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Mountain Hardwear's Dry.Q enters waterproof-breathable battle

As ever more waterproof-breathable fabrics and technologies hit the outdoor market, consumers are hearing greater promises, but are likely experiencing greater confusion from all the claims and names floating around.

The Waterproof-Breathable Players

Gore's new Active Shell promises to be its most breathable yet.

Here's a quick recap of the major waterproof-breathable players, following product launches at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market:

  • Last year, Columbia Sportswear acquired OutDry, which it uses for waterproofing in its own line, as well as in Mountain Hardwear gloves and Montrail footwear, both brands it owns.
  • Polartec introduced NeoShell, which it calls the "most breathable waterproof fabric," for fall 2011.
  • Fabric titan Gore-Tex is staying in the game with Active Shell, which it says is its most breathable waterproof membrane yet.
  • And then there's GE-owned eVent, which many claim is more breathable than Gore-Tex. Manufacturers can partner with GE and choose from its library of packaged eVent fabrics (total number not public) to design a shell, trail runner, shelter, etc.  In these cases, you know the product uses eVent (for example, the Rab Latok Alpine Jacket or Montane eVent Halo Stretch Jacket).
  • Or a manufacturer can work with GE to incorporate that membrane technology into its own proprietary fabrics, branded with its own proprietary names. This is the route Mountain Hardwear took with Dry.Q, becoming the first company to brand GE membrane technology as its own.

Mountain Hardwear launches Dry.Q

(Photo: Mountain Hardwear)

Mountain Hardwear bills Dry.Q as "the first waterproof-breathable system focused on keeping you dry and comfortable — inside and out." It includes three categories: Elite, Active, and Core. While all are waterproof-breathable, only Dry.Q Elite uses GE membrane technology.

Mountain Hardwear differentiates its Dry.Q Elite from eVent, explaining it "didn't just choose a fabric from a binder" like other brands. Instead, it says, it brought together its institutional knowledge in creating waterproof-breathable apparel and its own unique combination of fabrics, backers, glues, DWRs, and laminates, and worked with GE on the membrane component to complete the package.

“In the past, we’ve had to follow a vendor’s rule book,” said Director of Product Development Ted Ganio. “Now we make the rules and are free to break them if we come up with better technology."

All three categories of Dry.Q waterproof-breathable outerwear will come to the market this fall. They shape up like so:

  • Dry.Q Elite: The Elite line is the only one with GE membrane technology for air permeable construction. That means that in addition to being waterproof-breathable, Dry.Q Elite lets air, not just moisture, pass outward through the shell fabric.

    Designed for high-energy activities like climbing and skiing that generate lots of body heat, Dry.Q Elite is up to two times more breathable than industry standards, at least for the two-layer version, according to Mountain Hardwear. (The industry standard moisture vapor transmission (MVTR) rate is 20,000 MVTR. Two-layer Elite tested at 40,000, three-layer Elite at 30,000, and Elite Softshell at 30,000. Elite fabrics average .05 cfm/cubic feet per minute of air permeability.)

    The company also claims Elite is the "most durable waterproof-breathable in the industry" based on a 500-wash test.
  • Dry.Q Active: The Active line features stretchy, durable, lightweight, waterproof garments made for high-output activities. With body-mapped designs that reduce weight and bulk, Dry.Q Active "lets athletes push aerobic sports deeper into the backcountry," says Mountain Hardwear. Dry.Q Active (and Core, below) performs at industry standards for breathability, the company says. 
  • Dry.Q Core:The Core line features durable, waterproof garments designed for a wide range of outdoor alpine and snowsport activities.

While Mountain Hardwear was the first to launch a proprietary line with GE membrane technology, expect more brands to follow its lead in fall 2012 or spring 2013 lines, says GE.

