The Indestructible Puffer. Built from the strongest fibre ever created, and 15x stronger than steel.
We’ve taken the puffer jacket – traditionally one of the weakest and most delicate pieces of clothing you can buy – and rebuilt it from the strongest fibre ever made. Every fibre on the outside of the jacket is up to 15x stronger than steel, so even if you were wearing a steel-plated jacket that was the same weight, the Indestructible Puffer would be 15x stronger. The material we’ve used is so tough it was originally used in body armour, anti-ballistic vehicle armour, mooring systems for giant container ships, and ropes used to tie down oil rigs in violent, icy seas. In early tests the mooring lines were so strong they broke the machines that were meant to be testing them, and the body armour stopped bullets from a Kalashnikov. So when we went to build the toughest puffer jacket ever created, there was only ever one material we could make it out of. Built to see you down to -40°C the jacket comes in one colour, black. And one mode, tough.
Made from a material 15x stronger than steel
The Indestructible Puffer is made from Dyneema which is the single strongest fibre known to man today. If you’re into chemistry, it’s an ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene that combines extreme strength with very low weight. On a weight for weight basis Dyneema is up to 15x stronger than steel and 40% stronger than high-strength aramid fibres. While it’s often used as a composite – an ingredient added to other materials to make them exceptionally strong – the entire outside of this jacket is made from 100% Dyneema.
Why you find Dyneema in survival situations
To understand just how tough Dyneema is you have to look at how it’s being deployed in the world today. It’s used to make bullet resistant vests, armour and helmets. It’s used in panels on tanks to protect against stronger ballistic threats like anti-tank projectiles. And you’ll find it in bulletproof cockpit doors in most commercial planes in the US. Unlike other high-strength materials it’s so light it floats on water, and it’s resistant to the long-term effects of moisture, UV light and chemicals, which is why it’s now also being used in artificial limbs.
What this jacket can survive
We wanted to create a jacket that could withstand the toughest challenges in the coldest places on Earth. Nature claws at you, hits you and freezes you. So in our testing we exposed the puffer jacket to the shearing, tearing, and blunt-force traumas that you’ll get in the real world from rocks, ice, trees, and falls. Dyneema is so strong this jacket is almost impossible to rip. Blunt-force trauma will have almost no impact on it other than marking it. And our knife slash test shows what damage the sharpest rocks would be likely to inflict.
The colder it gets the stronger it gets
The colder Dyneema gets, the stronger it gets, which is why it’s used to make the mooring lines on giant ships and deep-water oil rigs that have to perform in freezing seas. A mooring line on a winch buried under heavy ice on a ship sailing in extreme conditions simply can’t fail. As the temperature drops down to -50°C the Dyneema ropes gain 5-10% strength. Projections show that the rope would gain even more strength if it dropped to -150°C. And it doesn’t just get stronger, it also loses no strength in relation to abrasion resistance or cutting.
Why normal puffer jackets fail
Most puffer jackets are built to be as light as possible, so the outsides are typically made from super lightweight polyester and nylon. The trade-off for this weight saving is that they are incredibly easy to tear and snag. And once you have a rip, or the seams have started to go, or the tiny spines of down have poked their way through the lightweight outer layer, it’s simply an escape hatch for the feathers inside, and the jackets destroy themselves from the inside out.
This is not a lightweight puffer jacket
The Indestructible Puffer is very different to a lightweight packable down jacket, in the same way that climbing into a tank is different from climbing into a car. It’s not going to rip apart after a year or two, or start leaking feathers, and you won’t want to try and pack it away into its own pocket because it will fight you. This is built for the hardest challenges in the toughest places, which is why it weighs 2,000 grams and is built to keep you warm at -40°C.
