Article on Rain Gear

Aron Snyder

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What's in a Name: Brand Breakdown for Waterproof-Breathable Fabrics


In the early days of waterproof-breathable fabrics, choosing was easy, because Gore-Tex was the only option. A lot has changed. Now there are so many types and brands that it is difficult to keep them all straight. If you want to know more about what keeps water out of your boots or jacket before you pull the trigger, you've come to the right place.
All Waterproof Breathable materials are built around the same principle: The materials have millions of tiny pores which are way too small for liquid moisture to get through, but considerably larger than molecules of water vapor, which pass easily through the material. If you want more details, you can read more in the Gear Guide article about Waterproof Breathable Technology.

To get you going, the following chart gives a snapshot of the comparative performance of various waterproof breathable technologies (many companies do not publish this info, so you won't find them on the chart!)
The waterproof rating is a measurement of pressure, and is displayed as the height of a water column, in millimeters, that the fabric will keep out for a 24 hour period (mm/24hr).
The breathability rating is a measurement of vapor movement through the material, and is displayed as the grams of water that move through a square meter of fabric in a 24 hr period (g/m2/24hr). Take this breathability rating as a guideline, with a grain of salt, because lab testing results for breathability vary greatly and don’t always reflect real-world performance.
(Check out this article if you want to know more about the challenges of fabric testing).
The Brands: Here is a breakdown of the main technologies, their manufacturers, and the important attributes of each:
Gore-Tex:



