What if you just don’t want to choose Gore-Tex?
Gore-Tex, a micro-porous material constructed from stretched polytetrafluoroethylene, has been a household name since 1966. While most of us might not be aware of the exact science behind Gore-Tex, most of us will have come across the material in some form, usually in relation to outdoor clothing.
What’s interesting in the current waterproof clothing market is this: in recent years, a slew of competitors have begun to attempt to take the mantle from Gore-Tex – some using similar technologies, and others with completely fresh and new design ideas. In this article, we’ll concentrate on five alternatives to Gore-Tex that you might notice on the shelves at your local outdoor clothing store – either now, or in the not-too-distant future.
Arguably the most high-profile of the current Gore-Tex alternatives, eVent is created using ePTFE (essentially stretched Teflon). The membrane itself is reasonably similar to Gore-Tex in terms of construction, but unique enough to be classed as an independent product. eVent technology is currently owned by GE Energy, and is regularly licensed to various clothing manufacturers around the world to be manufactured and sold under alternative names.
NeoShell, created by Polartec, is one of the most recent major competitors to the Gore-Tex crown. Polartec claims NeoShell is currently the most breathable waterproof membrane available, as it does not require pressure or high levels of heat to facilitate air flow. Although it may be early days for NeoShell, the commercial, professional and military applications of the material cannot be denied, making it one of the more likely contenders to knock Gore-Tex from its perch.
Constructed from a polyether-polyester copolymer, Sympatex differs from eVent, Gore-Tex and NeoShell in that it does not contain micropores which typically allow breathability. Water vapour is instead passed through the material by a sophisticated process of absorption and evaporation. Like most new breathable fabric technologies, its early days for Sympatex, and it remains to be seen just what sort of impact the material will have on the market.
Manufactured by Patagonia, H2No might not be widely available at the moment, although initial reports suggest that the fabric, created using polyester and polyurethane laminates, might just be the most durable waterproof breathable fabric yet – given the demand for more durable outdoor clothing materials, H2No could be making an impact very soon.
Owned by technical clothing manufacturers Mountain Hardware, OutDry (a material which is based on technology licensed from eVent) is a lightweight fabric which omits the extra layers usually present between the outer shell and breathable membrane, which means no water is kept in the garment. The sports applications of OutDry make it one of the more popular emerging outdoor clothing fabrics.
For the best part of four decades, Gore-Tex retained the monopoly on breathable waterproof jackets, trousers, boots and just about any other garment you can think of. When purchasing outdoor clothing, chances are you’ll notice the distinctive Gore-Tex logo adorning all manner of jackets and other products. It’s fair to say that the technology is synonymous with waterproof fabrics – it’s certainly the first to spring to mind for most people, at any rate. Though now you know the best of the rest, you can make sure you’re picking the right outdoor fabric for you.