What the jacket feels like
The outside of the jacket feels like denim on a cold day. It’s soft and smooth to the touch, but you can still feel a light grain under your fingers. If you’ve ever come across ultra-lightweight Dyneema used in backpacks you’ll know it feels and sounds a bit like paper. But the material we use is simply a different species. It’s called Dyneema Black which is far stronger and far thicker because it’s spun then woven, and it’s never been used for clothing before. The underside of the jacket next to your skin is soft and lined.
Four outside pockets built for warmth and stealth
The jacket comes with two side pockets and two invisible pockets on the chest. The chest pockets are large enough for wallets, cards, passports and keys, and are easy to use when you’re wearing a backpack. The side pockets are lined with fleece to keep your hands warm without gloves on, and big enough to fit your hands with gloves on.
In the coldest place on earth, this is the strongest jacket
With winters getting a little crazier, the jacket is built to see you down to -40°C. And if the temperature starts dropping again, the jacket just gets stronger, making it unlike any other material ever created. The lowest temperature recorded at ground level on Earth was -89°C in the Soviet Vostok Station in Antarctica. It’s here that the Indestructible Puffer comes into its own. In the coldest temperature ever recorded, this would be the strongest jacket ever made, and still getting stronger.
Built to work in regular cold too
The jacket is insulated and triple-lined. It’s black as that retains most heat. The baffles are large to reduce the potential for cold spots. And the hood covers most of your face. Try this on indoors and you’ll see pretty quickly that it will do the job you need it to do. Of course, the heat you generate through movement and what you layer the jacket with will always have a profound impact on how hot or cold you feel – explorers pushing hard in the Arctic have been known to strip down to their t shirts. But this is a jacket you can take anywhere.
Why you probably haven’t heard of Dyneema before
The reputations of materials are created over decades of exposure, heavy marketing spend, or moments in history like the Nylon riots in 1945 that created brand recognition overnight. Dyneema has had none of these things. But there’s a difference between how well something performs and how well known it is, and sometimes the best things are secret. Whether it’s famous or not, this is currently the strongest fibre on Earth that you can build a piece of clothing out of.
Dyneema has tethered satellites and pulled up shipwrecks
Instead of using the lightest possible outer layer, we’ve built our jacket from the same material that was used to make the ropes that pulled up the Concordia cruise ship when it sank. It’s the same material used to create a 30km long tether designed to pull a capsule back down from space – despite reaching space it weighed just 5.5kg and only needed to be 0.5mm thick. And it’s the same material being used to create 1 centimetre thick tsunami barriers to stop 20 metre waves.
What the jacket can’t survive
The short answer is it won’t survive bullets or the inside of a volcano. Yet. This is a puffer jacket designed to perform in the toughest environments and coldest conditions on Earth. But like any puffer it is not built for extreme heat, so don’t fire a flamethrower at it. And we designed it for adventure not for warzones. So while this is the strongest Dyneema ever used in a jacket, it won’t stop bullets. You need more layers of Dyneema for that.
Earth never reaches dyneema’s melting point
Dyneema’s melting point is a subject of discussion online as it’s lower than the polyester used in most clothing today, and also the aramid fibres used in military gear. But to put it in context we’d have to return to the Hadean period of Earth around 4.5 billion years ago to find air temperatures that would melt it. The melting point of Dyneema is around 130°C, which is 73 degrees above the hottest air temperature ever recorded on Earth of 56.7°C in Death Valley, California.
Why we don’t use down
Over 80% of the down in jackets worldwide comes from ducks kept in industrial farms in China. Practises include ducks being plucked alive and feathers being harvested from force-fed ducks bred to produce foie gras. With complex international supply chains that cross cultures and borders that are hard to police, the best anyone can guarantee is that the ducks they used were already dead when they plucked them. So the only real way to ensure you don’t harm ducks, is by not using them.
Our insulation is made from recycled plastic
Instead of pulling feathers out of ducks, we pull plastic out of used plastic bottles and turn them into insulating synthetic fibres. Every single jacket uses around 30 half-litre recycled plastic bottles. Staying warm is all about trapping as many pockets of air next to your body as possible, so these synthetic fibres are built to be hollow, which means you’ll automatically have millions of air pockets trapped next to your skin. And as the curl of the fibres traps more air than straight fibres, the microscopic texture of the fibre itself also retains heat.
