Let’s look at the three general types of laminates suitable for hunting and the positive/negatives of each. Its important to understand that not only is breathability affected, but the weight of the garment, durability, noise, stretch & cost.
– PVC; Polyvinyl Chloride. PVC is a non-breathable, waterproof plastic softened by the use of plasticizers. 100% waterproof.
Positives: Inexpensive and waterproof.
Negatives: No breathability, low durability(thickness dependant) and noise. Weight & packability is another challenge for the more durable PVC products. Strength is created by bonding with fabric, which adds a significant amount of weight. The ultralight packable versions are noisy and tear easily. Plan on a lot of condensation build up if moving while wearing this type of laminate.
– ePTFE; expanded Polytetrafluoroethylene. A hydrophic, microporous membrane. This means it repels water but has pores that allow water vapor to pass through. ePTFE alone is very breathable, hydrophobic and waterproof.
Positives: Breathable and waterproof. Can be lightweight.
Negatives: Can be noisy and heavy depending on face fabric. ePTFE does not stretch. Costly to produce properly.
– Polyurethane; A hydrophilic monolithic membrane. Polyurethane, also known as a PU coating in the waterproof/breathable world has been chemically altered to absorb water. PU membranes transport water (either gas or liquid) via solid state diffusion. The thickness and chemical composition determine breathability rates.
Positives: Breathable and waterproof. Lightweight. Stretchable. Packable. Durable.
Negatives: Cheap PU coatings can be less breathable due to chemical composition and thickness.
There are other waterproof laminates technologies available for use in garments. However, the side affects for the hunter make them unsuitable for our application. In the next post I will go over how each of these laminates is used in garment technology and applications specifically for the hunter. I will review face fabrics, 2 layer vs. 3 layer technology, stretch vs. non-stretch, weight, durability and packability.