Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011: An Emerging Revolution in Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies – It’s Not Just Gore-Tex Versus eVent Anymore!

Since 2004, when Backpacking Light published Alan Dixon’s manifesto on Waterproof Breathable Fabric Technologies, we have been a “whisper in the wilderness” extolling the benefits of truly breathable fabrics, like eVent. Now we are seeing the beginning of a waterproof-breathable fabric revolution.

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by Will Rietveld | 2011-02-01 00:10:00-07

Introduction

Gore-Tex created a thin waterproof-breathable membrane of expanded PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) about 30 years ago and has dominated the waterproof-breathable rainwear category ever since. eVent’s more breathable technology has challenged Gore-Tex - and Backpacking Light has emphasized that difference for the benefit of our readers - but Gore’s marketing has nevertheless established Gore-Tex as the “gold standard” for waterproof-breathable jackets. Finally, after many years with Gore-Tex as the status quo and little change, Gore’s supremacy is being challenged by a number of companies introducing new technologies and backing them with marketing efforts sufficient to bring about significant change in this category. And technology-loving outdoor enthusiasts, like our readers, are the spectators cheering them on as well as the beneficiaries of the improved performance.

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011: An Emerging Revolution in Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies – It’s Not Just Gore-Tex Versus eVENT Anymore! - 1
One thing the Gore-Tex challengers have in common is that they all have Gore-Tex in their crosshairs. Here is Columbia’s display at Winter 2011 Outdoor Retailer.

We are seeing the beginning of a waterproof-breathable fabric revolution, where new innovations are being marketed on the basis of technology differences, rather than just hype (but the hype is still there, for consumers who don’t want to be bothered with fabric technologies and physics). The challengers are actually explaining the technology (somewhat) to help consumers understand how their innovations can possibly be better than Gore-Tex.

The Contenders

We are already familiar with Gore-Tex and eVent. By no means are they standing still; Gore is introducing Active Shell, their lightest, best performing construction yet, and eVent has expanded their outreach by offering “customized solutions and branding flexibility.” The new players are: Columbia, which is rolling out their Omni-Dry technology this spring; Polartec, which is introducing NeoShell this fall; and Mountain Hardwear, which is introducing DryQ this fall.

That’s a total of five major players providing new technologies in the high-end waterproof-breathable fabric category. All are claiming to be different from each other, and all are claiming to be more breathable compared to the “industry standard” (aka traditional Gore-Tex). And many are focusing on thinner, lighter fabric constructions to create garments that perform better in high exertion activities.

It’s the biggest wave of new waterproof-breathable technologies ever, so what are the differences?

The Key Differences

Because of marketing, Gore-Tex has become the gold standard for waterproof-breathables. But we all know that Gore’s approach puts more emphasis on the word “waterproof” (“guaranteed to keep you dry”) than it does on the word “breathable.” Indeed, Gore-Tex garments are waterproof, at least for the first year or so, but breathable - that’s a stretch. Gore-Tex breathability, which is based on vapor diffusion, requires the interior of the jacket to warm up sufficiently so sweat turns into water vapor, because only water vapor can escape to the outside through the membrane’s tiny pores. In Alan Dixon’s classic article on Waterproof Breathable Fabric Technologies: A Comprehensive Primer and State of the Market Technology Review, a key point he makes is that Gore-Tex is most efficient at transferring moisture at high humidity levels. That means the wearer must first get the jacket steamed up real good inside, then its “breathable” performance kicks in. You might legitimately ask: “why pay big bucks for that?” or “they call that breathable?”

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011: An Emerging Revolution in Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies – It’s Not Just Gore-Tex Versus eVENT Anymore! - 2
The anatomy of a traditional Gore-Tex fabric construction. The lower layer labeled “protection” is a thin polyurethane layer to protect the ePTFE membrane from becoming fouled by body oils, sunscreen, insect repellent, etc. It’s also the weak link because it minimizes the air permeability of the membrane.

To address this issue, many manufacturers have added workarounds to Gore-Tex jackets like pit zips and core vents to provide more ventilation, to help vent moisture and improve comfort. Note however that supplemental ventilation is counterproductive to breathability through the Gore-Tex fabric, because ventilation lowers the humidity, so there is less diffusion of water vapor through the membrane. If that’s the case, then what is the membrane accomplishing?

Enter eVent and three newcomers. The key difference in their technologies compared to Gore-Tex is air permeability, which allows moisture transport by convection as well as vapor diffusion. The nemesis to breathability in Gore’s waterproof-breathable construction is a thin polyurethane layer necessary to protect its ePTFE membrane from becoming fouled by body oils. The polyurethane layer limits Gore-Tex’s breathability to the process of vapor diffusion only, and eliminates any air permeability directly through the fabric. eVent’s breakthrough is their oleophobic (oil-repellent) ePTFE membrane that does not require a protective PU layer; thus the fabric does have some air permeability, which enhances the direct venting of water vapor and wearer comfort.

All of the challengers to Gore-Tex target its weak link, which is the lack of air permeability. All of their technologies are air permeable to some extent, and emphasize that a small amount of air permeability is all that’s needed to eliminate enough moisture to make a jacket feel significantly more comfortable at higher exertion levels. They quickly follow this up by saying that only a small amount of air permeability is sufficient, and there is no loss of functional windproofness.

To illustrate the differences by the numbers we have so far, Polartec NeoShell has 0.5 cubic feet per minute of air permeability, which gives it a huge breathability advantage over Gore-Tex (0 cfm) and eVent (0.1 cfm). I obtained these numbers from a Polartec representative, who emphasized they were produced by an independent testing lab. The numbers indicate that we should expect significant and perceivable performance differences among these technologies. We know that to be true in our past comparisons of Gore-Tex and eVent, and by extension, we should expect NeoVent to be better yet.