How plastic is turned into insulation
To turn recycled plastic bottles into insulation we work with pioneers in thermal insulation based in Milan. They’ve been working on recycled fibres and using plastic bottles in their technology since the 1980s, well before it was the cool or right thing to do. They use a process called mechanical recycling to blend the bottles, eliminating the need for hazardous chemicals and creating synthetic fibres that have the highest loft for the lowest weight, just like down.
Each type of fibre does a different job
Our insulation is made from a blend of different fibres each with their own ‘multi-shape’ structure. Some are designed for puffiness, others for resilience or thermal efficiency. But it's blending them together that gives it the best performance on the market for any synthetic fibre – making the insulation 20% puffier and you 10% warmer than its closest competitor. And while synthetic fibres used to have the same clumping problem as down, making each fibre a different shape stops them linking together and clumping like down does.
How the insulation performs against down
While down traps heat well, it doesn’t breathe well. So it’s not the ideal option if you’re working hard. If you’re hiking, climbing or skiing our insulation will do a better job of regulating your body temperature, as it will breathe better and won’t hold onto sweat. And while down will win on a ‘warmth to weight’ ratio if you’re trying to make the world’s lightest jacket, we’re not. This is an Indestructible Puffer, not a weight saving exercise. The synthetic insulation will keep you just as warm at -40°C, and only weigh a few hundred grams more.
Ultra-durable detailing throughout the jacket
The front zipper is a heavy-duty, two-way zipper so you can undo the jacket from the top and the bottom at the same time. A large storm flap and brass press studs with a matte black finish help secure the jacket in place. You’ll find adjusters on the inside hem to tighten the jacket at the waist. These are also built from metal, work with a double pincer action, and come with a cord adjuster built from Cordura. And on the inside of the jacket you’ll find two more pockets, one on either side of your chest.
Military grade belt tape at the wrists
On each wrist you’ll find a super strong, elastic, military-grade belt tape built with an abrasion resistant pull tab made from Cordura. To tighten the wrist, you just pull the elasticated belt out of its Dyneema housing and attach it with Velcro. These are built to tighten hard to let as little air as possible get between your jacket and your hands or gloves.
Unrippable protection for your head
At the side and back of the hood you’ll find extra-thick, elasticated drawcord adjusters with knotted, rubberised ends to tighten it up. The hood is lined on the inside just like the rest of the jacket so it’s soft against your face and skin. The jacket has a high collar to insulate you in the harshest conditions, and it’s double-lined with a soft, brushed fabric against your neck, nose and mouth.
Built to mimic the indestructible cockroach
Design briefs don’t normally start with a cockroach. But this isn’t most jackets. And the indestructibility of the cockroach is yet to be matched. They’ve survived everything from the fallout of nuclear explosions to the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs, creating a blast equivalent of dropping 100 trillion tonnes of TNT. On a long enough timescale everything man has ever built will turn to dust. So our aim is to make clothing that works on different timescales to anything else out there, just like the cockroach.
A film from 5,000 years in the future
In 1991 a man’s body was found in the Ötzal Alps between Austria and Italy. One of the oldest natural mummies ever discovered, he had died more than 5,000 years earlier before being frozen and preserved in a glacier. He became known as Ötzi the Iceman. He was kitted out with a copper axe, a cloak made from woven grass, a bearskin cap and waterproof shoes made from deer hide and tree bark. One day in the far future, one of our Indestructible Puffer jackets will be dug up by humans as far removed from us as we are from Ötzi the Iceman – and they’ll have to figure out who built it and why.
Vollebak aims to do for outdoor clothing what Tesla did for cars and El Bulli did for food, using science, wit and imagination to create products no-one thought possible.