Despite being around since 1964, outside their native France you may not have heard of CimAlp. The company, founded by a mountaineer and based near the French Alps, produces clothing for alpinism, skiing and trail running.
In recent years they have been working with Fred Souchon, a Chamonix-based alpinist, mountain rescue expert and paraglider pilot, to develop a range of clothing specifically for paraglider pilots.
In our Gear Guide, which subscribers got bundled-in with issue 217, Fred and Olivier Roux from CimAlp explained how to layer up for hike-and-fly. Following on from that they sent us a big box of their new kit for mountain flying and hike-and-fly to try for ourselves. Marcus King put it through its paces.
Like many companies CimAlp are trying to switch away from nylon. “CimAlp are committed to making sustainable clothing,” Olivier told us. “This means making clothing that will last and is repairable, but also using materials such as Merino wool and bamboo fibres.”
The Strategic top is made using bamboo in three-way stretch material for a tight-fitting top. I’m 83kg and 193cm tall and found the L/XL (my normal size) quite a tight fit, but it’s designed to give a light compression effect to give your muscles support. The arms are a good length, although there are no thumb loops. The material is nice, soft and very comfortable. It breathes really well, important if you are going to hike up before sitting in a harness for several hours.
On a sunny winter’s day climbing steep slopes I found it pretty warm, so I’d say it is probably best for cold conditions or higher altitudes. Any warmer and you will just need a wicking T-shirt. It did wick away sweat well though, so when I reached the top and was ready to fly I didn’t get chilly.
Synthetic down jackets are the alternative to heavy fleeces or down jackets, which lose insulation if they get wet. Perfect for mid-layers they give good insulation for their weight. CimAlp’s Montets jacket makes use of PrimaLoft Gold insulation, which is partly made from recycled plastic and is designed to look and feel like natural down. It certainly feels soft and puffs up well.
The Montets is light – I weighed the XL at 408g – although again I found the sizing a little on the small side. I was originally sent the L but found it tight, so moved to an XL which was a good fit. Check your sizing before buying.
There are four zipped pockets, including one inside that you can stuff the jacket into. One downside is the mesh of this pocket is elasticated, so if you put something heavy in it like a flight instrument the pocket will sag below the bottom of the jacket. The chest pocket is big enough to take a large smartphone and well positioned for easy access.
The material is silky and soft, but seems to stand up to everyday use. I snagged it on a few brambles while hiking and it wasn’t damaged; after a month or so of regular use it still looks new. There is no hood on the Montets but CimAlp do sell a version with a hood.
I flew on some cold winter days in a pod with the Advanced 3H jacket on top and the combination kept me nice and warm when others were complaining about the cold. As well as being usable for flying adventures it’s smart enough for everyday wear.
This is a lightweight, breathable waterproof technical jacket suitable for alpinism as well as general hiking. The weight, or lack of it, is noticeable as soon as you pick it up: the L I had weighs just 395g.
The amount of thought put into the design is also evident. All the external zips are the waterproof style. There are two low-level external pockets as well as an interior chest pocket; this has routing for a headphone wire but is a bit small for large smartphones. The main zip is asymmetric, doing up to one side, while the roomy hood gives good protection against the elements; there is even a built-in mesh to help you breathe when it is covering your face. A nice touch is the magnet that holds the flap of the hood away from your face, useful when flying. Pit zips on either side increase ventilation if you are exercising hard.
The material is again quite soft, with a ripstop pattern in it. It has a degree of stretch and the arms also have some shaping to give good freedom of movement. CimAlp use their own Ultrashell membrane, which they say is waterproof and windproof to 100km/h+. I can only say that it kept me cosy one day on our local mountain when the wind was gusting to 100km/h and swirling spindrift around us.
A good safety feature is the Recco reflector sewn into the arm of the jacket. Recco reflectors are used in the X-Alps and fitted to some Skywalk harnesses, and you may remember them from ski trips. They used to only be useful for ground-based searches, but the technology has improved and now searches can be done from helipcopters. Having a reflector on your jacket could help you be found in an emergency.
In flight we are really only interested in keeping the wind out, which it does well. It would be particularly useful for multi-day adventures in the mountains when you don’t know what the weather will throw at you. Superlight, you can take it as your flying jacket knowing it will protect you against the elements.
CimAlp sent us their lightweight hiking pants made from their own 3D-Flex-DWR material. It’s a PFC-free material that meets the bluesign sustainable textile standard. The DWR treatment makes the fabric water and stain resistant. More importantly for us it also means it is windproof, so keeps out the draughts if you are flying in an open harness.
The material has a good degree of stretch, making it comfortable for hiking. I also found the material breathed well, despite the coatings, making the trousers comfortable to wear. A heavier-weight version is available but these seem the best fit for our sport.
There are three zipped pockets with mesh inside, there’s even a mini compass attached.The waistband has an adjustable elastic belt inside and the bottoms can be cinched to stop them riding up, although the knees are preformed which also helps. They also make great travel trousers as they shed dirt and are quick drying plus they are really comfortable to hang out in.
Drop Evolution 864
I know many people advocate boots with good ankle support for flying, but lots of pilots do use light trail shoes. They are certainly more efficient for walking: there is an old saying that a kilo on your feet is worth five on your back. There is also the issue of pod harnesses: those with big feet and big boots can struggle to get their feet inside the pod.
At 280g for size 41 these trail shoes aren’t the lightest on the market (other brands weigh 210g) but they are well built and comfortable. I particularly liked the smooth internal construction with no rubbing points, especially when you bend the sole.
The soles are Vibram and give excellent grip on the mixed terrain I tried them in. The shoes get their name from the three insoles they are supplied with which allow you to adjust the foot drop – the difference between ball and heel of your foot. This is all a bit technical for me, but I opted for the standard 8mm drop as I have had Achilles problems in the past with very low-drop shoes.
They feel well made, should last a good while and can be used for everyday wear. CimAlp have also just released the 365 X-Hiking, a waterproof trekking shoe that has a bit more support but weighs just 345g. Unless you are also a runner you may find them a better fit for our use.
Published in issue 218 (April 2021)