FrontRunners: Outerwear Limits

  • William Kissel

You cannot help but wonder what Jacques Cousteau would have thought of National Geographic’s new seafaring Tempest 1 jacket (800.437.5521, www.nationalgeographic.com). This revolutionary outerwear, available by special order, inflates into a life vest when immersed in water and is equipped with an emergency light source for those dark and stormy nights. The jacket’s $1,200 price would surely seem a paltry sum if you ever found yourself tossed overboard in rough seas.

No company seems more suited for testing the limits of performance outerwear than National Geographic, which has been leading expeditions to the farthest and deepest reaches of the planet since 1888. However, this is the first time in the 114-year history of the Washington, D.C., research organization that it has put its name on a collection of clothing. Proceeds from the sales of the clothing will support exploration, conservation, research, and education programs.

Although much of the 260-piece collection is intended for a mainstream audience not likely to venture far from home, the outerwear, which is made in Trento, Italy, by Bailo SpA, is designed with the adventurer in mind.  To ensure performance under pressure, the products are field tested by ocean explorers. “Our outdoor apparel is a natural extension of the National Geographic lifestyle,” says John Dumbacher, senior vice president of licensing. “Who better to offer input and advice on its direction than our own team of internationally renowned writers, photographers, and scientific explorers?” Who else, indeed?

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