secured.  The shipping requirements demanded on short timelines from these customers were a "piece of cake" to us, such as "I need it delivered within the next 3 days" or "you need to ship it in care of my name to such & such motel in the middle of Montana that I won't be checking into for a couple of days and it needs to be there when I arrive".  As "we believe" that we out service any other business on the Internet - anywhere, all you have to do is to ask us if you have a special request and we'll let you know if it is logistically possible.  Usually the variables are in shipping, not in our order processing speed.  Anyway, it was interesting to understand more about how a couple of major industries operate today and have become more mobil with their work forces and we certainly were grateful for the new customers that we gained, including the referrals and additional orders that came in our direction.  We Learned.

Our business has continued to grow on the basis on designing & manufacturing the finest cold weather gear and accessories in the World, backing it up with outstanding order processing speed and shipping orders over $25.00 via premium USPS Priority Mail Service, which is "not" the norm and mode of operation from other businesses on the internet!  We love when we get customer phone calls telling us that they're living on a climbing expedition in 10 days and they want to know whether if they place an order today if it will show up before they leave?  The last order/customer like this back in June, probably had his jaw drop to the floor when his shipment from Technical Advantage Gear was at his doorstep (2) days later after placing his order.  Maybe it was also the shock of receiving a S&H Rebate on top of receiving our everyday 2/3 day premium shipping service as well?  Anyway, that's Our 2 Cents Worth!

 


 

 

Headaches of the Petroleum Factor

 

 

It's been an interesting year so far in the United States during 2011, we'll stay neutral on the subject of the Political battles in Washington DC and instead focus here on how the un-regulated speculation on oil futures have affected everyone's pocket books and wallets...ouch!

Ahh yes, the price at the pump is perhaps the most notable thing that has caught our attention, but what about the cost of groceries, transportation costs and/or the costs just to heat or cool your home or business?  The reality is that we still pay less than the per litre price at the pump for fuel then they do in Europe and many other Countries and we pay more then they do in the major oil producing Counties in the Middle East, so see....we're still right in the middle of things on a global perspective.

So as good and wise consumers, we drive less, car pool, use more public transportation, turn the thermostat higher on the air conditioner, lower for heating, turn the lights off more, eat out less and yet at the end of the day, we just can't seem to find a major accumulation of extra dollar bills in savings in our wallets, can we?

From the 100% Made in Wisconsin - USA manufacturing perspective, the Petrol Factor has been quite interesting.  First, the main stay of our technical raw materials are synthetic polyester fabrics, which are highly inter-twined with petroleum and let us not forget the trucking costs to get them here.  In a blink of the eye and a "wholly toledo batman" we absorbed increases ranging as high as 60% on just the cost of the technical fabrics.  Then add the increases to the cost of turning the lights on each day, energy to run production, our usual reluctance to raise prices and the profit margins were looking pretty sad on our "everyday low pricing" price strategy.

Yes, we did have to tweak a few Gear item prices during this year, but not everything that we manufacture and sell was affected.  At the same time however, many of our items were upgraded in terms of total performance, therefore pushing the bar forward into even higher end user output territory that isn't being matched by anyone on the Planet, except us.  With the dynamics of building our gear with "layering systems", most "continuous improvement projects" that we implement are not apparent to the naked eye of the end user, rather the performance or enhanced performance drives the words right our of their mouth of "Wow, I can't believe how warm this Technical Advantage Gear stuff really is", or "this stuff is the real deal in terms of performance"!

Rest assured that we do get restless when we have to tweak prices upward a few percentage points, even though we know that all of our layered gear designs are "under valued" to what they could be selling for in the market, but we're still on a mission to get more people into wearing cold weather gear and accessories that actually do keep them warmer - longer then anything else that's available "anywhere" else in the World.

Strangly enough during the past few months of 2011 though, the highest percent increase that was attempted to be passed on to us was for some Internet Ad's on a website to the tune of about a 400% increase in one fail swoop, which we inturn said thanks but no thanks to future business.  We're still trying to figure out how the Petrol Factor has any impact to the virtual World...hmmm?  Anyway, that's Our 2 Cents Worth!

 


 

 

Should We Price Our Gear Like Everyone Else Does?

 

 

We're glad that the Holidays are behind us for another year, not because we don't enjoy the pleasant boost to our business, rather because we get tired of the advertising overload falling out of the daily and Sunday newspaper and especially with what was getting blasted out of the "boob tube".  "Discounts to 70%, Door Busters, 2 Day Sale, Best Prices of the Season, Best Prices of the Year...and so it went, again.

Why is it when you walked into the store's with the 70% off Sale prices, that they were never on the items that you wanted to buy?  Perhaps the item that you were looking for was only on sale at 25% off, so did you buy it or did you wait for the following weeks "Super Duper Sale", hedging your bet that the discount would be even better?   It must have just been me, but many of the items with the "hugh" discounts on them, still needed to go quite a ways further in discount percentage before they actually seemed like a good deal?

It always makes me wonder just where and who sets or determines what the ficticous "Suggest Retail Prices" that we see on all items in a store.  Gosh help us if we ever pay full retail for any item in the World of "wait a minute - here comes a new discount" retail environment.  As well, how does it make you feel when you bought something at full price or at a small discounted price and now you come back to the store 31 days later and the item is now 25%, 35% or 40% off of the regular price and the store is not going to give you back any of the difference from what you paid, one month and one day earlier?

So as a consumer, what "trips your trigger" when you buy something at a store or off the interenet?  Are you the happiest when you walk away with an item that you just bought at a 25%, 35% or 50% discount off of the suggested retail price, or are you happiest and cognizant of the bottom line price that you paid?  Are you one that tells your friends "hey I just bought this item at a 50% discount, or do you tell them when they asked that the item was only $45.00?  Are you a consumer that likes the "discount jumble" pricing stategy or are you one that prefers "everyday low pricing"?

The sad reality of clothing, gear and many other items in this World that are manufactured somewhere like in the Far East, is that the actual landed cost into the USA on these items, due to the non-existant labor rates paid, is much cheaper then you realize.  Lets say during the Fall you walked into the big box Sporting Goods store and spotted a pretty looking "big logo branded" fleece pullover, you know the ones with the fancy serger stitching in every direction and when you looked at the price tag it was selling for the normal suggested retail price of $90.00.  You know, new item - early in the season - no discount.  Then you came back into the same store in late November or early December and the rack with fleece pullovers, all made in the Far East, now has a 25% discount sign on it, meaning it now will cost you $67.50 plus sales tax.  Is this a good price to pay...after all 25% discount is fairly attractive?  Do you buy it now or do you wait until the Clearance Sales start during the month of January and hope the size and color that you like will still be there?  

Ok, so you come back in during the January Clearance Sale and now the fleece pullovers remaining are now 40% off, or $54.00 plus sales tax.  Now do you buy it?  The sad reality is - is that no matter when you buy it you're going to be paying too much for it because of the pricing strategies that are being used by the businesses that are importing these products into the USA or other Countries.  In this case, based on our own market intelligence, we would estimate that the "big logo brand" is importing these fleece pullovers, as an example item, for probably not much more then say $4.50 each or 5% of the initial suggested retail price.  Now, every business has expenses and bills to pay, but where does reality start and stop in the World of profit margins and fair pricing to the consumer, especially when it's not Made in the USA?

We don't believe in the "discount jumble" and bogus high "suggested retail pricing strategies" that others have used for years, rather instead we offer our customer's our best foot forward with our "everyday low pricing strategy" and then we enhance it with a small volume buy discount.  The only exceptions to this practice come during the early Summer months, our slowest time of the year, where we combine modest discounts with give away non-gear items in generating a small amount of non-peak season sales.  

Our selling prices are very competitive for the total asset values that we build into our gear items and in most cases you can purchase our items for a lower price then what the bigger logo brands offer that may be similar in look, but with much less asset attributes built in.  You'll also notice that we "ride the course" as long as we can from year to year, whereby you get to see fairly consistent pricing from one year to another.

So what we've decided to do, is to place a posting on our FACEBOOK page whereby you can provide your own feedback & comments to a posting.comment/question that will be phrased something like this:

"Should Technical Advantage Gear maintain its current selling price startegy of best foot forward - everyday low pricing on its Gear, or should they "double" their selling prices and then put different daily or weekly discounts on their gear items to entice you to buy, because you are a customer driven or excited about advertised discounts and you want them to be like everyone else in the gear biz?"

So speak out if you're interested.  You can click the Facebook link off or our Main Page or find us on Facebook under a search using "Technical Advantage Gear" or you can send us an e-mail if you don't Facebook, at "sales@tadvgear.com"  and let us know what you think as a saavy consumer.  "We love your current price strategy" or "Join the Crowd & be Like Everyone Else"?

Let us further preference the doubling of our pricing and then discounting back down strategy option.  If we did this,  we wouldn't offer discount credits back to customers because they bought at one discount level last week and now today's discount is even better.  Hmmm....does this change your opinion?  Anyway, that's Our 2 Cents Worth!

 


 

 

If You Made an "oops" When You Ordered - Here's What to do

 

 

Ok, you just placed your order with Technical Advantage Gear and just received your confirming "auto reply" e-mail message from PayPal and discovered that you made a mistake on the order quantities, size or what ever, what should you do?

First take a deep breath as everything is going to be OK!  Second, "do not" try to send a message to the "auto reply" order confirmation message that you just received from PayPal, because it is about the same thing as talking to the wall and expecting a verbal reply.  What you should do is one of the two following things.  First either send us, Technical Advantage Gear, an e-mail at "ibdcc@tadvgear.com" explaining that you just placed and order with us and you need to have "XXX" or "YYYY" changed on your order and we'll do our best to make the change before your order is processed.  At the same time when your are composing your e-mail message to us, please send us a contact phone number in case we need to clarify something with regard to the change requested.

The second thing that you can or could do, is to call us at 715.425.2129 and if we're not there or if it's after hours, then please leave us a voice mail message.  We've never had any problems over the years in getting something corrected on an order before it's shipped, however the "tone" we've gotton sometimes tells us that people are having problems with other web-based companies in being able to get their attention.  We don't claim to be perfect, but we do put forth the extra effort to always take care of our Technical Advantage Gear customers, so please give us the benefit of the doubt....and that's Our 2 Cents Worth!

 


 

 

Recommended User Temperature Ranges on Our Gear

 

 

Well, for all intensive purposes Winter is here.  The temperatures are running below normal, the snow is starting to pile up outside and the gear is flying off of the shelves - which we thank you for your business.

We don't have a crystal ball for determining where our gear is going to actually be used after it has been ordered, but we do scratch our heads sometimes, when we see some of our "warmest in the World" Arctic Series gear being ordered by customers in "not so cold" average Winter temperature delvery addresses.  Yes, we understand that everyones threshold to cold is different and we also know that being cold is driven by other factors as well, such as by disease, aging, weight and so forth.  

What we want to make sure of and to again suggest here, is that customers visiting our Products section of our website make sure to pay attention to our "Recommended User Temperature Ranges" on our gear items, as they are based on reality from actual use and not from throwing darts at the dart board like others seem to do.

If you read the information and specifications about our gear items from our website, you can clearly see that we "do in fact" build our gear differently from most other companies in the World and that's because we build in more - much more asset value into each item for the price that you pay.  In many - many cases you are buying a far superior performance based gear item for a lower price, then the "cute looking" similar item from a larger known logo brand company, which of course produces marginal performance for the end user in many cases.

Take for example "hats".  The average suggested retail for some of the bigger named logoed brands is around $40.00 for a beanie style hat, most of which are only manufactured with (1) one layer of material.  Many are made from knit fabrics which are not thermal windblocking, some may or may not be water repellent treated, most are naturally breathable because they have all of the natural knit processed holes in them that don't block out the wind and people are drawn to them because of the tassles, the hang down ties or for the logo sewn into it and not because of the performance or actual temperature range that it works in.

In this example, hats, we offer quite an "actual performance" range of hats like beanie style or stocking, with most prices ranging from the mid-$20.00 to just under $40.00.  The hats that we sell in the mid $20.00 range are all built with a minimum of 2 layers of technical fabrics, with the outside layers always being Thermal windblocking, Breathable and DWR water repellent treated and then combined with at least (1) one layer of added synthetic polyester warmth going up next to your body.  These hats will all out perform the competitions $39.95 price hats, because of the way that we build them to actually work and you get to save money at the same time.  Many of these hats we sell under the Prairie Snowstorm series.  THE IMPORTANT thing to note here, is that the hats in the $25.00 - $26.00 dollar price range are spec'd for temperatures of -30F to -40F below zero and when we were testing some of them in their prototype stage, we had them out and about in windchilled temperatures of -60F up in Alaska.  Again, we don't make up the user ranges, rather we go out in the elements and find our what they should be based on actual use!

Conversely, we also manufacture and sell the "warmest hat in the World" which is our $38.95 Windblocking Arctic Thermal Hat that is built with (4) Layers of techncial fabric materials and these hat were designed and have played/endured user operating temperatures from -60F to -100F below zero.  Here again is another example of a hat that we manufacture that sells at a slightly lower price then the mainstays of the other logoed brands, however on a performance basis theirs don't come anywhere close.  We also go as far on our website to tell users that they really shouldn't consider this hat and the use and wearing of it until temperatures are something like -10F to -15F below zero or colder.  Yet...we get people who purchase these hats where the cold Winter temperature might be only +20F.  We love to sell hats as we love selling all of our cold weather gear, however we want to make sure that you only spend what you "really need to spend" on a Winter hat that is going to keep you warmer then what you can find in the local store.

All we're trying to say here is to make sure and read the information that we provide on the gear items that you're looking to purchase, trust the information that we provide and then make and informed decision based on where you are going to use it and wear it.  If you've ever called us and talked to us on the phone with your questions, you already know that we work people down in purchase price points and gear selection instead of working them up to our higher priced items that they don't need based on where they will be using the items.  Our mission is always to get you into the right gear item(s) for you use or adventure, so that you will be satisfied and happy with your purchase and will perhaps come back again and again because what we told, wrote or shared with you was the honest to gosh truth.  So please, read the User Temperature Ranges that we provide before you order and also don't forget to verify and measure yourself so that you also get the correct size before you click the button to place your order and that's Our 2 Cents Worth!

 


 

 

Streamlined Ordering for Mountain Climbing & Mushers Gear

 

 

Sometimes when you live in paradise, the surrounding infrastructure, or lack of, creates headaches in not providing you with all of the services that the folks around the bigger cities enjoy and take for granted.  In this particular case, we are talking about slow Internet Service, you know, the dial up 28.8k speed or those suffering thru the dreaded "satelite" dish service....ouch!

On our main website index page, we provide (8) eight boxes that you can click on for receiving Gear Recommendations for various outdoor activities, from weekend activites to major expeditions.  The format was to provide some brief information on various selected gear items and then allow you to click on a hyperlink that takes you to our Products page for more detailed information.  However, for those suffering from painfully slow internet service, our Product Tab takes forever to load up because of all of the GREAT and DETAILED information and pictures that we provide, which is Second to no one else in the World, bar none!  But....if the loading of the information is too slow because of your local internet service, speed and time out and offs of your connection, many of you probably never get to actually see the total realm of what we have to offer in relation to information that we provide on our World Class Gear, which is again 100% Made in Wisconsin USA with 100% Made in the USA technical fabrics.

Last Winter we started adding "Add to Cart" buttons within our "Expedition Mountain Climbing Gear Review & Gear Recommendations" Section, so when you "clicked" on the words or picture of Mt Everest in the background, it provided you with gear information, pictures and the opportunity to make purchases right there.  Granted the verbage and information is not as detailed as within our Products Tab section, there is ususally enough to make an informed purchasing decision.

Recently, we went back through the Expedition Mountaining Climbing Gear Review and updated it with new information and "Add to Cart" buttons for making purchases and we also did the same thing to the "Sled Dog Musher Gear Review" as well.  Now if either of these areas of adventure are in your daily life, all you have to do is make it to our main website page, scroll down a little ways from the top and click on either one of the 2 boxes to find pictures, information and a chance to order some of our World Class Technical Advantage Gear, with a faster load up time, versus waiting for the volume of information that comes with clicking on our full blown information oriented Products Tab.  

We believe in providing you with the most information and pictures about our gear, versus the rest of the businesses on the Internet, so that you can be an informed shopper ahead of time, instead of being disappointed by what shows up in the box like when you order from others.

So for those who enjoy the simple life away form the crowds, ordering gear in the above mentioned two areas just got easier for loading up on your painfully slow internet service.  We hope this helps you out and we look forward to your business and that's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

Technical Advantage Gear Field Engineering & Testing

 

 

Psssst....While you were out there sweating in the warm sun, our Field Engineering & Test Department has been playing around with some of our "new" and "prototype test" gear somewhere around the Country?

We highlight what our mission is with regards to designing, engineering and testing our gear items within our "R&D Testing Tab" on our website, so suffice it to say that the mission of testing and field engineering play goes on throughout the year, even though the snow might not be covering the ground where you live.

Since we build gear for moderate cold, extreme and punishing severe cold weather conditions, we can't neccesarily find those conditions when we're looking for them during the Summer months, but we usually can find the rain, the mist, the engulfing & moving wet clouds and varying mountain summit temperatures and variable winds.  We generally know ahead of time what the warmth factor of a particular gear item is going to produce, based on the technical fabric combination(s) that we select, but we don't always have tested confirmation on how a gear item is going to perform in the cool/cold misty & heavy rains that are found at altitude.  This is especially important to observe, because all of the outer shell layers on our gear items are DWR Water Repellent treated for shedding the moisture.

Many of the times when we're out on Field Testing projects, we'll snap a few pictures for use and incorporation on our website, primarily on gear items that we have already decided to release for sale, or on items that have already been around for awhile, but we never release photo's of new items in the "prototype testing" process, as we never know for sure whether the item will actually be produced for sale or not, so why show it.

For whatever the rational this time, we decided to release a couple of pictures of a new Softshell Jacket that we have been working on, which we feel based on it's "complete asset value" will leave the softshell competition in the blowing and drifting snow dust, like most of the other "layering system" gear that we build.  Ok, we released the "taster pictures" because we think that people are getting "ripped off" with what they have to choose from in the market place, in terms of "what you get vs. what you had to pay for it".