Now let’s take a look at the individual technologies.

Gore-Tex Active Shell

Not to be outdone, Gore launched Active Shell in fall 2010, which Gore says is the most breathable waterproof laminate the company has produced. Active Shell will appear in garments by a number of manufacturers in fall 2011.

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011: An Emerging Revolution in Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies – It’s Not Just Gore-Tex Versus eVENT Anymore! - 3
Gore-Tex Active Shell construction (left). The Mammut Felsturn Half-Zip (right, 10.2 oz/289 g for size men’s Large, US$390, available fall 2011) will be one of the lightest Active Shell jackets available. It’s intended for light and fast mountaineering.

Active Shell is based on Gore Activent, a fabric introduced in 1995 that was primarily used in windshirts. Activent was highly breathable and water-resistant and popular among endurance athletes. The advanced version, Active Shell, is claimed to be much better as a result of a new construction process that Gore has developed. Conventional Gore-Tex is a sandwich of an outer shell fabric glued to the ePTFE membrane, a thin polyurethane layer glued to the membrane, and a liner fabric glued to the polyurethane. The glue consists of thousands of microdots, which adds weight and cuts breathability (in addition to the polyurethane layer). In the new construction, the polyurethane layer itself acts as an adhesive to bond a thin tricot lining to the membrane. In addition, the membrane is thinner and the lining fabric is stretched to make it thinner and more comfortable against the skin. To be sure that Active Shell garments are as light and breathable as possible, Gore stipulates that garments must have a close fit, few pockets and/or mesh pocket linings, and as little taping as possible.

Note in the above description that the polyurethane layer is still present, so, in spite of the advances, Gore Active Shell continues to be a traditional construction which is dependent on vapor diffusion for breathability. Specifically, the reduced weight and increased breathability are the result of the elimination of glue layers, thinner membrane, thinner face and lining fabrics, and garment design.

To help put the different Gore-Tex fabrics into perspective, Performance Shell is for general use, Pro Shell is for mountaineering and professional use, Paclite is “emergency rainwear” to be carried in a pack and used only when necessary, and Active Shell is intended for high exertion activities like runners, cyclers, and fast-moving mountaineers. A key point is that Active Shell is comfortable worn against the skin (unlike Paclite), which can further enhance its performance in higher temperatures.

eVent

eVent technologists conceived and developed the concept of membrane air permeability combined with sufficient waterproofness, and found a way to make the ePTFE membrane oleophobic without adding a polyurethane layer. Although this approach provides a better waterproof-breathable performance fabric, market forces have relegated eVent to a smaller role in the marketplace, appreciated mostly by technically oriented outdoors enthusiasts.

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011: An Emerging Revolution in Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies – It’s Not Just Gore-Tex Versus eVENT Anymore! - 4
The zipperless Montane Spektr Smock, weighing just 7.4 ounces (210 g), is the lightest eVent jacket available.

eVent’s reaction to the current waterproof-breathable fabric revolution taking place is to be supportive and flexible (bring it on!). Their marketing strategy will become much more partner-friendly, as suggested by the following pitch prominently displayed at their Outdoor Retailer booth: “Your technology on the outside; our technology on the inside.” GE Energy, owner of the eVent technology, will roll out two approaches to working with partners: 1) a manufacturer may choose to capitalize on eVent’s current reputation and incorporate the industry-known eVent name on their finished products, or 2) manufacturers may choose to combine the eVent membrane with their own knowledge of fabrics, laminate making, and garment construction, and brand them as their own. This means there will be OEM eVent products hitting the marketplace, much like what has happened with polyurethane laminates - it seems like every manufacturer has their own proprietary fabric. Personally, if that’s what it takes to get better technology into the marketplace, then I’m all for it, but the consumer confusion factor will increase dramatically; it will no longer be a simple comparison of Gore-Tex versus eVent.

Polartec NeoShell

Polartec as a company has been very aggressive in rolling out innovations. From Outdoor Retailer Summer 2010, I reported on Polartec Power Shield Pro fabric, which is claimed to block 99% of the wind and provide real water resistance while allowing 1% air circulation within the fabric to greatly enhance moisture transport by convection. Power Shield Pro fabric is featured in softshell garments being introduced this spring by several manufacturers.

NeoShell is basically the Polartec Power Shield Pro membrane with air permeability reduced from about 5 cubic feet per minute to 0.5 cfm to increase its hydrostatic head enough to make it functionally waterproof, about 10,000 mm, which Polartec claims is sufficient. The 0.5 cfm air permeability of NeoShell, compared to zero for Gore-Tex and 0.1 cfm for eVent, enables enhanced moisture transport by convection in addition to vapor diffusion, justifying Polartec’s claim that “NeoShell is the most breathable waterproof fabric available on the market today” (actually starting in fall 2011).

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011: An Emerging Revolution in Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies – It’s Not Just Gore-Tex Versus eVENT Anymore! - 5
Polartec NeoShell fabric construction (left). Rab Stretch Neo Jacket (right, 17 oz/482 g, US$365, available fall 2011).

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011: An Emerging Revolution in Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies – It’s Not Just Gore-Tex Versus eVENT Anymore! - 6
Performance test data for Polartec NeoShell compared to Gore-Tex (aka “Leading Competitor Waterproof/Breathable”) and eVent (aka “Other Waterproof/Breathable”). Information provided by Polartec.

According to Polartec, the NeoShell membrane is a sub-micron fiber polyurethane membrane, rather than ePTFE, that is air permeable. That’s about all we know about the membrane so far, as details come out and we have more actual user experiences (including our own), we will have a much better description and impression of NeoShell and whether substantial performance differences really exist.

