Brand Style Guides
The North Face
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chart gives a snapshot of the comparative performance of various waterproof breathable technologies (many companies do not publish this info, so you won't find them on the chart!)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).
Here is a breakdown of the main technologies, their manufacturers, and the important attributes of each:
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.
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