Come on now, paying $150.00 to $299.00 for a ONE LAYERED Soft Shell Jacket, some with only partial windblocking protection and others somewhat better.  Some of the so called softshell jackets are made from various types of pure fleece and some are actually made with fabrics that have the windblocking membrane manufactured into the fabric.  Most of the so called Soft Shells are not Hardfaced for providing Abrasion Resistance and the ones with the soft velour or curly velour finishes are going to collect the snow on them, which "especially on Jackets" the snow is likely to freeze the zippers shut because of all of the build up, especially on the front side.  Further, from a Thermal Insulation Value stand point, we'd estimate that for your $150.00 to $300.00 that you "plunked down" that the insulation R-value is probably somewhere around an R-1.2 to R-1.4, which is not very warm and is more reflective of what you get out of a higher quality mid to heavyweight straight fleece, but again the fleece isn't providing anything but minimal windblocking protection.

With the "prototype" Jacket that we have running around for testing, no guarantees or commitments that it will be available in 2011 or what the final color combinations might be, we will leave you with the following question:

For a "price point" that is targeted to be somewhere on the lower end of the existing market place selling price for 1 Layered Soft Shell Jackets, would it be a better investment for you to purchase a "Hardfaced Abrasion Resistant - Thermal Windblocking - Breathable & DWR Water Repellent Treated 2 LAYERED Soft Shell Jacket, that also provides an Inner Jacket Shell Layer providing exceptional mid-weight synthetic polyester warmth, with the layered combination producing an approximate thermal insulation R-value that is easily 80% higher, has larger front pockets, a couple of inner pockets(which many other soft shells don't), is targeted to be about three inches longer in lenght then the shorty lenghts that are out their currently from the competitors (average 27" to 28" zipper lenghts on theirs), is sized more generously for better movement and is designed to eliminate snow build-up and collection?  Whew...what a long winded question, but yet another targeted gear project from Technical Advantage Gear, that would again provide you "much more asset value for the money" and best of all it is designed to keep you warmer - longer then anything similar - ANYWHERE!  If the other Soft Shell brands, Made in China and elsewhere, cut their prices by 50%  to 75% at retail, then you might be getting a more appropriate price for what you actually receive and That's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

Lead - Lead - Made in the Far East - Lead - Lead

 

 

The World is Made in Far East nowadays, ok it has been for several years now.  On the positive side it has brought some extremely cheap prices on everyday household  and consumer goods, however on the "negative" side it has cost tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs here in the States and the quality levels of the actual products....well we'll leave that up to you to decide.

It's hard to go into a Sporting Goods Store today and not find the Country of Origin tag reading Made somewhere in the Far East, although the next cheapest place that everyone seems to be invading is Vietnam, which will then make it the latest Country in the World that will be introduced to un-controlled Manufacturing waste and pollution.  The standard of living will increase slightly for the actual workers, however the real money prize will go to the Sourcing Brokers and to the Companies that have their goods produced there as they currently do in other Far East Countries already today.

We occassionally look for certain gear items that we could add to our product range on a purchased basis, not make ourselves, which could help support our late Spring and Summer selling seasons which tend to be slower.  But stubborn as we are, we will not add or sell things that are not made here in the States or Canada, however the reality of it is, is that options are very limited.  We'd love to add some items like backpacks and lightweight tents to our product line to fill requests, but again if you read their labels for Country of Origin, there's about a 100% chance that they are Made in the Far East.

Now there's nothing wrong with Capitalism and companies doing what it takes to stay in business based on their individual corporate philosophy, but how many companies are really staying on top of the "game" and seeing that a total level of overall quality is being offered throughout the entire process, start to finish?  It seems like it many cases that the corporate culture has changed to be focused on one thing only and that is how much money can the upper eschalon put in their pockets the fastest and for the longest period of time, employing the fewest number of people to make it happen?

There are several things that should "peeve" you as a consumer and end user on all of these "goodies" that are being made outside of the USA, of which many you have no other choice on Country of Origin, since they are no longer produced here at home.  The first peeve that you should have, is that the "COST BENEFIT" is not being passed onto you at the checkout counter, unless and only when it is at the end of the season, the pickings are slim in terms of choice and the retailer is discount focused for a couple of weeks on pushing cash and readying for the next season's type of goods to get into their store.  

In the case of the Manufacturers name that's on the logo of say a jacket, tent or backpack for example purposes, you can easily figure that they paid no more then 10% of the actual tagged retail price for the item produced in the Far East, for example.  In many cases they probably only paid 5% of the Retail Price for the items that you are buying.  So how does that make you feel knowing the new lightweight tent that you just bought for $250.00 probably only cost the manufacturer less then $15.00?  Where was the cost savings "pass though" for you as the end user knowing that manufacturing jobs were lost over the years here at home because the sewing jobs went to the Far East or elsewhere?  Again, if that's the corporate mission to downside employees at home and outsource the manufacturing process, then by heck or high water pass on a big chunk of the savings back to the consumer and sell the tent in this example for under $100.00 dollars.  The example could also be mirrored on Far Eastern made mittens for American companies, retailing them for $150.00 to $185.00, when in reality their overseas costing was more in the range of $10.00 to $15.00 per pair.  The worse part is that many of these mittens weren't actually built to keep you fingers warm in temperatures much below zero F as promised, even though you were convinced that paying more was going to get you more?

A second peeve that that you as a consumer should have is the "lack of oversight" from A to Z that companies actually initiate and implement during the entire outsourcing process.  It's easier for the Product Development person or Buyer to find a Far East Broker in say Singapore who will take their product samples or drawings and then find them a factory or factories inside of China that will quote them a price and of course the price that the Broker inturn presents back to them will make them "fall off of the chair" because it's so cheap.  In most cases the PD person or Buyer never sees the factory sweat shops, but is deemed a hero based on the cost savings presented.

Because of this laziness on behalf of the USA Corporation's to expend the manpower to investigate the entire production process of their goods, you get results like "contaminated dog food", childrens toys that were painted with "LEAD PAINT", other trinkets that were made from lead materials, some swallowed by young kids leading to death, contaminated DRYWALL that is giving off substantial odor and gases, which is currently in the news, which has to be torn out of the places where people live and much more that you are not even aware of.

When manufacturing growth "runs riot", so does the ensuing amount of pollution.  The easiest pollution for people to see is certainly "air pollution" as it is the most noticeable, but the real concerning one should be the "contamination of the water" that is used in a majority of all manufacturing processes.  Water is used for cleaning, cooling, heating, quenching you name it and unfortunately "most" of this water is contaminated and one of the underlying elements always seems to be (Pb) LEAD!

As a consumer of global products, especially those made in the Far East, you should have a new awareness that many fabrics that are produced in the Far East have been treated with water during their production process that contain elements of LEAD and other contaminated chemicals.  This has especially been true with FLEECE/POLAR FLEECE and similar types of raw materials that have been made in the past in China.  The problem is apparently so big that the US Government has started a new "certification process & standard" for LEAD FREE Fleece type fabrics manufactured overseas, with compliance requested from domestic USA sources as well.  Can you imagine what the scope of the LEAD issue is within the Outdoor Cold Weather Gear Industry with their Chinese sourcing, let alone within the largest discount store chains that sell bulk imported fleece/polar fleece within their sewing departments for home sewers?

The GREAT THING is that Technical Advantage Gear only sources our technical Synthetic Polyester Fabrics from one mill source and that source is located in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and even though they "do not" use lead contaminated water in any of their manufacturing processes, they are still moving forward with the new government certification processes in staying ahead of the game.

Rest assured that Technical Advantage Gear still makes 100% of our Gear & Accessories right here in the USA and we make 100% of it with technical fabrics that are also made in the USA as well.  At the same time we remain focused on only building gear that is designed to "actually work in keeping YOU warmer -  longer" and That's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

New Products + New Applications = New Customers in 2010-2011

 

 

Well, 2009 is now a few months behind us and the 2009 - 2010 Winter season has pretty much concluded as well with the melt off of most of the snow around the Country.  First and foremost we want to say thanks for all of our new and returning customers that purchased great gear items from us during the past season and helped us to grow a little bit more in the process, so THANK YOU!

We had a good 2009-2010 Winter selling season, partially because of the weather, partially because "new" customers finally found us, partially because "past" customers came back and bought some more new gear, partially because of the new gear items that we introduced last year  and partially because of the quality gear & accessories that we build and how we treat our customers.  Whew, that was "partially" more then a run on sentence, but suffice it to say that during the Winter season of 2009-2010, we did not "backorder" a single item - ever and unless otherwise noted that we were on a brief vacation break, we continued to ship 100% of our orders in less than 24 hours.  Also due to the lack of complexity in our PayPal Checkout Shopping Cart, we continued on with our Shipping & Handling Rebates, crediting back to you any funds left over from the Checkout process appropriation for S&H, that we didn't need for covering actual USPS costs to us, plus the PP processing fees.  We remain committed to providing you Premium shipping service and in not ripping you off in what you pay for it, which is prevalent on many websites!

Whenever we look at developing new gear items for our product range, it's always esiest to try and attack the more popular sizes first, and then come back down the road to fill in the gaps as to the missing sizes.  The problem is, is that when you don't achieve the penetration in a particular outdoor adventure area as planned, or you start with one gender vs the other, well at the end of the day you can't make everyone happy, but at least we got our feet wet and achieved some new business.

So as the story goes, we have spent a fair amount of time during these first couple of months in 2010, filling in some of the gaps to our existing product areas, where we know we've missed some business on, because we chose "red" on the roulette wheel instead of "black"...or something like that.  We juggle a lot of balls in the air every week, month and year and sometimes some do hit the ground and when we can find time we do try to go back and pick some of them up and see what we can do with them and therefore, what we've done with some of the following items:

Addition to our Dog Jacket Range:

We added two new dog jackets to our Prairie Snowstorm Series, with the addition of a size X-Small - 16" Back length & size Small - 20" Back length jackets, with a new title designation of Prairie Snowstorm 2.3 Dog Jackets.  The jackets have the same 2 layer design as our other two Prairie Snowstorm Jackets, however these have an added 3rd layer of insulation inside of the entire belly flap area, because we know the hair is not as thick on the tummies of the smaller doggies.

 

Addition to our Prairie Snowstorm G2 Hardfaced Mitts & Liner Mitts:

We've added a size X-Small/Juniors size mitten to our G2 Series along with the addition of a size X-Small Liner mitten as well.  This should satisfy our customers that were finding the size Small G2 mittens to be a little to big for their hands during the past season.  You also now have the corresponding size Liner Mitten that's now available, if you require extra skin protection from the elements due to other circumstances.

 

Accessory Addition for our Entire Mitten Product Range:

 

Thermal Windblocking Wrist Warmers have been added for use with any of the mittens within our product range and can be used with other brands of mitts as well.  These are one sized with good side to side stretch and are 100% Thermal Windblocking, Breathable and DWR water repellent.  Made to keep the lower forearm and wrist area toasty warm when out in the elements.

 

Product Tweak - Extreme Element Arctic Thermal Hardfaced Mitts:

 

 

We added Wing Loc's to each side of the hand opening edge area, so that you can seal in a little more heat and at the same time seal out the blowing snow.  Each inside edge, right & left has 3" long sewn in corresponding HD hook & loop, 1/2' wide, to allow the user to seal the winged edges tigher in around the jacket sleeve and to keep more of the elements outside and we did this at no extra cost to the selling price.  Now the Best Big Mitts in the World - Just Got Better!

For more detailed information on any or all of these new things, please refer to our Products Tab for more details and That's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

Our Customer Shipping & Handling Rebates - Please Read

 

 

All of our repeat customers, whether from here in the USA or somewhere else in the World already know that we provide Shipping & Handling Rebates back to our customers after they have placed their orders and we have processed them for shipment, however Customers new to Technical Advantage Gear may not know this?

Many other businesses on the Internet try to derive added income on what they charge you for shipping your order, delay the time that it takes to process and ship it and then the way their cheapest shipping option takes for you to receive it, feels like someone walked and kicked your shipment down the Interstate until it reached your doorstep.  Ok, maybe that's just how we feel on some of the personal internet orders that we've placed in the past that take a week to ten days to get here and the business we ordered from is only 30 miles away?

As unique as our gear is that we make all right here in Wisconsin - USA, so is the philosophical way that we try and treat each and every customers order that we receive.  For instance, we process and ship virtually all of the orders that we receive in less then 24 hours, with the exception of Sundays, Postal Holidays or if our business happens to be closed for field projects or vacation breaks.  We also ship all orders over $25.00 via Premium USPS Priority Mail Service and many orders less then $25.00 end up getting shipped the same way as well.

What also makes our business unique, especially speaking here to our USA Customers, is that we provide Shipping & Handling Rebates on a good majority of the orders that we ship.  In other words, in trying to keep our shipping and handling charges extremely fair from what you are charged during the checkout process on our website, we go back and re-evaluate what you were charged at checkout and then deduct off our actual shipping charges based on the shipping weight and destination, along with the processing fees that we're charged on the transaction and then if it is at least one dollar or more, we issue you a separate S&H Rebate via PayPal.  

The dilemma that we have with the PayPal shopping cart, is that we are only provided with 5 purchase range levels to work with based on dollar amount and associated shipping percentage to be charged, therefore sometimes the S&H charged appears to be higher then what we feel they should be in reality.  We just like to keep things on an even playing field, as we'd rather be known for the great cold weather gear & accessories that we manufacture, excellent order processing times and not for ripping you off on what you paid to have it shipped to you!  So for new customers to Technical Advantage Gear, don't let the shipping and handling charges at checkout scare you off from placing your order with us, if they seem to be a little high based on your order value, ok?  That's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

Understanding "Gram Weight" Advertising on Cold Weather Gear - Is it really just a Gimmick to get your CA$H?

 

 

We get a few different Outdoor Gear catalogs and advertising flyers throughout the year, especially around Christmas time and then again in the late Winter and early Spring, trying to blowout the seasonal inventory, but do you really understand what the association of "Gram Weight" means when you read the descrption on the item, say for Base Layer Long Underwear, pullover tops, bottoms, boots or other igear items?  Well, it's not as easy as you think however  and if your eyes see that the Base Layer advertised is made from 230 gram weight material, do you automatically buy it because 230 grams has to be the warm and 230 seems to be a high number?  Many people do fall into this advertising trap and end up buying something that really isn't that great in terms of warmth, however that may let it pass because they feel they got a good deal on it?

The first problem with  advertised "gram weight" is that it doesn't always reflect the actual "thermal R-value of insulation", which is a more important number to know when determining whether something is going to "actually" keep you warm.  Second, all of these other Outdoor Gear catalog's completely fail to tell you how there advertised "gram weight" for the fabric is measured or determined. (ie "per linear yard", "per square yard" or "per square meter")

For example, when you are on the manufacturing side of the process and you are buying the highest quality techncial fabrics, in our case  made in the USA, you are given the fabric weight data in (3) three different ways.  The first is OUNCES per Linear yard, second is Ounces per Square yard and the 3rd is GRAMS per square meter.  So lets say that you have a Synthetic Polyester fabric like a fleece that has the technical data of 8.5 ounces per linear yard weight (240.98 grams), a 5.0 ounce per square yard weight (141.75 grams) and then a square meter weight of 170 grams and say the item is a one layered straight cut neck gaiter that cut dimension is 7" x 21". (and oh yeah, a square meter measures 3.28 ft x 3.28 ft if you didn't know)  So which of these "gram weight dimensions more closely match the actual dimension cut of the straight neck gaiter dimensions and would be the most important, versus what "gram weight" number the Outdoor Gear advertiser might use in their advertisement or catalog?  We could guess on our end, or for that matter we could probably figure it out on some of their actual fabrics used, but we have other better things to do and that again is another reason why we focus on providing "R-values" as a standard and consistant guide of what you are buying from us in terms of true warmth and not gram weights that can be very deceiving.  (hint....the more pertinent weight for the above example would be 141.75 grams)

Now to further disect the "gram weight" dilemma, we'll incorporate an example of (3) piles of synthetic polyester cuttting scrapes from our production runs and we'll see if we can further educate you into a more savvy shopper:

                  Fabric "A"                    Fabric "B"            Fabric "C"

Fabric "A" is a fairly thin synthetic polyester material that provides thermal warmth, excellent moisture wicking capacity, but doesn't do a great job in thermal windblocking protection.  We use this fabric on the inside of our mittens and in some of our hats as the inner most next to the skin layer, however it could also be used in the construction of base layers as well.

Fabric "B" is a much thicker and heavy weight synthetic polyester fleece material that provides good warmth, not very good moisture wicking and is not designed to do a very good job in thermal windblocking protection.  It has a fabric Ounce and Gram weight that is much heavier then Fabrics "A" and "C" and we use this in the construction layering process of some of our hats, neck gaiters and other items.

Fabric "C" is again a fairly thin synthetic polyester material that provides excellent thermal warmth and exceptional moisture wicking capacity, but doesn't do a great job in providing thermal windblocking protection.  We currently use this fabric in various colors as the base material for our WindTherm Base Layers.

So based on the pictures and the brief descriptions below the pictures, which "Fabric" has the highest Ounce or Gram weight. A, B or C and then which one of the Fabrics has the highest CLO or thermal R-Value of insulation?

Ok, "Fabric A" has a "Square Yard" weight of around 6.8 ounces or 192.8 grams.  "Fabric B" the 300 weight - heavyweight fleece has a "Square Yard" weight of around 10.6 ounces or 300.5 grams and "Fabric C" has a "Square Yard" weight of around 141.75 grams.  So hopefully everyone got the first question right in terms of which "Fabric" had the highest Ounce or Gram weight.

So based on reading an Outdoor Sporting Goods Gear catalog we'd all rush out and buy anything that is made with "Fabric B", because it has the highest per Square Yard fabric weight in ounces and grams, therefore it also has to have the highest thermal insulation R-value as well.....right?  So make your pick for which fabric has the highest CLO value or R-value of insulation.  Are you going to stick with your "Fabric B" selection since it has the highest per Square Yard ounce or gram weight?

So now you want the rest of the story and why it is important to not be deceived by advertised or published "gram weights" on outdoor cold weather gear, as many times it is not going to be the real determining factor as to whether it is going to really keep you warm, as all of our gear at Technical Advantage Gear is engineered to do.  "Fabric A" has the 2nd highest ounce or gram weight in our example, however it has the lowest CLO or R-value of insulation of the three items.  "Fabric B" has the Highest ounce or gram weight in our example and has a CLO or R-value that is 8% higher then "Fabric A" however it only comes in 2nd place in terms of CLO or R-value.  The WINNER for highest CLO or R-value, despite having the lowest ounce or gram weight, is "Fabric C", which has a CLO or R-value that is 24% higher then "Fabric A" and 15% higher then "Fabric B".  But how can that be you say?  Well the CLO rating or R-value are based on testing in a static lab environment, so actual outdoor elemental conditions can impact actual performance, especially if the fabric is not protected by additional outer layers.  Our real message here is what you see or read from others, is not necessarily what you get it terms of performance.

