Let\'s look at the three general types of laminate...

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.


This article has 9 comment(s)

  1. Brandon Hammonds

    Thanks for pointing that out. (Cheap PU coatings can be less breathable) Almost all of the market rain gear I have ever tried has this issues!

    These hot Un-breathable rain gain has almost made me not even think about buying any more as a consumer.

    • Jason Hairston

      Hi Brandon,

      There is a lot of difference between cheap rain gear and a high quality product. Price does not guarantee you will stay dry, but the better quality laminates are not cheap to produce. As you will read in the up coming post face fabrics and the inside backer choice will have an impact on breathability. Proper care is also very misunderstood and incredibly important. More to come and thanks for your input.


  2. Tom Ryle

    I’ve whittled my hunting wardrobe down to three basic layers:

    1. base layer (polypro)
    2. insulation layer (fleece/wool/vest)
    3. protection layer (Gore-Tex or similar)

    I like my insulation or mid-layer to be fleece because acrylic fleece doesn’t inherently absorb moisture so it acts as a pseudo-back up for my rain gear. On cold treestand hunts, I usually wear mid-weight fleece or wool. Nobody makes a wood sweater vest, so I have modifed a wood sweater to keep my core warm but provide less arm bulk. My goofy vest has been on more hunts that I can count because it serves one purpose perfectly.

    • Michael Sendrowicz


      I use a similar system.

      Base Layer:
      In my kayaking days, I used polypro, but have now switched to merino wool. I’ve also used UA, Patagonia, and TNF products, but, IMO, wool is just more comfortable. It leaves me with a dry, warm feeling, vs. the ‘slick’ feeling of UA or capilene. Further, merino wool doesn’t seem to pick up an odor. I’m 5’9″, and 170 pounds. Personally, I don’t like the tight fit of products like Under Armor. I prefer loose layers of comfy fabrics that work.

      Insulation Layer
      This is often my puzzle layer. Lots of choices here, from fleece to down to wool to synthetics. Like you, Tom, I seem to go for my wool more often than not. I use a Filson western style vest, which has lapels and a collar that I can stand up if it gets really cold. Mine only buttons, so it doesn’t afford the level of protection a zippered vest, or a pullover, would offer, and it’s probably fairly heavy, as it’s made from a 24 oz wool, but it keeps me nicely warm, and I never have a fear if it gets wet.

      Although I haven’t personally tried it yet, the Sitka 90% jacket looks like a good insulation layer as well, and I do like the softshell idea. Again, the problem is weight and space. If I’m taking my softshell, do I still pack the vest? Will the vest be enough without the softshell? The trick is to have a minimum of overlap in gear for certain conditions and temp ranges. Too much overlap, and I start to feel that something is unnecessary. Patrick Smith at Kifaru has done something interesting with a vest and separate sleeves, where the sleeves go on WITHOUT attaching to the vest. Although I was skeptical when I saw it online, I’ve had an opportunity to try this in person, and it works very, very well.

      Rain Protection
      I’ve really enjoying Jason’s thoughts on this. He’s clearly a systems thinker, and that is critical when someone is going to design MY gear!
      First and foremost, rain gear needs to be waterproof. Period. Breathable fabrics that aren’t waterproof just don’t make the cut for me. So leaks are a no-go. That being said, clearly breathable is nice, but I think it becomes less important the more layers I put on. unless all the layers under my rain coat work harmoniously, the water vapor they are trapping makes the breathable hard shell less and less effective.

      As much as I like a good hard shell, I still carry a poncho in my kit. it’s multi-functional, and breathable by it use and design, if not by fabric.

      Anyway, just a few thoughts from the bleachers…


      • Jason Hairston


        You brought up a good point regarding the vest and the need a soft shell Jacket. For me this is one of those situational needs and preferences. What I really like about my soft shell jacket is the weather & wind protection it gives me during a stalk without having to get into my rain shell. During warm early season hunts many times I take my base layer system, a vest and my rain gear. When I am hunting later in September the soft shell jacket becomes my main stay and the vest comes and goes depending on temperature and exertion. Still hunting through dark timber during a light rain or right after a storm the soft shell jacket is a perfect choice.

        Thanks for all the input. Great stuff.


  3. Jason Hairston

    Great input Tom. I am a huge vest fan to keep the arms free and core warm. Keep the information coming.


  4. Tyler Preszler

    I agree. A vest is a necessity and one can always be found in my pack!

  5. Tom

    just noticed that I claimed to have a “wood vest”…I meant “wool” 🙂

  6. review

    Well stated.