Buying Technical Outerwear

Fabrics
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Every day, there seems to be a new miracle fabric available to keep you warmer, dryer, cooler, or just more comfortable. Here are some of the ones you are likely to see while shopping for backcountry clothing.

Sympatex : A windproof, waterproof, breathable fabric made out of nonporous polyester. Also produced as a nonporous membrane of hydrophilic film that can be laminated onto another fabric. Sympatex comes as three-ply laminates, linings, and inserts for outerwear, footwear, gloves, and other accessories.

Fleece : Polyester fabric, sometimes constructed with nylon, lycra, cotton, or ceramic blend, that is generally lightweight and breathable with a high warmth-to-weight ratio. Some fleeces may also have wicking properties.

Polartec Windbloc : Polyester fabric with windproof, breathable membrane designed to protect from weather, wind, water, and abrasion.

Gore-Tex : Nylon or polyester fabric that's laminated to Gore-Tex membrane. Designed to be waterproof, windproof, breathable, and durable.

Gore-Tex Windstopper : Polyester fleece laminated to Gore Windstopper membrane that is windproof and somewhat breathable.

Gore-Tex Activent : Membrane laminated to various fabrics for windproofing breathability. Generally very lightweight as well.

The following are all proprietary waterproof, breathable, polyester-based fabrics:

Triple-Point Ceramic : Lowe Alpine System's proprietary waterproof breathable coating technology. A twin-coated, high-pressure coating that can be applied to a variety of fabrics, including polyester or nylon. The combination of the coating process, fabrics, and DWR all play into the specific windproof, waterproof, or breathable function of each specific garment.

Omni-Tech : Columbia's proprietary waterproof, breathable technology. Can be coated or laminated to nylon or polyester base fabric. Primarily used for mountaineering, backpacking, and skiing outerwear, as well as an insert in gloves and footwear.

H2 No Storm HB : Patagonia's proprietary waterproof, breathable membrane that comes as a three-layer laminate. Three-layer laminate used with almost any fabric, such as nylon or polyester. Primary uses are waterproof, breathable outerwear pieces. H2 No Storm HB is used in conjunction with another proprietary technology—the Deluge DWR water repellency treatment system, which makes for an unbeatable combination.


Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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