Monday, March 31

Outdoor gear - 'All Proof I' inital review

A follow up to my exclusive news from the last couple of days (here & here) I've received approval to provide a little more detail behind the 'All Proof I' I've been enthusing over since becoming aware of its existence a few days ago.

Please bear in mind that the concepts are still at the field testing stage so the finished format and product characteristics are liable to modifications before the consumer items finally hit the High St (Hopefully by 2010)

Design & Weight
It's a cylindrical unit. Not exactly small being approx 15cm tall and with a diameter of 7cm. But in comparison to something like a Jetboil, a similar rigid construct, perhaps not so difficult to hide in a pack (After all think of the spare space in your pack if the applications of this are taken to their logical conclusion)

Current weight is 252g, excluding power source.

How so light? The cylindrical design is integral to its function. By use of proven inkjet printing techniques first developed by Xerox five years ago, and using both the inner and outer surfaces of the API's body it means that much of the cylinder's core is empty space except for the six transmitter 'pods'. Currently the unit is manufactured from thin weave carbon fibre to provide the base for the control mechanism and transmitters. I gather a more rugged titanium version may be undergoing military evaluation. (Hope I don't get MI5 tracking me for that disclosure - oops!)

Only four of the 'pods' are active at any one instance, the others providing a fail-safe facility to take over in the event of a component problem.

Now clearly I've no understanding of the maths or principles involved behind how the chips and pods combine to deliver their unique function (otherwise I'd be the millionaire by now). I was provided with some background, which I've been told explain just one part of the combined technologies behind it all.

The legal bits

YES the product is extremely well protected by global patents & an ever-watchful legal team. (Sufficiently aware that this early review required me to sign a 13 page non-disclosure agreement just to discuss the general concepts) So don't even think about thinking about adopting any of this please.

Current power source for the static model is 3 x AAA batteries giving sufficient power for approx 40 hours. As when used in this mode it won't need to be drawing power for more than 10 hours per day (more like 6-8) I estimate a 4-day life before batteries require change.

The mobile unit, draws slightly more power, and is currently using 5 x AAA batteries for the same life.

Rechargeable batteries designed specifically for the API were considered but the weight concerned, compared to the battery life was thought too restrictive. I understand a solar powered version is on the drawing board once the initial models have been market tested.

Development work is underway to reduce the power requirements before the product becomes commercially available.

There is one more model in the present range, but more of that once I've tried to explain what this thing actually does. I'm aware of getting a little hung up on the technicalities here (And lets face it most of us have no idea as to how most of our electronic gizmos work these days so apologies if I've bogged down anyone so far)

So what is the 'All Proof I' for?
The API is powered on via a small toggle switch on the top of the unit, with a sliding cover to prevent accidental operation. It takes around 30-40 secs before the 'pods' become active. There is a small, easy to read LCD display alongside the switch giving a full status as this process is underway. No discernible noise from the unit that I could hear.

Once in operation the API creates a field spreading 2 metres around itself in both a horizontal and vertical plain. That's a 4 metre wide field on the ground. Picture a tennis ball cut in half - and you have an idea of the sort of field pattern generated.

And here's the real excitement. This field has one key characteristic - it allows free passage of air molecules, but by phasing the field it effectively prevents water molecules passing through the field.

Want to reread that last paragraph again?

That's right - a semi-spherical dome permitting full movement of air throughout, but 100% water free for anything within the field's range.

The result - goodbye tent/tarp when using the static model; And farewell to waterproofs when using the mobile model (Despite the increased power requirements I reckon the mobile version will be the one that most walkers will go straight to, with its dual use)

A couple of sketch diagrams may help at this stage
No more tent?

No more waterproof?
The third model indicated earlier has even greater potential. With a drawback - it requires almost double the power usage of the mobile unit due to its additional function. It transmits a second matched field alongside the original water proof one. This, based on an adaptation of existing microwave technology further agitates the molecules within the unit's field creating an increase in temperature. There's a sensitive thermostat mechanism within the API that monitors any increase (to one of 8 presets) automatically controlling the generation of this field.

The maximum temperature increase is currently set at ambient temperature + 15, but field-testing will determine where this limit will eventually be set.

Let's pause for a moment to think that one through. Rain free and a way to create heat increase!

Will this mean in five years or so we will see groups of naked ramblers, an API in their pack, wandering warm and dry across the felltops. I trust not. No. Make that I hope not! Some traditional practices should never change to that extent - please.

Yeh - but does it work?
Ah - the BIG question.

Typically(!) during the short period I managed to get access to the unit the weather has been fine and sunny so any water tests were of a strictly non-scientific nature. Well a watering and a step ladder to be precise. I hope to rectify this assuming the heavens pour forth sometime soon - at least before the unit is collected for its return (Now there's a change - a walker wishing for rain)

But even on my low scale tests its a very strange sensation to watch water hit an invisible 'umbrella' and drop to the ground, a slight shimmer revealing the edge of the API field's edge each time it happens. Very spooky.

The pictures I did get hopefully give some idea of the unit's physical characteristics.If you examine the close-ups you'll see at the extreme of the image a very slight flattening of the grass in a circle around the API - the only sign that it is operating.

Notice the flattening effect?

I can't show you water not entering the API's field because (ahem) it's hard to photograph something that isn't there.

If it remains 'unraining' tomorrow I plan to rig up a couple of hosepipes to test it under full downpour conditions - and the results will be posted here.

I've also been promised a link to the manufacturer's marketing website for any of you that may wish to find out more about this (oh so weird) radical piece of kit.

And nope - I'm not allowed to say who is behind all this. Suffice to say it's a name that will be known to you all.

For the present well .........I'm gobsmacked. Still reeling as to the huge potential and possibilities this opens up for all users of the outdoors. Well for a variety of industry sectors the more I consider the huge potential.


I find it strange that no one is commenting on this new and innovative piece of equipment.

I for one will be looking forward to the testing from tomorrow.
This is extraordinary,JH! And to think you released the news to the Outdoor Bloggers first. I am grateful. We are indeed priveleged to be ahead of the game. Myself, I have already listed my Akto tent and my Goretex jacket on Ebay - you have convinced me so completely about this revolutionary product. (Think they should test the solar-powered version at a much earlier stage though in this sensitive, eco-aware age). Agog to know the name of the developer - I'm guessing either Cameron Mackintosh of The Gear Only (TGO) mag, or possibly April Fuhlsjokken of Hilleberg?
at least Duncan has evidence I called this, this morning.

Sir I take my hate off to you.
WOW! think of the other uses for this revolutionary product. Not only does it obviate the need for a tent or waterproofs. It can also save a fortune on ferry fares. The water exclusion properties of the field allow you to scoff at the ticket seller at the Ullapool ferry terminal and simply walk across the Minch!
Fantastic! Who needs RET now? Just issue each inhabitant of the Western Isles with one of these and get them on that sea bed backpack!
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