Waterproof Fabric Guide

Tuesday, 8 July 2014  |  Jen - Escape 2

Wet fabric zaps heat away from your body. When you invest in top quality waterproof clothing, you are buying the ability to stay dry and warm and to continue your chosen activity in comfort for a longer period of time. 

A fabric could be waterproof, but not breathable at all – in this case then in no time at all, doing anything remotely active, you will end up soaking wet as perspiration will condensate on the inner surface of the fabric and then percolate through your layering system and back to your skin, making you cold.

There are many different versions of waterproof fabrics on the market. Here is our guide to this potential confusing area of kit selection.

It is vital that you care for and maintain your waterproof to gain the maximum breathability for the lifetime of your garment.

These membrane technology waterproof fabrics tend to be made into either 2-layer or 3-layer constructions.


The extremely thin membrane is laminated only to an outer shell textile. The lining on the inside of the garment is ‘loose’. This tends to produce a more flexible item that is very comfortable to wear. It is also ideal for combing with insulation within a jacket or pants when warmth is a key factor.


In this format, the membrane is laminated to both the outer shell fabric and directly to the inner lining. This has the advantage of producing no movement between the layers thus increasing the durability of the garment.


GORE-TEX sets the bench-mark for waterproof wear. GORE-TEX does what it says on the tin and some. It is durably waterproof, windproof and optimally breathable. At the heart of a GORE-TEX product lies the key to this performance; an extremely thin membrane that has over 9 billion pores per square inch allowing the fabric to be both water and windproof and to breath. The membrane is bonded to a high performance lining fabric and an outer shell textile. Once the garment has been constructed, all of the seams and tiny stitch holes are covered over by GORE-SEAM TAPE, for total liquid resistance. At this stage, each product prototype will be rigorously tested and put through it’s paces in the Rain Room which can simulate all types of rain, then a Comfort Test and then a severe and prolonged abrasion test. The Cold Flex test stresses the fabric at extreme low temperatures. The fabric must emerge from this battering still being durably waterproof and windproof. If it doesn’t hold up to GORE-TEX’s exacting standards and punishing lab tests, then it’s sent straight back to the drawing board.

GORE-TEX is guaranteed to perform. In fact, if you are not completely satisfied with the waterproofness, windproofness or breathability of your GORE-TEX product then GORE-TEX promise to either repair it, replace it or refund your purchase price.

Multiple GORE-TEX membranes have been developed to ensure durable waterproofness, windproofness and breathability for specific end uses:





Garments engineered with GORE-TEX fabric are durably waterproof, windproof and perform with optimum breathability. This fabric is used in many 2-layer and 3-layer jackets and provides the wearer with maximum protection and comfort.


Engineered for the extreme. Garments engineered with GORE-TEX Pro are designed for extreme ruggedness with extreme breathability in situations where durability is challenging.


This version of GORE-TEX has been developed for extreme breathability, waterproofness and windproofness in highly active end uses.


These garments are designed to be extremely lightweight and packable for situations when weight and space are critical. This has been designed to keep you dry and cool while active and warm during cool-down, even in windy and cold conditions.


This version of GORE-TEX is frequently used in waterproof, breathable footwear and also in gloves. XCR stands for Extended Comfort Range.

Other GORE-TEX Technologies

There is then a large variety of outer face fabrics that are used in garments. In general terms the higher the price, the more durable and breathable the end result will be. Arc’teryx uses the crem de la crème of face fabrics available. This can have a dramatic impact on the overall performance of a garment. The higher the thread-count and the cleaner and denser the weave, the more the outer fabric will be able to shed water. This shedding of water is extremely important for the garment’s breathability. If the fabric is holding on to water in microscopic indents in a fabric, then breathability will be impeded.

HyVent ®

The North Face HyVent ® is a waterproof, breathable technology that uses a polyurathane (PU) coating. This tri-component, multi-layer formula provides waterproof protection, moisture permeability (breathability) and durability. HyVent® technology has been both lab and field tested to ensure the best possible durability and breathability.

HyVent® Alpha

This option is used in The North Face Summit Series™ collection.

Burly, waterproof fabric is created with microporous, hydrophobic lamination that can cope with the most severe conditions. Its laminate membrane, constructed with nearly half a million holes per square inch, allows perspiration to pass through the fabric before it condenses to liquid, keeping you dry, warm and comfortable.

HyVent® 2-Layer

The two layer construction used here combines a durable outer layer that repels wet weather and protects against abrasion, while the PU inner coating and mico-pores channel water vapor to the outer layer.

HyVent ® 3-Layer

This is a three-layer construction for waterproofness in extreme conditions.  A durable woven outer layer repels wet weather and protects from abrasion. The mid-layer is a polyurethane coating with micro-pores to channel water vapor from the inner layer to the outer. The comfortable inner layer is also engineered to manage moisture, channelling it up to the micro-pores. The end result is an exceptional waterproof, breathable technology that stays dry inside and out.

HyVent® DT

HyVent® DT is very similar to HyVent® 3-Layer, but with a thinner third layer. This creates a waterproof fabric that is lighter weight, more packable and more breathable. HyVent® DT is produced by applying a PU coating along with a DT print matrix. This DT ‘half layer’ feels dry-to-touch next to the skin and provides extra durability and comfort by separating the PU coating from your skin. This in turn eliminates the need for another lining fabric, hence reduces the weight and makes the garment far more packable. This technique is often referred to as a 2.5 layer fabric.

HyVent® DT EC

This clever waterproof fabric has been designed to be more ecologically sound. Instead of petroleum-based elements, HyVent® DT EC uses natural castor oil from beans to reduce the use of synthetic components by half. HyVent® DT EC still maintains ideal waterproof, breathable performance especially in cool to cold conditions making it especially suited to skiing and winter sports.


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