Polartec will launch NeoShell garments in fall 2011 with selected partners including 66 North, Eider, Mammut, Marmot, Mountain Equipment, Montura, Rab, The North Face, Vaude, and Westcomb.

Columbia Omni-Dry

Like Polartec, Columbia is reluctant to release the technical details of the membrane itself, and prefers to place emphasis on its performance. We did find out that Columbia found the membrane pre-existing in the filtration industry, it’s a “modified density polyethylene,” weighs 7 g/m2, it’s stretchy and strong, it’s 75% lighter than Gore-Tex and 50% air, and will withstand 20,000 pounds of water pressure. Woody Blackford, Columbia vice president for global innovation, explained the numerous lab tests they performed to compare Omni Dry to Gore-Tex and other membranes. I won’t repeat it all here, but suffice it to say that based on their testing, Columbia claims their Omni-Dry membrane is “the lightest membrane in the industry,” has equivalent waterproofness to Gore-Tex, and is “about as air-permeable as eVent and DryQ.”

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011: An Emerging Revolution in Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies – It’s Not Just Gore-Tex Versus eVENT Anymore! - 7
Columbia graph showing Omni-Dry’s air permeability compared to Gore-Tex (left). Columbia Peak To Peak Jacket (right, 15.9 oz/451 g for size large, US$350, available spring 2011).

Omni-Dry will be offered in three garments to be introduced in spring 2011, and should not be confused with Omni-Tech, a polyurethane laminate, which is Columbia’s first waterproof-breathable technology introduced in 2008.

Mountain Hardwear DryQ

Also entering the fray is Mountain Hardwear (owned by Columbia) with their announcement of DryQ, which is based on an ePTFE membrane that is touted to have air permeability. It should, because Mountain Hardwear dropped their partnership with Gore, then partnered with GE Energy, the General Electric subsidiary that makes eVent. The company cites “the unique combination of the eVent membrane plus supreme quality face fabrics, barriers, backers, glues, tapes, and lamination technology to build its DryQ shell line.” Thus it appears that Mountain Hardwear was first in line, and the first OEM eVent fabric will arrive in fall 2011 under the name DryQ.

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011: An Emerging Revolution in Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies – It’s Not Just Gore-Tex Versus eVENT Anymore! - 8
Mountain Hardwear Effusion Hooded Jacket (12 ounces/333 g, US$200) which is a minimalist stretch shell in Mountain Hardwear’s DryQ Active line.

There will be three types of DryQ: DryQ Elite for hardcore mountaineering and skiing, DryQ Active for lightweight high energy pursuits, and DryQ Core for the mainstream consumer.

Other Rumored Developments

When we visited the Pertex booth, a Pertex technology representative casually mentioned that Pertex is partnering with GE Energy and is developing appropriate Pertex fabrics to mate with the eVent membrane, and the resulting fabric will be called Pertex Shield DV (for Direct Venting). That sounds pretty definite since they already have it named! From our perspective, the fabric constructions from Pertex are likely to be the lightest ones available, so they may be the center of our attention. We looked at numerous NeoShell and Active Shell jackets at this Outdoor Retailer Winter 2011 show, and none of them were really lightweight. That’s because mainstream manufacturers perceive that consumers of high-end shells want them to be durable and full-featured. It will take awhile for the likes of GoLite, Montane, Integral Designs, and others to integrate these new technologies into truly lightweight garments.

GE Energy is also working on two new membrane technologies, which will be variations on their standard eVent membrane, possibly to be introduced in 2012. This could be something like an “enhanced air permeability eVent” in response to Polartec’s NeoShell. Whatever it turns out to be, it will surely create some excitement in the outdoor industry.

What This All Means

Some common threads in this synopsis are:

  • All of the new and revitalized competitors developing waterproof-breathable fabric constructions incorporate membranes that provide air permeability, which they perceive is key to providing true breathability.
  • They are all ganging up on Gore-Tex, perhaps in an undeclared effort to bring down the “Holy Grail” of waterproof-breathable garments, and gain market share by educating consumers on the advantages of air permeability to convince them that the technology is advancing beyond traditional Gore-Tex.
  • Don’t think for a minute that Gore will take the competition lying down. They have already introduced Active Shell, and at the very least we expect the competition to heat up and get more interesting.
  • We will soon be evaluating breathable membranes that are based on ePTFE (Gore-Tex, eVent, Mountain Hardwear), polyurethane (Polartec), and polyethylene (Columbia). At this early stage we are lacking information to understand their anatomy and how they work, but that information will be forthcoming for your reading enjoyment.
  • We can expect this revolution to become more interesting and confusing as more and more membrane variations, fabric constructions, and proprietary branding are thrown into the equation.
  • After many years of living with the status quo, it is indeed refreshing to see technology innovation in this category once again, and hopefully it will lead to some really exciting new products for us to report on.

The Bottom Line for Backpackers

All this said, it’s important to point out that the easiest way to improve moisture venting in a hardshell jacket is to simply open the front zipper, and open the pit zips if the jacket has them - simple convection to the rescue! For backpackers who carry a backpack over a hardshell jacket, be mindful that the pack covers a large portion of the jacket’s backside, the hipbelt seals the bottom of the jacket, and the shoulder straps compress areas of the frontside. That eliminates a lot of the jacket’s surface area for moisture venting, or as eVent would say “getting the sweat out.” Opening the front zipper helps a lot, plain and simple.

I have not yet met a hardshell jacket that does not steam up while I’m hiking uphill carrying a backpack. When it’s raining we have no choice, and it becomes a matter of adjusting undergarments and opening vents to attain comfort. Any increase in fabric air permeability would definitely be an improvement.