In the meantime, here are three products from Mountain Hardwear's Dry.Q Elite and Active lines for fall 2011:


Drystein Jacket (Dry.Q Elite)

  • Drystein Jacket

    Weight: 1 lb 5 oz / 605 g (men’s); 1 lb 4 oz / 561 g (women’s)
  • MSRP: $425
  • Available: Fall 2011
  • Sizes: S-XXL (men’s); XS-XL (women’s)


  • Alpine fit
  • Highly breathable, water resistant side panels
  • Chest-high hand pockets to accommodate a harness or pack
  • Helmet-compatible hood with single-pull adjustment system and extra beefy brim
  • Welded watertight pockets and zips to seal out moisture
  • Interior zip pocket for keys, ID, other small items
  • Micro-chamois-lined chin guard to eliminate zipper chafe
  • Body fabric: Dry.Q Elite 40D 3-Layer
  • Panel fabric: Rebar Ripstop Softshell
  • Center back length: 29 in / 74 cm (men’s); 28 in / 71 cm (women’s)

Snowtastic Jacket (Dry.Q Elite)

  • Snowtastic jacketWeight: 2 lb / 900 g (men’s); 1 lb 10 oz / 732 g (women’s)
  • MSRP: $450
  • Available: Fall 2011
  • Sizes: S-XXL (men’s); XS-XL (women’s)


  • Waterproof, breathable softshell loaded with ski features
  • Attached hood
  • Removable, adjustable, stretch powder skirt
  • Pit zips for additional ventilation
  • One-handed hood and hem drawcords for quick adjustments
  • Zip handwarmer pockets
  • Soft "Butter Jersey" cuffs
  • Micro-chamois-lined chin guard to eliminate zipper chafe
  • Body fabric: Dry.Q Elite Twill Softshell 3L (56% polyester, 44% nylon)
  • Center back length: 29 in / 74 cm (men’s); 26.5 in / 67 cm (women’s)


Effusion Hooded Jacket (Dry.Q Active)

  • Effusion JacketWeight: 12 oz / 333 g (men’s);  10 oz / 287 g (women’s)
  • MSRP: $200
  • Available: Fall 2011
  • Sizes: S-XXL (men’s); XS-XL (women’s)


  • Close-fitting, athletic cut with a long-cut back for performance
  • Seam taped construction
  • DWR finish to repel water
  • Slim fit hood stays on when in motion
  • Full front zipper with internal draft flap/chin guard for ventilation options
  • Rear zip pocket, interior MP3 pocket with earpiece exit
  • Highly luminescent reflective print for ultimate visibility
  • Fabrics: Dry.Q Active Solution 3L Jersey (100% polyester)
  • Center back length: 29 in / 74 cm (men’s); 27 in / 69 cm (women’s)


eVent versus standard ePFTE, according to eVent

Still with us? Wondering how an eVent membrane differs from other waterproof-breathable technologies?

Tony Stanislav, a product applications manager with eVent, says that standard ePFTE (expanded polytetrafluoroethylene) membranes, such as those used by Gore, use three layers:

  1. An external fabric facing the elements,
  2. A waterproof-breathable (ePTFE) membrane, and
  3. A next-to-skin layer that prevents body oils from clogging the membrane's pores.

The third layer drastically reduces breathability, Stanislav said, so eVent created an ePTFE membrane that sheds body oils, eliminating that third layer and allowing direct venting of body heat.


with reporting by Tom Mangan


Interesting, I one's heard that also Patagonia uses membrane by eVent on their high-end hard shells such as the Shelter Stone and the Stretch Element under the H2No umbrella. Any idea if that is true or not?

That last one look's a lot like a pimped out Windstopper membrane. I dream of the day when everything is put to the test by an independant firm. A sort of epic "Battle of the membranes!!" Where numbers and fact will be put to the test and then reealed to the public!!

While I'm dreaming... Hey there goes that Unicorn passing through candy mountain again...

This is helpful, corporate obfuscation notwithstanding, so thanks Alicia and Tom.

Nitrotem: I think the Stretch Element but not the S.Stone uses eVent. Yet, J. Armstrong in TGO magazine said the stretch WBM jacket she tested was not very breathable. And I have a Patagonia jacket, which looks like paclite, that is terrible. I have an older jacket that looks like Goretex and works ok. Thus, Patagonia's H2NO does not represent a known value, as I see it, and the descriptor should at least be ignored by the serious user, if not disdained.

Besides, I think a serious user will either do some research, trusting his or her peers and/or the relevant 'experts' or just stick to the technology for which there is the most available information based on independent lab tests.

And the fabrics are only the beginning: the bottom jacket looks like a windstopper softshell but it does not appear to have velcro cuffs. I find even non-membrane softshells need wide-opening cuffs or the sleeves just get too sweaty.

@nirotem Patagonia tells me they've never worked with eVent (I just asked and had them confirm).

