Items for all-season design: how to choose them

Surprisingly few items have the flexibility to be used all year round, coping with the heat of summer and the cold and wet of winter. But in a few areas – from tents to tyres – designers are embracing the challenge of creating products that can swing between seasons

Home Road Cars Tyres Items for all-season design: how to choose them

We map our lives by the changing seasons. In the Alps, winter is announced by a blanket of snow. In Japan, spring arrives with an explosion of pink cherry blossom. In the US, New England delivers a riot of colours in autumn – or “fall” – as the leaves on its trees turn red, orange and yellow. 

And in temperate regions, including Europe and the US, each of these seasons brings its own requirements. We change our wardrobes for summer, with cozy scarves and coats packed away, and sun hats and shorts unfolded. We change our hobbies: muddy football boots or skis are swapped for swimsuits and snorkels. We even change what we eat.

But all this swapping around brings a lot of inconvenience. Changing over everything from garden furniture to footwear requires substantial effort each autumn and spring – and a considerable amount of storage. It can lead to waste, too.

Solutions for the seasons

Increasingly, therefore, designers are embracing the challenge of creating items that can cope with the swing from summer to winter, and back again. New materials and scientific discoveries are enabling this development. 

Tennis courts, for example, are now designed to be used in any weather. By installing porous macadam surfaces that let the water run off, it's possible to play all year round. Duvet makers have found an ingenious solution by selling an all-season product that features two duvets, with different thermal ratings – or togs – that can be joined together or used separately to perfect the level of warmth needed.

Double-sided mattresses have also been developed with a summer and winter side. The summer side might have an open-coil spring system and traditional fillings to prevent the mattress – and you – from overheating, while the winter side is made of memory foam, moulding to your body shape and retaining heat.

Designers have also made huge efforts to create a “four-season” tent rather than a “three-season” one. Four-season tents have to be strong enough to stand up to winter storms, but light enough to be taken backpacking in summer. “Six or seven years ago, almost no one was applying the new technology and materials we were using in three-season backpacking tents to make four-season tents lighter,” Terry Breaux, lead tent designer at outdoor equipment company MSR, told outsideonline.com. But now four-season tents are providing a good option for year-round campers.

Performance all year round

Transport is clearly a key area that can be severely affected by the climate. Every commuter knows that trains can be delayed by challenging weather. Asphalt can crack if it gets too cold or melt if temperatures rise too far.  

Among other issues, motorists in many countries have to change their tyres twice a year. Summer tyres are made from rubber compounds that perform best in temperatures above 7°C. Winter tyres, meanwhile, come into their own below 7°C and include hundreds of tiny grooves to disperse water and prevent aquaplaning.

Now, however, there is an alternative: all-season tyres. If the weather is cold and snowy such as in mountainous ski resorts then winter tyres are still best, but when the weather is not extreme, all-season tyres are the answer. They offer greater convenience and peace of mind for drivers, saving time and hassle, and demand is growing year-on-year.

While you may still have to dig out that woolly jumper and pack away the deckchair, your tyres at least can now transition smoothly from one season to the next.