Given the constraints to a hardshell jacket’s breathability from wearing a backpack, we really do need hardshells designed with enhanced air permeability for high exertion pursuits. The question is, will enhanced air permeability of the jacket’s fabric produce any actual improvement in comfort under these conditions? Lab testing and breathability numbers, based on the same test methods, will eventually help to compare and differentiate the technologies, but perhaps the bottom line will be actual field testing while carrying a backpack to determine if significant and perceivable differences actually exist. Or, conversely, does it really make sense to purchase an expensive waterproof-breathable jacket and then wear a backpack over it? Backpacking Light hopes to test these new technologies very pragmatically in the months ahead and report findings to our members.

An index to the articles in this series:

An Emerging Revolution in Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies - It’s Not Just Gore-Tex Versus eVent Anymore! (this article) Provides a description of the new technologies and highlights new jackets in the pipeline utilizing the new fabrics.

Field Testing Air Permeable Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies Part 2: Are There Detectable Differences Under Real World Backpacking Conditions? Describes my testing method and presents field test results.

Field Testing Air Permeable Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies Part 3: Discussion, Conclusions, and Performance of Individual Jackets Summarizes my findings and pragmatic conclusions from field testing the jackets while carrying a backpack, and discusses the pros and cons of investing in a high-end waterproof-breathable jacket. Presents test data for each jacket compared to “traditional Gore-Tex,” plus my comments on the most appropriate uses for each jacket.


Citation

"Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011: An Emerging Revolution in Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies – It’s Not Just Gore-Tex Versus eVent Anymore!," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/orwm_2011_wrapup_waterproof-breathable_technologies.html, 2011-02-01 00:10:00-07.

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Forum Index » Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011 » Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011: An Emerging Revolution in Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies – It’s Not Just Gore-Tex Versus eVENT Anymore!


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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011: An Emerging Revolution in Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies – It’s Not Just Gore-Tex Versus eVENT Anymore! on 02/01/2011 14:56:43 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011: An Emerging Revolution in Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies – It’s Not Just Gore-Tex Versus eVENT Anymore!

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011: An Emerging Revolution in Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies – It’s Not Just Gore-Tex Versus eVENT Anymore! on 02/01/2011 15:43:18 MST Print View

Excellent round-up Will; sounds like good times are ahead for folks desiring more advanced rainwear. By extension, perhaps new WPB bivys and (dare we hope?) tents?

Cheers,

Rick

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Alternate approaches on 02/01/2011 17:19:09 MST Print View

Hi Will

Good Stuff!

But I gave up on WPB jackets many years ago for the reasons you outlined at the end of the article. I use a poncho over the pack, and get great ventilation all around. At present I am using the last of my stash of old 'wet-look' silnylon, so our ponchos ARE waterproof.

Question: when will one of the big players produce something as light as stock silnylon but with a respectable pressure rating? Knocking off Gore is easy; replacing silnylon is our goal! Note: the base fabric needs to be nylon, not polyester and not Cuban, as we need the elasticity.

Cheers

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies on 02/01/2011 17:20:39 MST Print View

That was a fine write-up, Will. Sounds like we're in for some exciting new products in the next few months. Thanks for giving us this update on WPB technology.

Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
Hopefully heading in OUR direction on 02/01/2011 21:46:49 MST Print View

It seems that hi intensity activity, which is what most of us do, is not very well represented in multi-purpose breathable fabrics. I've wanted to find that really SUL 2-3 oz windshirt that could be used when its hot or cold and keep me comfortable in many situations. And to find one that could shed a good bit of precip as well. Having that multi-use piece makes it easier to spend the $$ and of course affords a lighter pack too. I'm hopeful that the new Pertex combinations will be even more breathable and will result in making that perfect windshirt: SUL or at least UL, breathable, highly water/wind resistant, and good for sun protection and can be worn next to the skin or with no more than a lw t-shirt. With that dream shirt, I could drop my 8 oz. nylon l/s shirt that's great in the sun but blocks no precip or wind.

I know I've kind of described Montane windshirts above, but would like lighter options that also have a full zip or button up and are the Jack of All Trades (blocking wind/precip/sun while breathing well).

-Great article Will. Can't wait for more updates on the details of these new fabrics. I was thinking of starting a windshirt thread in a month or two when products would hopefully begin to be released for Summer 2011. This article has definitely fueled that thought.

ROBERT TANGEN
(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
WPB on 02/01/2011 21:51:34 MST Print View

Will this jacket and other combos be compared?: “My top was dry in a soaking waterfall that went straight through my pants and filled my boots to the brim,” says expert snow and ice climber Dane at coldthistle.blogspot.com, “while wearing the Eddie Bauer Front Point jacket, which is a combo hard shell and soft shell. It is very water resistant and very breathable. I am highly impressed with the details of this garment and the combo of materials used. A surprising and almost immediate favorite for cold technical climbing.”

Here’s what Eddied Bauer says about their Frontpoint jacket (17.28 oz, size not specified) [I have no affiliation with EB]:

“The perfect outer layer for all mountain activities—especially in snowy, windy conditions. It’s all about the smart use of performance fabrics for peak efficiency. At the shoulders, hood, sleeves and hem, a 3-layer WeatherEdge Pro waterproof/breathable hardshell barrier (rated to 20,000mm/20,000g). In the body, a breathable, water- and wind-resistant, quick-drying softshell with 4-way stretch. Windproof throughout. The Hinge Hood accommodates a helmet and lets you turtle the collar whether the hood is up or down. And the easy-run zippers never leave you tugging to get it on or off. Machine wash. The first number in its 20,000/20,000 rating is the waterproofness: The fabric can withstand 20,000 mm of water suspended over its surface before moisture seeps through. The second number shows its breathability: In 24 hours, it allows 20,000 grams of water vapor to escape per square meter of fabric.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: WNC
Re: MH Dry-Q on 02/02/2011 05:34:19 MST Print View

It looks like MH may already have some DryQ products available.

