Choosing the face fabric for rain gear is as impor...

Choosing the face fabric for rain gear is as important as the laminate underneath.  Face fabrics impact weight, breathability, durability, noise, bulk, dry times, cost and range of motion.  There are two fabric categories for face fabrics, knits & woven’s.   Below is a breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages of the two most common fabric choices of each category:

Knit Fabrics

Warp Knit
Positives:
– Quiet
– Inexpensive
– Soft hand feel
Negatives:
– Slow drying times
– Heavy
– Bulky
– Typically built as a 2 layer fabric, which requires a mesh liner to help protect the laminate and reduce the clammy feeling against the skin.

Fleece
Positives
Quiet
– Inexpensive
– Soft hand feel
Negatives
– Bulky
– Collects burrs
-Poor abrasion resistance
-Heavy when bonded to a laminate

Woven Fabrics

Nylon
Positives
– Very durable
– High abrasion resistance
– Stretch
– Lightweight
– Hydrophobic-does not hold water
– Fast dry times
Negatives
– Noisy
– Difficult to print

Polyester
Positives
– Durable
– Reasonable abrasion resistance
– Stretch
– Easy to print
– Quieter than nylon
– Lightweight
– Hydrophobic- quick drying
Negatives
– Not as durable when compared to Nylon
– Higher quality fabrics can be expensive
– Noisy compared to knits

Waterproof/breathable fabric manufactures have focused technology advancements on decreasing weight while increasing breathability and durability for the Outdoor Industry. There have not been any significant advancements in quiet rain gear since the early 1990’s when lofted knit fabrics were bonded to a laminate like Cabela’s MTO50.

For backcountry hunting, lofted knit face fabrics add weight and bulk to a layering system.  Plus, once soaked it is very slow to dry.  On extended hunts in Alaska or BC this type of rain gear can stay wet the entire trip making it heavy to pack and uncomfortable to wear.

My goal for KUIU is to find the best balance where weight, packability, breathability, waterproofness, noise, 4-way stretch and dry-times work together. In my opinion lofted knit face fabrics, while the quietest choice, sacrifice too much performance for backcountry hunts.  I strongly believe a 4-way stretch polyester face fabric will allow KUIU rain gear to best meet all the performance requirements that we have defined.

I look forward to hearing your opinion.

Jason

This article has 10 comment(s)

  1. George Hicks

    Jason,

    I think you are on the right track with the polyester face fabric. For back-country use, I would rate weight and bulk as the most important to me. What folks will spend to shed an ounce or two from their packs is amazing so weight is king. If an item is bulky, it typically stays home because I simply can’t afford the room. Waterproofness is next and an absolute must. If getting wet was ok, I would like my Frogg Togg suit. Following those in order of importance to me would be dry time, then breathability, stretch, and noise as the lowest priority in your list.

    • Jason Hairston

      Thanks George. I really appreciate the feed back.

      Jason

  2. Josh Nowak

    I tend to agree with George. In general I want coverage in one of two “rain gear” scenarios.

    The first scenario (e.g. Sept. elk) is something like an early season backcountry hunt where I want rain gear to be minimalistic, something the size of baseball wadded up in the corner of my pack. This piece will serve to protect from the occasional rain storm and serve as a wind shirt if needed. Rain is likely the only time this piece will get the call, so weight rules, breathability is second and waterproof third. I would probably go coated for this layer or if laminate then it has to have lots of venting….maybe something like Pertex Shield would work? If wearing a laminate in warm weather I will likely be wet anyway regardless of the weather, not cool, might as well skip the rain gear. Lots of guys use ponchos here and that is not a bad idea.

    The second scenario is colder weather (e.g. Oct./Nov. elk) where I usually opt for a traditional hard shell for most applications. This is because I can use the shell over various layers or gain some rain protection when needed and if it snows I am still covered. Versatility is key because if the jacket is not multifunctional I am leaving it at home in favor of less bulk and fewer layers. A soft shell in this scenario might work, but the face fabrics scare me a bit if a lot of rain is going to be encountered. Soft shells are relegated more to late season and dry weather for me. Right, so laminated poly or nylon will work….I might favor durability here, but to each his own.

    Exceptions…
    AK and BC are different scenarios and I would probably not opt for a laminate of any kind, but don’t know.

    Midwest whitetails, tree stand type hunting, fleece all the way. Quiet and waterproof come first. I will be sitting in the rain for long periods of time and can dry my gear at night.

    To cover every backpacking situation my gear list would include a super light weight early season set and a hard shell laminate. I have the luxury of dealing with AK’s weather later….

