Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Polartec Goes Waterproof
Display Avatars Sort By:
eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Polartec Goes Waterproof on 11/23/2010 20:56:47 MST Print View

outdated testing methods? ,,, mmmmm

polartec strikes back .... at least they didnt drop f-bombs like columbia ... lol

No sooner has Gore launched its impressive new Active Shell fabric for autumn 2011 than Polartec announces NeoShell, a new waterproof material claimed unequivocably to the the most breathable waterproof fabric out there. Not only that, Polartec has also had a dig at outdated testing methods, which it says - in a not very subtle dig at its rivals - 'yield some bizarre results'.


A golden ticket to Willie Wonka Land is nothing compared to a glimpse behind the scenes at Polartec's factory of dream fabrics. North of Boston, Mass. is an unassuming building that houses research and production that helps to keep us warm and comfortable. Polartec has raised the bar again, extending garment performance with the launch this week of its new NeoShell hydrophobic, microporous polyurethane membrane technology.

There was no mistaking the message - 'NeoShell® is the most breathable waterproof fabric on the market today.' For Autumn next year expect to see Rab, Vaude, Mountain Equipment, The North Face, Eider, Mammut and Marmot using the fabric, with more to follow.

Unlike the majority of hardshell waterproofs on the market today which have zero airflow, NeoShell allows actual air permeability (0.5 CFM or 2 l/m2/sec). Even a tiny amount of air permeability, irrelevant from a wind chill perspective, iresults in much better moisture vapour transport. Trad shell fabrics need heat and pressure to build inside the garment before the membrane begins to work.

This new technology breathes actively thanks to an exclusive sub-micron fibre membrane with unprecedented air permeability and yields competitive scores on traditional waterproof breathability measures like RET and MVTR. Never mind the moans about marketing and hype, engage the brain and reap the benefit on the hill.

However, Polartec believes 'These outdated static tests also yield some bizarre results that are completely counter to real world observations, like hardshells are supposedly more breathable than 200 weight fleece. Polartec is encouraging the industry to use a test that more closely emulates real world experience in the Dynamic Moisture Permeation Cell (ASTM 2298).' That is s a test preferred by the United States military to evaluate fabrics as it more closely predicts actual user experience.

And of course, user experience is what it's all about. Looks like autumn 2011 is going to be an interesting time for waterproofs.

Anne Walker
(JonnyWalker) - F
hmmm on 11/23/2010 21:09:47 MST Print View

Very interesting. I was looking for an event jacket but guess I'll have to wait now.

René Jeninga

Locale: Near the coast in the Netherlands
Waterproofs for 2011 on 11/24/2010 01:47:38 MST Print View

Another article on new waterproofs for 2011:

Benen Huntley
(benen) - MLife

Locale: South Australia
Awesome on 11/24/2010 04:21:05 MST Print View

Awesome thread. Thanks for bringing it to our attention!

Edited by benen on 11/24/2010 04:25:54 MST.

Arapiles .
(Arapiles) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Re: Polartec Goes Waterproof on 11/24/2010 06:01:00 MST Print View

this one with pictures.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Polartec Goes Waterproof on 11/24/2010 06:06:18 MST Print View

Obviously Paramo is still a sideshow. I doubt that anyone can get as breathable as they are. Lighter and cooler, perhaps.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
paramo on 11/24/2010 13:19:36 MST Print View

aint cool enough for dem yama gurls ... and ya know it ;)

yuppies n yamas ... thats what the great outdoors is all about =P

on a more serious note ... here's polartecs view

For many years the outdoor industry has relied upon the Water Vapor Resistance or RET (Resistance of Evaporation of a Textile) test to measure the “breathability” of water resistant/waterproof fabrics. This test,”compare(s) the ability of different materials to dissipate moisture vapor from the body of the wearer to the outside.” (WSA Jan/Feb2010)

However, in our opinion, the RET test (ASTM F1868 -09) does not accurately evaluative the true breathability of a fabric. In fact, “studies have confirmed that the test is predominantly influenced by the fabric thickness, rather than the pore characteristics of the fabric.” For example, the RET test yields a result that says a three layer hard shell/waterproof fabric is more breathable than a 200 weight fleece. Anyone who has ever worn either of these fabrics knows that’s not true – fleece is almost infinitely breathable (hence the reason Polartec has created other more wind resistant fabrics over the years). In addition, RET tests are affected by clothing weight, drape and tightness. Perhaps most importantly, RET not allow any air movement during the test, so you get some truly bizarre, lab-only results.

Another standard test used by the textile industry to measure breathability is Moisture Vapor Transfer Rate (MVTR). MVTR measures how much moisture vapor can pass through fabric in a 24-hour period and there are over 30 different tests to assess this transfer rate. However, these tests can yield wildly different results (as chronicled in this great post on Patagonia’s blog) and like the RET test, MVTR is static and does not account for real-world conditions where air flow is always present.

As an alternative, Polartec is promoting a better means of evaluating the breathability of water resistant and waterproof fabrics. The Dynamic Moisture Permeation Cell (DMPC) is an ASTM standard test that evaluates a fabric’s ability to move moisture vapor in dynamic conditions. The test can change air pressure and humidity on each side of the fabric and measure how well it truly breathes as conditions change (like the real world). DMPC was developed by Dr. Phillip Gibson, a civilian scientist working with the US Army. Click here to download an interesting story about Dr. Gibson’s testing from the June 2004 issue of Inside Outdoor magazine.