Gore-Tex, the grandfather of all waterproof-breathables, is still the most popular name-brand waterproofing technology. It is also backed by the "Guaranteed to keep you dry promise, which really means that they will warranty the product if it ever leaks. The material itself is a membrane that is made from polytetraflouroethylene, or PTFE (it is the main ingredient in Teflon) and laminated on to the face fabric. The laminate is a white, lightweight, and thin material that you can hold in your hand. Such materials are great because you can manufacture them uniformly, thereby assuring the desired level of waterproofness and breathability. The drawback is that this material is prone to contamination and requires a thin protective coating PU and a protective liner inside the garment to maintain waterproofness. This slightly reduces breathability, but during high-output activities, Gore-Tex remains at the front of the pack in terms of breathability. As a result, almost every company incorporates Gore-Tex into their lineup, and some, like Arc’Teryx, use it exclusively in all their waterproof gear. Gore-Tex comes in a number of different flavors:
Performance Shell:
This is the original offering form Gore-Tex (it used to just be called Gore-Tex). It is most commonly found in footwear and 2-layer constructions in less-expensive jackets and pants. It also shows up in some insulated pieces where high-output breathability is less of a concern.
ProShell:
ProShell, formerly known as XCR, is the top-of-the-line laminate for outerwear, most commonly appearing in 3-layer construction in high-end alpine climbing and ski jackets. It boasts more pores per square inch, increasing the breathability 25% higher than performance shell.
Paclite:
Paclite arrived on the scene as the world's first 2.5 layer fabric in the mid 90s. It has gone through many generations since then, but remains one of the only membrane based 2.5 layer technologies. It is the lightest form of construction, and shares the high waterproof rating of the other Gore-Tex products. While it used to be said that this was the most breathable construction, it seems that, due to the PU protective coating required to protect the membrane on the inside, Paclite’s breathability sits somewhere around that of Performance Shell.
XCR:
Gore-Tex XCR is the same membrane as ProShell, but retains this earlier name only in footwear. It is often found in higher end waterproof trail runners and light hikers.
Gore-Tex Softshell:
The world of softshells is a confusing place, and Gore’s entry made it no less so. But, like all Gore-Tex products, their softshell is 100% waterproof. The difference is that the membrane in this case is bonded to a softer fabric on the outside and a fuzzy brushed tricot on the inside, making them warmer than normal shells. While Gore-Tex softshells are indeed softer feeling than hardshells, they lack the stretch and increased breathability normally associated with softshells.
DryLoft:
This is a membrane with higher breathability but lower water resistance for down sleeping bag applications. It allows users to worry less about their down getting wet when sleeping under the stars or in snow caves.
eVent: eVent is one of the newer kids on the block, and they make a membrane that is actually a thin fabric. This boasts improved durability, allowing them to forgo the PU coating. While Gore-Tex is highly breathable under high vapor pressure (lots of moisture inside your gear), eVent's claim to fame is that it breathes at a more constant level though a range of activity level and moisture build-up. Though eVent items are coming in line with Gore-Tex, the drawback has historically been higher cost. The North Face Hyvent is the name that North Face uses to designate any proprietary waterproof-breathable material that they use in their gear. Last time we checked, there were at least 7 different types of Hyvent for various applications and price ranges! Here is a rundown of three main versions that they have differentiated for us: This is the original Hyvent coated technology, incorporating a protective PU layer over a microporous coating. You find this in 2-layer and 3-layer jackets (Hyvent 2L and Hyvent 3L, respectively), in gloves and mittens, and in footwear. It is typically utilized in the lower end products in the The North Face lineup due to its low price point.
Hyvent DT was first used in the super-popular North Face Venture Jacket. The DT stands for Dry Touch, and refers to the .5 layer skim coat of PU that The North Face uses in the Venture and other 2.5 layer jackets. This half-layer design looks like a printed pattern, but is actually a raised scrim that holds the coating away from the wearer, increasing comfort and adding a little bit of vapor space to improve breathability.
Hyvent Alpha is, like Gore-Tex, actually a membrane and not a coating. It is the highest-end product in the Hyvent line, boasts the best waterproof and breathability ratings, and can be found in Summit Series gear. Marmot Marmot uses both coatings and membranes in their gear, and they have a couple different performance levels in each: Precip: This was the original proprietary 2.5 layer construction, and it first appeared in the game-changing Precip jacket. It consists of a combination of both types of fabric coatings, so, unlike Hyvent, it has no raised scrim to protect it. Instead, Precip uses a protein coating on the inside of the fabric to make it feel drier and more comfortable next to the skin. It is Marmot’s least expensive technology. Precip Plus: As you might expect, this takes the idea of Precip and makes it better. Precip Plus boasts higher waterproofness and breathability ratings than standard Precip. Membrain: Membrain was Marmot’s first waterproof-breathable technology, and it is indeed a PU membrane. It boasts high levels of water resistance and breathability, comparable, according to Marmot, to Gore-Tex XCR. It also has the added advantage that PU is slightly hydrophilic, which means it will absorb some of the moisture that would otherwise be liquid condensate on the inside of the garment. Membrain 10: This is a lower performance, 10,000mm-rated material for use in articles designed for not-extreme conditions. Membrain Strata: This is Marmot's newest technology, and represents the pinnacle of 2.5 layer design in the industry. It uses inorganic particles in a patterned coating to protect the membrane, eliminating the need for a lining and allowing construction of some of the lightest membrane fabrics ever while boasting 100% better breathability vs. other 2.5 layer fabrics.

Mountain Hardwear Mountain Hardwear's addition the world of waterproof-breathable is called Conduit. They use it under a few different types in a large array of applications. Here are the main ones: Conduit SL: This is the tagline given to very lightweight fabrics coated with a thinner layer of Conduit. It is most frequently seen in the shells of down sleeping bags, in bivy sacs, and in a few jackets when lightweight and high breathabilty are more important than bombproof weather protection.
Conduit Softshell: Mountain Hardwear pushes the definition and usage of softshells with this fabric, combining soft materials, a Conduit laminate, and exterior seam taping to provide waterproof protection in softshell gear.
Conduit Silk: This is the 2.5 layer fabric from Mountain Hardware. It is similar to Marmot's PreCip in that it has no scrim on the inside. The protective layer on this fabric is PU with silk proteins incorporated to make the inside of the fabric feel dry and smooth on your skin.