    Josh

  3. Jason Hairston

    Hi Josh,

    Great input. You sum it up perfectly, there is not one perfect choice available that covers every hunting situation.

    Your comment regarding soft shells is well timed. I am working on my next technical post that will dig into the world of soft shell product.

    Thanks for taking the time to write up such a well thought out comment. I really appreciate it.

    Jason

  4. Tom

    Great summary, Jason. I do most of my hunting here in the Pacific Northwest. I see my share of rain in any given year and I have found that noise isn’t that critical in many instances. The inherent sound of rain (and often winds that accompany the rain) provide adequate cover-sound for raingear noise. without question I’d trade breathability and/or quick-drying for noise without hesitation. And there is no benefit to a bulky heap of wet raingear!

    I have used the Cabela’s MT050 since it was first offered and have found that I can sweat faster than any rain penetration, so I’m wet from the inside, I can’t breathe due to the soft laminate, and my raingear takes days to dry at best. I typically opt to get wet unless I’m sitting a treestand or am looking for a windbreak layer.

    Just a few thoughts…

    -Tom

  5. Kit Baughman

    Hi Josh,

    Just a couple thoughts… Have you looked at the Dry Plus fabric that Cabela’s uses for rain gear? Not sure what it’s made out of, but it’s quiet. Some sort of sueded finish.

    Have you looked into treatments to improve water repellancy of some of the fabrics? I think something like what’s used for silnylon would be really good. It’s silicone resin in a solvent that’s forced into the fabric under pressure. Controlling the silcone to solvent ratio gives you control of coating thickness. You could probably treat a face fabric in this way, and get both high water repellancy and maintain breathabililty. Another treatment that I use all the time is Nikwax. I treat all my rain gear at the beginning of each season, and it lasts until the next season.

    – Kit

    • Jason Hairston

      Kit;

      My main gripe with Dry Plus is that once it is wetted out it stays wet. This also means it’s heavy. I like how quiet it is and will work to find something that bridges the gap between reasonably quiet and light weight.

      The silicone treatment is interesting. I will have to look into this.

      Thanks,

      Jason

      • Kit Baughman

        Hi Jason,

        I had the same problem with Dry Plus until I used the Nikwax TX Direct on it. Water just beads up and rolls off now, for the most part. It seems that if it gets muddy, or rubbed by brush much, then it starts taking up water again, but it’s a lot better than it was.

        I think the silicone treatment might come pretty close to being perfect. I’ll see if I can find any more information on it, but you probably have better contacts in the outdoors fabrics industry…

  6. Todd Thorpe

    Jason

    Hey Buddy! First, I want to say that I’m a huge fan of your gear! The quality is second to none, and I have just about every piece of gear in both came patterns.

    However, I’d like to throw out a suggestion to you…

    I’m a 27 plus year veteran and in addition to hunting and fishing; I love all the shooting sports as well. And lately, the competitive shooting sports have really taken off like 3-gun, and Precision Rifle Series, etc…and all these folks including myself, look for the best gear available.

    In addition, many of our top tier military units, law enforcement, and first responders require the best gear that money can buy.

    But there really aren’t a lot of choices out there. But I will tell you that the number one company producing high end gear for this market is Arcteryx. And the specific line I’m referring to is Arcteryx LEAF. Which if you’re not familiar, the LEAF is an acronym for Law Enforcement and Armed Forces. Everything in this product line is either black, crocodile (tan), or Multicam. And I will also add that their products are crazy expensive!! An example is the latest Alpha Gen II jacket, that when offered in Multicam, retails for over $800.

    But I will also add, that other than the unique feature the Alpha jacket provides in that the hood can be stowed in the collar (very nice feature); I would take a Yukon jacket and pants into combat any day. Your stuff is just that good! I mean a couple weeks on an Alaska moose float hunt was all the proof I needed.

    In addition, a lot of folks, including myself, are extremely disappointed that as of around 2015, everything Arcteryx LEAF is producing is now being MADE IN CHINA. And folks that don’t have a clue, are getting very upset when they see the MADE IN CHINA tag, after they just spent $800 for a jacket that they thought was made in Canada.

    So to make a long story short, you should really think about starting a KUIU LEAF Division. It would be a winner!!!

    And in the interim, a slight redesign of the Yukon line with a lighter weight, collar stow-able hood, offered in a combat tan color, and you’d be off to the races!!

    • KUIU Ultralight Hunting

      Todd,
      Thanks for the feedback. We have a full tactical line in the works. I can’t comment a ton more on it at this time but I can assure you it will be well done. I appreciate your feedback on the hood.

      Thank you taking the time to write in.
      Jason