Insulation statistics are even more skewed when it comes to hiking or hunting leather boots that make make claims of 400 gram weight of XXX insulation, or 800 gram weight of XXX insulation inside of these boots.  What is the size of the section that was weighted to get the gram weight, in as much as there is probably less then one square foot of material included within the layers of the boot.  It is also interesting as to what the real insulating effectiveness is going to be as well, especially when this insulating material is going to have to be severely compressed into an inner boot layer, which goes against there advertisements that show the insulating material in a lofted state, where the warm air molecules are suppose to attach to the fibers of the insulation for effectiveness.....it's got us confused?

Anyway, we hope you learned a little bit more in this article, we do "really" appreciate your business and that's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

Gear Weight vs Actual Outdoor Element Performance

 

 

The discussionss continue on numerous website forums concerning the subject of minimizing the actual physical weight of an item, while attemptingg to gain minute or small increments of endurance or physical performance for an extended and variable elemental period of time.

In the world of road bike cycling it's "cutting gram" weight off of the frame and components, primarily by changing over to an aluminum, titanium or a carbon fiber frame and upgrading to the laest lighter weight drivetrain components & accessories, spending the thousands of dollars to get closer to achieving a 15 pound UCI weight legal bike.

The theory here is that if you reduce the overall gram weight in the bike that you are pedaling, that you will go faster and not exert as much energy on those long 50, 75 or 100 mile training rides and to some small extent this can be true, but how much did it cost to get there?  Mean while your riding buddy is still riding his "steel tank", getting a more comfortable ride over the bumbs and still has a better body physiology for cycling then you do and he continues to kick you rear going up the long climbs, however you do look better riding behind him because you new custom bike looks prettier or because it's the same bike that is being rode by a team in the European Pro Tour.  At the end of the day it probably would have been much cheaper to work out harder with the weights and drop a few pounds off of your own frame, then what you spent to drop the grams of weight off of your bike frame?

The same thought process goes on in the cold weather gear business and with some gear items it can make sense to shed some gram/ounce weight, assuming that you are not giving up any performance value in terms of warmth, wicking & other asset values.  We agree that taking some weight out of the outer jacket, bibs or one piece swuit that you wear does have some merit, not only because they are the largest in physical size gear items that you are wearing, but also because you have other layers of gear that you are wearing underneath that also help to keep you warm under the conditions.  But when you switch your jacket of choice from a nylon laminate with zip in polyester liner over to one of those lightweight nylon shelled puffy down jackets, which seem to be all the rage, we still wonder out lound where the air comes from each time the jacket is compressed and then re-fills with air again?  We'll let you decide that one.

The technology in fabrics has gotten tremenously better over the last 25 years especially and the magic that can be worked with USA made synthetic polyesters is absolutely amazing.  We have fabrics that we use in our manufacturing process, that when tested for CLO(equivalent to thermal R-value) in a static indoor lab testing environment, produce a higher insulation value then a 300 weight heavyweight technical fleece, even though they are only about 10% to 15% as thick as the 300 weight fleece material.  In this particular case, neither one is built with any windblocking attributes and once outside in the elements the thicker weight fleece is going to perform better then the statically tested warmer but thinner technical fabric mentioned.  We also use 100% thermal windblocking synthetic polyesters that statically test out at lower CLO ratings as compared to our thickest 300 weight technical fleece, however once outside in the Winter winds and cold temperatures, they are going to out perform to some higher extent the higher thermal rated non-windblocking heavyweight fleece, as in this example.  Therefore, application of the technical fabrics based on application is the key to success in staying warmer-longer, but many manufacturers do not put this process theory to use in building their gear.

WHERE WE DO NOT ABSOLUTELY AGREE is with the philosopy of "lighter is better" when it comes to the selection of gear items for the feet and the hands!  We can appreciate the fact that over time, truding through the snow and ice that your legs can get tired from the weight of your boots, but be careful  on how much weight that you are going to be willing to sacrifice vs the amount of thermal warmth that you are giving up.  We do not believe that you will ever get the same amount of thermal warmth from a boot that is built with a one piece design with the insulation built into it, as you will get from a boot with a removable liner.  However this assumes that you are wearing a linered boot that is manufacturered by a Canadian Company that builds the best liners in the World, to go along with their many styles of boots that they also make in Canada.

We can only offer you a partial solution to a total package in helping to keep your feet warmer and drier and that is through using a pair of our Liner Socks, which can be worn under your heavier sock and our liners provide superior excellence in terms of thermal moisture wicking and transfer.  If you're smart, you'll also douse your toes with foot powder before you put these or any socks on your feet, which will also help to keep the drier.

Now...when it comes to what you put on your hands, well this is a definative area that you don't want to sacrifice the weight, let alone the equalization of insulation built into the mittens.  Yes...we ocassionally read some of the forums, view the opinions posted and yes, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.  What concerns us is how mittens are being selected, like "well I'm going to use "XXXX" mitts because "so and so" uses them when mountain climbing and if they're good enough for him, then they're good enough for me" or "I'm buying these mitts because their total weight is "X" ounces less then the mitts I currently have and the ones that I have don't really work that great" or even "I would go with "ZZZZ" brand & model mitts @$179.00 a pair, because at that price they should be the best".  The funny thing is...is that we'll "run" our $69.95 Prairie Snowstorm G2 Mittens up against any brand of mushie compression style mittens, at any price and we'll still provide you with a mitten that will keep your hands warmer & drier then any of their options!

If mittens are not built to be 100% thermal windblocking on the outer shells, meaning that they have to utilize some other material other than a derivative of nylon or cordura, they will only perform at and avearge level in blocking the wind and will perform at a very poor level in terms of minimizing "convective" heat loss and remember, nylong fabric provides nothing in the way of added thermal value to the total mitten.  If mittens are not built with equalized and "substantial" thermal insulating materials on both the top & bottom sides of the mittens, especially on the bottom side, they will do a very poor long term job in keeping you fingers warm and will also do an un-satisfactory job in minimizing the effects of "conductive" heat loss.  If mittens are built with a poor and thin inner wicking layer of fabric, which most are, then your hands are going to end up being wet, cool and then cold faster.  If mittens are built with "compression" type inner insulating materials, "you know the type that you squeeze all of the air out and then it fills up again to regain its form" well, where do you think some of this air is coming from when you're standing outside in the cold?

Yes, we build mittens that may weight a little more then the next brand's pair, however besides the "technical fabric equalized layering system" that we use, thermal windblocking shells, superior excellence in moisture wicking & transfer, minimization of conductive & convective heat loss, our mittens are also larger in physical sizing across the board, allowing our users greater application usage.  They have to be built this way in order to work in extending the warmth & dryness period and it also results in a mitten with a firmer (non-mushie feel), but it also results in a mitten that actually works!

When it comes to gear items for the feet and the hands, we must all be very astute shoppers in figuring out "what is going to work for ME"?  With 60% or more of the population suffering from som type of affliction, inherant or otherwise that affects our blood circulation systems, we just can't buy things based on "so and so the famous "VVVV" uses it - therefore it's good enough for me".  Wrong!  "So and So" might be in a minority of people who have excellent blood circulation and perhaps could climb an 8000 meter peak or run the Iditarod with just a pair of cotton gloves.  As well, "so and so" may also be getting paid to wear Brand X mittens, whether they really do the jog or not.  The other thing to realize as well, is that paying more is not going to guarantee success and we see it all the time, when after somebody buys a pair of Brand X mitts for $175.00 to $180.00 and they didn't work, we end up finding their solution from between $65.00 to $140.00.

So Winter gear in some ways is like the first example given about cycliong, it's probably going to be more sensible to lift a few extra weights and drop a few pounds off of your frame, especially if you're going to be mountain climbing at 20,000 and above, then to sacrifice a few less ounces of weight buying something that is not going to do the trick for "you".

Or why not look at it this way?  If an un-expected emergency happens on your next outdoor adventure or expedition, like getting trapped in a freak blizzard, in fridged sub-zero temperatures and maybe you made it back to shelter or not, would you feel better knowing that the mittens on your hands were purchased because they weighted a "couple ounces" less per mitten, or that the mittens on your haqnds were purchased because you knew that they were actually built to work and the extra ounce or two on each hand was not a physical burden to your physique?  So why not be a long term thinker, addressing "all" potential aspects of your next upcoming adventure, what and where ever it might be and give yourself a greater level of comfort & security before you embark and that's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

Prairie Snowstorm Dog Jackets - Not Just for Cold Weather Protection

 

 

We have been in the dog jacket business now for about the last three years or so and we primarily got into making them with the philosophy of building a warmer jacket with a higher total "asset" value then we observed to be available from other sources.  We started with our 4 Layered Arctic Series Dog Jackets which we tested in the Iditarod and based on our research & testing to date "is the warmest dog jacket in the World"!

We then moved forward with building a more mainstream 2 Layer Dog Jacket which is more the norm or standard, however we again decided to build it with a higher total asset value then the status quo.  We offer "thermal windblocking" which most others don't, a "heavy duty & more secure fastening system", again which most others don't and we also chose HD coated ripstop nylon as a better outer shell solution in the case of a puncture hole or tear from a sharp object or branch, again which most others don't.  Our 2 Layer Dog Jackets are sold under the Prairie Snowstorm Series name.

Our main focus was to offer better solutions for keeping your dog warm while out in the cold weather elements of late Fall and throughout the Winter time and in turn to help minimize the amount of shivering(which is natural to most warm blodded things for generating heat), because shivering also burns additional or excessive amounts of energy.  There is also pain that can be created from shivering, especially with Arthritic joints and though the aging process in general and remember...each one year of life for you is equal to seven years for your dog.

We're the first to admit that we don't know all of the temperatures and weather conditions that our dog jackets get worn in and we do scratch our heads upon occasion when we ship dog jackets to certain US States that we wouldn't picture as being necessarily required, one of these States even having our largest customer base for dog jackets.  What we're seeing however, is that people are starting to buy more of our Dog Jackets, especially the 2 Layer Prairie Snowstorm Series of dog jackets for therapeutic purposes and of course with that said, we would like to share the following pictures and story with you:

 

This is Shannybrae Seven-of-Nine or "Seven" for short and she is an Australian Shepherd from South Africa and a cutie.  Seven is the only dog to achieve and become the first South African 5-Way Champion in the events of Dog Jumping, Contact Agility, Non Contact Agility, Flyball & Carting, she also competes in other competitions around the World and has a list of awards & accomplishments a mile long.

Seven was having some issues with an injury that was keeping her from being able to compete at the 100% level and it was recommended to her owner that she find a way to keep Seven warm before competitions, so that the joints and muscles would not be as stiff and painful.  Somehow - someway the owner of Seven found Technical Advantage Gear on the Internet...miracles of miracles and the e-mail conversations started concerning dog jackets.  Of course our biggest concern with their warmer climatic temperatures, was the risk of "overheating" the dog, however we covered those concerns as well.

After a 10 month break from competition, Seven is back at it again and here is part of the recent e-mail that we received from Seven's proud owner:

'I have been using the jacket for warm-ups and then before and after training.  We did the same on Saturday(the day of her 1st competition in 10 months) and her back was as warm as toast!  She jumped with ease and had no stiffness or injury yesterday or today.  Her Chiro is pleased that his advice on keeping her warm is working and I am very happy with the jacket!"

Our Prairie Snowstorm Jackets are built for the cold temperatures of Winter, but as you can see from this example, using a sensible mind and asking a few questions of us "first", they can also do an exceptional job in terms of providing therapeutic benefit for sore & stiff muscles, besides the Grade 1 Neoprene Wrist Wraps that we sell for stiff ankle joints.  Thanks for the pose, pictures and story "Seven" and that's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

Interesting USA Trade Statistics

 

 

We usually reserve our editorial prowess and comments written under our Observations Tab for subjects related to our gear, or for covering informational topics that we think are of direct interest to our customers, that we feel you can hopefully learn something from in becoming a better informed shopper or caretaker of the gear that you already own.

The subject for this piece deals with a "macro" look at USA trade, specifically related to the general classification of "Clothing" and how much trade that we do with some area's of the World, which at the end of the day means that the clothing, garment or "call it what you want" manufacturing jobs are located there instead of here.

Anyway, during our Summer 2009 Gear photoshoot out in New Hampshire, we ran across a book titled "The World Almanac and  Book of Facts 2009" published by "Readers Digest  Trade Publications", which covers facts and figures related to an endless number of subjects and topics.  Within the 963 pages and for whatever reason, we became focused on the statistics that were printed for the calendar year 2007 as publlished in this book, related specifically to the  previously mentioned Trade subjects.  The information that we are briefly sharing is detailed on pages 115 &116 of this book.

As a business, we take great pride in the fact that we manufacture 100% of all of our gear here in the USA State of Wisconsin and that 100% of the technical gear fabrics that we use are also manufactured somewhere within the boundries of the United States.  The same unfortunately cannot be said for many of the clothing items that we go to the store to buy for ourselves, as many items "are not" manufactured at all in the USA any more, just read the labels if you don't believe us, to view the actual Country of Origin?

When it comes to the general classification of "CLOTHING" for the Year 2007 for the United States, we as a Country Imported $81.176 Billion dollars from Countries outside of our borders into the United States, while at the same time as a Country we only Exported $3.209 Billion dollars in Clothing classified items to other global trading partners around the World.

If we look at the broad sppectrum of International Trade, inclusinve of all categories of goods that we import and export, focusing our perspective on Countries or areas of the World that we know are high producers of textiles, clothing, shoes and related goods, we see some interesting statistics as well.  For example, the Total Trade that we conducted with China in 2007(including everything):  Exports from the USA to China:  $65.2361 Billion dollars and Imports from China into the USA:  $386.679 Billion dollars.

If we take a further view into a specific geographical area of the World classified as the "Pacific Rim" Countries(which also includes major textile producing Countries such as China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Phillippines, Singapore and others) we see the 2007 USA Total Trade numbers looking as follows:  Exports from the USA to Pacfic Rim Countries:  $281.38 Billion dollars and Imports from Pacific Rim Countries into the USA:  $929.22 Billion dollars.

We found the numbers or statistics to be "eye opening" and basically are presenting them for you to draw your own opinions or conclusions about.  We do know for a fact that the American business environment over the past couple of decades or more has shifted from a "manufacturing" based economy to one that is better described as a "service" oriented business climate and the imbalance of Total USA Trade statistics certainly backs up that painful fact of life.

All we ask of you as a customer or potential customer of Technical Advantage Gear, is that you start reading some of the labels on the brands of Cold Weather Gear that you are looking at in the retail store(s) and that you start learning where some of this "stuff" is actually coming from, inspite of the logo that is printed or sewn into it..  You know already that when you order something from us, it will ALWAYS SAY "MADE IN THE USA", so you can be assured that it is not only going to actually work, but that it is built to keep you warmer - longer then most anything else that is even somewhat similar in design, built somewhere else in the World and well...that's our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

Roughneck HHL 2.5 Hat - Excellent for Hard Hat Liners

 

 

We designed and engineered the new Roughneck HHL 2.5 Hat to satisfy the market demands from customers who wanted a beefed up non front billed hat that had side flaps that hung down on each side and secured underneath the chin.  We also built it for our base of customers who work outside 12 months of the year, earning their paychecks while having to wear a Hard Hat most of the time.  They wanted a Cold Weather Liner Hat that would actually keep them warm during the Winter months, would allow them to regulate the heat by securing or un-securing the flap ends together, would thermally block out the biting winds and could also be easily worn underneath their Hard Hats.  They also didn't want one that had a cheapie elastic strap under the chin, nor did they want one that had the built in face mask that pulled down underneath the chin, as those types always got "wet & mushy frozen" on the really cold days and make a really good one for under 50 Bucks!

So we heard what they wanted and didn't want and this is what we came up with:

 

and we came in at an attractive selling price of only $29.95 each.  One of the first real liner hats that thermally blocks out the penetrating bite of the Winter Winds, is Hardfaced for great Abrasion Resistance, provides vapor moisture Breathability, is DWR Water Repellent, provides great synthetic polyester warmth overall, which is also boosted with the 0.50 special insulation layer insert that surrounds the top and crown sides of the head.  The chin straps fasten with 1 inch wide heavy duty hook & loop and the unit is sewn with a combination of heavy duty polyester and or 69LB bonded nylon thread.  The pattern cut also provides excellent rear neck protection and wider coverage under the chin.  The back of the hat also has a 3 inch wide strip of reflective elastic for extra safety visibility as well.  The hat provides a variable thermal R-value of approximately R-2.4 on the lower half and an R-4.4 on the upper half, which you are not going to find anywhere else in the World.

More information on this Hat can be found on our main Index Home Page or by looking under our Products tab as well.  This is a great Outdoor Worker for a Living Hat, or for those who just like its style and the "asset value" that it has to offer and want to take it out on those weekend adventures.  Here's to you and That's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

Aging, Arthritis,Diabetes, Heridary, Raynauds & Other Blood Flow Afflictions "New" Cold Weather Gear Additions

 

 

Ever dial up one of the "Call Centers" for a one of the bigger Catalog Retailers and ask one of the operators a question about your affliction and whether their "such as such gear item" will work better in keeping you warmer, dryer, block the wind, etc., only to get the response of "what's Raynauds, or what's Diabetes" or perhaps you get their safe response of "ahhh sure it will do just that?  When you're younger in age you probably go ahead and buy it & try it despite those responses on the phone, however as you get older , chances are you hold tight to your wallet and credit card and go somewhere else where they do talk more intelligently to your questions, but those places are few and far between.

How many times over the years have you continued to spend more money per individual gear item, figuring if I spend more money on it then it has to be better, warmer, dryer, etc., etc.?  Or how times have you spent money on the well known "major logoed brands" of cold weather gear, sometimes twice what you would normally spend on any individual gear item, only to find out that it didn't do any better of a job in helping your body stay warmer and dryer then the cheaper priced items that you were using in the past?  Winter gear is a frustrating process because price and "their logo" on the item is not going to guarantee success or an appreciable level of enhanced comfort for you.

At Technical Advantage Gear, we work hard to understand what impacts success in staying warm or comfortable during the cool and cold weather months of the year and it takes a lot of time and effort on our part to continue on with the learning process.  We have a great understanding about the technical fabrics that we use and select for layering together for an intended result on a specific gear item and have also gotten much better educated over the years in also gaining a better understanding into blood circulation in the human body and what dynamic's affect the end user's success rate within the spectrum of cold weather gear and accessories.  

