Tales of the Expedition Double Suit

The Lowdown

Extraordinary stories and technical knowhow

Tales of the Expedition Double Suit

22 Sep 2022

The double suit is a quick-change suit for reacting to variations in temperature, and we’ve been hearing tales of its appearances on the world’s highest mountains.

Quite often our suits turn up on summits. Sir Ranulph Fiennes wore a Xero down suit when he summited Everest in 2009, for example. Mingma David Sherpa wore a K series Omega down suit when he took part in the first successful winter summit of K2 in 2021. And recently we’ve heard various tales of the Expedition Double Suit putting in appearances at the tops of mountains. The double suit was created in 2017 as a way of dealing with the temperature variations a climber may encounter on a mountain. Single suits can be difficult to put on and take off, especially when a harness is involved. The double suit isn’t. The double suit features a removable, two-piece outer that allows the climber to quickly respond when they’re too hot or too cold. While switching between layers isn’t quite as quick as Superman swapping costumes in a phone box, it isn’t far off. One moment the suit is one thing. A few seconds later, it’s another.

Steve Davies in PHD Double Down Suit on the top of Everest

Steve Davis called our Double Down Suit "a life-saver".

This adaptability in times of unwelcome temperature was of definite assistance to Steve Davis when he summited Everest in May. Steve is a passionate and experienced climber who has summited some of the world’s most iconic mountains, including Manaslu and Aconcagua. The ascent of Everest had its difficulties. He passed two dead climbers, and approached the summit with prayer flags tangled round his feet. But it was during the descent that the double suit’s versatility really came into play. The heat as Steve made his way down was intense, and he later stated that the ability to remove part of the suit probably saved him from severe dehydration. Dehydration and heat exhaustion are often more of a problem for climbers than the cold is, and Steve described the suit as a life-saver.

David Brock in the inner part of his PHD Double Down Suit on Everest

David Brock said his PHD Double Down Suit was "the envy of his climbing group".

The same day that Steve reached the summit in a double suit, so did David Brock. David described how at one point he seemed to be higher than the moon, an effect produced by his altitude and the curvature of the Earth. He was raising money for Crohn’s and Colitis UK, having himself been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2017. He hopes his ascent will demonstrate to his fellow sufferers that they should not abandon their dreams. His suit he described as the envy of his climbing group:

The flexibility of having an inner suit that you could wear alone for temperature control combined with all the little details having been thought of by PHD, from inner bottle pockets to gear loops and hand warmer pockets in the sleeves, meant that I was extremely confident in my kit going for the summit push. My sleeping bags were also PHD and were both exceptional, as were my slippers and Minimus down vest which made for a brilliant layering option up the hill.

Liliya and Darya Ianovskaia in the inner parts of their PHD Double Down Suits on Everest

Liliya & Darya Ianovskaia in their Double Down Suits' inner layers.

The day before David and Steve summited Everest, Liliya and Darya Ianovskaia did. Liliya and Darya are mother and daughter, and they too were wearing double suits. Later in the year, Liliya would become the oldest woman to climb K2, at the age of 62. The photo shows her and Darya on Everest in the double suit’s inner layer, with its distinctive white and red design. The white is for reflecting heat from the sun and preventing overheating, and the red is to keep the climber visible against a backdrop of snow. This inner can be lived in from the lower camps to the summit, while the outer layer is easily donned for the summit push or whenever conditions require.

The first non-Nepali climber to summit Everest in the 2022 season was Pedro Queirós. He too was wearing a double suit. He faced temperatures of -40°C and wind speeds of 100 mph. Pedro was raising money for the education of Nepali children.

Pedro-Queirós, 1st non-Nepali climber to summit Everest in the 2022 season, in a PHD Double Down Suit.

First non-Nepali climber to summit Everest in the 2022 season was Pedro Queirós, in a PHD Double Down Suit.

Pedro's past fundraising activities include walking from the Taj Mahal to Kathmandu on behalf of earthquake victims. He has spoken of raising funds in the future by swimming the English Channel.

Not all the tales we’ve heard of the double suit involve Everest. In May, Horia Colibășanu became the first Romanian to summit Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest peak, and he did so in the -50°C version of our double suit, which is designed for no-oxygen ascents of 8,000-metre peaks. He passed a Qatari princess about two hours from the top. After his success, Horia praised the suit’s ‘very good inner hood’, which allowed him to wear his regular mountain glasses despite the windy conditions. His climbing partners wore goggles that restricted blood flow to their noses, which started to freeze. They had to turn back before the summit.

Horia Colibășanu, 1st Romanian to summit Kanchenjunga, in PHD Double Down Suit.

Horia Colibășanu became the first Romanian to summit Kanchenjunga, again in our Double Down Suit.

The tales people tell us about their adventures have a practical result. Their feedback influences what we do. The original idea for the double suit, for example, was inspired by feedback from mountaineers such as Sandy Allan after his Mazeno Ridge success. They described how, in single suits on 8,000-metre mountains, they could become very hot when conditions were cloudless or windless. The double suit was our solution.

And feedback continues to inspire improvements to the suit. It was Ben Kane who suggested we add optional thigh zips to the inner suit for venting, and feedback from Alex Pancoe led us to add a full length zip option for the easy on/off of the inner suit. Jerry Gore suggested several updates, including the addition of a waist cord to the outer jacket to reduce the volume when worn without the inner suit. For Jerry’s attempt on K2, we made him a more robust version of the suit, prompting us to offer the option of Dri-LX outer fabric for high altitude climbing.

So it isn’t just a double suit. It’s an ever-improving suit. And the more tales we hear of it, the more we can tailor it to the climber’s liking.

It isn’t just a double suit. It’s an ever-improving suit. And the more tales we hear of it, the more we can tailor it to the climber’s liking.
Share this post
Gear mentioned in this post
An expedition double suit made of 2 layers: a one-piece Inner Down Suit & a...
An expedition double suit made of 2 layers: a one-piece Inner Down Suit & a...
The superlight 'K-series' version of our Omega Suit. Developed for a winter...
Related stories from The Lowdown
Given his impressive track record of oxygen-free ascents in the Himalayas, when Horia Colibăşanu contacted us about kit, we were intrigued as to what he was up to! He didn’t tell us exactly what he was intending, but this is what we found out…
How do we know our gear works in the places we say it will? The answer is as simple as you might think. We send it there.

When we say to keep in touch and tell us about your trips, we really mean it! And a lovely number of you lovely folks have told us lovely stories about our (we think) lovely Double Suit. Which is lovely…