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The Concept Of Waterproof Breathable Is Collapsing

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The concept of a manmade inanimate object — in this case a fabric having the ability to be on the one hand waterproof and on the other hand, as the outdoor industry likes to call it, breathable (the proper terminology is vapor permeable) — is showing signs of collapsing. It is quite easy to coat a fabric that will make the fabric waterproof. It is also easy to have a fabric which is vapor permeable. The fabric that I am referring to is a fishnet knitted fabric. Woven fabrics such as a cotton shirting material or knitted fabrics such as those used for tee shirts that do not have any coating applied to them will allow a percentage of the perspiration to escape through the spaces between the yarns. The action of the moist vapor moving through these spaces means that the fabric is vapor permeable.

Now the Gore Company has introduced “light and fast GORE-TEX fabric”. They claim their new product is, and I quote: “an extremely breathable, light weight fabric that provides durable waterproof and windproof with improved next-to-skin comfort. The new technology significantly reduces build-up of under-layer condensation during and after periods of high intensity activity without sacrificing environmental protection”. They further state, and I quote: “The fabric is also contamination resistant, protecting the wearer against sweat and sebum, jet fuels, DEET, and other petroleum, oils, and lubricants.”

I do not get being protected from my own sweat and sebum. We know that sweat is part of the mechanism that helps to cool our body when we are active, so why do we need to be protected from our own sweat? According to the World English Dictionary sebum is the oily secretion of the sebaceous glands that acts as a lubricant for the hair and skin and provides some protection against bacteria. Why do we need to be protected from our own sebum? I do understand not wanting to be exposed to all forms of petroleum products and DEET. I thought DEET was an insect repellent, but Gore thinks it is dangerous when it gets on your skin. I agree! To keep mosquitos at bay use citronella oil!

I was under the impression that the Gore Company believed that they were making the greatest waterproof breathable material ever, guess not. They now have apparently an improved version that gets rid of “under-layer condensation” as never before. How this new Gore fabrication can do this is mysticism. When water vapor condenses it becomes liquid. When the liquid is under your shirt it is “under-layer condensation.” Again, I ask how this condensed liquid is removed by this new Gore fabrication. In reality the under-layer of condensed liquid remains where it is unless the fabric next to your skin is cotton, wool, silk or rayon, then it is absorbed by any of the mentioned fabrics and via wicking action it can leave your skin surface. If you are wearing a Gore fabricated fabric as an outer layer the liquid that exists cannot get out any easier than the rain can get in. Actually that is not a true statement. Yes the liquid cannot get out but rain does get in. How do we know this? Easy. When Gore had complaints about water seepage into rain garments made with their fabrications a new term was suddenly used in the outdoor industry: “wetting out.” From what I know about the application of laminating nylon fabric, any material i.e. PTFE film, as an example, cannot be laminated to nylon that has been water repellent treated. If so, the adhesive used is placed on the finish on the fabric versus the fabric itself. In this instance delamination occurs once the water repellent treatment washes away. Therefore, lamination is done to fabrics that do not have the water repellent treatment applied until after the lamination. The water repellent treatment is now sprayed on the exposed surface of the fabric. Once the water repellent treatment washes away “wetting out” occurs and when this happened Gore came out with a water repellent treatment that could be applied to the fabric. This tells us that the waterproof element of the Gore fabrication is not waterproof at all or for very long.

All of what I have written applies to any and all other companies that “claim” to have a waterproof and breathable fabrication that they either sell to manufacturers or manufacturers who make their own branded product.

I believe sooner or later — and I hope sooner — the ultimate consumer will come to the realization that they cannot buy a rain garment with the aforementioned capabilities unless, of course, they believe in mysticism.

All those in the outdoor industry that believe such nonsense are exhibiting “self-contradictory confusion.”

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