We are not proclaimed experts in the field of study, but we are perhaps much wiser then most of our competitors when it comes to answering your questions, engineering our designs and having a pool of testers that we can use on new items in the prototype and testing process, who are affected with key afflictions such as Aging, Arthritis, Severe Diabetes, Heritary Blood Flow Resistrions and Raynauds Disease.  We also understand just as you do or should, that their are varying degrees of impact and suffering for each affliction, therefore there is still never going to be and absolute solution, rather, a working solution that is going to provide you with a better result then what you can find elsewhere.  In other words, we work or strive to develop solutions that will help to keep you warmer - longer, thereby providing a better level of comfort for when you are outside in the cool and cold weather elements.

The asset principles of success for those of us that have afflictions that impact our blood circulation and blood flow within our bodies from the technical fabric perspective, are as follows:

  • Exceptional THERMAL MOISTURE WICKING
  • Exceptional THERMAL WINDBLOCKING PROTECTION
  • Utilization of an EFFECTIVE SYNTHETIC POLYESTER INSULATING LAYERING SYSTEM as determined by gear item and application.

We incorporate any or all of these facets into our gear items depending on what the specific item is, where it is located to be used on the body, whether it is an external exposed to the direct elements gear item and also based on the wearing demands that will be placed on this item.

New items introduced in 2009 that are of direct benefit to people with the extra sensitivity to the cool and cold air of Fall - Winter - Spring seasons, as as follows:

  • Thermal Moisture Wicking Liner Socks
  • Thermal Windblocking Abrasion Resistant Wicking Lightweight Mitts/Liner Mitts

          

We also introduced our 2 layer Wind Therm Base Layer tops and bottoms late in 2008 and on into 2009, that also utilize asset principles that we mentioned above, which is again something that other companies don't do.  Our goal is driven by building things that actually work - work longer and are the first real cold weather gear items that you actually purchased that were "worth the investment".

We provide much more specific information related to the above mentioned new items that are designed and driven to our customer base in the blood circulation affliction zone, which can be found back on our main Index Home Page or by looking under our Products tab as well.  We practice our "asset principles" throughout our entire product range, so there are many other items that will actually work for you as well, however we do want you to know that we do feel some of your varying pain cause by the cool and cold air of the seasons and that we are continuing to do something about it and That's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

People Helping People - Charitable Sponsorship

 

 

We receive a fair amount of e-mails requesting support in helping out someone's individual adventure or cause and even more looking for gear donations to help out their outdoor event, which in many cases we have obliged with donations of free gear items.  The theory is that we get additional product visibility and the end user or winner of the item(s) gets some great gear that is actually made to work and everyone is happy, right?

All we ask for at the beginning of the conversation's is "follow-up & comments" on the gear items that we donate at our expense, as related to performance and details of the adventure in terms of weather conditions and how our gear item(s) performed compared to other brands that they were previously using.  In the case of individual outdoor Winter events we request just a brief follow-up of how the item did in the Silent Auction or Drawing, how the gear was "received" by the end user(s) and hopefully a few words in closing on their follow-up e-mail mentioning "thanks for your support & donations" and of course everyone agrees to do so in order to get the free loot.  Unfortunately the simple follow-up e-mails happen in very few instances on their own, so we are either left to chase people down for comments in the case of individual donations and as related to Events, well we just pencil them off of our list for the future, even though some continue to come back for more the next season.

We're an easy company to do business with.  We make excellent Winter Gear 100% right here in Wisconsin, USA, we provide excellence in terms of order processing, immediate shipment on gear orders while also offering very competitive shipping & handling rates and any customer returns or exchanges end up being very seamless and are done very timely as well.  But it is still amazing when it comes to sponsorship gear donation requests, how the simple commitments of follow-up and thanks get forgotten after the event/adventure is completed!

Anyway, we are not shutting the door on future individual or event requests, rather we have added a new twist to our philosophy of which ones that we are going to consider and we enacted the change starting late last Winter/early Spring 2009.  The philosophical change that we have added is "if we support your cause - what are you going to do for someone or some organization that helps others in need"?  "Are you going to fund raise for the benefit of a selected Charity that helps others or are you going to donate "X" number of hours of your time in order for them to help others that need the help"?

After we decided upon this philosophical change internally here, out of the global "e-mail skies" drops in a request from the UK.  The request that we received was somewhat generic however with only having to send one e-mail back requesting more detailed information, we got specific Charity names, Charity Registration Numbers, Contact Names, Phone Numbers, additional websites to visit for verification, the tracked amount to be raised, project to date donation totals, major event dates and on and on.  Wow, specifics and details!

The project was to raise L10,000 pounds in support of 2 Charities, who in-turn supported Young Carers in the UK whom directly help out the sick, disabled and the addicted.  Our two new special friends Jane and Nerys were well on their way in terms of raising funds toward their financial goals when they contacted us, with their culminating fund raising event challenge just a couple of weeks off.  The culminating event was a Sled Dog Expedition above the Arctic Circle for a week traveling between Norway & Sweden, therefore, their request for some cold temperature gear help and support.  "Their request" was for only one gear item each, however because we "loved" the charitable aspects of their fund raising project so much....well they got a little more then they bargained for.  See them pictured below on expedition:

 

The two ladies did all of the hard work raising the funds toward their targeted fund raising objective, of which they exceeded and finished off their many months of effort by learning how to safely hang onto the handlebar of the dog sled when in motion crossing above the Arctic Circle.  However small a part that we played with our Technical Advantage Gear donations in support of their expedition and charity fund raising, it warmed our hearts in knowing that they were just "People Helping People" and planet Earth is a better place because of it!  We also appreciated all of the detailed information throughout the involvement process, the follow-up, pictures and their heart felt "thank you for all of your help and support" when the mission was accomplished.  So now you know why our sponsorship philosophies have been re-directed from those of "what can you give me for free" to "can you help us out so that our project can help others that are in need of help"?

"People Helping People" and That's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

Why Don't My GLOVES Work When the Temperatures Drop?

 

 

It's interesting when you shop in a Big Box Sporting Goods Store now days, looking for a pair of mittens or gloves for keeping your hands and fingers warm.  The selection is "scant" in terms of mittens that are available for purchase and the noticeable thing about the huge selection of "Gloves", is that they continue to look prettier in terms of eye appeal, the price continues to slide upwards and warmth factor on a lot of them hasn't changed significantly over the years.

We've had a pair of gloves that someone bought for themselves in the past lying around here for the last couple of years, cut apart of course, that were purchased in the $25.00 - $30.00 price range and that were purchased based on the outward appearance of seeming like they would be super warm based on their "puffy" thickness.  Needless to say, these were donated to our "lets cut them apart cause" that we enjoy doing here at Technical Advantage Gear, so that we could determine why their performance was so poor.

Before we get to the pictures and note a few of our observations, we need to explain why "gloves" will never be the total solution to keeping most of our hands and fingers warm during the cold temperatures of Winter.  First, they separate all of the individual hat sources away from each other, your fingers.  Secondly, the majority of people in terms of percentages, have issues with blood circulation in their bodies, therefore the blood flow to the extremities are reduced to varying degrees and third, well, because as you will see the manufacturing process and design  is just as bad with them as it is with alot of the mittens that are made and sold as being warm.

Here's what the GLOVES that we cut apart looked like from the outside and from within:

 

        Outside Puffy Profile                                    Bottomside Cut Apart

 

         Cut Away Profile w/Fingers              Close-up - Bottom Side View

To clarify the layering process in the cut-away view, on the "top side" of the glove, you basically have a non-windblocking velour fleece (tan) outer shell material, the next layer is a thin layer of "foam rubber" for bulkiness, a third 2 inch wide layer of thin foam rubber backed or glued to a plastic rubber brown colored material, apparently for enhanced bulk or thickness over the knuckles, a next inner layer of plastic to seal in the hand heat and sweat moisture, followed inside by a layer of 40 gram weight 3M thinsulate insulation (white in color) and then an inner most soft black colored fleece material layer that surrounds the fingers and hand.

On the bottom side of the GLOVE, the layering systems consists of an outer layer of a grippy rubberized type of material, followed by a next in layer of the clear plastic for sealing in the heat and sweat dissipation from the palm of the hand, then a layer of 40 gram 3M thinsulate (white in color) and then the inner most layer of the soft black thin fleece material, making the bottom side of the glove about 30% as thick as the top side of the glove.

The best asset or benefit of this GLOVE is that the top outer shell looks to be great for wiping your runny nose on, because of its soft velour finish.  It also does have a nice wrist webbing strap assembly for sealing out some of the cold air at the hand opening wrist area and the gripping material is adequate as well and it has a tag that states that they are waterproof.  But beyond that, the GLOVE is a complete failure in design and function for keeping your fingers warm in temperatures much below +15 F to +20F degrees above zero.

In our educational process within our website, we share, inform and try to educate our customers that the most important side of the hand to insulate is actually the bottom side or palm area, as it contains at least "twice" as many sweat gland pores as does the top side of your hand, therefore it is the area that dissipates the most heat and sweat moisture, or twice as much as does the top of the hand!

What's interesting with the cut apart GLOVES is that the amount of insulation that it offer is about similar to a majority of everyone's else's "Mittens" and the ratio of top versus bottom thickness is also similar, 70% of the total thickness on the top side and 30% of the total thickness on the bottom side.  The only major difference's between these GLOVES and many other brands of "Winter Mittens", is that the mittens will have a thicker chuck of foam rubber on the top side and their shells are generally made of a nylon fabric.

These Gloves are a complete failure, in that the total amount of insulation value offered is minimal, especially on the bottom side where "conductive heat loss" is going to be especially great.  The outer shells provide little in the way of "windblocking" protection, therefore through the process of "convective heat loss" the cold air easily finds its way inside to the fingers.  These GLOVES like many others create a further chilling effect to the fingers, which is caused by the plastic that seals in the heat and "sweat" moisture that cannot escape and therefore traps the moisture into the non-moisture wicking inner fabric that gets and stays wet, starting the "cooling effect" much sooner.  The "hook" to get you to buy GLOVES like these is because of their puffy external look and because they look and feel soft on both the outside as well as on the inside and your brain is telling you that the "soft feel" equals warmth, which is absolutely not true in most cases.  The other major purchasing issue's here, is that you bought them because they seemed reasonable in price and that you also didn't understand, or care, how they were actually put together on the inside and now you do!

At the end of the day we all still like to wear our gloves, primarily due to the dexterity issue of being able to grab and pick-up smaller objects, however for 60% to 70% of us with circulation issues,  we need to quit spending more money for higher priced gloves thinking that eventually we're going to actually find a pair that is going to work, because it just isn't going to happen!  At Technical Advantage Gear, we do not make any GLOVES nor do we envision ever attempting to make and sell any GLOVES.  There is just no way that you could ever make a pair of GLOVES that is "ever" going to work anywhere close to keeping your hands and fingers as warm as the Mittens that are built by Technical Advantage Gear!

Now you know why your finger's freeze when the temperatures drop while you're wearing gloves on your hands/fingers and That's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

Wind Therm Base Layer Long Underwear Tops & Bottoms

 

 

We released our Wind Therm Base Layers for our female base of customers in early December - 2008 and sales are steady, however you don't want to wait too long to get "your set" ladies, as inventory quantities are in limited supply for this Winters selling season.

There are many amazing things about these new Technical Advantage Gear Base Layers and we have already supplied and posted the information on our website, but the best place to start is by finding the information for the Women's Base Layers on our "Products" page and start there.  Suffice it to say that you will not find a base layer configuration that is as warm, comfortable, moisture wicking, thermal, with added 95% plus thermal windblocking, abrasion resistant, breathable, DWR water repellent inserts anywhere and certainly not for just under $75 bucks for a top or a bottom!

The real amazing thing about the new Wind Therm Base Layers that you should be interested in and we did test both women's and men's configurations, is the amount of testing that we did and the age span that it covered.  Our normal gear testing group usually consists of people in the age group of Forties to early Sixties, but with the Base Layer project the age range expanded in both directions.  We had female testers from the mid-twenties to the mid seventies and male testers from the forties age group up,  including a good friend who turned 80 during the last year.  Young, old and everywhere in between and base layer test gear that resides on three or four different Continents and multiple States within the USA.

Our process of testing gear never ends and when you design gear that is built to work in keeping people warmer - longer and when your testers and customers all say the same thing, then you know that you're doing it right.  And the concencus on this project, well...three simple letters forming one word...W..O..W!  That's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

Date

Subject

 

 

Insulation Values & CLO vs R-Value

 

 

Insulation values are difficult to find on different cold weather fabrics and  insulating materials used on the inside of the gear that we purchase to keep us warm during the cool and cold months of the year and the manufacturers of the actual gear are either embarrassed or clueless to the value of this information if presented on the hanging garment tags, with the exception of Technical Advantage Gear.

We believe that you should know this information in most cases, because it allows you the opportunity to "draw the line in the sand" so to speak, in determining whether a manufacturer of cold weather gear is serious about keeping you warmer - longer or not.  At the end of the day however, all we can do is to provide you with technical information that we feel is of great benefit and then leave the final purchasing decision up to you.

To once again understand in brief, the difference and similarity between CLO and Thermal R-Value of insulation, we will explain it here once again.  The term CLO is the reference term used for determining insulation qualities of fabric or insulating material in the Fabric and Garment Industries.  The term R-Value is used in a couple of different industries, however the most notable one that people are familiar with is insulation materials used in the houses that we live in.  

In some Countries, there is no insulation materials added in-between the side walls and attic areas, however in cold Winter weather climates it is a different story.  Cold Winter weather homes may contain an R-15 to R-20 worth of insulation in the side walls and something like an R-50 layer above the ceiling up in the attic area.  Anyway, CLO and R-Value both equate to the insulating values of the materials used in their specific industries and the insulating values calculated as a numerical factor have approximately the same thermal value.  Inotherwords, a CLO of say 1.5, would have the same insulation property or value as a Thermal R-value of R-1.5.  The thing to note however and remember, is that these numbers are calculated in static or controlled conditions inside of a laboratory, so once the insulating materials are out in the elements, the actual insulation values are going to change to a greater or lessor degree depending on what does or does not surround the actual insulation material.  Therefore, the two terms are different by way of industry that they are used in, but similar in terms of how the numerical factors calculated are approximately the same.

When it comes to insulation values in the fabric, garment and gear industries, the important thing to know is that any type of pure insulation material such as 3M Thinsulate outside in the actual cold Winter elements without any type of thermal windblocking material surrounding it, is going to basically have a very negligible actual CLO or R-value of insulation.  If you add a layer of nylon to the outside of the same piece of Thinsulate you will now block out some of the wind that was penetrating directly through the raw insulation, however the nylon adds zero additional benefit to the total insulating value of the layering system and the forces of convective heat loss then take over and the minimal benefit from the nylon material added as an outer shell layer is pretty much negated.  The same can be said with straight fleece fabrics that are not combined with a layer of windblocking material on the outside or are not blended at the fabric manufacturer as a thermal windblocking fabric, as a pure or straight fleece material is just going to let the cold winds and cold air temperatures penetrate directly into them and thus negate the actual static CLO or R-Value of the fabric, versus when the same fabric is inside of a heated building.  If you understand what is being said here, then you'll also understand why we use layering systems with the technical synthetic polyester fabrics that we use in our production process.

Anyway, to answer some of the web searches for R-values or CLO values for different insulating materials or fabrics, we have put together a brief chart as follows:

Material

Gram Weight

Approx Thickness

CLO or R-Value

3MThinsulate CDS40

40 grams

0.10 inches

R-0.7

3MThinsulate CDS 100

100 grams

0.30 inches

R-1.3

3MThinsulate CDS 150

150 grams

0.40 inches

R-1.9

3MThinsulate CDS 200

200 grams

0.55 inches

R-2.55

Thermolite Micro 100

100 weight

0.42 inches

R-1.78

Primaloft One 100gr/sm

100 grams

0.50 inches

R-2.16

Hollofill 120

120 weight

0.78 inches

R-1.76

550 Fill Goose Down

-

1.10 inches

R-4.8

Malden Mills P-100 Polartec(r)

100 weight

Variable

R-1.0 to R-1.2

Malden Mills P-200 Polartec(r)

200 weight

Variable

R-1.1 to R-1.3

Malden Mills P-300 Polartec(r)

300 weight

Variable

R-1.2 to R-1.4

So use the brief chart information as a guideline as well as the other information provided as an educational tool.  For those searching out the thermal insulation value of 3M Thinsulate because they're trying to find the warmest insulated gloves for keeping there always cold fingers warm at last, forget it.  The major issue with gloves is that they separate the five individual heat sources on each finger apart from one another and by doing so, causing them to eventually get cold and now you know why we don't make gloves, rather only the warmest cold weather mittens and that's our 2 Cent's Worth!


 

 

Best or Warmest Winter Mittens for Snow Downhill Skiing

 

 

On occasion we monitor the statistics from our website and one random search that keeps coming up and gets the searcher(s) to our website is "Warmest Winter Mittens for Downhill Skiing" or something similar to the title of this subject.  We decided to make it easier for people that conduct this search through one of the major search engines, to get the concise information that they are looking for, in a shorter and more specific version, so here it goes.....

The "Warmest Winter Mitten(s) for Downhill Skiing" are the Technical Advantage Gear "Prairie Snowstorm Mittens".  The have a mid-range price, while offering the best thermal warmth of any mitten around in their price range or higher, with the exception of other Technical Advantage mitts.  The reason they are the best is because they are built with equalized thermal warmth on both the top and bottom sides of the mitts through the selection of technical fabrics that are used in their engineered layering system of 5 layers top side and 5 layers bottom side of each mitt.  The Thermal R-Value of Insulation on these mitts is R-7.15 on both the top and bottom sides of the mitts, which is usually double of what most other brands of mitten manufacturers offer on the top side of their mitts and the Prairie Snowstorm Mitts can have 3 to 4 times more thermal R-value on the bottom side of the mitts then most other brands.  This is especially important, because the heat dissipation in your hand happens on the bottom side due to having twice as many sweat gland pores then on the top side.  (this is true because most other brands of Winter mittens are only about 1/3 as thick on the bottom side as compared to the top side)

The Prairie Snowstorm Mitts also provide a 100% thermal windblocking, breathable and DWR water repellent outer shell, which is something that is not offered by other manufacturers.  Other brands of mittens usually have some type of a nylon outer shell, which may block some amount of the wind, however the nylon offers ZERO thermal r-value in terms of warmth.  Depending on the type of nylon base material used in other brands of Winter Mittens, you may or may not have any breathability allowed of the sweat moisture that builds up inside of Winter mittens.

The next to the last thing about the Prairie Snowstorm mitts that make them excellent for Downhill Skiing, is that they offer the BEST IN THE WORLD thermal moisture wicking and this is done by using the finest technical material for the inner layer that surrounds the hand area.  If you minimize and transfer the sweat away from the hand and fingers correctly, then you "will" extend the period of time that your hands will stay warmer - longer.  We don't know of any other brand of Winter Mittens that does it the right way like we do.