Stretch Cohesion Jacket - appears to be DryQ Active

Pinnacle Stretch XT Gaiter - appears to be DryQ Active

Absolute Zero Parka - DryQ Elite

Absolute Zero Pant - DryQ Elite

Epic Jacket - appears to be DryQ Core

Epic Pant - appears to be DryQ Core

Women's Sooka Jacket - appears to be DryQ Core

Edited by simplespirit on 02/02/2011 06:05:32 MST.

Chris Townsend
(Christownsend) - MLife

Locale: Cairngorms National Park
Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011: An Emerging Revolution in Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies on 02/02/2011 07:46:38 MST Print View

Interesting technical stuff Will. Now for the field tests! I've been trying a thin Power Shield Pro soft shell and I can get condensation in it quite quickly. I wouldn't say it was any more breathable than eVent and possibly less - I need to do more testing though.

And of course there is Paramo, which is far more breathable than any membrane or coating.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011 on 02/02/2011 08:11:18 MST Print View

Good overview!
Thanks!

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Breathability when fabric gets wet on 02/02/2011 08:13:12 MST Print View

Good article, lots of nice fabrics coming our way

My question is, if the fabric gets wet from rain, does that effect breathability?

I assume all the testing is done with dry fabric.

If it's not raining, and I'm starting to sweat, I can just take off a jacket, so breathability on a dry fabric isn't that important.

If the fabric has a good DWR, then it's more likely to not get wet, which improves breathability. It seems like you have to take into account the DWR coating in breathability measurements.

If the DWR keeps the surface from wetting, then maybe you don't even need the waterproof breathable membrane?

I wonder if all these new waterproof breathable fabrics are just marketing hype so we all have to go out and buy new clothes with the new miracle fabric???

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
driducks on 02/02/2011 08:19:35 MST Print View

does anyone have numbers on waterproofness/breathability on driducks- curious how it compares w/ the more spendy itmes

tia

Inaki Diaz de Etura
(inaki) - MLife

Locale: Iberia highlands
Re: on 02/02/2011 11:08:58 MST Print View

the WPB issue is one of the most hyped in our corner of the market and where information is more scarce, unreliable and confusing. In all these years, the only source that looked different from all the noise was BPL. I've been asking on the Gear forum lately about this so I really welcome the issue is back on the spotlight.

Good article, I eagerly await for more.

Justin Tremlin
(notu) - F

Locale: Central Washington
Re: driducks on 02/02/2011 11:10:23 MST Print View

I second that one. I would love to know those numbers.

John Davis
(Bukidnon) - F
Air permeability versus vapour diffusion on 02/02/2011 12:09:10 MST Print View

I'm feeling a bit stupid. Could some kind person please provide an idiot's guide to the difference between vapour diffusion and air permeability.

Convection is mentioned. Is water loss by air permeability a result of mass flow, with air carrying water molecules through the fabric?

If so, is this a result of pore size?

Are air permeable fabrics less warm than GoreTex?

Cheers.

Danny Milks
(dannymilks) - MLife

Locale: Sierras
Another Outstanding Article on 02/02/2011 14:35:04 MST Print View

Thanks Will for the great summary for new WP/B technologies. Yet one more subject that BPL objectively reports about. And one more article that makes it worth purchasing the membership.

andre tiffany
(atiffany) - F
Fabrics on 02/02/2011 15:22:35 MST Print View

Will Good article, (full disclosure as I am very close to GORE-TEX(r) products)

If after all of the years of many, many thousands of products in the market, tested literally in all conditions, all over the world, if the products didn't work, do you really believe that the reason why GORE-TEX(r) is the "gold standard" is "just marketing?" Seems to me that if it was just "hype" that after decades of products then people might have created a different outcome.

Misfit Mystic
(cooldrip)

Locale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
RE: fabrics on 02/02/2011 16:52:52 MST Print View

This matter has been discussed ad nauseum here Andre; several technical articles on the site, and a tone of forum discussion. I'm curious how you've read the article as a non-member?

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Fabrics on 02/02/2011 17:02:47 MST Print View

"...do you really believe that the reason why GORE-TEX(r) is the "gold standard" is "just marketing?"

Yep,
That such a poor product can persist for so long is a salute to big dollar advertising and great salesmanship targeting retail store staff.

Yes, Gore stands behind their products, and that reassures everyone, but that doesn't mean it is the best product. It just means Gore has the marketing figured out.

If folks took the time to understand fabric technology Gore wouldn't stand a chance. But most folks rely on the ads and "trusted" employees. Very unfortunate.

IMHO.

Kathy A Handyside
(earlymusicus) - M

Locale: Southeastern Michigan
Gore-Tex on 02/02/2011 17:25:01 MST Print View

Something I don't understand is although Gore-Tex has been around so long and Gore-Tex clothing is now made by cheap labor in third world countries, it's still way way too expensive! The price has not dropped on Gore-Tex clothing; if anything, it's gone up in price. Since presumably the company is saving a lot by having third world laborers sewing the clothing, why aren't they passing the savings on to the consumers? After all, that was the line they gave us to sell us on the idea of globalization in the first place: "globalization will save us a lot on labor costs and we can pass those savings onto the consumer and everyone wins" or words to that effect.

