It’s Grim Up North: Montane/PrimaLoft launch event report

Giant snow globes, Hadrian’s Wall and craft beer… T&M joins Montane and PrimaLoft for the UK launch of ThermoPlume…

Trek & Mountain was recently invited to a press event in Newcastle billed as ‘It’s Grim Up North’ and, with a title like that, how could we possibly turn it down? Our hosts were leading British outdoors brand Montane and insulation experts PrimaLoft, and between them they would be presenting two new jackets – the men’s Icarus, and women’s Phoenix – which are the first products available in the UK that utilise PrimaLoft’s new ThermoPlume technology.

Thermoplume is the latest generation of synthetic insulation from PrimaLoft which imitates the look and behaviour of real down. The advantages are obvious: it can be produced much more cheaply than real down, without the ethical concerns that go hand-in-hand with the live bird industry; it has the benefits of fully-synthetic insulation i.e. it keeps you warm when wet, and dries out quicker than down; additionally, ThermoPlume can be used in the same machines that are used to blow down into products, so factories don’t need to re-tool. PrimaLoft say that their product “delivers fluidity, hand-feel, aesthetics and performance characteristics of goose down”, and in terms of performance, ThermoPlume currently delivers the equivalent of 550 fill power down.

Florian from PrimaLoft explains the benefits of ThermoPlume

But back to our trip! After meeting up with Florian and Wim from PrimaLoft at Amsterdam Schiphol airport (T&M was flying in from our base in the Alps), the folks at Montane whipped us over to the Wylam Brewery at Palace of Arts in the heart of Newcastle. This lovely old building is the last one standing from the 1929 North East Exhibition, and now houses the Wylam brewery itself, a tap room and even live music venue within its walls. After cakes and coffee, it was time to get down to business and hear about the two new Montane products that use PrimaLoft’s ThermoPlume – the Icarus (men’s) and Phoenix (women’s) – and with Montane marketing manager Terry Stephenson on modelling duties, we were given the first look of this new micro-baffle style jacket. Montane already have several popular models of micro-baffle jacket, such as the Featherlite Down Jacket (one of our favourites), and the new ThermoPlume jackets follow the general style of these. The outer of the Icarus and Phoenix jackets are made of windproof and water-resistant Pertex Quantum ECO fabric, there are three pockets (two handwarmers and one on the chest) on the outside and a hood that’ll fit underneath a helmet. Not forgetting the all-important ThermoPlume insulation inside, of course!

Inside the life-sized snow globe

Presentation over, it was time to go outside and claim our very own jacket samples to test out the following day.. but first we had to run the gauntlet of the giant snow dome that our hosts had requisitioned for the event. Ever mindful of a good photo opportunity, the idea of filling the dome (complete with fans) with ThermoPlume insulation was the idea of PrimaLoft’s PR expert, Sue Reay of East River PR, and it definitely got everyone laughing as we took our turns to enter the dome, retrieve our individually-named jackets, and emerge looking like half-plucked Christmas turkeys!

Testing weather 
The next day dawned, and true to the promise, it really was grim. Persistent drizzle was coming down as we were mini-bused from our hotel to the Sill National Landscape Discovery Centre in Northumberland. This recently-completed project combines a hostel, a learning centre and café on a site not far from Hadrian’s Wall, and the building itself seems to merge seamlessly with the landscape around it. 

Montane’s Terry Stephenson and Trek & Mountain’s Chris Kempster heading out to test the Icarus Jacket

Trek & Mountain’s representatives, Chris and Amanda, donned their test jackets and headed out into the rain with waterproofs firmly packed in our sacks, determined to test out the garment’s capabilities to the full. A mere 10 minutes later we were hiking alongside Hadrian’s Wall itself and within another 20 minutes we were at the picturesque Highshield Crags (also a slightly overgrown climbing venue) and Crag Lough lake. With a strong wind blowing and the drizzle getting ever heavier, the Icarus and Phoenix Jackets were certainly being put to the test. We stopped at the famous Sycamore Gap (from ‘Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves’ fame), to take some photos, before deciding that caked and coffee back at the Discovery Centre sounded too tempting a prospect to put off any longer.

Arriving back in the sanctuary of The Sill, we took off our jackets to find that we were completely dry underneath. We’d been promised that these latest generation jackets would keep us warm even when wet – which they did – but with such rainy weather we hadn’t expected them to keep us totally dry as well. Top marks!

The ‘It’s Grim Up North’ event had been a lot of fun and, as it turned out, the weather had proved absolutely spot on for showing off the properties of these jackets, and in particular, the insulation inside them. For anyone with the remotest interest in the welfare of animals (and hopefully that’s all of you!) this new generation of down-imitating insulation has got to be of interest, and of course those that baulk at the price of down-filled insulated jackets should be pretty pleased too. The jackets themselves certainly impressed at their first showing, and you can read our full review of the Icarus and Phoenix in the Nov/Dec edition of Trek & Mountain, on sale next week!

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