The last thing that makes the Technical Advantage Gear Prairie Snowstorm Mitts the Warmest of Best Mittens for Downhill Skiing, is that we do not add any junk fillers like foam rubber to make them look puffy, plastic to seal the heat in longer-also all of the sweat moisture, due to having to find a way to compensate for the use of inadequate insulation materials and any of the other junk fillers that are added to other brands of Winter mittens that we have cut apart.  We also generously size our mitts to American sized hands, thereby breaking the habit of having to buy the next size up mitt built in China in order to get it to fit your hand.  With our Prairie Snowstorm mitts, all you have to do is to put your hands inside of the mitts, give a tug on the shock cord to tighten them around the wrist to prevent convective heat loss and your ready to go.

Our Winters in the Midwest are colder then in the Eastern or Western parts of the USA, so we are use to and known to still be snow skiing when temperatures are -15F to -40F below zero, so the Prairie Snowstorm mitts are a real treat for the hands and fingers.  Now the only reason we still need to come into the ski lodge and warm up is because are toes are frozen inside of our ski boots and well for now, Technical Advantage Gear doesn't have a perfect solution for warmer toes that we're ready to release yet, but someday....perhaps?

So in a concise nut shell, if you want warmer and dryer hands and fingers out on the ski slopes this Winter, then purchase a pair of our Prairie Snowstorm Mittens and we'll take care of the problem.  If you don't believe the honest truth that we have just shared, then buy some other brand based on how pretty they look or the logo on the outside of them that makes you look cool to your friends and just remember that you could have had warm fingers if you had only listened to the insight that we shared with you in this article about why the Prairie Snowstorm Mitts are the Warmest Mittens for Downhill Skiing, or for that matter, for just about every other normal Winter thing that you do as well and that's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

Hardfaced Technical Fabric Use on New Technical Advantage Gear Items

 

 

We've played around with a couple different configurations of technical thermal wind blocking fabric that has a "hardfaced" outer layer finish for the last two years or so and finally figured out what we really had to work with during the past few months.

The connotation of a "hardfaced" outer finish can lead one to believe that to the touch of the finger tips, that the outer finish hardfaced surface is going to be rough and abrasive.  In reality, the material that we selected and have started to incorporate into some of our new product range items, is quite the opposite.  We like to think of it as "soft as butter in the hand", because it actually does have a fairly soft feel to it on the outside, while packing a technical punch in what it has to offer in terms of total asset value.  The hardfaced fabric that we selected for use offers 95% plus thermal windblocking, very good moisture breathablity, is DWR water repellent and the hardfaced finish eliminates snagging and picking, while offering enhanced abrasion resistance.  As part of the outer fabric finish, it also incorporates a squared ripstop pattern for overall enhanced strength and wear.  The base composition of the fabric is synthetic polyester, which if you missed the notation earlier, means that it also adds to the overall "thermal" warmth of the gear items that we use it with.

The "New" Technical Advantage Gear items for 2008 - 2009 that we are using this particular hardfaced technical fabric with, are our new XWick 3.4 TRH Neck Gaiter's, our new Hardfaced Black Beanie Hat and of course with our new Hardfaced Extreme Element Mitts with detachable thumb loc straps.  The 4-way stretch and slightly thinner material thickness then some of the other technical fabrics that we use for the outer shell layers, also helps to enhance the flexibility and bendability of the individual gear item that it is used on.

Our mission continues to be that of building gear that is going to keep "you" warmer - longer.  Of course to do this you need to start by using the finest technical fabrics available in the World and then design and build your gear items with a layering system that results in Cold Weather gear items that actually work and now as you can read, thermal hardfaced technology is now in our fold of usable options that provide outstanding performance and that's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

XWick:  The "New" XWick Factor in High Exertion Expedition Gear

 

 

We expanded our developmental horizons in 2008 with the release of our XWick 3.4TRH Expedition Series of Neck Gaiters.  Just released in a One Size Fits Most configuration, is our new XWick 3.4TRH Straight Neck Gaiter and the all new configuration for our uniquely designed Drop Pad Neck Gaiter, known as the XWick 3.4TRH Expedition 1.4 Windblocking Thermal Drop Pad Neck Gaiter.

These 2 new neck gaiters are designed for moderate to extreme Winter weather conditions and are especially made for wearing when you outdoor adventure requires physical exertion better then 70% of the time.  These units have an excellent thermal insulation value of R-3.4, are built with our exclusive 3 layer technical fabric layering design, yet somehow manage to provide better then average heat regulation and excellent breath moisture and sweat transfer due to the inner most layer of the unit that is strategically placed for superior thermal wicking and moisture transfer.

These new neck gaiter's are built with a Harfaced - Durable-Abrasion Resisting-Thermal Windblocking-DWR Water Repellent outer shell layer, that still feels soft to the touch of your hand.  The middle technical fabric layer consists of a mid-weight synthetic polyester material that is warm and breathable and the 3 layers combined are a perfect marriage for stretch, fit and comfort.

The XWick 3.4TRH Expedition 1.4 Windblocking Thermal Drop Pad Neck Gaiter has a unique new design from our standard, in that there is a full drop pad in the front and a .4 or 40% length drop pad in the rear.  The shorter rear drop pad still seals out the cold penetrating air in the neck area, but it also helps to regulate the build up of excessive heat when actively involved in high exertion physical activity.

We top off each of these two new neck gaiters with our exclusive built in shock cord and tightening cord loc for sealing in the heat when needed and for giving the user the opportunity to lock the top edge of the gaiter to any position on the face.

The XWick 3.4TRH "Factor" is yet another one of our revolutions to this segment of the Cold Weather Gear Market.  These "new" neck gaiters are going to soar to new heights around the Globe, but these questions remain....when are you going to buy yours and where are you going to take it?  That's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

Technical Advantage Gear Going to the Top of the World

 

 

If you've ever read any of the myriad of information that we provide on our website, you should have noticed by now that we believe in building better gear items that actually do what they say they will do and then some and that we believe in testing and punishing our products before we decide whether to make them available for sale on our website.

We're also firm believers in getting our gear to participate in other Extreme Outdoor Adventures around the Globe, so that we can continue to receive feedback on items that are already proven and available for sale, only now performing in some new venue.  Since we sell our gear around the World, we have no way of knowing all of the places that the Technical Advantage logo is showing up.  Therefore we occasionally use our imaginations and resources to try to get our gear specifically introduced into a specific venue and in the Spring of 2008 we have done just that.

We don't know for sure if any of our gear has been to the North or South Pole as of yet, but we do know that this Spring some of our gear items will be on their way to 29,035 feet, or as some say the place that is the "closest point to heaven with your feet still on Earth".  If you've figured out where the highest point on Earth is, then you'll know where some of our gear will be this Spring.

It has taken a few months for us to receive this wonderful information and we relish the opportunity for our gear to perform better then the "status quo" that has been going up this mountain in the past, but that doesn't seem to be doing what it's suppose to do.  We look forward to the follow-up reviews in June after this climbing expedition is back in their European home base and we'll also find out about any new gear items that we can tackle for making them better then the "status quo"in the future and that's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

Using PayPal on Our Website - PLEASE READ

 

 

Millions of people are familiar with and use PayPal for their purchase on the Internet without any problems or bad experiences.  There are however a few savvy internet purchasers that have had some issues or bad experiences with PayPal and their credit card purchases or credits and we therefore would like to add our "2 Cents" to the conversation.

First for the record we'll make the statement that we have "never" had any issues in our experience with PayPal and have never been advised that any of our customers have had any problems with PayPal on their purchases of Technical Advantage Gear!  We use PayPal for the purposes of their seamless Shopping Cart Checkout system for our Website and also for the purpose of being able to accept Credit Card purchases via the internet from customers buying our gear.  They also provide order confirmation to our customers once their order has been accepted and processed and we send additional e-mail confirmations of out own on top of that.

The nice thing about PayPal in the past months, is that they have backed off on their policy of making purchasers "first" register information with them and then complete the banking confirmation process to become a "verified" account.  This process unfortunately drove customers away from many websites in the past, because they just didn't want to deal with the hassle.

THE GOOD NEW'S IS, is that you "no longer" have to go through the PayPal registration and confirmation process any longer!  Now all you have to do is to use one of the acceptable major credit card brands that we reference on our website and just follow the steps during checkout, "without" having to register for becoming a "verified" PayPal customer.  There are some benefits for you to be a verified account, but that is now left up to you to decide what you do or do not want to do!

The other "great" thing to you the customer about our use of the "on-line" PayPal Shopping Cart Checkout System and Credit Card processing system, is the "excellent" level of security that you receive on the purchase transaction.  Although we are honest and trusting people, it is to "YOUR" benefit that we never see "any" of your credit card numbers or security code information and none of it "ever" ends up on our computer.  The PayPal credit card system is perhaps the "safest" in the World to use, so your on-line transaction as far as we're concerned, is totally safe!  If customers that order our gear from a Country 10,000 miles away from Wisconsin trust the PayPal system and trust us to ship it, then why not you?  That's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

Export or Overseas Customer Gear Buying Opportunities

 

 

The American political and financial system has continued to maintain its global financial structure, whereby it is extremely attractive for most Consumers from Countries outside of the United States, to be able to buy USA goods and services at a currency discounted price.

How many years has it been since the Canadian dollar has been worth more then the American dollar?  Or better yet if your local currency is the Pound Sterling or the Euro, depending on the daily rate, you can actually buy USA goods at a 50% discount based on the currency exchange.

So why is that important to all of the Oversea's visitors to our website that are on the Pound or Euro, because you should almost be able to purchase any of our gear items and pay the shipping and handling charges for a total that is equal to our regular selling price by itself.  If your visiting our site from Canada, it wasn't that long ago that the Canadian dollar was at a 25% to 30% discount to the US dollar, thereby making American goods more expensive.  With that discount erased and then some, are goods should look extremely attractive in price.

On top of the Global currency devaluations for the American dollar, now you can buy from a company that actually is making and selling goods that are Made in the USA.  The worse thing that could happen with the attractive currency discounting, is that you find some other gear website or business that you place an order with and they turn around and ship you goods that were made in China but shipped from the US, ouch!  In the case of Technical Advantage Gear, our key technical fabrics are from USA Fabric Mills and we make or sew all of our own gear right here in the United States.  Even better, we build our gear to work in keeping you warmer - longer.

So why not capitalize on the current advantage that you have with the currency exchange rates with the American dollar and we'll be more then happy to get your Export shipment in and out or door within 24 hours and that's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

Customer Order Shipments from Technical Advantage Gear

 

 

If you spend any amount of time shopping on the Internet, whether for business or just pleasure, you usually walk away with the same consensus over and over again, which is why does it take them so long before they ship my order and why are the shipping & handling charges so high.  Are we right?

Most of our raw material suppliers generally ship within two or three days, very few of them less then that and a hand full take longer then that to get our orders out the door.  For consumer goods that we all buy on the internet, it's generally a whole different story.  We find it generally disappointing to order something that we need off of an internet website, expecting it will be shipped the next day, paying for "Next Day or 2nd Day" premium delivery freight charges, only to find out it didn't ship for three, four, five or six business day later.  What happened to Customer Service in America and were they trying to hatch the order before they shipped it, come on, wake up e-businesses!

The second part of our pet pives, is how much we get "jacked" for regular ground transportation costs on our internet orders at check out.  We spend our time searching on the internet for the best value or price on let's say a brand named item you can buy at numerous places and based on the apparent savings we go though the checkout process, only to find the e-business is making up the difference and then some on the shipping and handling charges, ouch!  Yes, this happens all of the time and for what we're paying for the normal ground transportation it could still take another week before we receive the order after it is shipped!

On Technical Advantage Gear orders that you place with us via our website, we operate differently again from the "status quo" in the market.  First, orders that we receive before the noon time (12:00 hrs CST), in almost every case will be shipped the very same day.  Sometimes orders that we receive later in the day may still be shipped that day, but more likely it will ship the very next day.  In other words, we try and ship all Domestic and Export orders within 24 hours or less from when we receive them.

Second, we ship all of our customer order's via USPS (the US Postal Service), because they deliver 6 days per week with no delivery premium for Saturday delivery.  We also ship all of our USA orders via Priority Mail 2/3 Day delivery, so that you get excellent delivery service at a fair shipping & handling charge on your order.  Because we have to base our shipping rate averages on where most of our gear orders are sent to, sometimes closer proximity customers to our location are paying a substantial difference to what our actually costs are for shipping and handling of their order.  In those cases, unlike most other e-businesses out there, we do give "S&H Rebates" as issued via a credit back to their PayPal account.  We also do the same for our Export customers who operate on a different shipping rate matrix for Global Priority Mail service and as some of our Canadian customers have found out, we have sent them some money back as well, based on their actual shipping location, dollar amount of the order and actual shipping weight on their order.

So our philosophy is simple.  We try to always ship you the best gear, Technical Advantage Gear, with the fastest turn around time (24 hours or less) and ship it to you with expedited service at a "fair" price that allows us to cover the actual shipping costs plus a little extra to cover all of our costs of packaging, labeling and shipping of your order.  That's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

Compression Insulated Mitts vs Layering System Built Mitts

 

 

If you've spent any amount of time reading the information that we provide our customers with in this website, you've probably figured out that we like to build most of our gear by using layering systems that utilize the finest technical fabrics that are made in USA based Fabric Mills.

We're firm believers in using layering systems in our design and manufacturing processes, because it allows us the ability to strategically place the right technical fabrics in the correct position within the specific gear item that we are building.  In the case of Winter Mittens, using layers also allows us the opportunity to virtually eliminate the "dead air space" that other mitts are built with, within the internal construction of the top and bottom sides of their mitts.  These types of mitts generally fall under the heading of compression insulation constructed mitts because of the "dead air space" that the flexible internal insulating material is designed to thrive on. (more on that later)

There are various types of compression mitts built and sold in today's marketplace and of course the pricing varies just as much.  On the lower price point scale, say under $50.00 most of these mitts are built to have some amount of flexibility, which is a supposed asset of compression mitts, however the inner construction has much to be desired.  Most of the compression mitts in this price range are built puffy looking on the top because they contain, usually, foam rubber, plastic sheeting and a 40 gram weight of some type of insulating material.  

The bottom side of these mitts usually have a layer of 40 gram weight insulation material (approx. R-0.7), which is then sealed in by the same plastic sheeting on the outside and then the whole mitt is surrounded by some type or grade level of nylon fabric which forms the outer shell layer.  To get or attain the "better" flexibility or dexterity, the bottom side of compression mitts end up being about 25% to 35% of the thickness as the top layer of the mitts and yes, they do an extremely poor job in keeping the bottom side of your hand warm and in preventing "conductive" and "convective" heat loss.(remember, you have twice as many sweat gland pores on the bottom side of your hand vs the top side, so guess which side of your hand dissipates the most heat and moisture?)  The last thing that you find as well, is that the inner layer that surrounds the hand and fingers and should be there to wick the moisture away, usually doesn't.  Its main job is to be soft to the feel when you slide your hand inside of these mitts and that is what usually does the trick, besides the cheap price, to get you to buy the mitts.  

Based on our estimates from cutting pairs of mitts apart in the under $50.00 price range, you'll normally get thermal insulation values of R-2.5 to R-3.5 on the top sides of these mitts and a R-1.0 to R-2.0 on the bottom sides.  The flexibility and dexterity "grade" for compression mitts in this price range is about a "C+" and for keeping your hands warm and dry overall we would rate them about a "D" or "F".

When you move up in price range on compression insulation mitts, generally anything over $75.00 retail and up, you will find that the dexterity and flexibility rating grade goes up to the "B" or even the "A" range, because the insulation materials used have changed and usually the manufacturer has eliminated the use of water absorbing flat foam rubber on the inside of these mitts.  The gram weights of the 3M or DuPont or other insulating materials will be higher and some mitt manufacturers may also use a 550 or better goose down feather insulation system.  The internal construction of the higher price point mitts also improves, whereby the bottom side of the mitt has been enhanced to maybe as much as 50% of the thickness as the top side of the mitt, however the internal around the fingers wicking layer, although improved still leaves much to be desired.  The generally inadequate wicking layer for the higher price point you're paying only improves the warmth and dryness grade to anywhere from a "C" to perhaps a "B-".  The overall warmth grade on most Winter mitts is also limited because of the use of nylon type external fabric for the outer shells, because nylon fabric does not provide any thermal insulation value to the whole unit.  It helps in the area of water resistance and to some extent wind blocking, but it does not do a good job in preventing convective heat loss and transference of the cold outside air into the internal insulation layer of these mitts.

The theory behind many of the fibrous insulations used in compression type mitts, (squeeze them, bend them, flex them and they return back to their original shape), is that the fibers trap the heat molecules to them from the surrounding dead air space and therefore the insulation does the job in keeping you fingers and hands warm for some extended period of time.

The question that we have, is if you take any pair of squeezable flexible compression mitts outside in cold weather, say +10F or below and without the mitts being on your hands you completely squeeze and crush all of the dead air out of them, where does the replacement air come from that re-fills the dead air space back up again and how many warm air molecules are therefore left attached to the insulation fibers after doing this?  Or a second question is if you do the same thing only this time your hands are inside of these mitts and you squeeze your hands together as hard as you can to get all of the trapped air out of the internal parts of the mitts and then you release the pressure and they come back to form, where is the replacement dead air coming from that fills up around the insulation fibers?  How much came through the pores of the outer shell nylon fabric, cold air?  How much came from within the inner compartment air surrounding the fingers, warm or cool moist air?  How much was convectively sucked from the outside from the mitt opening area around the wrist, cold air?  And how many warm air molecules are actually left and available to be stuck to the insulation fibers in the upper and lower parts of the mitten insulation?

The layering system that we use at Technical Advantage, primarily makes use of synthetic polyester technical fabrics and materials and we place what we feel is the correct fabric layer at the right location, based on the individual characteristic of the specific fabric material that we determined will do the best job for the application.  Our layering system in our Winter Mittens also eliminates most of the "dead air" space that is predominant in compression type mitts, because we see no asset value to be gained.  All we know is that warm air cools and eventually becomes cold air and cold air does not present any value in keeping your fingers and hands warm.

When we talk about layering systems done correctly, we are not referring to mittens made in China that are layered on the top side with a thin internal compartment material layer surrounding the fingers, followed inside by a 40 gram weight of 3M thinsulate insulation, surrounded entirely by a layer of white plastic to seal the moisture in, with a layer of foam rubber outside of the white plastic and then the cheap nylon fabric used for the outer shell.