Mark Hurd
(markhurd) - M

Locale: South Texas
Re: driducks on 02/02/2011 17:41:03 MST Print View

"does anyone have numbers on waterproofness/breathability on driducks- curious how it compares w/ the more spendy itmes"

Mike,

Click on the link in the 3rd section of the article called "The Key Differences" the link is "Waterproof Breathable Fabric Technologies: A Comprehensive Primer and State of the Market Technology Review," There is a chart about 2/3rds through that article about the Dri Ducks technology.
-Mark

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: driducks on 02/02/2011 18:56:46 MST Print View

Here is the link to Waterproof Breathable Fabric Technologies explaining 3M's ProPore, which is used in DriDucks.

Edited by greg23 on 02/02/2011 18:57:55 MST.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Fabrics on 02/02/2011 19:15:29 MST Print View

"If after all of the years of many, many thousands of products in the market, tested literally in all conditions, all over the world, if the products didn't work, do you really believe that the reason why GORE-TEX(r) is the "gold standard" is "just marketing?"

-- I don't believe just 'cause ideas are tenacious that means that they're worthy - Tim Minchin

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
driducks on 02/03/2011 07:21:28 MST Print View

thanks gents

looks like the micropore (driducks) is very close to event in breathability (as near as I can tell from the graph)- the hydrostatic head is probably less, but have never heard of complaints from driducks not stopping rain- so likely very sufficient :)

Shane Fleenor
(SFUVA21) - MLife

Locale: New York
Cocona? on 02/03/2011 11:10:43 MST Print View

Will,

Great article, thanks a bunch. I'm surprised there's no mention of Cocona's new waterproof/breathable shells? I know several are coming out spring 2011 (Sierra Designs Jive and Zinger come to mind and appear to be made for backpackers). With ratings of 10k waterproof and 30-35k breathable this seems like another player. I'm curious why they didn't make it into the round-up. Were they not at the show? If so, seems like they really dropped the ball.

Shane Fleenor
(SFUVA21) - MLife

Locale: New York
Re: Cocona? on 02/03/2011 11:12:53 MST Print View

To clarify, by "if so", I mean "if not", i.e. Cocona dropped the ball for not coming to the trade show. Not saying you dropped the ball for not writing about Cocona...nobody is perfect!

John Roan
(JRoan) - MLife

Locale: Vegas
Re: driducks on 02/03/2011 13:20:48 MST Print View

I absolutely love the breathability of DriDucks, not so in love with durability. Still, for 20 bucks, you can afford to replace it once a year.

What we need is something as breathable as 3M Propore used in DriDucks, and as light and durable as Cuben Fiber. Price would be high if it was achievable (like cuben), but worth it I think.

Scott H.
(handyman439) - F
waterproof breathable membrane on 02/03/2011 14:26:07 MST Print View

I gave up on waterproof breathable jackets also.

Problems
1. If I dressed warm enough for the temperature, as soon as I started working I was always overheated in the jacket, leading constantly zipping/unzipping the jacket. (typical/obvious problem of waterproof/breathable imo) It seams silly to have to "unzip" or remove "part" of my weather protection to be comfortable in the weather. Pit zips help too, but if you need to open all these vents just to have the jacket work then why not wear a PVC-type jacket that offers complete protection against wind and water and use vents to regulate temp?


2. The (partially) waterproof membrane is beneath the dwr layer. Dosent this mean the outer layer has to be pretty much soaked before you even benefit from the membrane? And when the outer layer is soaked, im guessing that also decreased the breathability of the jacket?

Solution
-Make a fabric that is waterproof/breathable on the outside.

I wear a pertex shield rain jacket, that I feel performs pretty well. The water seams to bead and roll off instead of soaking through to a membrane. I believe the fabric is "fused" together instead of layered like a typical membrane jacket, but please correct me if im wrong here, im not sure about this?

That being said im stil pretty interested in the neoshell

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
re on 02/03/2011 16:22:21 MST Print View

I sort of agree with what you said Scott

But I don't think pit zips are worth much, they're not big enough, if you need ventilation you have to unzip the front of the jacket - that provides some ventilation but even that isn't really enough - I still sweat around my shoulders, arm, and back

Maybe the time WPB is good, if you're backpacking, and your jacket got wet, and you're in your tent, or it stopped raining, the WPB will dry off pretty quickly from body heat.

Daniel Fluri
(dani) - F
WPB is a dead-end on 02/03/2011 23:41:14 MST Print View

The entire concept of not getting wet is completely flawed. Since it is not getting wet, that could kill us, but the resulting cold, developments in that direction would be much more fruitfull i.e. ultra-light clothing that keeps us warm even when soaking wet. Not that this knowledge is entirely new, but it is all to easyly forgotten amidst all this million dollar WPB gear-hype.

Scott H.
(handyman439) - F
wool on 02/04/2011 00:22:20 MST Print View

Hence the reason so many of us camp with wool.

And on a similar note.. when everything is currently being concentrated on being ultra breathable... 5 cfm air permability etc... does this extra breath ability that translate to a less warm jacket? We wear jackets to trap some of our heat right?

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: WP/B useful? wool or powerdry on 02/04/2011 08:39:28 MST Print View

> Hence the reason so many of us camp with wool.

or powerdry which I prefer given it's faster drying nature. Actually, in moderate conditions I like supplex which doesn't wick, but absorbs very little water hence dries more quickly that wool or most silk weight synthetics.

> 5 cfm air permability etc... does this extra breath ability that translate to a less warm jacket?

Yes, less warm. But it's often useful. Water moves heat 24x faster than air. Of course, that is fully submerged, but you get the idea why water is quite a threat. If a bit of air convection is the cost of keeping water accumulation down, it's a good trade off.

In recent years I have been going for more air permeability when I am active, in warmer weather quite a bit more than CFM 5, but have something that has a very low CFM for when I am at rest.