Patagonia is introducing Gore pieces again for fall 2011:

Fall 2011 brings about the most cutting-edge, technical collection of Patagonia Alpine products to date. Classic styles such as the Super Alpine Jacket and Super Pluma Jacket have been resurrected, now utilizing GORE-TEX® Pro Shell technology, with updated design lines and cutting-edge features. Features such as a patented Touch Point System™ for embedding all cordlocks and pressed pleat pockets that allow for full visibility to the ground make these styles the absolute best-in-class. The new Triolet Jacket is engineered with GORE-TEX® Performance Shell fabric, utilizing the most durable nylon face fabrics available. The new Winter Sun Hoody provides windproof warmth by combining a lightweight WINDSTOPPER® Insulated Shell exterior with 100-g Primaloft Eco® insulation.

Here's Patagonia's info on its H2No barrier:

3-layer H2No® fabrics are waterproof and breathable by virtue of an advanced combination of elements: a water-repellent shell fabric, a waterproof H2No barrier and an interior scrim fabric. This fabric package is completely waterproof, windproof, breathable and very durable.

Patagonia's H2No waterproof barrier is porous enough to allow body moisture to escape, without allowing water from the outside in. We apply a laminated scrim on the inside to:

  • Quickly disperse built-up water vapor for faster drying
  • Protect the waterproof/breathable barrier from abrasion
  • Glide easily over the inner layers of the garment while maximizing overall durability and tear strength

More at:

I agree that the most useful info will come from independent, third-party testing that's clear about what's being measured and what's being compared, in addition to actual field testing.

As it is, having competition between technologies is interesting, and probably good for consumers since it can drive innovation. However, I suspect for many consumers it will just mean more confusion, at least immediately.

Confusion for sure, even the in store vendors are flabergasted when question about it! Most of the competent people are guarding their judgement for when they get there hands on them.

Alicia, do you know any third party that tests outerwear garment? One that isn't involved in the outdoor world industry?

The last piece looks like a direct replacement for the MHW Transition Jacket.  I cannot say enough about the Transition, so I have high expectations for Dry.Q Active.

I was recently in an outdoor store listening to some jacket tech geek tell one of the salesman there how Gortex is actually a very inexpensive material and how the jacket manufacturers are ripping us off with these $400+ price tags.  He kept talking about more breathable fabrics but I couldnt get an ear on what product he was talking about.  Interesting....

my personal experience is that on the better gore tex fabrics, pro shell for example, the "third layer" on the interior is so thin and light that is it practically unnoticeable, and I don't think it meaningfully affects the ability to vent moisture.  the marmot exum jacket is the example i'm familiar with and have used a lot.  the reality is that if you're carrying a good-sized pack uphill in cold, windy weather, or otherwise using a lot of energy being active in cold weather, like snowshoeing or x-country skiing, you're probably going to sweat whether you are wearing eVent or gore tex pro shell, and some moisture (but not very much) will collect on the interior surface of the shell.  both gore tex and eVent are a quantum leap better than coated nylon that doesn't vent moisture, and i think both of these membranes are marginally better than some of the proprietary membranes like Patagonia's H2No or Mountain Hardwear's Conduit.  (i'm not familiar with the marmot "membrain.") 

if dryq elite uses the same membrane that GE employs in eVent fabrics, it should work well, but the proof will be in the wearing and using it.  

I grudgingly admit to having two shells with two different Gore-Tex fabrics.  One is Gore-Tex Pro Shell and the other is Gore-Tex PacLite.

I have a very high BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate).   In-other-words, I'm "cookin" all the time ... even when asleep.  

Both of these garments give me problems with condensation INSIDE the fabric, when I engage in strenuous activity or athletic endeavor.   The ProLite is more comfortable, for me.   Also, it is 'featherweight', compared to the Pro Shell.

I really wish manufacturers that make shells, would retain snaps down the placket.   By unzipping, and using the snaps, I could regulate body-temperature.   Sadly, apparently they feel snaps are too heavy.   Foolish.

Guess what?

I'm trying (with some success) COTTON.   Gasp!

Yes, 'ventile" cotton, and treating it with wash-in DWR product.   It seems to be working.   I get reasonable water-repellancy, and reasonable breathability.   Comfortable, too.

How 'bout THAT, boy and girls ?  "Old School" come-back ?


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