Hello and welcome to Alex’s Blog. This week I wanted to focus on Waterproof clothing – and by waterproof I mean clothing with a waterproof membrane. Our 30 stores have fedback that lots of customers come in asking for “Gore-Tex” clothing but then when they find out the price they then downgrade to just “waterproof” as they aren’t aware of the options – so here I am to explore the other options for you.
Gore-Tex® is the name of the brand of a waterproof membrane in clothing. It’s this membrane that makes the clothing waterproof and also breathable. Gore-Tex® is the most well known of all the brands – there is good reason for this – it really is an outstanding product and does deserve the rich reputation that it has.
However, there are other membranes which are also waterproof and breathable such as: Reissa®, Sympatex®, Humax®, D-Dry®, Soltotex®, Sinaqua® and Drystar®.
Each brand has the same basic function; wind and rain can’t get in but perspiration is allowed out. This makes textile motorcycle clothing highly weatherproof and comfortable to wear for all seasons.
To see what all the fuss is about here are the main benefits of these Membranes:
A common misconception is that the clothing itself is waterproof – it isn’t. The outer fabric still gets wet and needs ‘proofing’ but more about that later. The Membrane is what keeps you dry! Membranes are designed to withstand water-entry pressures encountered during severe weather and in demanding environments.
Although lots of textiles are often considered windproof, even light winds can penetrate most of these fabrics, making you feel chilled and uncomfortable. In technical terms, a fabric can only be considered truly windproof if its air permeability is 1.0 cfm (volume of air that passes through one cubic foot of fabric in one minute) or less.
“Breathability” is one of the outdoor industry’s most misunderstood terms. It is not, as many believe, about a fabric’s ability to let air move through it, rather it refers to how well it lets your sweat escape in the form of moisture vapour.
Gore-Tex® is a thin, microporous membrane of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). It is 0.025mm thick with about 1.4 million pores per square centimetre – these pores are so small that water cannot penetrate but water vapor can. Gore-Tex® is waterproof, windproof and breathable.
SympaTex® is a non-porous polyester film which prevents water entering but absorbs water vapour and removes it through the outer fabric. Only one-hundredth of a millimeter thick, in a jacket it weighs the same as a letter. SympaTex® is waterproof, windproof and breathable.
Humax® is a polyurethane microporous membrane (1.4 billion pores per cm2) which prevent the large drops of rain from entering, but allow the small water vapor molecules to escape. Humax® is waterproof, windproof and breathable.
Reissa® is a microporous hydrophilic polyurethane membrane which absorbs the water vapour and removes it through the clothing to the outside. Reissa® is waterproof, windproof and breathable.
Sinaqua® is RST’s waterproof membrane. It has a hydrostatic head of 10,000mm/cm2, meaning the fabric could hold a 1cm2 column of water that is 10 metres tall before water leaks through! The minimum level for a fabric to be classed as waterproof is 1,500mm/cm2. Sinaqua® is waterproof, windproof and breathable.
D-Dry® is Dainese’s own special waterproof membrane developed by their “D-Tec” division, which is apparently working with NASA on a space suit material for the Mars expedition! D-Dry® is waterproof and breathable.
SoltoTex® is IXS’ own microporous polyurethane membrane which prevents rain from entering, but allows the water vapor to escape. SoltoTex® is waterproof, windproof and breathable.
Drystar® is Alpinestars’ own own waterproof and breathable membrane. Drystar® is waterproof, windproof and breathable.
Different motorcycle clothing brands use different membrane brands, here is a short summary of which brands use which waterproof membranes:
- Gore-Tex® (Alpinestars, Klim, Rukka, IXS, Richa, Dainese),
- Reissa® (Frank Thomas, BKS),
- Sympatex® (Hein Gericke),
- Humax® (IXS),
- D-Dry® (Dainese),
- Soltotex® (IXS),
- Sinaqua® (RST),
- Drystar® (Alpinestars).
Waterproof membranes are usually either a loose “liner” (fixed or removable), or bonded to the outer material.
Jackets and jeans made with a floating membrane have the waterproofing built right into the garment; you don’t have to deal with zipping in a removable liner, but even though these are breathable it can get a little warm during the summer season.
A great example is the IXS Saragossa Goretex Jacket.
These garments are great for multi-season performance and heat management, you just remove layers as required.
The IXS Navigator jacket and trousers are classic example of this type of garment.
Bonded or Laminated membranes
These garments have an outer tough durable material with the waterproof membrane bonded or laminated right on to it. These shell jackets and trousers are less common but are slim, lightweight as it’s just one waterproof and breathable layer.
Multi-season versatility comes from taped, waterproof zippers giving direct airflow through the shell to the rider’s body. These are usually top end as the design needs a high-quality membrane like Gore-Tex®, which adds to the cost.
A perfect example of this ‘pro-shell’ style of manufacture is the Klim Badlands range.
Proofing and Re-Proofing
The outer material of your jacket, jeans, trousers, gloves, or boots is not waterproof and can become wet-through. Most garments are proofed with a water-repellent coating so that the water ‘beads’ on it and runs off.
This coating will wear off over time and will need to be re-applied on a regular basis.
Caring for your Waterproofs
All membranes are sensitive to physical damage, if the membrane is pierced then it is going to let water in, even if you have a little scuff this can damage the membrane (even if on the outside this doesn’t necessarily show).
Incorrectly washing the membrane with some detergents and fabric softeners will irreparably damage the waterproof membrane. On the other side of the spectrum NOT washing the garment can also irreparably damage the waterproof membrane, as salt from the road and salt from body sweat can “clog” the membrane and make it less effective.
You need to make sure that you wash your items at least once every 6 months (especially if used frequently) and then re-proof the items for the best care.
For best results use Nikwax Tech Wash. You can either use the hand wash version or the machine one. This removes all the grime and salt and harmful substances etc that your kit accumulates. Never use normal washing detergent – it uses brightening beads that can actually damage your kits waterproof membranes. Nikwax Tech Wash protects your garment and properly gets rid of anything harmful to this membrane gently and safely. Remember to follow all the instructions.
After you have cleaned your textiles using Nikwax Tech Wash then you need to use Nikwax TX Direct to re-proof your garments. You can get a spray on version OR a wash-in version. Just follow the instructions and your textile clothing will be as good as new.
Until next time, stay safe.