> Warm not dry

Indeed, this is what the classic british pile/pertex (the original softshell) was all about. Though I do think WP/B materials can in some conditions keep us dry and not to hot which I prefer when possible.

> usefulness of WP/B

There are certainly lots of conditions where WP/B can't hack it... but there are times it works quite well. The trip that made me not completely give up on WP/B was on a trip that was in the low 50s. I was trying out a new poncho and it wasn't going so well so I pulled off the poncho and hiked in the rain. I was doing OK til I stopped and then started to get chilled. I put on a dropstopper/driducks jacket, and then continued to walk at a slower pace. In less than 1/2 hour, the shirt was dry to the touch and I was comfortable. Wouldn't have worked if I was walking full pace, but the combination of face drying material, controlled activity level, and WPB can work well.

Personally, I am very much looking forward to seeing the new materials, especially those which have high permeability because it means there is a chance I could stay dry in warmer condition, rather than wet but warm. I prefer dry (not overheating) to warm/wet given the choice.

--Mark

Edited by verber on 02/04/2011 08:57:24 MST.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: WNC
Re: Re: WP/B useful? wool or powerdry on 02/04/2011 15:41:07 MST Print View

I was just reading that DryQ doesn't mean much. MH can use whatever face fabric with whatever membrane they want, even no membrane. So a DryQ Active jacket might be PU, PTFE, or nothing.

It also seems the Polartec stuff is going to be heavy with the older Power Shield Pro TNF Kistwar at 21 oz and the new NeoShell based RAB at 17 oz.

Edited by simplespirit on 02/04/2011 17:07:02 MST.

MIchael MacCormac
(mmacc) - M
re: DryQ doesnot mean much on 02/04/2011 16:47:18 MST Print View

Chris- i think you are right, the Stretch cohesion jacket seems waaay too cheap a highly waterproof & breathable jacket at $170 as compared to the competition.

Arapiles .
(Arapiles) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Gore-Tex doesn't work, not really on 02/04/2011 19:30:44 MST Print View

"If after all of the years of many, many thousands of products in the market, tested literally in all conditions, all over the world, if the products didn't work, do you really believe that the reason why GORE-TEX(r) is the "gold standard" is "just marketing?" Seems to me that if it was just "hype" that after decades of products then people might have created a different outcome."

Gore-Tex doesn't really work, it was just better at the time than what else was available. And didn't Gore-Tex make hay while the sun shone.

And people have created a different outcome, haven't they.

In the last month or so I have worn 2 x Paclite (one with grey dots, one second-gen), eVent and Paramo jackets for riding my bike to work in the rain (roll on La Nina and SOI) - the Paclites left me literally wetter inside than out but when, a week or so later, I wore the eVent I was perfectly dry. Paramo works as well as eVent but is too warm in an Australian summer: for riding in cold rain, it's soft hand, breathability and warmth are perfect. It also works really well in alpine conditions, whereas with my (regular) Gore-Tex jacket I used to get condensation freezing inside the jacket at -14 C to -20 C.

In fact, thinking back over the last 10 years, I can't think of a single time that I wore the Paclite jackets in the rain that I didn't get soaked: on Shirouma in the Japan Alps, in the Lake District in England and here in Melbourne.

Message to you, from a gear head and regular user: eVent is better. Sorry.

And why don't you have an "M" on your post? Does that mean that you're not a member? If so, how are you posting messages?

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Gore-Tex doesn't work, not really on 02/04/2011 19:35:05 MST Print View

D W, what "M" do you expect to see?

--B.G.--

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
re on 02/04/2011 20:52:10 MST Print View

You don't have to be a member to use forums

You can't read most articles without being a member

F. Thomas Matica
(ftm1776) - F

Locale: Vancouver, WA
The Rabbit Hole Deepens on 02/06/2011 10:20:04 MST Print View

How far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?

Are we chasing the "philosopher's stone".

How about a fabric that creates a local micro-climate around the wearer so that no water can enter?????

Edited by ftm1776 on 02/06/2011 10:20:41 MST.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
re on 02/06/2011 10:43:55 MST Print View

"How about a fabric that creates a local micro-climate around the wearer so that no water can enter?????"

Unmrella?

No, that doesn't work if it's windy

If it's above about 40F, and I'm backpacking uphill, I get sweaty wearing anything, not possible to make something breathable enough

So, only solution is to wear stuff that doesn't absorb much water so it dries quickly when you stop

Maybe if you had a very open, open cell foam, like 3M scotch Brite pad, at your shoulders holding the fabric away from your skin.

F. Thomas Matica
(ftm1776) - F

Locale: Vancouver, WA
New Generation Fabrics $$$$ on 02/06/2011 15:39:24 MST Print View

I see the better "water-proof/breathable" jackets going for about $500. I'm may be off somewhat because I can't afford something like that and don't shop that section.

So what are we going to pay for the new fabric clothing including the inevitable inflation called "inflation"??

$600...$700?? How high will this go?

Just rhetorical questions, folks.

George Phoenix
(perrito)

Locale: Joisey
Re: New Generation Fabrics $$$$ on 02/06/2011 20:31:28 MST Print View

...which brings us back to Driducks.
$600 buys like 30 jackets!
Sew in your own pitzips if you feel you need them!

Arapiles .
(Arapiles) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Re: re on 02/07/2011 05:54:06 MST Print View

"You don't have to be a member to use forums

You can't read most articles without being a member"

Took my cue from an earlier email: since it's a member's article I was curious about how they could post but as you say, it seems that you can post but not read.