The bottom half of these mitts, usually about 25% as thick as the top half forget about including the foam rubber in the layering, which if they did would actually help in minimizing conductive heat loss.   Although this is the "status quo" design for the volumes of Winter Mittens that are sold based on price point, it is not how layering system mitts should be built in order to keep your hand's and finger's warm during the Winter time!

The layering system that we use to a great extent is a science.  We know the exact manufacturing characteristics of each insulating fabric that we use, we know its approximate CLO units of insulation or R-value and we know its exact characteristics regarding windblocking , water resistance, breathability and wicking capability.  We also use and incorporate special polyester insulation that offers reflective technology, that reflects the heat back to the hand while also allowing moisture vapor to pass through, but yet still provides excellent polyester insulation values.

Our layering system as we mention just about everywhere we can, also equalizes the amount of insulation and layers on both the top and bottom sides of the mitt.  If you do not provide an adequate amount and an equalized amount of insulation to both sides of a Winter Mitt, then it fails to perform like a Winter Mitt really should.  Our layered Winter Mitts score an "A" for thermal windblocking, water resistance and breathability.  For preventing or minimizing convective and conductive heat loss, we would again score our layered mitts versus their price point competition with an "A".  For keeping your hands warmer - longer and for Superior moisture wicking, again a grade of "A".

Now the other side of the coin with Winter Mittens that are built with a layering system similar to ours, which we have yet to find, is that you give up a certain amount in terms of flexibility and dexterity.  They also are firmer in feel and they do not compress down much in size when squeezed, because they don't contain all of the "dead air"space.  In other words if you want to pick up a pencil that is laying on the ground while you have one of our mitts on your hand, it ain뭪 going to happen.  So if we had to score pure dexterity of using your fingers to do things while you are wearing a pair of layered mitts, we would give them a grade of "C".  But then again, Winter Mitts with any amount of insulation inside of them that are "really" built to work in keeping your hands and finger warm out in the cold, are going to produce the relatively same results.

So in a nut shell, a compression insulation type mitt will give you better dexterity and flexibility with your fingers when inside of the mitts, however we feel and it is our opinion that you will give up on the warmth, especially when you are outside in cold weather for an extended period of time.  Your own bodies circulation system is going to further dictate the length of time that these mitts are acceptable in keeping your hands and fingers warm as well.

On the other side of the coin are Winter Mittens that are built using a technical fabric layering system, such as those built by Technical Advantage Gear.  You do give up on flexibility and dexterity with a firmer built mitt, but what you gain is a Winter Mitten that actually does what is says it is going to do, which is to keep your hands and fingers drier & warmer - longer and that's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

Why We Use Synthetic Polyester Fabric vs Using Wool

 

 

In some Countries around the World, the standard for much but certainly not all of their cold weather gear is perhaps wool based materials.  Sometimes this continues on due to availability of the raw materials and other times due to long time traditions of the local community or traditions.

The use of wool fabric in the United States has dropped over the last thirty plus years due to the continued enhancement and perfection of man made fabrics such as synthetic polyesters and other similar materials.  The capabilities of the man made fabrics in terms of warmth, breathability, moisture wicking, DWR water resistance, wind blocking, softness to the touch, fabric weight and so forth, presents a tough case to beat in terms of choice and flexibility.  From the technical outdoor Winter Gear perspective, we have seen wool making a resurgence in the way of Merino wool which is now being blended in with synthetic polyester and being made available for making gear items like long underwear, socks, etc.

Many of us remember that the only thing "thermal" about our green Winter Thermal boots were the wool socks that we wore on our feet and of course the hand knitted wool mittens that grandma made for our hands.  Boy are we getting old.  The choices that we have today are much better then they were back in the 1960's, however many manufacturers still choose to produce their gear items based on eye appeal instead of functionality and warmth.  For many of us, the appeal of wool wore off pretty fast because we still remember the pickiness and scratchiness of the wool sweater and of course of the wool socks that once wet, led to frozen toes and time to go inside for some hot cocoa.

The overall flexibility of using wool in the gear manufacturing process is just not anywhere close to what you can get from man made machine process synthetic polyester fabric.  We always still remember wool for its warmth and sometime water repellency due to the natural lanolin, but that's about where it stops.  Conversely, man made polyesters aren't always what they appear either and don't assume that fleece is just fleece, because it's not.  For example many garments sold with cheap prices will tag or call their fleece "Polar Fleece", however in most cases although you assume the "polar" to mean really warm or high quality, the base material is just cheap fleece fabric, usually imported and it usually pills up after the first wash.  The actual fabric weight is not adequate for the application, but you don't know that, you just know that it feels soft, the price is cheap and it says Polar, so you assume it's warm.

Anyway, we use synthetic polyester because of the manufacturing dynamics.  We can purchase it in different fabric weights, different thickness, different inner and outer finishes, we can have it textured or veloured, we can have it in different insulation values, it can be DWR water resistant treated, the breathability can be determined as can the moisture wicking and wind blocking capability.  It generally is soft to the touch and does not feel picky to the skin and it is easy to cut and sew.  What more can we say other then it also does a better job then wool in shedding the moisture and staying drier overall then wool as well.  Everything mentioned here is a characteristic of the USA milled synthetic polyester that we buy and use, but it is not a statement for all of the cheap synthetic polyester material made in the Far East and elsewhere.

We find synthetic polyester the easiest and best technical fabric to use in our business and it allows us the greatest conciseness in specific fabric style selection to build the warmest Winter gear items in the world and that's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

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Comparing Our New Kap Bridgman Arctic Thermal Hats

 

 

One of our new gear items for the Fall/Winter 2007-08 selling season, is our Kap Bridgman Arctic Thermal Hat that completed its final testing last March in the 07 Iditarod.  In case you haven't read other information on our website, this hat as well as our other gear in the race got a chance to endure estimated temperatures as chilly as -90F to -100F below zero and the feedback was as good as we anticipated.

We provide a lot more specific information about this hat under our "Products" tab on the website, so the real subject for this observation concerns how we compare to the other hats in the market place that are of similar style to our new design?

Winter hats with pull down ear flaps aren't anything new.  Perhaps the earliest ones we remember were made with a checkered red/black wool material on the outside, either a light layer of nylon or a bumpy off white man made sheep's wool looking material on the inside and of course the hat was completed with a full front bill.  These hats were popular back in the 50's, 60's and 70's especially for deer hunting, before blaze orange became a requirement.  Fur hats weren't that popular in the upper Midwest, but occasionally you'd see one around with fur on the outside and inside of the hat, or with leather or nylon on the outside and fur on the inside of the hat and flaps.  Most of these hats didn't have a baseball cap style brim on the front of them, but I'm sure there were some out there that did.

In the last few years a more modern styling of this type of hat with pull down ear flaps was to make them again in a two layer system, with the outer shell consisting of a nylon fabric and the inner layer being made from some type of fleece material.  To the front of these hats was also a mini-length thin front hat bill, perhaps at most maybe 1" to 1 1/2 inches in length.  Where we see most of these hats being worn is in Alaska and they appear to be somewhat popular with the mushers on the trail.  I would guess primarily because of the ear flaps that pull down over the ears and velcro together under the chin.  The front bill on these hats seems to be a little too short, as you'll see mushers wearing their favorite baseball caps underneath these hats in order to get the full benefits of a longer front bill.

The 1st consistent characteristic of almost all of these hats is that they are made from a 2 layer system of fabric or materials, they have ear flaps that can be secured at the top of the hat or can be pulled down over the ears and secured under the chin.  Most but not all of these styled hats also have some type and length of a front bill to help block out the sun, rain and snow from the eyes.

The second consistent characteristic of all of these hats is the lack of moisture wicking material on the inner layer of the hat that will help to remove the sweat from around the head and forehead area in the varying temperatures outside and also caused from physical exertion.

The third consistent characteristic is the total amount of thermal insulation value that these various styles of hats can offer, which is limited by only providing a two layer fabric or material construction system.  The highest producing hats in our estimation would be those that are constructed from "real" leather and fur hides and beaver seems to be one of the most popular for outdoors people who choose to wear them.  Next in terms of warmth would probably be the old styled wool hats from years ago, however they were poor in terms of windblocking capacity, water resistance capacity and were very poor in wicking the sweat moisture away.  

The poorest performing hat for total warmth are the current bomber or musher style hats that have the nylon outer shell, a varying weight of fleece for the inner layer and are the ones you see with the short mini-bill on the front.  The outer shell nylon fabric is great for preventing outside moisture from penetrating into the inside of the hat, but at the same time it does not provide any thermal insulation value or moisture vapor breathing capability.  The nylon shell does provide some windblocking capability, but the cold still enters into the inner shell layer because the nylon fabric does not have any thermal insulation value and thus suffers from convective heat loss.  

The inner layer of these hats, generally made from either a mid-weight or hwt fleece material provide and estimated thermal insulating value of R-1.0 to R1.4, but that value is eroded further because it is not designed to be windblocking, is extremely poor in terms of wicking away vapor moisture and therefore the whole system ends up failing as the trapped sweat cools off and cannot escape.  What moisture does pass through the fleece is generally trapped inside of the hat by the nylon fabric.  The short front bills on these hats may deflect a few rain drops and deflect some of the sun when it is directly over head, but won't do much the rest of the time because they are just too short in length.  We also noticed that most of these only fasten under the chin with 3/4" wide hook & loop strips, which makes it tough to always get a good secure locking connection.  The Kap Bridgman hats use full 1 inch wide strips of hook & loop (33% more) for an excellent connection surface area and also provide a full 3" front baseball cap style heavy duty hat bill.  If price is an issue, you can usually find one of these nylon shelled fleece lined hats with the mini front bill for around $35 to $40 bucks.

An interesting observation to note here is that the pull down ear flaps alone on our new Kap Bridgman hat's, provide a thermal insulating value that is over 3X times greater then the hats just mentioned in total.  The main base area of our new hats is even better!(R-5.75)

The key thing's about our new Kap Bridgman hats, are that they are warmer then any of the hats that we have mentioned, they are the only hat that provides superior moisture wicking capacity, are the only ones that provide 100% thermal windblocking & breathability and also provide a full length front bill.  At the same time they give fuller neck protection then most and also provide a better secure and warm seal around the cheek and chin area.  Our hats are a lot lower in price then the real leather and fur configured hats, are not as cheap as other similar styled hats mentioned that are not built to really keep your head warm & dry and at the end of the day are in a class of their own.

The versatility and application of our Kap Bridgman hat is endless, as they are truly built to endure the elements of what Winter can dish out.  Weather you work in the oil fields, do Winter residential or commercial construction, outside chores on the farm, mush a dog sled, climb McKinley or Mount Everest or prepare for an Arctic Expedition, this could be the last hat you'll ever need.  For those that are prefer this style of hat and truly want a great upgrade in terms of performance, then this hat is for you.  That's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

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The Uuuuhhhh Ahhhhhh Factor

 

 

I had the crazy notion late this Fall that I had finally found a pair of cold weather gloves that would actually keep my hands and fingers warm, when I was out playing with the snowblower when the temperatures with windchill were below -10F.  I wanted to be able to use the gloves instead of a pair of our toastie Technical Advantage Mitts, so I could more easily operate the levers and buttons with greater dexterity.  Guess I was wrong, because after fifteen minutes my fingers were pulled out of the finger slots and were clenched in a ball in an attempt to un-thaw.

I bought the gloves at a local farm supply type store that also sells sporting goods and clothing and they initially caught my eye because of the soft deer skin that was on the outside that was also combined with nylon fabric to complete the outer shell.  They were called musher gloves and were similar to ones sold my another retail and catalog outfitter that uses Goretex trademarked material on the outer shell along with soft leather, only these were about 20 bucks cheaper in price.

I kept picking these glove up and putting them down each time I visited the local store and liked the fact that the insulation was 150 gram "Lite Loft" 3M Thinsulate trademarked insulation material.  I thought for sure that this insulation would do the trick for my hands and the sub-par circulation that I have in my hands, as most gloves are only built with 40 gram to 80 gram weights of insulation and certainly not a wowing 150 gram weight of insulation.  I also got caught up in the "Uuuuhhhh Ahhhhhh" factor when I slid my hand inside of these gloves as well.  Man were they soft feeling when I put my hand inside of them, but yet I knew better then that, however the 150 grams of Lite Loft kept playing in my mind over and over between visits to the store for other items.

At last I struck before X-mas on the umpteenth trip to the store, as they were on sale and the time seemed right to strike.  Since we don't make or offer any of our own gloves under the Technical Advantage Gear brand, nor do we have any intent at least in the immediate future to do so, I convinced myself to move forward with the purchase knowing that the Thermal insulating value was probably only going to be around an R-2.0 to R-2.5.

I also made the purchase because I hopefully would have a pair of gloves to wear up at the 2007 Iditarod during the first two starting days of the Race, so that I could have greater dexterity when shooting pictures of our new gear that was doing final testing in this years race, instead of pulling my fingers out of my mitts and bare skinning it once again in the flesh.  My index fingers can already forecast the cold temperatures outside while I'm still standing inside, so I guess I had high hopes.  The gloves still may take the trip to Anchorage, as you never know what the weather's going to be until it happens.

Someday these gloves  will be cut apart to see how they are constructed on the inside and then will end up in the graveyard for no longer useful gloves and mitts.  The message about the Uuuuhhhh Ahhhhhh factor is this.  Don't be, as we've mentioned in other areas of our website, sucked into buying a pair of mitts or gloves based on how "soft" the inner liner of fabric feels against the skin, as the softness has nothing to do with how warm the mitt is actually going to be.  As well,  the soft material usually end's up doing a very poor  job in wicking the moisture away from the skin, because it is there more to appeal to your sense of feel, then being there to serve its function to adequately wick moisture away from your hand.

We take pride in assuring that the inner most layer of all of our mitts, is built from some of the best thermal wicking material that is available.  In mitts such as our Extreme Element Arctic Thermal Mitts, the first two inner most layers that go next to the hand and fingers are always constructed from highly wicking thermal material.  We build our mitts to always be Warmer & Drier then the status quo, instead of being instantly sweaty, followed by a sense of cooling dampness and then the sensation of frozen fingers.

We share the construction process in general terms on  most everything that we build and also highlight the important facts and specifications, such as what are the related Thermal R-values of Insulation that we build into our gear.  In the fabric industry the thermal R-value is also known as the "CLO Units" of insulation, which for approximation purposes generally is about the same number as R-value.  The higher the number, the better the insulation value.

Perhaps it's time to start asking questions of other manufacturers or retailers as to what the thermal insulation values are on the various other competitive mitts and gloves that you look at in retail stores, so you can better compare them with the information that we share on our website.  An informed shopper is a smarter shopper and that's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

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Nutrition for Winter Training & Racing

 

 

It's interesting how we can lose sight of a proper diet during the cold weather months of the year, when we start piling on the clothes to stay warm until the snow finally melts in the Spring, although good Spring weather seems to get pushed out later and later each year.  Maybe it's just me because I'm getting older?

In the cold weather month's it seems that many diets head south and of course that's also the area that starts to see some excess padding build up as well.  Some of us trade the fresh fruits and veggies in for the sweets and fried foods and when we do exercise outdoors during the Winter months, for some reason we don't utilize the same aspects of nutrition in our diets that we religiously do in the Summer months.  I don't know if it's because of the month of mainly gray days that we experience in November that seems to set the tone or what, but the protein drinks and bars get shelved for a cheeseburger, the carb's are supplied from the french fries and the hydration comes by way of a soda or a chocolate shake.  In order words, a healthy diet that should contain less then 35% in the way of fat, well, contains alot more then I'm willing to admit to and the same can be said about the increased intake in sugars as well.  I do love my chocolate!

When we exercise heavily outdoors in the cold weather months, I think that we lose track of our same requirements for nutrition, because the air temperatures are so much colder and perhaps in some cases, but not all, the intervals are  shorter in duration then when it's much warmer outside.  Because of this, our fuel tanks in our bodies are either full of the wrong fuels or we're running half empty on the fuels that we should be running.  At the same time, many people lose sight of proper hydration, because the thirst just doesn't see to be there as it is when the weather is hot and we don't realize how much we sweated until we stop.  I see this most during the downhill ski season with the adolescent's that are out all day getting in as many runs as they can, take very little time to re-hydrate and then become dizzy and get other factors that begin with the onset of hypothermia.

As adults, we're much smarter for example at the ski lodge.  We take more breaks during the day because we can't endure the cold as much as we use to.  Many times we re-hydrate with a warm cup of coffee instead of a sports drink, because we want to get warmed up, but we fail to realize that the caffeine in the coffee is further restricting the blood flow in our veins.  Yeah, we're pretty smart aren't we?  We end up skiing less then our kids do in a days time, but also wake up the next morning discovering new muscles that we didn't know that we had.  Why is that?

In races like the Iditarod  it is nothing for mushers, especially the veterans, to push like hell for the first five days of the race, managing on only a hand full of total hours of sleep, to finally get back on top of things at their selected mandatory 24 hour break.  By that time they are so stiff and sore and tired that they perhaps feel like they are on their way out, instead of feeling like they are somewhat refreshed with only half the race to go.  I can't imagine the feeling?

There is hope however for those mushers and for the rest of us outdoor Winter recreationalist's.  Our bodies don't change in the same basic nutritional requirements by season, rather we are the ones that choose to make the decisions to put different things into our tanks and then we knowingly or unknowingly suffer the consequences physically and/or mentally as well.  In the case of the hard charging mushers, there is nothing that can be offered in helping you with your sleep depravation during a race like the Iditarod, but we can share some insight into some nutritional enhancements that you may want to consider and others should consider as well.

First:  The fuel for bodies that we need to fill our tanks up with before and during the exercise period in Carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates can come from many different sources, such as bread, cereals, pasta's, rice, but during an extended outdoor activity you don't have access to your kitchen cupboard, so you need to find a portable alternative that you can carry along with you.

A couple of easy and less messy solutions are through the use of nutrition bars that are "carbed" up so to speak, read the labels and secondly through the use of Power Gels that you can get at your local bike shop or sporting goods store.  We like the Power Gels because they're small in size in their sealed individual packets, they are semi-liquid and they give you a good carb boost along with other nutrients that may be included to keep you going.  The Power Gels that we like also include "electrolytes" in them that also help to replenish the sodium that your body lost from sweating and usually a minimum of one per hour will help to keep you going.  The Power Gels are made and sold under several different brand names like Power Bar, GU and others, they have a choice of flavors and some come with caffeine and some without.  These are an excellent way to get more fuel for you tank during exercise, while also replenishing electrolytes that you have lost through sweating, especially if you don't feel like drinking, or in the case of mushers, your drink is frozen.