Patagonia Patagonia waterproofs it's gear with a coating called H2No. They test it for durability in their "Killer Wash", which simulates years of abuse in a short period of time. After that treatment, they ensure that their products still meet a standard of almost twice US Military waterproof spec. There are 2, 2.5, and 3 layer constructions of H2No, each suited to certain uses. In the 2.5 layer constructions, as found in the Torrentshell Jacket, the protective layer on the inside is actually a raised scrim like HyVent DT and not a printed pattern as found in Marmot PreCip. (learn more about these waterproof fabric constructions)
 
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Aron Snyder

Aron Snyder

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I guess you can only have 1,500 words in one post and my section of Toray was cut off.

This info was copied from Kuiu's website and covers the stats for Toray fabric and the Chugach rain gear.

Technical Features
• 177g/m2 Toray Primeflex 4-Way Stretch, 3 layer Dermizax Laminate
• 17.3 ounces
• 20,000mm/20,000 MPV waterproof & breathable rating
• 4-way stretch
• Highly breathable, maintains comfort during aerobic activity
• Durable
• Wind Proof
• Bemis Seam Tape
• Pit-Zips-#3 YKK Weather proof
 

Matt Cashell

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Aron, that is a lot of information in one place! Well done.

IMO, it is worth emphasizing your point that tradtional laminates like Gore Tex require you to have already soaked the interior of the fabric for it to "breathe," while direct venting fabrics like eVent and Toray breath all the time, saving you from getting soaked in the first place.
 

cmeier117

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So Toray is actually less breathable and waterproof than gore-tex 3L pro shell? But Toray is a direct venting fabric so it breathes quicker and more consistently?

What Goretex does Sitka use?
 
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bearguide

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great info / what is the best real world application in rain gear
 

MOHunter

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I've been looking into non-camo rain gear as it seems to be better and cheaper. For example, Mountain Hardwear's DryQ Elite is said to be rated at 40,000 waterproof and 30,000 breathability in some products. I found a jacket in black for like $185.

Does anyone know what waterproof rating is actually waterproof? It seems that you can't get drier than dry. It kind of seems like marketing to say one is "more" waterproof than another when in reality they both keep you dry.
 

Slim Jim

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What is frogg toggs rated? I was looking into their product because the suit is only one pound and now have camo. I know it isn't very quiet but for middle of the day rain showers that we get in Nevada in the summer I thought would be a good choice.
 

Yellowknife

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Does anyone know what waterproof rating is actually waterproof? It seems that you can't get drier than dry. It kind of seems like marketing to say one is "more" waterproof than another when in reality they both keep you dry.
I'm not claiming to be an expert, but I have been wet a time or two. Those rating systems need to be taken with a grain of salt, since it's really hard to reflect the "real world" use, but in general I don't want to see anything less than 20,000mm for waterproofness and more is better. 15,000mm will likely be fine for standing in the open, but will soak through quickly when under pressure such as sitting, kneeling, or pushing through tall grass/thick alders. In other words, for hunting applications the waterproofness rating needs to be more robust than it would need to be for light hiking or "around town" use.

Yk
 

Mannsbuick

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I've been looking into non-camo rain gear as it seems to be better and cheaper. For example, Mountain Hardwear's DryQ Elite is said to be rated at 40,000 waterproof and 30,000 breathability in some products. I found a jacket in black for like $185.

Does anyone know what waterproof rating is actually waterproof? It seems that you can't get drier than dry. It kind of seems like marketing to say one is "more" waterproof than another when in reality they both keep you dry.
@MOHunter
I know this is a very old thread lol, but what was/is your experience if any on *Mountain Hardwear's "DryQ" fabric? I recently found a new Mountain Hardwear "stretch capacitor" rain jacket that seems to have gotten rave reviews and is extremely lightweight! I have the Original KUIU "Chugach" pant/jacket set made in Canada that I use for hunting, but wanted something lightweight for backpacking overnight trips when pack rafting..what are your thoughts and experiences just curious..and of course I love talking gear lol well, hope you and your family are safe and well
 
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