In the chart posted above as you move to the right on the horizontal axis, you can see that Polartec Power Shield Pro (the blue line) breathes more and more as you increase the pressure – this is roughly equivalent to increasing air speed or wind – like going from standing still to walking to a light jog. The harder you work, the harder the fabric works (both convection and diffusion are at work when air is moving). Meanwhile, the orange line represents a full-film softshell fabric – the line is flat meaning breathability does not change. This translates to a damp sweaty user experience as exertion levels increase.

Polartec has always emphasized air permeability. Even tiny, tiny amounts of air flowing through the fabric massively increases a fabric’s ability to move moisture vapor away from your body. Fabrics without airflow require a significant amount of heat and moisture vapor to build up inside the jacket before they start to work. We have all experienced the sweat-box feeling of a fabric that relies only on diffusion to “breathe.”

ziff house
(mrultralite) - F
I'll on 01/21/2011 20:56:56 MST Print View

believe it when i see it, the key to 'waterproof/breathable' is the DWR which wears off. If you could make water bead on noseeum netting you would have it made. Propore actually works, but is too fragile for bush use. Event is OK as long as the water is beading, but then you get a clamy dampness even though its still waterproof under the tap. weird.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Re: Polartec Goes Waterproof - Paramo on 01/21/2011 21:41:47 MST Print View

Hey Miguel (or anyone else with Paramo experience), I've got a Paramo Velez Adventure Light Smock. Very interesting piece, though I've barely had it out. I'm pretty warm (sweat easily) when I'm backpacking as I'm usually moving at a pretty good pace. How low, temp wise, do you think I could take this without anything underneath? And how about with a light base layer (or does that cancel out the advantage to Paramo garments?)?.

Thanks for any insight.

Neil Johnstone
(nsjohnstone) - MLife
Paramo on 01/21/2011 22:31:22 MST Print View

I have worn a Paramo smock over a thin (190g/m2) merino top down to -20 degC/-4 degF.
This is while moving - a down jacket goes over this when stopped.

My problem with Paramo is that I find it too warm in most conditions (ie: just above freezing!).

Sam Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
"Polartec Goes Waterproof" on 01/21/2011 22:37:49 MST Print View

Nice that BPL intends to post an article about the new WPB's this year. Hope it will cut thru the hype.
Caught one link on one of these threads to a spec for the more water resistant Polartek WPB. It may be more effective, but does not appear to be any lighter than the 2/3+ lb. more breathable tops currently available.
With all the hype, they may actually be shooting themselves in the feet. With the 'boy who cried wolf' effect.
The eVent has been well tested and reported upon, and if someone comes out with a half pound shell in XL, it might be worth buying. Nothing else, though, without some track record for breathability plus the light weight. My Patagonia Specter pullover works very well at a half pound, and folds up very well to fit in the top pack cover pocket. Why waste money. It just encourages the hypotists.

Aaron Reichow

Locale: Northern Minnesota
Re: "Polartec Goes Waterproof" on 01/21/2011 23:53:18 MST Print View

If you have something that works well for you, keep using it. If I'm not mistaken, Patagonia doesn't even make the Specter anymore, and when they did, it didn't satisfy everyone for every use. A lot of folks here, myself included are willing to sacrifice 1-8 oz for a shell that is more durable, breathable, and/or more featured than the Specter. To each their own!

Sam Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
"Polartec Goes Waterproof" on 01/22/2011 17:45:15 MST Print View


You are very diplomatic, and I was not.
But still, do not quite agree.

The Integral Designs eVent jackets have been out for a number of years in the 10-12 ounce range. If we run out to buy newer gear that is much hyped, but no lighter or more breathable, all we are going to see is more hype, and will we really have anything better for more money spent?

I happen to like the Specter, because I got one on sale for $99 and it meets my every backpacking need. You are right, it was discontinued. First, it was replaced with a lighter model with a wispy WPB fabric and more features, and that was not popular, so it was dropped. The wispy fabrics were popular in several brands, but only for a while - not sure why. It may be because these fabrics were less, not more breathable than the eVent and newer Goretex offerings, and when in a heavy cold downpour, they are so thin that it feels as if they are totally sopped even if they are not.

A principal goal on this site is, it seems from the title, to lower pack weight. If I have something old that works AOK at a half pound, shouldn't I expect from the industry something better for that weight? Will we see anything better if we buy whatever is pushed out with much hype, but no real improvement? And you don't need to be a long distance trekker to appreciate an under half pound functional rain shell that will be a boon for runners, day-hikers, bicyclists, kayakers, etc. Many of us do these other activities too, sometimes in conjunction with trekking, and whatever we're doing in the outdoors, we will still probably want to take along a reliable, functional shell, and the lighter and easier it is to carry, the better.

It may not be playing nice, but if we don't demand something better, we won't get it.
Instead, just more and more of the endless marketing hype.

Edited by scfhome on 01/22/2011 17:47:57 MST.

John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Polartec Goes Waterproof on 01/22/2011 18:17:58 MST Print View

The good news here is that older eVent gear that is NOS is falling in price and that gear is already well reviewed. As for me , pitzips with a good hard shell , until breathable fabrics become so good that like nuclear energy in the 60's "will make electricity so cheap we don't have to meter it".

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
MEC on 01/23/2011 11:01:52 MST Print View

looks like MEC is going neoshell ... sweet !!! ... value base clothing

and the made in canada westcomb ...

neoshell shoes tooo ....

Polartec is very excited about the launch of NeoShell. They've partnered with several manufacturers including Mountain Equipment Co-Op and Westcomb. Companies are working on jackets, pants and gloves featuring it. Shoes are definitely a possibility in the near future. The first jackets will be in stores in Fall 2011.