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Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Aero-Gel on 03/21/2013 23:43:25 MDT Print View

Aero-Gel is the lightest man-made insulation, as far as I know. Are there different types of Aero-Gel? i.e., some more rigid, some very flexibe that will regain loft after compression, etc.

I ask because I wonder why it has never been used in winter boot insulation even if it has very little "rebound" after compression. Suerly it could be used in a toe box and heel area where it will not be compressed due to the rigid structures in those areas.

My dream use of Aero-Gels is in a self inflating mattress like a Thermarest Prolite, (at least in the foam void areas) for extending it into shoulder season use.

Or am I wishing for too much? Is Aero-Gel like Never Wet, just a backpacker's wet dream that won't make it to market?

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Aero-Gel on 03/22/2013 00:07:46 MDT Print View

for a little while Pacific Outdoor made the Hyper High Mountain Sleeping Mat which used aerogel in a section of the pad. This pad was reviewed at BGT. There have also been some attempts to use it in other things. I have seen some shoe inserts and there was a mountain parka. besides being rather fragile the other issue is aero-gel is very expensive.


Edited by verber on 03/22/2013 00:10:43 MDT.

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Aero-Gel on 03/22/2013 00:11:02 MDT Print View

I have some "Toasty Feet" insoles made of aero-gel for snowshoeing but they are not supportive in anyway. Most other hiker-oriented insoles are rigid with a pronounced arch. Not these basically flat slabs of aerogel but for lightweight hiking in the snow, they work. Bought them on Amazon.

POE put aerogel in the center of a sleeping pad as the "Hyperlite". Not sure what became of it.

Add some limitations discussed in comments:

ed: add

Edited by hknewman on 03/22/2013 00:15:12 MDT.

Richard Fischel
vasque radiators on 03/22/2013 07:57:34 MDT Print View

had aerogel insulation. it was an *interesting* mountaineering boot that never really caught on and marked the end of the boot-makers foray into dbl boots.

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Aero-Gel on 03/22/2013 10:24:05 MDT Print View


I did a lot of research into aerogel thinking it was underutilized in outdoor gear but eventually came to the conclusion that the technology isn't ready yet, especially for light weight applications.

First aerogels are typically very hard but brittle. Think the consistency of a sugar cube (and they crumble the same way if they get wet). So as a raw material they aren't the best for flexible or damp conditions. Aerogels need to be waterproofed (which can be done easily now) but the flexibility is much harder to over come.

The current solutions are to crumble up the aerogel and embed it into some type of thick fibrous fabric. This dramatically increases the insulation value of the fabric batting but significantly reduces the insulation value of the aerogel. The fabric then needs to be sealed because any raw edges produce a lot of small particulate aerogel dust which is bad for respiratory health. Even as a fabric though it's still fairly stiff.

More exotic solutions involve vacuum sealing aerogel into channels (similar to sewn through down baffles) which preserves much of the high insulation and adds a minor amount of flexibility.

Basically it's an amazing material but the constraints of the material require heavy solutions that make it no better (if not worse) than current down, synthetic, or sleeping pad solutions. That said, it does work great as insulating insoles for shoes and boots (both for cold and hot environments).

There have been some recent developments in flexible aerogels where they use polymers instead of silica which may result in some amazingly warm CCF pads and maybe paneling for insulation garments (i'm thinking aerogel panels for shoulders to maintain warmth while compressed by packs). Unfortunately these new aerogels are probably 5+ years away from commercialization and probably 10+ before they trickle into the outdoor gear industry (including DIY and intrepid cottage manufacturers).

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
OK on 03/22/2013 12:49:39 MDT Print View

Thanks guys. I now understand its properties a lot bettter.