Waterproof / Breathable Fabrics

What are some of the latest and greatest technologies in the world of technological fabrics these days? Well, there is always the waterproof breathable category.

GORE-TEX

Many of us have heard of GORE-TEX – the most common name when it comes to a waterproof technology. GORE-TEX is known primarily as a membrane used in fabrics, but its also used worldwide in the medical industry, as insulation for wires and cables, as well as my favorite dental floss. The basis of GORE-TEX is the material PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene for those who want to know). It is stretched into a thin layer then added to a face fabric – usually made from Polyester or Nylon as a waterproof breathable layer. Essentially the membrane layer is made of little pores, so tiny that they allow vapor to go through, but not a water droplet. This is the breathable part.   Why are GORE-TEX Jackets so popular? Well for one, they do work – keep you dry and help move moisture away from the body, and are readily available. You can get a variety of versions from Patagonia, The North Face, and Peak Performance to name just a few.

Schoeller C-Change

But there are some other technologies also competing with Gore Tex, namely Schoeller C-Change out of Switzerland. This is also based on the same technology – a polymer membrane. The C-change story though is based on weather changes, as you heat up, the pores ‘open’ , enough for a water vapor, but not droplets. When you’re inactive, or if its cooler, the pores ‘close’ to keep heat in.  This model is based on nature, for example a pinecone. As it sun hits it, it opens up, during cooler weather, it stays closed.  Many have found this technology preferable over GORE-TEX as it tends to be more breathable, and offers stretch, for a more flexible comfortable fit. Schoeller C-change fabrics can be found with Mammut, Perfect Moment, and KJUS.

eVent

Lastly, the 3rd real player here is eVent. Also based on a PTFE membrane. The difference here is that rather than add a PU (poly urethane) coating that GORE-TEX adds which helps alleviate any oil, dirt and grime that can attach to the breathable pores, eVent skips this part. The claim is that the PU layer reduces the breathability, though improves the durability of the membrane. Without this PU integrated into the PTFE layer it means that moisture vapor is vented much more efficiently, however it also means the garment may be too breathable, making the garment too cool in colder temps.  So warmer body temps can escape through the membrane rather than staying in to keep you warm. eVent can be found in brands Rab, and Westcombe,

So, what is the best membrane story for you? Really its what you use your jacket for – are you hot and sweaty, cold and frigid or somewhere in between. Luckily any one of these options could work for you!

Composed by Donna Veraguth, designer / product manager for all things outdoor.  Previously employed at such companies, The North Face, Cloudveil, Fly Low and currently residing and working with Perfect Moment.