Second:  While exercising, whether hot weather or cold, you need to replenish the Electrolytes or sodium back into your body that you have lost from sweating.  If you do not do this and if you do not occasional take in fluid with electrolytes in it, you will become de-hydrated, perhaps first starting as a woozy head.  The other thing that the a "good" replenishment of Electrolytes will help you out with, is minimizing the muscle cramping that will occur.  A good sports drink powder will usually also have "potassium" included in it and this key ingredient is gold for your bodies total and continuous performance.  There are several sports drink choices, however the most widely available one is perhaps Gatorade.  Fluids are extremely important and it is also important to drink before you're actually thirsty.

We know the first (2)two nutritional enhancements work, because we personally utilize them in our own warmer weather long distance cycling training and we personally worked to get them into the regimen of a veteran Iditarod Musher in the 2006 Race, who as they say "has come to believe" and will be doing the same again this year.  The biggest comment that we got from this musher was the reduction in the amount of cramping and sore muscles.  To help with the sleep depravation issues, the Power Gel packs that we supplied him with usually had 2X caffeine added to them.  But please note that caffeine constricts the blood supply in the body, so to offset that issue, we used our Extreme Element Arctic Thermal Mitts during the race and he swears that he was the only one that finished the race with hands that were warm and dry, humm?

Third:  In order to replenish the body and the tired muscles between and after periods of exercise, the timing of the third enhancement is very important and that is Protein.  In a long endurance sled dog race for example, a musher probably brings along some type of wild game sausage sticks and a lot of cheese of some type, which are both good sources of protein.  Others perhaps also pack sealed pre-cooked meats and beef jerky as well, again good sources of protein.  Some items come with high fat content and others don't.

As a good portable solution, we use them with our after cycling training and pushed then into last years Iditarod Race, is the use of Protein Bars.  These bars can offer up to 20 to 30 grams of protein per bar and at the end of the day we're trying to replenish a minimum 1 to 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight.  Not always easy to do, but is a target to shoot for.  The protein bars also offer other beneficial nutrients in them and usually contain some lesser amount of carbohydrate in them as well.

The actual taste of protein bars is all over the spectrum.  Many taste like cardboard, others have a painful aftertaste.  The Protein Bar that we love the best and discovered at the 2005 Tour de Georgia Pro Bike Races, is one that offers 20 grams of protein per bar, has an excellent taste with no after taste and is chocolate covered to take care of the sweet tooth, is made by a company called "CLIF".  The actual bar is sold under the "BUILDER BAR" name and is available in Complete, Peanut Butter and Cookie & Cream.  These bars are available at some bike shops, sporting goods stores and on the Internet thru places like Performance Bike, Nashbar and other nutritional e-businesses.

These protein bars are a nice break from just eating sausage and cheese in the case of mushers and are portable for those who don't want to eat heavy after exercise.

Anyway, Carbohydrates and Electrolytes during exercise and Proteins during long breaks and at the conclusion of exercise and your body will thank you.  That's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

Disecting Our New Prairie Snowstorm Mitts

 

 

The people that are already wearing a pair of our "new" Prairie Snowstorm Mitts just can't believe what they got for their investment of $64.95, which is our introductory price for at least the foreseeable future.  The warmth, the roominess and the comfort are making the initial users of our new Prairie Snowstorm mitts excited about their purchase.

Our latest mitt design provides exception range of movement, are light in weight for the thermal insulation value that they provide, which is a staggering R-7.15.  

The uses for our new mitt will be endless for the average person, as most people are not out playing in the extreme elements and temperatures that the Winter has to bare around the World, which is where are other higher priced mitts come in.  If you Bike, Run, Downhill Ski, Cross Country Ski, Ice Fish, Snowmobile, Snowshoe or just shovel the snow, this is the perfect mitt for you and at a great price!  

We on occasion get asked "what type of insulation is used in these mitts" or "do these mitts have Thinsulate in them", Thinsulate being a trademark of 3M, and we answer their questions accordingly.  For the benefit of those who are afraid to ask or for those new visitors to tadvgear.com, we will explain briefly how we constructed our new mitts.

First off, although 3M Thinsulate is a very well known insulation material used in many brands of Winter mitts and gloves, we just haven't chose to use it in any of our products to date, even though we have complete access to their insulating materials as well as to those of other companies as well.

Second, since we do not construct our mitts like anyone else out in the market place, at least that we have found to date, we have chosen an engineering and design format that utilizes our only internal layering system that features materials and fabric that have a Polyester base.  Polyester is an extremely warm insulating material that has excellent breathability for the most part and at the same time in dries out in a relatively short period of time.  This is the short explanation of why we use it, the technical explanation of the material we use would probably put you to sleep, so we'll just keep it simple.

Third, in the layering system and construction process of all of our mitts including these, we "do not" and will never ever use any open celled foam rubber or plastic sheeting inside of any of our mitts.....did I say never ever?  Rather we use a technical layering process of selected materials or fabrics that are all used for a specific purpose.  Most of the technical fabrics that we use have a synthetic polyester base and at the same time most of these fabric layers are also from the same materials that are used by the US Military in making other types of garments that are worn by our troops around the World.

Fourth, we believe in building our mitts so that they not only keep you warmer - longer, but at the same time they must provide excellent wicking capability that we believe is un-matched by anyone else in the World, while also providing the assets of having 100% windblocking capabilities, water resistance, breathability and thermal warmth.

Fifth, we build these and all of our other mitts with almost as much insulation and layering on the bottom side of the mitt as we put on the top side of the mitt.  This eliminates one of the biggest warmth stealers from the hands, which is conductive heat loss.  That in a nut shell is when you grab a frozen object with your mitts on and the cold object starts pulling the heat from the bottom of your hand.  In many cases you can feel the coolness starting, because most mitt manufacturers provide very little insulation on the bottom side of their mitts, so that you can bend and flex your mitt with simplicity and for no other purposes then that.

The Prairie Snowstorm Mitts that we make are designed with a four layer system of selected technical fabrics and materials as follows:

"OURS"

Top Side of Mitts

Outer Shell Layer #4:  Is 100% "Thermal" Windblocking, Water Resistant and Breathable - 100% Synthetic Polyester.
Inner Shell Layer #3:
 Heavy Weight Thermal and Breathable - 100% Synthetic Polyester.
Inner Shell Layer #2:  Reflective Technology Special Insulating Material that passes the moisture vapors through it, while reflecting the heat back to the hands - 97% Polyester.
Inner Shell Layer #1:  Thermal & Extremely High Wicking and Breathable Layer that surrounds the hand and finger area - 100% Synthetic Polyester.

HAND & FINGERS AREA

Inner Shell Layer #1:  Same spec & material as Layer #1 above.
Inner Shell Layer #2:  Same spec & material as Layer #2 above.
Inner Shell Layer #3:  Same spec & material as Layer #3 above
Outer Shell Layer #4:  Same spec & material as Layer #4 above.

Bottom Side of Mitts

As you can see from our layering system, we have built a mitt that prevents the penetration and effects of the cold Winter winds from entering the inner shell of our mitts, with our 100% "thermal" windblocking Outer Shell.  You "do not" receive the same "thermal" benefits from standard nylon material outer shells.  They do help to block the effects of the wind, however the cold air transfers passes through the nylon based outer shells through the forces of conduction and convection.

We also put some of the best technical based materials on the inside of our mitts, so that you hands will stay warmer & drier - longer.  If you're in the market for a new pair of Winter Mitts that pack a good insulative punch and will also keep your hands drier then anything you've had in the past, then give our new Prairie Snowstorm mitts a try.  

Once you buy a pair of our new mitts and do come to believe how wonderful they are, then for kicks, why not take a pair of scissors and cut your old ones apart and just see what's inside of them?  We think you will be disappointingly surprised!  That's Our 2 Cents Worth!

This is what the "competition" gives you inside of their mitts.  If you don't believe us, just cut them apart and find out for yourself.  This "is" what you will find in just about every pair of mitts in this price range that you buy, except in ours!

THEIR'S

The "Competition" Mitt:
- Water Absorbing Foam Rubber.
- Moisture Sealing Plastic.
- Poor Insulation, especially where it is needed on the bottom side of the mitt.

 

 

 

 

 

 


What more can we say?

 


 

 

Subject

 

 

3M Thinsulate Insulation & Understanding The Sewn On Mitt Labels

 

 

It's human nature to "assume" that because we see a certain Brand Name on an item in such great numbers, that it has to be the best, even though we may not understand the total concept of what the brand name consists of?  Now that you may be partially confused of what was just stated, lets talk about a specific subject, which is 3M Thinsulate Insulation.

Growing up with garments and gear that weren't necessarily built with the highest technology in terms of insulation properties, as compared to today's standards, the splash into the market place back in the 1970's with 3M Thinsulate began a dream and a hope for many of us, that we could now keep our frost bitten fingers and toes warmer in the future.  Over time we began to seek out those mitts and gloves that carried the Thinsulate tag on them, believing in our mind that we had finally found salvation to the bite of Jack Frost during the Winter months.  Yes we did find salvation in our Thinsulate insulation for some period of years, but as we got older the "bag for the buck" in terms of warmth began to fade in our old faithful and we blamed it on our aging process and perhaps our genetic inheritance of reduced blood circulation capabilities in our own bodies.

As we grew older, we also did not become any smarter when we did or didn't read the tags on the Winter gear that we were just about to purchase, rather we just made sure that it said Thinsulate on it and then we brought it to the checkout counter, breathed a sigh of relief and went on our way with confidence.  What was added over the years along with the Thinsulate tag on a pair of mitts or gloves, was also an addition to the same tag, in most cases, that also stated the number of grams that the item contained of Thinsulate.  Now we were seeing tag's for example that stated the words:        Thinsulate TM  -  Insulation  -  40 grams

Now we thought or didn't think, OK, before it said nothing about the number of "grams" of Thinsulate on the label tag and now it states "40 grams", that really has to be better then the last pair of gloves or mitts that I had that were Thinsulate, these must be better?  We also noted that it was great that they were so cheap in price for the improvement, but we still didn't really understand what "40 grams" was giving us in terms of thermal insulating value, nor perhaps did we really care just as long as the gear worked better in our minds.

It should also be noted at this time, that there is usually other materials that make up the total composition of the internal layering system of a mitt or glove besides the "stated" primary insulation material that may or may not be referenced on a sewn on or hanging tag on the garment when you see it at the store.  Usually these other internal items are there as fillers, so that the mitten or glove look bulkier to make you think that you are buying something warm due to the bulky/thick look of the item.  

We cut open today, a pair of gloves that are bulky in look and have a part fabric and part nylon finish to the outer shell and have two tags sewn to the outer shell of the mitt at one of the side seams.  One tag states:  "WATERPROOF" and the second tag states:  Thinsulate TM -  INSULATION - 40 gram.  The mitts probably sold for around $25.00 at the store.

The cut away of the gloves showed a thin black inner liner layer that surrounds the fingers and hand, followed by the 40 gram layer of Thinsulate, which was then covered by a layer of plastic, followed by a 1/8" layer of open cell foam rubber and then the 1/16" thick outer fabric shell.  Here again the plastic was put in to trap the heat and all of the moisture vapors in an attempt to allow the gloves to stay warm for some period of time, however the plastic ends of causing the gloves to fail, because they become wetter faster and then your fingers get cold.

We reference a cut away picture of a lower priced pair of mitts in another section of our website, that pretty much shows the same senerio for a layering system, only in that case the foam rubber used to make the mitts look bulky is about a 3/8" thick.

To better understand the insulation values of a pair of mitts, gloves or even boots that come with 3M Thinsulate inside of them, we have supplied a few examples of gram weight of the insulating material and what it's corresponding thermal insulating R-value or R-factor is, which most are familiar with R-value in terms of insulation in their own homes walls and ceilings.  The "higher" the "R-value" the higher the insulation value.  (It should be noted that the total insulating value of an item may be slightly higher due to the "filler" items that are used in addition to the actual brand name insulation material used)

Thermal R-Value of Insulation - 3M Thinsulate
40   Gram Weight  -  R-0.7
100 Gram Weight  -  R-1.3
150 Gram Weight  -  R- 1.9
200 Gram Weight  -  R2.5

Other Popular Gear/Garment Insulation Material - Primaloft One
133 Gram Weight  -  R2.88
200 Gram Weight  -  R4.32

Goose Down Insulation
550 Fill Goose Down 1.1" thickness  -  R4.80

The above referenced number's are "static" in terms of the insulating value of the gram weight of the material.  In other words, the R-value is calculated in a testing environment that is "free" of the influence of external cold weather factors like wind, extreme cold temperatures, moisture contamination, etc.

A good closing question to ponder then, is why aren't the mitten or glove manufactures using a heavier gram weight of 3M Thinsulate, if that is their chosen insulating material, instead of mostly using a 40 gram weight?  Answer, because they save money using the lowest in insulating value Thinsulate material, but you as a consumer buy it based on a price point and probably more so because it has a sewn on Thinsulate label on the outside of the mitt or glove.  3M Thinsulate is a very good insulation material for using in outdoor garments and gear, however in practice the gram weight of material that "should be used" for keeping you warmer longer is not being selected by the gear manufacturer and is no fault of 3M, because it saves them a few extra coins and you're buying their "stuff" anyway because it looks pretty and it sez Thinsulate on the label!  

We hope you learned something new here, especially that the higher the thermal R-value number that you can find on Winter garment & gears, the warmer you're going to be.  The reality however is that most garment manufacturers don't share this information with you like we do, because they are in the business to sell "pretty" in their products, rather then selling performance and that's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

Subject

 

 

Latest Comparison of Other Arctic Musher Style Mitts

 

 

The first pair of jumbo sized mitts that we ever put our hands into that were being used by Sled Dog Mushers for training and for racing, happened to be last Winter during the early season when they were running on the first good snow base of the season.  The temperatures were already cold for December and the snow based was at least a foot or more in the woods and the backroads for training were packed with an acceptable base for running their dogs.

At the time we were up for a meeting to further test the insulation and warmth of our new Arctic Thermal Mitts series, which were not primarily designed for the demands of a sled dog musher, in terms of being able to wear gloves inside of them and for getting their hands in and out of them with gloves on their fingers with ease.  The mission of our trip was to find out how these mitts performed in the harsh training elements in terms of keeping the hands warmer longer, as well as the wicking capability of the fabrics for keeping the hands dry.  Who else do you know that is out in the Winter elements each and every day training one team of dogs or the other until the snow melts in the Spring?

As we discussed and related out fabric insulating system, one of the mushers got up and brought in his mushing mitts to our meeting and made the comment that we should look to build some mitts that were similar in size to "these", which were a pair that they had bought through the Internet and were also the ones that both of the two mushers had previously worn in the Iditarod.  The mitts were huge in size, fairly lightweight and the base price for the mitts was under $100.00 without the other liners or gloves that were part of the Brand or Companies complete system that was available.

As the "first impression" of something can set the tone for the thought process, so it went with the first insertion of my hands into these mitts....cold and clammy wet.  Before I could get the words out of my mouth, the comments from the mushers in almost unison was that the one problem with the mitts was that they did a very poor job of keeping the hands dry and in wicking the moisture away from the hands.  It all fairness to mitts that are being worn by mushers, you need to realize that the mushers hands are routinely outside of the mitts in the wet and snow replacing dog booties or doing other things that get their gloves wet, which they are inturn putting back into the mitts that they choose to wear.

About a month ago, October to be exact, I finally was able to wrestle a pair of these jumbo mitts away from one of the mushers that we work and test with, which was a pair that he had previously worn in his first Iditarod.  Of course I knew and I think he surmised that my first mission once I got home was to get the scissors out and cut these babies apart, which is exactly what I did and what I found was quite interesting.

What I found when I cut these jumbo sized mitts apart, besides what you could see on the outside, which was the black nylon shell and soft synthetic black fur strip for wiping your nose or face and it's additional built in little trigger finger, was a very thin internal black liner layer and the focus of the insulation coming from an internal mitt that was constructed from and approximate 1 inch thick layer of open cell "foam rubber", the same type of foam rubber used in the cushions of your couch or chair that you sit on.

Let's Take a Look at What We Found:

 

 


 

What we saw was a mitt that had the right concept for minimizing the affects of conductive heat loss with it's equal thickness of material top and bottom, but we also saw a mitt that negated this positive because there was no means for minimizing convective heat loss from air flow by having any type of hand opening pull tight shock cording or wrist webbing strap for trapping the heat from escaping from the mitt.  Further, it was very evident why the mitts were always wet and this was due to the paper thin layer of material that was used for the internal layer that couldn't wick the moisture away and if it did, it was sucked up like a sponge into the foam rubber where it was stored.  We were pleased to see that this manufacturer did not do like many mitt and glove manufacturers, which is to enclose or surround there inner liner layer with a layer of plastic, which would further trap the moisture inside of the mitt.

In understanding foam rubber as a source for insulation purposes, there are basically two types, "open cell" and "closed cell" with closed cell having a significantly higher insulation value.  The foam rubber used in these mitts, similar but thinner then the cushions in many couches, is classified as open celled.  It is very "porous" in design and it easily bends and re-flexes back to its original dimension and it's insulating values are, best we can tell, less then 50% of those that you would achieve from the same thickness of "closed cell" foam rubber.

The closed cell foam rubber is best characterized and described as a "liquid foam" that dries to a hard and non-flexible finish.  Have you ever bought an aerosol can of spray foam from the hardware store or building supplies center for filling in the cracks around a door, that comes out as a liquid and then dries hard?  This would be the easiest example for you to understand for these explanation purposes.  The insulating properties are substantially better then open cell foam rubber, however the flexibility of the material when dry is about zero and is virtually useless for using as a good insulation prospect for mitts, as and example.

Since we have not been able to find any specific data for the thermal insulation R-factor of open celled foam rubber, we can only speculate on what the R-value would be for one inch thick soft foam rubber.  Our best guess would be something in the R-3.0 to R-4.0 range as the research data that we have seen on closed cell liquid foam that dries to a hard finish, that is one inch thick is somewhere between R-7-0 to R-8.0.

 

Technical Advantage Extreme Element Mitts Internal Cross-Section View

 

 

 

If you compare this to the fabric insulating layering system that we use in out Extreme Element Arctic Thermal Mitts that have also run the Iditarod Trail, our mitts provide a thermal R-Value factor of R-10.5 on both the top and bottom sides of the mitt areas that surround your hands and fingers.  Besides the "100% Thermal Windblocking, breathable and water resistant outer shell, we also provide select internal layers that are also thermal, windblocking, water resistant, reflective technology insulating and highly wicking.  As we believe that thermal wicking is extremely important, we build all of these mitts with the first two layers consisting of extremely high wicking thermal synthetic polyester material that is also USA made and US Military specification approved.  Besides the equal thickness of our insulating layering system that eliminates conductive heat loss, we also offer a wrist webbing strap and mitt opening pull tight shock cord for minimizing the effects of convective heat loss as well.

