- Buyer's Guide
LifeLabs Innovate with their WarmLife and CoolLife Clothing Collections
We love gear. That’s why we’re here, and probably why you’re here too! We love looking at all of the new innovations in carry and apparel. With a crowded marketplace in most categories, progress seems to fall into two main categories. Some products are incremental steps forward, while others are statements of intent.
LifeLabs falls into the second category, a brand built from science and driven by data. They describe themselves as a material science company, we describe them as innovative and awesome. Lifelabs was founded by Professor Yi Cui, director of Stanford University’s advanced materials laboratory, and Meng Sui, a chemist and CEO of clean-energy foundry EEnotech–there is considerable pedigree behind their products and design.
We’ve taken a look at some of their flagship items that cover their two main technologies CoolLife and WarmLife. The question is, does science driven design make good products?
Their flagship product, the MegaWarm jacket is a behemoth designed to keep you warm on the coldest of days. It is a design focused on function, that just happens to look excellent. While it is undoubtedly a big jacket, and should be reserved for brutal days, the technology is magnificent and effective. I’ve had the pleasure of testing hundreds of jackets here at Carryology, so I’d like to think I know a thing or two about them. This one is impressive beyond measure.
LifeLabs tout this as the world’s warmest jacket. That’s quite the statement, and I’ll admit I was a little skeptical at first. With A CLO (rating scale for insulation provided by clothing) rating of 9.25, it performs incredibly well stacked up against the competitions. As a reference point, a completely naked person would have a CLO rating of 0. While I don’t have the ability to actually test CLO ratings, I have tested countless puffer jackets, and parkas, and some of them I would have considered the warmest…until I put this jacket on.
It is unfathomable how warm it is. It’s like putting on two sleeping bags at once. The heat is instantaneous, it’s like a furnace. Thanks to the boxed baffles and metalized shell (a paper clip’s worth of aluminium that helps reflect your own infrared heat back to you!) you won’t be cold wearing this jacket. I’ve worn it almost consistently with just a T-shirt on underneath, even into the negative temperatures and not once did I feel cold.
However, warmth is one thing, but function and usability is another. I’ve tested very warm jackets where within moments I have to take them off because they aren’t breathable. That’s not the case here, the MegaWarm is impressively light and exceptionally breathable, I’ve been active during hikes, photoshoots with this on, and not overheated–astonishing given how warm this is thanks to its ethically sourced 800 fill power down. The two way recycled YKK Natulon zipper allows you to dump heat quickly should you need to also. Conversely, the ski inspired taffeta powder skirt keeps all that delightful heat trapped inside when you really need it. While we’re talking about recycled zippers, we should talk about how 87% of the jacket is made from recycled materials, how the trims are bio-based, and how the DWR is PFC free. That’s before you even get to 100% recycled polyester labels and threads. Not only is the jacket a well performing piece, it has a clean conscience too–like all of LifeLabs products.
I’ve found this jacket to be really useful for my photography, it keeps me warm when I’m static for long periods of time, and it isn’t heavy and bulky like many of my more traditional parkas and winter jackets. Thanks to it’s stuff sack, it is convenient to bring with you/attach to a backpack. When hunting those golden hour shots, it can get chilly very quickly. The lightweight nature of this, and the portability of it make it an excellent safety blanket to have with you. Not only have I used it in the wild, I even wore it during a power cut when our heating was out!
This jacket isn’t just warm, it is also waterproof too! With a seam taped outer shell (WarmLife Twill 2L), this is a true all weather jacket. It’s exceptionally comfortable, not just because of the lightweight warmth, but thanks to thoughtful touches like the rib knit cuff and collar, where the jacket makes contact with your skin.
Consider me impressed by this jacket, in all aspects. The design, performance, and environmental credentials mean that this jacket should be top of your list for your next winter jacket.
