Ardica issues safety recall for Mountain Hardwear jacket heating systems

Although the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is still several days away from issuing a formal announcement of a safety recall of heating systems in Ardica Enabled jackets, SNEWS® is alerting retailers that Mountain Hardwear Radiance and Refugium jackets, as well as the Sitka Dutch Oven vest, will be affected.
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Although the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is still several days away from issuing a formal announcement of a safety recall of heating systems in Ardica Enabled jackets, SNEWS® is alerting retailers that Mountain Hardwear Radiance and Refugium jackets, as well as the Sitka Dutch Oven vest, will be affected.

Ardica, a California-based company, has published a formal recall notice on its website with specific instructions for consumers and retailers. Click here to read.

In February 2010, Mountain Hardwear initially identified a potential overheating problem with some of the heater panels in five of its jackets via the company’s warranty return program. No injuries have been reported, although some melting of the insulation has been noticed. Mountain Hardwear has been working in close cooperation with Ardica and the CPSC, SNEWS was told. Refunds will be issued to all consumers and retailers for the Radiance and Refugium jackets. No repair or replacement is being offered.

This news certainly represents a setback for Mountain Hardwear’s technology-enabled garments program in the short term. The company has invested significant time and energy into developing a heat-enabled apparel category.

Mountain Hardwear’s much-touted Red Savina heated glove, which relied on Aevex Intelligent Heat technology, disappeared as quickly as it was announced after Aevex began having troubles thanks to the economy, SNEWS was told.

When Mountain Hardwear launched the heated jacket program with Ardica in early 2009, it was with very high hopes. While just under 1,800 jackets were sold in 2009 and are affected by the recall, the company was anticipating selling three to four times that amount in 2010, we were told late last year. Now, 2010 is off the books, and the men’s Sveda and women’s Enyo vest, slated for fall 2010 delivery, are not going to be made.

Paige Boucher, public relations director for Mountain Hardwear, told SNEWS that the company had not yet decided about the future of the heated apparel program for 2011. “This safety recall is a great disappointment for the team at Mountain Hardwear. We will continue to invest time, passion, energy and dollars into creating, building and promoting the concept of heated apparel. Our design team will look closely at product improvements Ardica is making, as well as alternative solutions, and base our decision on what is best for our customers and their safety and comfort.”

Hap Klopp, a director of the board for Ardica, told us that his company was fully confident in the fixes in place, and that it was important to note that it was only a very small number of the heater panels, which were provided by a subcontractor, that had any problems. The Ardica Moshi Power Pack, which provides power to the heater panels, is not part of the recall officially, but the company is using this opportunity, he told us, to upgrade older power systems with the latest technology for those jackets that are being repaired and refunded.

“Of the individuals we have spoken to so far, all have asked us how soon we can get them a new jacket, so the benefits of the jacket system to the consumer are very apparent,” Klopp said.

Klopp noted that he does not think this recall, which involves a total of around 3,000 jackets, is a set-back for Ardica in the long term. He told SNEWS, “We have been talking about focusing on 2011 in terms of the future to make sure the upgrades of the product work perfectly, and to ensure we can monitor the quality of the product from the outside to ensure failsafe under three different modes of evaluation.”

While saying Ardica has several more significant customers on board to launch with heated apparel products in 2011, Klopp said he fully understood Mountain Hardwear’s position. “I am sure they wanted this handled in the swiftest and most convenient way for their customers, and taking the jackets back is certainly the easiest solution,” said Klopp when we asked him why he thought Mountain Hardwear was not opting to have its jackets repaired.

“I would imagine that Mountain Hardwear’s designers and engineers certainly want to make 100 percent sure all of our upgrades, even if we have tested them thoroughly, meet all of their standards,” added Klopp.

--Michael Hodgson

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