As the new Canon™-40 Sleeping Bag went into production this spring, Outside Online’s Gear Guy Bob Parks checked in with NEMO’s Design Director Suzanne Turell about the inspiration behind Canon’s innovative Thermal Regulating features—and walking the fine line between keeping mountaineers warm and comfortable at the extremes.
An excerpt from Outside Online “Gear Guy” – Friday March 08, 2013
The day we talked with design director Suzanne Turell about the process of making the Canon, her office was busy with prototypes for tent pole clips coming off the 3-D printer, and meetings with the design and engineering team working on plans for products three years out.
When she and the other designers sat down to make a sleeping bag for very cold temps, they looked at the jackets of polar explorers, which often have an extended head covering.
“The hoods are made to roll forward, so that you get this long opening in front of your face that you can close,” explains Turell. “The idea is to warm the air that you’re breathing. Otherwise, your lungs aren’t ready for the big jump between temperatures.
” The designers realized they were on to something when they saw the documentary Cold at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. “The film showed people sleeping in negative-70 air or something ridiculous, and they were choking on the air while they were sleeping, says Turell. “It was painfully obvious that you need something more than the gear currently offered.”
Soon after creating the prototype for the Canon, one tester reported a flaw that the design team couldn’t ignore. “He said the bag was warm,” recalls Turell. “But in some ways it was too warm because when it wasn’t negative-40 degrees, he couldn’t vent it properly.”
The designers, who are all avid campers, knew the phenomenon all too well. “It may be zero degrees or negative 20, but you’re in a bag for the extreme cold and get really sweaty. Your sleep gets interrupted,” she says. “We’d all experienced this in the company, and so it was a light-bulb moment. We all started thinking about ways to compromise the baffles [the columns of insulation sewn into the fabric] so that they would let out the warmth in a controlled way.” The designers’ solution was to place a zipper that spreads the baffles apart but doesn’t let air flow through the wind-cutting fabric.