The outdoor industry has long used durable water repellent (DWR) finishes to help keep clothing dry and PATAGONIA is no exception. Historically, these chemical finishes have been made using per- or polyfluorocarbons (PFCs) which contain the element fluorine. Water pollution from the chemical manufacturing of PFC-based DWR finishes has been shown to be harmful to human health.
To reduce reliance on such chemicals, Patagonia has committed to eliminating the use of PFCs in products by 2024. Prior to F21, all its fully waterproof shells still used PFC-based DWR finishes. As the company puts it, ‘This is because there’s not much point in a waterproof jacket if it can’t keep you dry, and this is particularly critical when in the mountains and a soaked baselayer can mean the difference between comfort and hypothermia.’
Getting away from PFC-based chemistries has proved challenging to so many because they work so well. Plus, fluorinated chemistries are used not only in surface DWR treatments but also are commonly found in the membrane layer of waterproof shells for added water resistance.
The Dual Aspect Jacket and Bibs (available from 27 Oct via pataginia.eu) are Patagonia’s first fully PFC-free waterproof/ breathable shells. Built for alpine climbing in the harshest conditions, they offer ‘ultimate freedom of movement with full storm protection’ without the use of PFCs in the DWR finish or membrane.
Patagonia stated, ‘The goal with Patagonia’s Dual Aspect shells was to build a fully PFC-free material package but nonfluorinated chemistries are not ‘one size fits all.’ They need to be specifically engineered to work with each fabric they are paired with and require extensive development and testing to find the right configuration.’
After extensive material trials, lab testing, and field testing , the team refined the most promising material-DWR pairings. As part of the project, they took more than twenty prototypes and competitor products to northern Scotland to climb in the notoriously cold, wet and windy conditions of Ben Nevis and the Cairngorms. This allowed every product to be subjected to the same prolonged exposure in the alpine environment and directly compare the performance. A statement noted, ‘We walked away confident that our new, fully PFC-free materials perform as well as the best fabrics in the industry.’
For the Dual Aspect Jacket and Bibs, a lightweight, 30-denier ECONYL® 100% recycled nylon ripstop outer fabric is used with a unique proprietary surface fabric treatment to repel water droplets. The face is bonded with a thin, monolithic polyurethane waterproof-breathable membrane. This material package is paired with a slick knit backer made from recycled nylon that manages moisture and glides smoothly over underlayers.
The statement concludes, ‘Dual Aspect shells meet our H2No Standard with an impressive 20,000mm waterproofness and groundbreaking surface water repellency. Beyond providing a PFC-free product that meets our strict standards for waterproof shells, we also addressed the fact that full weather protection and the unrestricted freedom of movement required in alpine climbing are often at odds.
‘To solve for this, our Design and Forge AR&D teams worked with athletes to develop a new inseam gusset design in the pants and underarm panel shape in the jacket, striking the perfect balance of protection and freedom of movement. The years of research, trialing, designing, testing and repeating that went into the Dual Aspect Jacket and Bibs ensure they meet the demanding standards of our athletes and customers, as well as our own uncompromising performance and quality standards.
‘The Dual Aspect material uses a unique proprietary face treatment to provide a breakthrough level of surface water repellency. This extremely effective level of beading and surface repellency is not only documented in the lab but also tested in the field where the Dual Aspect stays dry and feels light throughout the course of a climb.’
Photo credit: Jason Robinson