Anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors has probably invested in a lightweight, stowaway jacket, which can be stashed away in your pack 95% of the time but keep you dry in an unexpected rainstorm.
But we have a question for you: Does it glow?
The Solar Charged Jacket ($350) is the latest irresistibly hyperbolic performance gear from the company behind the world’s most calming and immortal hoodies, Vollebak. After a few hours in the sun, it will glow a “radioactive” green that slowly fades to a silvery seafoam and then white. It can also be spot charged with your smartphone light, creating tiny polka dots straight off of Yayoi Kusama‘s cutting room floor.
“You really can make the Solar Charged Jacket glow like kryptonite,” promises Steve Tidball, founder and CEO at Vollebak. “We’ve charged it with everything from relatively weak British sunshine, to a 12,000-watt flash in a studio, to a basic 150-lumen torch, to car headlights, to an iPhone torch. Almost any direct light source will charge it rapidly. “
The premise is that, rather than relying upon reflective panels, or even battery-driven LEDs, this jacket can emit light anywhere all on its own. That means it can glow on the trail of a day-to-night ultramarathon in the middle of the woods, without a car driving by.
It’s not an industry first. New Balance has also experimented with glowing performance gear, but the company has only used it as something more akin to a highlight rather than a torso-wide highlighter. “The problem with the ink used in these prints is that they compromise the fabric for any kind of sports performance as it’s not comfortable or breathable, so it’s only ever been used as patterns or patches,” Tidball says.
Thanks to one of Vollebak’s fabric mill partners, the company was able to embed a phosphorescent compound (that’s the light-trapping stuff that makes tchotchkes of all sorts glow) within the jacket’s waterproof membrane. “We’re not Nike with giant R&D labs and budgets,” says Tidball. “We have to be smarter, move faster and work with partners. When we first saw the material in development we knew our job was to build a completely unique product to take advantage of the awesome tech, and do everything we could to enhance it.”
Indeed, the reason the jacket is so striking is just as much about the fine finishing details as it is any technological innovation. The glow stretches evenly end-to-end, everywhere but the zippers and pull strings, to include even the seams themselves. Innovation or gimmick? Perhaps a little of both. But that’s what makes it so much fun.