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SATRA testing featured in BBC television programme

A recently-broadcast TV report investigated the effects of sub-zero temperatures and explored how SATRA testing can assess a product’s effectiveness to withstand such an extreme environment.

Since 1988, the BBC’s Countryfile television programme has aired reports on rural, agricultural and environmental issues in the United Kingdom. SATRA recently received a request from a researcher on the show who was helping to produce an episode which would consider how the body reacts to extremes of temperature, the clothing and gear needed to undertake a strenuous mountain walk or climb, and how technology is pushing the boundaries of human exploration. All of this would be in appreciation of the 70th anniversary of the first successful ascent of Mount Everest, which will be celebrated in May of this year.

According to the programme brief, a presenter would see first-hand how the performance and durability of fabrics or components can be tested in a laboratory, in order to understand how these react to or withstand adverse temperature conditions – all under the guidance of a SATRA professional. The researcher concluded his message by asking: “Is this something you might be able to accommodate?” SATRA was pleased to assist.

In February, Countryfile presenter Ellie Harrison visited SATRA’s head office in Kettering, where footwear technologist Mark Southam demonstrated a number of SATRA tests that are used to assess such products.

Mark demonstrated the use of SATRA’s Pedatron, the advanced moisture management test machine and the dynamic water resistance tester, and explained how hiking boots and outdoor clothing are ‘pushed to their limit’ to evaluate their fitness for purpose.

Later, SATRA research technologist David Smith showed Ellie examples of the boots which were designed by SATRA in Kettering and used for the British team’s final assault on Mount Everest in 1953 – the first time men had stood on the highest point on earth. Highlighting a collection of archived letters and foot tracings from the time, David mentioned the ‘glowing commendation’ given by a member of the Everest team, which indicated that the boots were extremely successful, and that ‘at no time during the ascent could the climber remember suffering from cold feet’.

Into the freezer

Wanting to see how clothing designed for extreme weather conditions is tested, Ellie was shown SATRA’s climate chamber, which can operate at temperatures of +50°C down to -40°C with relative humidity of 10 per cent right up to 100 per cent. Having donned the cold weather clothing she usually wears when reporting for Countryfile from harsh environments, Ellie entered the climate chamber with David and a camera operator to describe how it felt to be in a setting which was rapidly getting colder.


Ellie and research technologist David Smith experienced Everest-like temperatures in SATRA’s climate chamber

As the temperature dropped to -17°C (which is the level commonly experienced at Everest’s base camp), she observed that “When exposed to the cold, the body begins to lose heat faster that it can be produced, eventually using up all the body’s stored energy, leading to hypothermia.” David operated a thermal imaging camera which uses varying colours to indicate different temperatures in order to show viewers where Ellie’s body heat was being lost.


The climate chamber can operate at a temperature range of +50°C down to -40°C with relative humidity of 10 per cent right up to 100 per cent

Then, at -27.2°C (a similar temperature to that likely to have been experienced at the latter stages of the Everest climb and the lowest ever recorded in the UK), Ellie’s face was stiffening in the cold, ice was forming on her scarf and the camera’s liquid crystal display screen was threatening to freeze. She rightly observed how uncomfortable it can be even in some of the UK’s extreme environments and how important it is to have ‘the right gear’. Understandably, facing -27.2°C was enough – Ellie was glad to leave the climate chamber and held tightly to a hot drink as she ended her report.

This episode of Countryfile – called ‘Going to Extremes’ – includes several segments about testing at SATRA within the programme, and it is available to watch online within the United Kingdom via BBC iPlayer.

The photograph at the top of this article shows SATRA footwear technologist Mark Southam with Countryfile presenter Ellie Harrison.

How can we help?

Please contact SATRA's footwear team ( for help with testing products in extreme conditions.

Publishing Data

This article was originally published on page 22 of the March 2023 issue of SATRA Bulletin.

Other articles from this issue »