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Tech: Waterproof Breathable Layers

All waterproof-breathable technologies are designed to keep liquid water (precipitation) out while allowing the wearer’s own moisture vapor (perspiration) to escape. The major differences between them are the amount of water vapor that can pass and the durability of the waterproofing process.

Waterproof-breathable technologies:

  • Gore-Tex
  • Gore-Tex XCR
  • Entrant
  • Xalt

Gore-Tex

Gore-Tex is a microporous laminate permanently bonded to a face fabric. The laminate contains millions of microscopic pores. Each of the pores is large enough to allow individual water molecules to pass through. When water is in vapor form (perspiration) molecules move around separately and escape outward through the laminate’s micropores. When water is in liquid form (rain and melted snow) the molecules cling together in groups. The pores are too narrow for molecular groups to pass through, so rain and melted snow cannot get through the laminate.

Benefits
Gore-Tex laminate is made from a unique form of polytetrafluorethylene (PTFE). PTFE is very durable and stands up better than other waterproof-breathable technologies to regular use and repeated laundering. The laminate will retain its waterproofness throughout the useful life of the garment. It is unaffected by chemicals such as insect repellents, which may dissolve some polyurethane microporous coatings. Though some insect repellents can damage the face fabric of any clothing, including Gore-Tex garments.

Gore-Tex XCR

Gore-Tex XCR (eXtended Comfort Range) is similar to “Classic” Gore-Tex in waterproofness and resistance to abrasion and chemicals, but is even more breathable.

Breathability is affected by the difference in temperature and humidity between the inside and the outside of a garment. The greater the difference, the more moisture the fabric can exhale. XCR shines when you are really exerting and producing lots of heat and moisture. Depending on exertion levels, XCR is 12 to 60% more breathable than Classic Gore-Texand overall has about 25% better breathability.

Greater breathability at high exertion levels can translate into half a litre of moisture exhaled during the course of an active day. Less moisture inside your garment means that your insulating layers keep you warmer and you feel more comfortable.

Entrant

Entrant is a series of polyurethane-based coatings applied in three layers on the inside of a face fabric to create a waterproof-breathable treatment. The layers, each with a different size of microscopic pore, are combined to maintain waterproofness, maximize vapor transmissionand minimize condensation. It works the same way Gore-Tex laminates, by allowing vapor to escape outward through the pores but preventing rain from coming in.

Benefits
In lab tests, fabric with an Entrant coating is 60 to 75% as breathable as the same fabric with Gore-Tex laminate, or roughly half as breathable as Gore-Tex XCR. However, the breathability of a finished garment in the field doesn’t depend only on the coating or laminate. Breathability is also affected by the face fabric’s inherent water repellency, the effectiveness of any applied durable water repellency (DWR)and by vents in the garment.

Entrant-coated garments have a tightly woven face fabric, a highly water-repellent finishand effective venting. The result is very waterproof, breathable garments with comfort comparable to Gore-Tex and lower prices for the equivalent quality of fabrics and construction.

Xalt

Xalt (eXtreme All-weather Laminate Technology) is a monolithic, hydrophilic, polyurethane membrane, permanently bonded to the inside of a face fabric. It works differently than laminate technologies such as Gore-Tex or Entrant. The Xalt membrane doesn’t have pores, instead it is made of two types of polymers linked together in long chains. One type of polymer provides structure to the membrane without attracting water, while the other has polar side chains that attract water vapor molecules. Each of these polar sites grabs a water vapor molecule and passes it to the next polar site in the chain. As a result, vapor moves directly through the solid membrane to the outside of the garment.

Benefits
Xalt is 60 to 75% as breathable as classic Gore-Tex and about half as breathable as Gore-Tex XCR. But, since Xalt has no pores to become contaminated with debris, its performance is less affected by dirt or oils than laminates and coatings. Xalt garments are some of the most economical waterproof-breathable garments offered and are an excellent choice for those on a budget.


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