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Field Journal

Condition Black

Condition Black Vollebak Athlete Chris Maclean // Photo: Nick Tidball

The military elite have a term for your physical and mental state during life and death situations – moments in which your subconscious must choose between fight or flight. They call it ‘condition black.’ The colour code for ‘you’re about to die.’


‘Between Life and Death’

A Vollebak film by director Chris Palmer

Shot on a Red Monochrome camera with vintage Russian prime lenses, director Chris Palmer has worked with adventure sports brand Vollebak to recreate the sights and sounds of condition black in the mountains, using only the Condition Black Jacket itself.

With the jacket’s design inspired by NASA’s use of psychology and physiology in their Apollo 11 spacesuit, the soundtrack is composed entirely from recordings of space made on NASA’s 2009 Voyager mission.

The jacket was originally conceived after the founders’ own near death experiences in the mountains, and those of their friends. The aim of this film project was to capture the fatigue, disorientation, hallucinations and otherworldliness of the state of condition black.

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Vollebak, which means ‘all out’ in Flemish, is the world’s most experimental adventure brand and exists to take athletes closer to the life changing limits of human adventure. The brand was launched in November 2015 by designers and adventure sports athletes Nick and Steve Tidball.

The brand launched with just two products. One is the Condition Black Jacket, built for survival in high-speed mountain sports.


The Condition Black jacket is not only built to survive extreme experiences, but to help keep you alive in the aftermath. It incorporates 19 panels of Ceraspace – an innovative protection fabric made from ultra lightweight 3D ceramic particles set in a highly flexible skin. Designed for the military, Ceraspace is engineered in Switzerland by textile pioneers Schoeller. It can tolerate repeated high-speed falls up to 120kmph and is tough enough to scar rock. The only material in the world that’s harder than Ceraspace is diamonds. Each uniquely shaped panel has been cut by laser and applied by hand.

Vollebak’s aim was to improve your chances in survival situations, by understanding how your clothing can help influence the way your brain and body behave under extreme stress. For example, you’ll find glow in the dark instructions printed in your sight-line for when your brain and body start shutting down. And to keep your core organs and vital arteries warm, the jacket has been constructed around two Survival Pockets on the upper chest. Designed to get you into the ideal foetal position, you simply slide your hands into them. Both pockets fasten magnetically, which means they’ll only open when you want them to, and they’re double-lined for warmth.

For more information visit or check out the Condition Black Jacket and find them on Twitter @vollebak.