Stuart R
(Scunnered) - F

Locale: Scotland
It’s Not Just Gore-Tex Versus eVENT Anymore on 02/07/2011 10:17:39 MST Print View

When I got my first eVENT jacket, I was expecting it to be just like GoreTex, only more breathable - "dry inside". Well, I was disappointed.

Sure, eVENT may be more breathable, but that's not all that is required to stay dry inside. There seems to be some conditions - eg just above freezing, wet & windy - where I very definitely get wet inside when wearing eVENT. Most noticably, my arms get wet, not a part of me that sweats much, so I assume that the moisture was somehow coming thru the fabric.

So now I prefer GoreTex in winter, less breathable but more waterproof. eVENT is fine for the rest of the year. I wonder what these even more permeable fabrics will be like. It's a question of expectations I suppose, but when you shell out $$$ for the very latest, you expect it to be the better than what went before...

Samuel David Sinclair
(samsamsam) - F
eVent is on me also, unfortunately not as watertight as GoreTex. on 02/11/2011 11:36:13 MST Print View

eVent is on me also, unfortunately not as watertight as GoreTex.

Therefore, I do not think the new materials are actually better than what already exists. Unless you want something which is not really waterproof, while wearing a backpack, while walking. Because the belts increase the pressure too much as 20.000 mm is enough. Therefore, I think we could improve the fleece.

I would be delighted if, as already mentioned, a fleece would develop that slightly dry, hardly absorbs water, water shedding and derives, very breathable and durable is.

I know of such a material but unfortunately it is not very robust. Namely, Merino-Possum from http://www.chocolatefishmerino.co.uk/merino-possum/mpbeaniedouble.html
My experience with Merino Possum is that it does not suck sweat or rain. And is highly breathable.
I also have a white wool sweater from Bulgaria. Even when I had nosebleed it has not sucked blood.

I think the secret is the natural fat of wool or fur fibers.
Which of course is also important for down. That the down does not absorb the moisture. Of course, the sweater smells after sheep. What bothers me not.
I think we should be guided by the rain protection of the animals. And their fur or feather is very water repellent. Only when it rains heavily they are soaked.
In heavy rain, it is still the best to wait under a shelter. Or use a poncho or oil jacket.

Maybe there's a possibility, to produce a artificial fur. How needs from time to time new fat. Or is there something like this, already on the market?

Tjaard Breeuwer
(Tjaard) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota, USA
Nikwax analogy on 02/18/2011 19:44:01 MST Print View

Yes, that does exist, Nikwax analogy. See the review by Chris Townsend of the the Paramo gear.

As others have mentioned, it is by far the most breathable and has a extremely supple hand.

The problem is that it has significant insulating value, making it to warm for most temperate high activity use, as far as I know does not come in stretch fabrics, limiting it's use for technical winter activities like climbing and skiing, and is heavy, limiting it's appeal in situations where you won't be wearing it all the time.

Also I'll give a plug for Cioch Direct. They make custom clothing with the Analogy fabric, fantastic for tall guys like me, as it's very hard to find WPB fabric in custom designers.

Roleigh Martin
(marti124) - MLife

Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
Update on BPL's promise to test and compare W/B Rainwear? on 08/26/2011 14:02:15 MDT Print View

I note with high interest, the promise in the article. "Backpacking Light hopes to test these new technologies very pragmatically in the months ahead and report findings to our members." The article came out in Feb 2011. Any update on this promise?

Our last update by BPL was in 2004, Feb.

"Waterproof Breathable Fabric Technologies: A Comprehensive Primer and State of the Market Technology Review," by Alan Dixon, BackpackingLight.com Product Review Program Director. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/00316.html, 2004-02-10 03:00:00-07.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: WNC
Re: Update on BPL's promise to test and compare W/B Rainwear? on 08/26/2011 14:04:44 MDT Print View

Based on the blogs I read, Dave Chenault has been part of the SOTM for this so I know it's in progress.

Of course I can't speak officially. Other than the occasional chat with the lovely Addie, I have little to do with the publishing side of BPL.

Edited by simplespirit on 08/26/2011 14:06:01 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
rainwear testing on 08/29/2011 08:08:34 MDT Print View

I am indeed working on a lightweight rain jacket SOTMR. There are some other rainwear reviews in the offing as well.

That being said, all of the lightweight jackets available now and in the test (ie 8 oz or less) are built using conventional WPB laminates (eVent, Paclite, various PU blends). Closest thing I'm aware of is the 13 oz Proshell jacket Montbell will have next year.

I'm also not a science guy, and have no business nor inclination to update Alan's article, which as far as I know is still the definitive work on the subject.

Roleigh Martin
(marti124) - MLife

Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
Re: rainwear testing on 08/29/2011 08:59:39 MDT Print View

Thanks, David. It would be cool if BPL would contact Phil Gibson who was the main researcher behind Alan's 2004 article and ask if he'd care to update his classic work with the new fabrics. He may have already done so for his military fabric research.

I also discovered in my Google Research that Philip Gibson who is the research scientist behind most of the military's knowledge on waterproof/breathable fabrics and heavily referred to by backpackinglight is the former president and current newsletter editor of The Fabric Society which is for the "Advancement of scientific knowledge pertaining to fibers, fiber based products, and fibrous materials."

If anyone is young on this board, this is a very interesting research area to become involved in. Look at some of the newsletters at their website.

http://www.thefibersociety.org/Assets/SocietyInfo.html
http://www.thefibersociety.org/Assets/Officers_Committees.htm
http://www.thefibersociety.org/Assets/newsletters.html

In this newsletter is a good biography/resume of Gibson when he was president of the society.

http://www.thefibersociety.org/Assets/newsletters/2006_2_newsletter.pdf

His email address is: phillip.gibson@us.army.mil