Among the product innovations in recent decades, the "lightening" of stuff has been a significant advance. At all levels, the volume and weight of packs and harneses have been reduced. Gear has lost mass, and our approach to the mountain has also changed.
Behind these new light toys is an elaborate, hidden research and development process. We caught up with Robert McAloney and Irene Marcotti, Product Development Manager and Product Designer at Blue Ice.
What is it that drives weight innovation?
New materials like Dyneema have driven much of this. It’s strength to weight ration is spectacular, and it applications are diverse.
Are there constraints in the development and manufacture of this type of product?
- Three aspects constrain the process: durability, weight and price. It is very difficult to find balance between these three points.
- Functionality is another constraint, really: How will the product be used and who is it for? This may affect the amount and type of accessories on the product. So we have to make choices and prioritize.
What about warranty standards?
The Choucas Light meets the same standards of durability as any other harness. So from this point of view, there is no difference. Our main concern as a brand is to ensure that this durability requirement is sustainable over time. As such we are extremely attentive to field-testing, and feedback from our customers, athletes and ambassadors.
How do you choose the materials?
We look for materials that meet specific needs, like harness wicks. We find this with suppliers who are building in other industries. Then we get samples for testing the rigidity, and the suitability with other materials (straps for example), etc.
Do you have any tips regarding “light” products?
Take time to choose your product according to your specialization and frequency of use. You will be surprised to find that a "light" harness or bag is just as effective, and as comfortable as their more robust cousins ...
“Light" products still have innovations to come, and many trips between the lab and the field. But at the foot of Mont Blanc the Warthog bag, the Choucas harness and the Bluebird piolet have taken advantage of practice and design.