Below is a guide to some of the more popular waterproof breathable fabrics and technologies you may come across. Most are linked to specific brands while some are not.
Waterproof Breathable Fabrics
Any conversation about waterproof breathable fabric has to look seriously at FUTURELIGHT, created by The North Face after talks with several of their athletes and tested on the Himalayas. It has become the fabric of the industry, with unparalleled lightness and breathability. It’s absolutely waterproof and even seems to adjust to outdoor temperatures. Even the finish is smooth and soft, unlike the typical crackling crinkle of a weatherproof shell.
While it is often confused for a fabric, GORE-TEX is a waterproof membrane found at the heart of all GORE-TEX products. This membrane is an extremely thin layer of polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE) which has been expanded and is home to over 9 billion pores per square inch. These pores are what gives GORE-TEX fabrics all of their characteristics from being exceptionally waterproof to breathable and windproof too.
Columbia has been utilizing OutDry Extreme in some of their waterproof products and we are impressed. This waterproof technology has turned Columbia’s waterproof garments inside out, literally. OutDry Extreme is crafted with the waterproof membrane on the outside of the jacket. Because of this, unlike most other waterproof membranes, OutDry Extreme does not need a DWR coating. Inside, there is a moisture-wicking lining next-to-skin that ensures optimal breathability and the next-to-skin comfort you desire.
This particular waterproof membrane is used by Mountain Hardwear. This waterproof and breathable technology keeps you dry on the inside even during exercise and while the rain is falling. Dry.Q technology keeps the wearer feeling dry and fresh by its ability to vent water vapour before a buildup of moisture and heat is formed.
H2No is Patagonia‘s proprietary waterproof and breathable fabric which like DryVent, is available in a 2L, 2.5L and 3L construction. Each of the three different constructions is designed to accommodate different conditions and activities. This particular waterproof fabric is a gas permeable and waterproof structure that excels when conditions are at their worst.
With the information above, shopping should be easy. You can decide whether your needs call for a FUTURELIGHT mountain jacket, a GORE-TEX raincoat or if you can opt for something different with just as much performance.