Helite readies wearable skiing airbag for 2014 Winter Olympics
By C.C. Weiss February 18, 2013
We've been following the progression of the ski airbag from Italian company Dainese for over a year. It turns out Dainese will have some competition from its neighbors in France. Helite, a company that specializes in equestrian airbag vests, is developing its own protective skiing airbag.
While Helite does not specialize in other ski gear or clothing, it is adapting the airbag systems from its equestrian and motorcycle designs to ski racing.
Not to be confused with the growing number of avalanche airbags, Helite's system is being developed for use with hard, stable snow and fast speeds – so it's designed to protect racers from injuries during falls. Helite says that the additional protection should inspire more confidence in racers, which is important in a sport that hinges on fractions of a second.
In contrast to its equestrian version, which uses a mechanical activation mechanism that pulls into action when the rider falls off the horse, the ski design will work electronically. A series of accelerometers and sensors will detect when the skier is falling, kicking the inflation mechanism into action. A CO2 canister will then fill up the air bags, covering the skier in a thick, protective vest within about 100 milliseconds.
Given Helite's competitive focus, R&D isn't being conducted in the backcountry with big-name ski-film stars but in conjunction with the French national skicross team. The company is working with the team in testing, collecting data and improving the design. Like Dainese, Helite hopes to have its ski airbag system ready by the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Helite displayed a prototype of its ski airbag at the ISPO Munich show earlier this month. It envisions the system being customizable, allowing the consumer to choose different configurations. The primary airbag inflates around the chest, neck and back, but additional airbags can be used to protect the waist, hips, etc.
Helite says that the system it is working on is strictly for competition. However, the company works with a variety of manufacturing partners, so should the airbag prove successful, perhaps someone will pursue different sectors of the sport (e.g. big mountain skiing, freestyle, etc.). An airbag that can protect from both falls and avalanche drownings seems like a product that could be particularly useful for backcountry skiing on big, dangerous terrain.
While at the ISPO show, I got the chance to try out the Helite airbag system. Since the ski system isn't ready for primetime, I buckled into the equestrian vest and let them pull the activation cord. Within well under a second, the inflated vest was clamping down on my torso like a hungry boa constrictor. The speed of activation, firmness of the inflated vest and close-to-body nature of the design definitely felt sufficient to prevent some bruises and breaks (though standing still on a show floor isn't exactly scientific research). You can see a short clip of that experience below. The second video is a look at how the ski system will operate on the mountain.
Hydrosleeve hydration armband offers refreshment on the run
By Paul Ridden February 18, 2013
Carrying a bottle of refreshing water with you on long runs can be an awkward affair. Kenmark Sports attempted to make hydration-on-the-go a little easier last year with its Armband Water Bottle, but it still looks to be a rather bulky, cumbersome and sloshy option. Justin Lynch has designed a new slimline runner-specific hydration system called the Hydrosleeve that allows runners to hydrate without breaking stride, while also taking care of the sloshing issue.
The patent-pending Hydrosleeve hands-free liquid delivery system is made from high quality synthetics, including faux suede, double-loop Lycra, and silicone. A 4.5 x 5.5-inch (114.3 x 139.7 mm) therma-cool lined pouch is incorporated into an adjustable strap that's secured around the upper arm with micro Velcro. Inside the pouch you'll find a BPA-free, removable and reusable TPU bladder that holds up to 7 fluid ounces (0.2 liters) of liquid and is designed to compress down as the wearer hydrates during a run to keep the sloshing of its contents to a minimum.
The bladder has a heavy duty zipp-lock for top-ups and cleaning, and there's a small pocket in the face of the pouch for storage.
"The pocket is big enough to hold a single car key or 2 small house keys," Lynch told us. "It can fit lip-gloss, an energy gel shot or an iPod nano. The problem is the more you put in the pocket, the more bulky the sleeve becomes. I designed the sleeve to hold just the right amount of liquid and nothing more. That way it feels small and light on your arm."
The Hydrosleeve has an empty weight of 8 oz (0.2 kg) and features a pressure valve angled at 15 degrees (which allows liquid to flow out while preventing air from entering the bladder) that can be rotated for left or right arm placement.
Lynch says that the current design should provide enough arm-based refreshment for a 3 to 6 mile run, but the company has plans to make a 10 floz (0.29 liter) Hydrosleeve available at some point in the future. At the moment, though, all efforts are geared toward getting the current model to market.
To that end, the Hydrosleeve team of Justin and Melinda Lynch, Tyler Lynch and Lindsay Price has sprinted onto crowdfunding site Indiegogo to make the leap from working prototype to manufacture and widespread availability. At the time of writing, a few early bird Hydrosleeves are still available for a pledge of US$30. Once they're gone, runners will need to cough up at least $39 to secure a single armband hydration system.
Lynch told us that whether the funding campaign reaches its goal or not, Hydrosleeve will be available by July and will come in three sizes, all with a black outer sleeve sporting accents in a choice of three different colors.
At the moment, all materials are sourced in China, which also where the Hydrosleeves are going to be manufactured – but that could change later on.
"I have tried to source materials here in the U.S. and have found many difficulties working with U.S. manufacturers," the company's founder and CEO told us. "The prices are very high and tooling and molding costs are about seven times as expensive. I would love to make it in the USA if possible and will try to pursue that avenue in the future."
If you want to try out some Hydrosleeve samples ahead of availability, the team will be stopping off at the Phoenix Marathon on March 2.