The Inside Scoop: Marmot

OER speaks to Hugh Harris, Sales Director of Marmot UK, about their exciting new insulation technology.

Can you introduce yourself and your role with Marmot?
I’m Hugh Harris, the Sales Director for Marmot UK. We’ve been a wholly owned branch of Marmot’s European subsidiary since 2009 and represent both Marmot and ExOfficio in the UK and Ireland. Both of which are now owned by Newell Brands and form the core of their Technical Apparel Platform.

And for readers that don’t deal with Marmot, can you introduce the brand?
In April 1971, University of California Santa Cruz students Eric Reynolds and Dave Huntley were in Alaska’s Juneau Icefield on a school Glaciology project. It was there on a glacier that the idea of a Marmot Club began. The name ‘Marmot’ refers to a group of highly social, large ground squirrels that live in mountainous areas.

To become a Marmot, you had to climb a glaciated peak with another Marmot. One of the rules of the club was that everyone was President. Most of the other rules dealt with a collegiate fascination for bodily functions.

Throughout that summer and over the next 2 years, Eric and Dave also began making prototypes of down products in their dorm room. Their first products were a down vest, a sweater and a parka and, later, 3 down sleeping bags. The warmest bag, the PIKA (now known as the CWM) was rated at -40 degrees C.

In the winter of 1973, Eric did an ascent of the Grand Teton in Wyoming with Tom Boyce of Grand Junction, Colorado. The following spring, Eric and Dave joined Tom in Grand Junction where they rented a 100 year old stone building near downtown and opened a rental and retail shop under the name of Marmot Mountain Works. They taught cross-country skiing in the winter to get by. Thus, in the spring of 1974, Marmot the company was born.

That autumn, Tom was climbing in Peru when he met famed adventure filmmaker Mike Hoover. A few weeks after his return, Tom received a call from Mike. He was calling on behalf of 20th Century Fox who were filming a movie called The Eiger Sanction with Clint Eastwood, and needed 108 very puffy jackets. “No problem”, said Tom, “we were working on that when you called.” Well, they weren’t, but then they did. Within a week, the Marmots had designed the Golden Mantle (very puffy jacket). Marmot was now in the movies. It also had its biggest order to date.

In 1976, another meeting would change the future of Marmot when Eric met Joe Tanner of W.L. Gore & Associates. Eric was one of the first in the US to see a new concept in outdoor performance fabric called Gore-Tex. He was intrigued, and within a couple of weeks had sewn prototype sleeping bags using the new Gore-Tex fabric for field testing. He and Dave proceeded to spend 7 nights in a commercial frozen meat locker comparing bags with and without the Gore-Tex fabric as well as testing the bags under fire sprinklers. They liked what they saw and immediately changed everything in the line to Gore-Tex fabric. Today, Marmot is the oldest customer of W.L. Gore in the world outdoor market.

Marmot has grown quite a bit since its humble beginnings in 1974. We sell our products in over 60 countries worldwide and have a turnover approaching $200 million. But one thing has never changed; our commitment to designing the highest quality performance product.

We understand that you’re in the process of launching an exciting new insulation material. Can you tell us a little about it?
New for autumn 2017, in collaboration with 3M Thinsulate™, Marmot is launching Marmot Featherless Insulation: a loose-fill insulation scientifically designed to replace natural down. 3M has been a leader in synthetic insulation since the 1970s with their launch of the original Thinsulate. We’ve been working with them for the last 3 years to create the next generation.

How does it actually work?
It’s a proprietary blend of multi denier synthetic micro fibres in a loose fill that truly mimics natural down by creating loft to trap body heat. Unlike other loose fills on the market, the nature of the fibre blend also gives the insulation stability, which allows the insulation to work in a wide range of designs from lightly insulated jackets to wider baffled cold weather parkas. In thermal tests it offers superior levels of heat retention, achieving some exceptional CLO (warmth) values. All the fibres are hydrophobic which allows them to resist moisture and perform when wet, and it’s completely hypoallergenic.

And how does it perform in comparison to traditional down insulation?
It has the look, feel and touch of down. If you hold a Marmot jacket containing Featherless Insulation, and aren’t told it contains a synthetic fill, you’d swear it was down. It has a soft supple feel, the equivalent warmth of 700 fill down, is highly compressible and compactable, has the moisture resistance of a synthetic, and is easily machine washable.

What sort of eco credentials does this new technology have?
It’s BlueSign approved insulation and contains zero feathers so is preferred by ducks and geese everywhere!

Which products will we be seeing it in?
The global line has 9 jackets for men and 8 for women in the autumn 2017 collection. The most popular styles in the UK market are the:
• Marmot Featherless Hoody and Jacket – RRP £180/£160
• Solus Featherless Jacket – RRP £150
• Women’s Marmot Featherless Hoody and Jacket – RRP £180/£160
• Women’s Solus Featherless Jacket – RRP £150

And where do you feel it will particularly perform well?
This technology is perfect for the UK’s damp and unpredictable climate. It has the perfect level of warmth for comfort, and works when wet.

Tell us why retailers should stock Featherless?
It offers the first true performance alternative to down, and at a realistic price.