SFU and MEC team up to test winter clothing performance

November 10, 2015

By Diane Luckow

When SFU environmental physiologist Matthew White heads out for a cold winter’s climb in the mountains, he wants to know that his clothing is up to the challenge.

A former alpine ski racer and now professor of environmental ergonomics and physiology, he has teamed up with Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) to conduct a study assessing the performance of some of MEC’s new cold-weather clothing.

Now, he’s seeking volunteers aged 19-45 who are willing to help test the garments while walking on a treadmill in a windy climatic chamber set to -8°C.

Graduate student Jingkai Pang will conduct the tests as part of his M.Sc. thesis studies on winter technical apparel performance and skin-temperature thermo-sensitivity.

White says the new partnership with MEC and with other garment manufacturers, offers novel research opportunities for students interested in environmental physiology and environmental ergonomics.

Several Canadian companies, such as Arc’teryx Equipment Inc. and MEC, are obliged to send their garments to Kansas State University if they need thermal testing.

White hopes to change that. He has just received funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation to build a new climatic chamber with a temperature range of -50°C to +50°C. He also hopes to employ a thermal mannequin in the climatic chamber that permits extra testing of technical apparel in addition to the human physiology testing already performed in his laboratory.

“Our goal is to develop SFU as a Centre of Excellence in environmental physiology and environmental ergonomics that offers undergraduate and graduate students training in novel research and development projects as well as job training to prepare them for employment in the dynamic and expanding technical apparel sector,” he says.

Already, recent alumna Kate Henderson, who earned a M.Sc. in White’s laboratory, is working in research and development at lululemon athletica in Vancouver and a climatic chamber, says White, would encourage the sector’s further expansion in Canada.

The MEC study is funded through an NSERC Engage grant.

To volunteer for the MEC study, please contact White at