The WarmLife vest is a very versatile piece in LifeLabs line up, and the one that I have found myself using the most. Similarly to the MegaWarm jacket, this is incredibly lightweight but still impressively warm. This is achieved thanks to their material science, which aims to use less material than traditional brands, while achieving better performance. With the WarmLife vest, that means a 30% lighter vest than competitors, while providing 44% more warmth than the comparable product. With the same WarmLife Twill 2L (100% recycled polyester) shell as the MegaWarm Jacket, a 100% recycled ripstop lining, and a 95% recycled synthetic insulation, this too has a minimal impact on the environment.
In use, this is a joy to wear, and an excellent active piece. I’ve used it for hiking predominantly, but also as an urban piece around town. It has a great silhouette, and is a great hybrid style–not something that can be said for all outdoor vests! The fit is excellent, halfway between boxy and skinny, which is a style I really like. It allows layering when needed, but it doesn’t look like I’m trying to imitate a house when I wear it! The hood is a saviour for the colder moments, it adds great wind and rain protection on the more miserable days, while the two way zipper (yay!) adds versatility and great temperature control while you’re building up a sweat. A small pleat on the rear of the vest might seem like a small design choice, but I noticed it made a real difference when being active in this vest. The twill material has some stretch, but is still robust too, this pleat just allows a smidge more movement, without compromising the durability. Zippered hand pockets are an excellent choice, allowing you to keep essentials safe while you’re on the move.
Warm, lightweight, stylish, and functional? It’s hard to find many faults with the WarmLife vest.
Inspired by the MegaWarm Jacket and WarmLife vest, the WarmLife pants are a melding of two of LifeLabs technologies. Using the same recycled synthetic insulation as the WarmLife vest, but taking styling cues from the MegaWarm jacket, you’re left with a packable pair of very warm pants that can easily be deployed over other garments for extra warmth or worn on their own. Like the above products, these too are deceptively light, the warmth to weight ratio is rather astounding.
Three quarter side zips allow for easy on off or temperature control, while a zippered thigh pocket is a great spot for your phone or keys. At the cuff, there is a snap closure to secure the zipper and keep all of that good toasty warmth in. There are also belt loops so you can ratchet down and keep that warmth in at all openings!
I’ve used these for hiking more than anything else, and they’ve been a joy to wear, I like the ability to dump heat quickly, but more than that I’ve been so impressed with how much heat they provide for something that is so lightweight while remaining breathable for movement. TheSimilarly to the MegaWarm Jacket, these have kept my pins warm on static photography days, without feeling like I’m weighed down by an extra ten pounds of gear.
CoolLife Tees – Long Sleeve and Short Sleeve
We’ve talked about keeping warm, but what about the days when it’s sunny and bright outside? Enter CoolLife, the other side of LifeLabs fabric innovations.
At the heart of the CoolLife Tee’s design is the jersey knit which provides infrared transparency. Essentially this means that no heat is trapped within the clothing, allowing you to cool yourself by up to two degrees! A mix of Polyethylene (59%) and Recycled Nylon (41%) the CoolLife jersey knit is supremely comfortable to wear, either as a baselayer or a stand alone tee. There are no tags to rub the back of your neck here, and thanks to a smooth centre seam down the back, the t-shirts sit on your body perfectly straight without any of the micro adjustments I usually find myself making with t-shirts.
The CoolLife tee is very impressive, silky smooth to the touch, and noticeably cool when in hand. This is a worthwhile addition to any wardrobe, whether it be active, or casual.
LifeLabs are creating something special with their WarmLife and CoolLife product lines. Designed by data, the products that we’ve tested have surprised in their value, their performance, and their versatility. It’s not often you can say all of that about clothing, particularly performance apparel. LifeLabs products are also available for both men and women, with subtle unobtrusive branding, so everyone can experience these unique items. LifeLabs are a unique brand, well placed to make waves in a busy marketplace full of similar products–we can’t wait for what’s next.
Thanks to the team at LifeLabs for being a curated sponsor and giving us a chance to test out their latest and greatest innovations.