Our final thoughts are these....if you want a mitt that looks bulky in size which is assumed to keep you hands and fingers warm and dry for the base price of $85.00, then just ask another musher for the name of the company that makes the competitive mitt that we just reviewed, as they may own a pair or have used a pair in the past and they can guess from our description who's mitt it is.

If you want a pair of mitts that are built to "do what they say they will do" and will keep your hands warmer and drier longer, whether you're a musher,  an arctic explorer or just someone who likes a larger mitt that will allow you to still wear a glove inside of them in case you have to pull your hands out and have some dexterity with your gloves on for protection, then our Extreme Element Mitts might just be right for you.  

If you're searching for the cheapest price in a jumbo sized mitt, sorry, but we're not the one for you.  Because of all of the feature's, advantage's and benefit's of our mitts, let alone the average construction time that it takes for us to build a pair, averaging about 10 hours per pair, we have to sell our mitts at a fair but higher price point.  We will say however based on the feedback in our testing and from other customers, you really will get what you paid for!...and that's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

Neoprene Wrist Wraps

 

 

Neoprene is neoprene is neoprene, right?  Wrong!  

What a year to move forward into working with neoprene, but what an educational lesson at the same time.  As the Oil Companies "gassed" all of us at the pumps with the forever, except recently, rising prices.   So it went with just about everything else in our lives, which is just about everything that is affected by the cost of petroleum based products.  We started the early Spring with very favorable pricing on our neoprene raw material price quotations and of course a couple of months late when we were ready to order, new pricing came through that was 30% higher.  We screamed of course, but then had to get back down to business in finding an alternative source to at least minimize the cost increases.  Despite the pain in having to find an alternative source of supply, we did learn more about neoprene and what the difference was between Grade 1 and Grade 2 neoprene as it applied to making wrist or sweat wraps.

Some of the neoprene samples we received from suppliers seemed more like foam, then it did like the rubbery feel of good neoprene.  We also noticed that there was a distinct difference between how the "hook" material for the bonding strip on the wrist wraps, bonded to the nylon fabric that is on the one side of the neoprene sheets, between the Grade 1 and Grade 2 samples.  It would have been nice to get back the 30% cost increase that the initial Grade 1 neoprene went up with one supplier by purchasing all Grade 2 neoprene material, but the sad fact is that the "hook" strip material just does not bond or stick very well to nylon fabric used on the Grade 2 product, as it does with Grade 1 neoprene.

Another opportunity for cutting costs was to address using either 3mm or 4mm thickness neoprene, instead of the 5mm thickness that all of our pads are made from, but the lesser thicknesses just didn't offer the same level of support that we believe that you the customer is demanding.  The 3mm thick neoprene just seemed to bend and hang there and looked to us like it would eventually slide down and off of the dogs foot.  At least with our dog wrist wraps that are made with the 5mm material, the wrist will not only keep the heat in and offer good support to the lower leg, but it will stay in place until the dogs is good and ready to chew it off.

We also decided to sew all of our wrist wraps, both the 7" x 9" and 8" x 10" wraps using heavy duty 1" wide "hook" material for the bonding strip.  Some wraps out in the market place only use 3/4" wide hook material, but we felt the extra 1/4" would give you additional piece of mind knowing that the bonding surface area was increased by 25%.

The last thing that we do in the sewing process with the wrist or sweat wraps, is to sew the 1 inch wide hook strips onto the neoprene with 69 LB Bonded Nylon thread.  We use the heavy duty nylon thread to ensure that the hook strip will always stay where it's suppose to be, instead of using polyester thread that can break, which is what others choose to use.

So look for the "paw print" on the wrist wrap and you'll know you're buying the best at a great price and that's Our 2 Cents Worth!


 

 

What to Look for on the Garment Tags When Buying Winter Close-Outs


 

 

The "best" time of the year to buy your "other" new Winter Gear, we mean those other things that we do manufacture and sell, is that window of time from about the first week of February through the first week in March.  Yes the selection might not be as great as it is in say October thru December, but my god the pricing to move the inventory out the door by the bigger sporting goods chains is tremendous.  We viewed discounts ranging from 30% to 70% off of the original suggested retail pricing on warm Winter technical shirts, pullovers, jackets and other similar items, which put the items into the range of what we really think that they are worth paying for.

Since our products aren't sewn in China by the boat load, all we can do is to manufacture and sell you products that work the best and then make them available to you all of the time at a fair price.

Anyway, back to the time frame that you need to program into your head for next year and some basic things that you need to look for when you "start" to read the garment labels that are sewn into the collars or into other places on the garments.

First, always error on the side of purchasing that new thermal shirt, pullover or long underwear item that states 100% Polyester versus a similar item that is made with a percentage blend of Cotton.  Polyester is always going to be much warmer then cotton and most polyester fabrics are constructed to some extent to also wick away moisture from your skin, where as cotton will absorb moisture and stay wet.  Some polyester labels may also reflect a certain percentage of CoolMax in them, which will help in the moisture wicking area.  Good stuff.

You should also buy those close-out garments that tell you on the hang down fancy tags, that the polyester has some amount of Spandex added to it, because this will give you added stretch and comfort.  On the same tag there should be some reference to the dryness or moisture wicking capability as well, but usually a top brand name already is using a polyester material that has this capacity built in to it.

The last thing that you should look for, especially if you do a lot of activities outdoors in the Winter time in extreme temperatures, is what is the "weight" reference on the garment.  Does it say lightweight, medium weight or is it deemed heavy or expedition weight?  As a preference, I always make sure my next to the skin Winter garments say heavy weight or expedition weight, so that the garment will hopefully perform closer to my expectations.

The close-out pricing during the window of time that we mentioned above is driven by the price attracting discounts that are offered, but to walk away with what is really going to do the job for you, then you need to start reading and understanding what the various garment labels are telling you.

The temptation is always to go in and preview the close-outs and make your purchases based on eye appearance and desired color, but the reality is if you start reading the labels, for only a few bucks more you're going to purchase the garments that are going to do a better job in keeping you warm.  They may not be in the pretty colors that you desired, but then who sees them when they're covered up by your jacket anyway?  That's Our 2 Cents Worth.


 

 

The Fallacy that Soft Means Warm


 

 

In January we went up to spend a few days doing some down hill skiing at a Resort area that we like to get to at least a couple of times a year. Besides the skiing, I like to mingle in the Ski Shop so that I can read the labels on the gear that they sell, so if nothing else I can either learn something new or at least be entertained.

In reading various labels on different garments, it's amazing to see how many manufacturers try to equate the terms of "Soft" to mean that the garment is warm or going to keep you warm.  One of the items that caught my attention was a standard Neck Gaiter that was selling in the $13.00 to $15.00 price range, made from some type of fleece, with the tags hanging from the item preaching the message of "our soft feel will keep you warm" or something like that.

Well, sorry to tell you that just because the fabric used to make a garment is soft on both sides of it doesn't mean that the garment is necessarily going to keep you as warm as it should.  The other thing about a single layered fleece $13 to $15 neck gaiter, is that fact that it is not going to block out any of the wind as you're whizzing down the slopes.  We also saw the same message on some Winter mitts that highlighted their soft inner layer that was going to keep your hands warm..hah!

The insulating value of a Winter garment that is made from fleece still comes down to two factors, one is the quality of the fleece that you start with and the second is the weight class of the fleece.(100 weight - Lightweight, 200 weight - Medium weight or the 300 weight being the warmest)  Because there are so many different style finishes for good quality fleece, the softness of the finish has nothing to do with how warm the item is going to be....that's Our Two Cents Worth.


 

 

The Use of Fabric Softners on Technical Garments


 

 

There are many varying opinions about the use of fabric softners in the dryer after you have washer some of your Winter Gear and we're not quite sure that they are all true.  The one that we have heard forever is that softner sheets used in the dryer will cause your fleece to start pilling.  The only official answer that we got on this subject is from the people that work for the US mill that makes the highest quality fleeces in the World and they told use that the dryer sheets really have no effect in causing the fleece to pill.  What does cause your fleece to pill-up after the garment has been washed and dried a few times, well it is caused from the garment being manufactured from a cheap fleece material to start with.

Now, what you need to know is that "fabric softner" whether use in the washing machine cycle or used as a sheet in the dryer, will remove the "Water Proofing" treatment that many garments come with from the process that is done at the raw material production mill.

What you need to learn is to read the labels on the technical garments that you own or the new one that you are going to buy in the future and see if the tags tell you that the garment has been DWR treated?  This stands for Durable Water Resistant and if the garment has it, then the garment with shed water for some extended period of time.  If you have eliminated the DWR treatment that came with your garment, you can purchase products like NIKWAX, that you pour into the washing machine cycle with those garments requiring re-treatment and then make sure that you don't add the dryer sheet when you are drying these garments, as it will then remove the treatment that you just did to the item(s)....that's Our 2 Cents Worth.


 

 

Polar Fleece is Just Polar Fleece Right?


 

 

There is a proliferation of different cool & cold weather garments and gear that are made from fleece or polar fleece, but the price range or differential is all over the board isn't it?  Why is it that I can walk into one store that sells loged t-shirts, sweats shirts, jackets and other items and I can find a fleece pull-over under their own store name for only $15.00, but when I walk into a major sporting goods chain the nice fleece pull over that is logoed with North Face on it, is selling for about $80.00?  What's the difference as both clearly state Made in China on the sewn in garment tag?

If you understand the differences in fleece material, then the answers are quite easy, but most people don't.  Let's further complicate things before we move forward with our explanations and advice.  When I walk into the "major sporting goods" chain and see that beautiful white North Face pull over with the fancy serger stitching all over it and I read the label which tells me that it is made from Polartec(r) 100 weight fleece, is it worth the $80.00 price tag?

For our purposes there is really no difference between what people call fleece and what others call polar fleece, as it's more of a marketing terminology then anything else.  The first major sign that there is a difference in the quality of the fleece between the two garments, besides the obvious price difference, is that the one manufacturer is licensed to use the Polartec(r) fabric brand name.  Polartec(r) is a registered trademark of a USA mill that produces the fabric to the highest quality standards in the World.  We will say that they manufacturer excellent fabrics.

The next step in understanding fleece gets a little more complicated, because in good high quality fleece there are different "weight categories" and within the weight categories individual style numbers may have different individual fabric weights for the materials based on their top and bottom side finish.  Confused yet?

To keep this explanation basic, we will only further explain the "weight categories" of fleece, so when you start reading the tags that hang off of the garments, you'll at least have a better understanding of what some of the information means.  There are (3)three main weight categories for fleece and they also help to identify how warm the garment is going to be when you wear it.  The lowest category is 100 Weight which is usually good to wear under a light jacket in the Fall to keep you warm.  The second category is 200 weight fleece which offers more insulating value then 100 weight does and can be worn in layers to keep you warm under a jacket in the Winter time.  The third category is 300 weight fleece, which is the warmest and it can be worn in the Fall without a jacket, except it isn't wind blocking and it can be worn with less layers under your jacket in the Winter time, depending on the actual air temperature.

A good fleece is made from excellent high quality polyester fibers, usually 100% polyester and is made to withstand numerous washings without any issues of "pilling" or small fabric balls building up on the outside of the garment.  A cheap grade of fleece will usually start pilling after just a hand full of washes, due to the poor quality of the starting raw material.  Some say that "fabric softeners" also speed up the pilling process on cheap quality fleeces, but we have no opinion on that.

So now to answer the question of whether I should spend $80.00 on the 100 weight Polartec(r) fleece pullover with the North Face logo on it, well that depends?  I saw it in the Sporting Goods chain in the month of December, so for me I would be looking at minimum for a 200 weight pullover, but my preference would be for a 300 weight Polartec(r) fleece to make sure that it's going to keep me warm in the sub-zero weather that we have locally in the Winter time.  If you only want a fleece pullover to wear in the house in the Winter time, then the 100 weight item would probably suffice or for that matter, so too would the $15.00 fleece pullover that we mentioned earlier.

So would I purchase the 100 weight Polartec(r) fabric fleece pullover for myself for $80.00, hell no!  Why, because I also know that the lower the weight the fleece is the cheaper the raw material cost was as well.  At the beginning of the Winter season, if the pullover was manufactured in a 300 weight very warm Polartec(r) material and had a killer color and design to it, then I might consider paying about $50.00 for it, but that's just my opinion.  Remember, Chinese labor rates are pretty damm cheap as well...and that's Our 2 Cents Worth.


 

 

Why Your Winter Mitts Fail to Keep Your Hands & Fingers Warm


 

 

Do you remember when you were a kid and you had the opportunity to see your first puppet show?  Remember as someone's fingers moved up and down inside of the puppet's mouth, how with the addition of their voices they all seemed to come to life?  After all of these years I'm still trying to figure out which came first the puppet or the mitten, as with either one of them they bend and flex so easily that perhaps in later life all you need to play puppet show is to put on your Winter mitt, start moving your fingers and start talking?

Winter mitts, including probably the ones that you own are primarily designed for only one purpose and that is to be extremely flexible so that you can grip an object when you are wearing them on your hand.  The other primary design purpose of a Winter mitt in the majority of them, is to grab your attention by how "pretty" they look cosmetically on the outside of them.  If you ever noticed the innovation process in most Winter mitts, the greatest thing that changes from season to season is the stitching on the outside, the color tones of the materials used and the type of new gripping material that is sewn on the bottom of the hand area, right?

Have you ever read the labels on any of the mitts that you have purchased in the past, except on ours, where the manufacturer actually tells your what the actual "thermal R-value" of insulation that the mitts contain?  The answer is probably never for two reasons, one the manufacturer does not provide it and number two is because even if they did you probably don't read the labels anyway.

The biggest reason why Winter mitts fail is based on their forever design of giving you about 3/8" of insulation or filler material on the bottom side of the hand and  perhaps 3/4" or more on the top side of the mitt.  Your keen eye is trained to look at the thickness on the top of the mitt and then the bells and whistles go off in your head and you register the thought that the mitts must be warm, right?  You also support your conclusion based on trying the mitts on in the store where the temperature is 72 degrees F and your hands are instantly sweaty, right?  Yup, must be warm!  Lets also not forget that because the mitts that you've just tried on have a brand named fancy logo stitched to the outer shell material and they are the highest priced mitts on the shelf, well, oh hell yes these are the ones for me.

We've all done this in the past, not only with mitts but with other garments as well.  I still have the last pair of $125.00 - $150.00 North Face Goose Down mitts that I bought several years ago, that only ended up keeping my hands warm during Winter down hill skiing, by having to wear another pair of lined mitts on my hands and then inserting them into my expensive goose down mitts.  That was the straw that broke the camels back and that led us to design and built mitts that actually work!

Other reasons that your Winter mitts don't keep your hands warm besides the inherent design flaw of improper distribution of the insulating material within the mitts:  (you need a mitt that provides at least as much under the hand of the correct material specifications, so that it eliminates the massive amount of conductive heat loss that occurs)

  • The nylon outer shell material on most mitts may be effective in blocking some of the wind, but it adds zero thermal insulating value to the mitt and eventually the cold air penetrates into the inner shells insulating material further eliminating any stored hear.
  • Some mitt manufacturers add "foam rubber" to the inner layer of their mitts, perhaps for some nominal amount of insulation value and for making their mitt look thick and bulky, however the foam rubber acts as a good sponge for absorbing and storing the moisture that builds up.
  • Some mitt manufacturers wrap and seal the inner layer that surrounds your hand with plastic so that it traps the hand's heat longer.  In reality, all this does is cause the moisture to build up and cool your hands off faster.
  • The inner layer that surrounds your hands on a lot of mitts is to feel extra "soft" rather then performing the real function of wicking the moisture away from your hands and fingers.

Our website supplies other information as to why your hands get cold and it certainly is not just limited to the design failure in most mitts....and that's Our 2 Cents Worth.


 

 

What do we consider to be Cold Winter Weather?


 

 

In our website we reference the terms of "cold weather gear" or "Winter Gear" or even words such as the "cold weather months",  but what do we really consider these temperatures and conditions to be, in relationship to how we design and develop our Technical Advantage Gear & Accessories?

When we are talking in terms of Cold Winter Weather, we are not talking about the Southern part of the U.S. where the average Winter temperature is in the 50's and 60's F and you experience a hand full of days where the temperatures might dip down into the upper 30's.  No, we are talking about the geographical States that start averaging temperatures in the teens & twenties F during December and then start dropping well below zero during the month of January and then gradually start to warm back into the teens and twenties in February and the twenties and thirties usually by March.  

Along with these temperature senerio's, we are also talking about those same areas that also get in excess of 60 inches of snow on average per year, or perhaps even more if they happen to be in snow belt affected area's like north a few hours from where we're located.  Then you're talking the cold temperatures and average snow falls in excess of 12 to 14 feet of snow.  This is what we consider Cold Winter Weather and these are the minimal conditions that we have designed our gear for in keeping your warmer - longer.

The States that really epitomize these average Winter conditions each year, are our neighbors in Minnesota, or course here in Wisconsin, the UP of Michigan and you can't forget about parts of the Dakota's, Montana and yes then there is Alaska as well.

From personal experiences, I will say that once you've really experienced the "real cold" Winter weather, you'll never forget that facing burning, finger and toe freezing experience.  Have you ever met an old duffer who likes to talk in terms of "Why I remember when....", well I guess I remember when I lived in North Dakota during the early 1980's and we had a stretch of cold Winter weather, six weeks to be exact where the day time highs ranged between -15F to -50F below zero.  A couple of years later I can remember being in Saskatchewan were it was so darn cold that they had to cancel Halloween and a good face burn took less then thirty seconds.  But the all time winner for cold temperatures that I still remember, was driving back to North Dakota on a business trip during the mid 1990's and getting stranded in a major blizzard that shut down everything between Fargo and Grand Forks for three days, where the wind chilled temperatures were around -100 degrees F below zero.  I spent a month at the Holiday Inn in Grand Forks during those three days.

We dare say that if you live in an area where the lowest the temperatures ever get in the Winter months is only in the 30's F and 40's F, then unless you really have extremely poor blood circulation or other major health problems that affect your bodies heat generation, then our Winter garments are probably going to be "too" warm for you.  If you live in the areas that I mentioned as the prime cold Winter weather areas or States, then when the temperature's start dropping into the teens and twenties above, our gear is just getting ripe to start wearing....and that's Our 2 Cents Worth.


 

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