Waterproof-breathable fabrics or membranes, also known as WBF, have been around for over 50 years. The venting technology behind it has continued to improve and evolve over the years, yet many people remain unaware of its benefits and uses. Don’t worry; we’re going to break it down for you.
WBFs were popular in the 1970s after the introduction of Gore-Tex, a registered trademark of W. L. Gore & Associates. Since then, several other competitors and alternatives have entered the market, including eVent and Omni-Tech. But, despite the similarities, they’re all unique in their way.
So, what’s the difference between eVent, Gore-Tex, or Omni-Tech?
Gore-Tex has long been the preferred option due to its three-fold nature (membrane, laminate, and technology). eVent is most known for its dry system DirectVenting technology, while Columbia Omni-Tech is most known for its stain-resistant Omni-Shield technology.
Of course, the differences don’t stop there. We have a lot to learn about each of these waterproof breathable fabrics, so don’t go anywhere because we’re going to deep-dive into them one by one below. Let’s start things off with the most popular option — Gore-Tex!
What Is Gore-Tex?
In 1969 Bob Gore invented Gore-Tex. It’s a waterproof breathable fabric made out of polytetrafluoroethylene, also known by its acronym PTFE and by its brand name Teflon. There are two layers of nylon and the PTFE layer between them.
What makes Gore-Tex such a revolutionary invention is how microporous it is. When stretched, polytetrafluoroethylene transforms into a microporous, breathable membrane that contains up to 9 billion pores per square inch. Adding PTFE in the two outer layers of nylon makes Gore-Tex waterproof.
Gore-Tex was the first fabric to prevent water from getting in while also allowing vapor and moisture to escape. Rain droplets are too large to enter the microporous PTFE layer, but sweat vapor is small enough to fit through the tiny pores.
That’s where it gets its breathable and waterproof nature, making it one of the most revolutionary fabrics in the entire world. But, of course, technology has continually improved since the first day of the invention. So today, we can use Gore-Tex for just about everything — including rain jackets, shoes, and pants built for tough climates and weather.
What Is eVent?
eVent is another type of waterproof breathable fabric that many people see as a Gore-Tex alternative, but it hasn’t been around as long. EVent technology wasn’t invented until 1999 when eVent Fabrics introduced it as a direct competitor to Gore-Tex. It has only grown since.
There are plenty of similarities between the two. For example, for creating both eVent and Gore-tex, manufacturers are using extended PTFE, also known as polytetrafluoroethylene. Also, they use it for most of the same products and outerwear, which might lead many to wonder what makes eVent different.
What makes eVent unique is the use of a dry system, which they call DirectVenting technology. Where most waterproof breathable fabrics utilize a PU membrane (polyurethane film) as an outer coating, eVent’s DirectVenting technology eliminates the need for this extra coat around the fabric.
While PU requires the fabric to get wet before working its magic, DirectVenting technology allows water vapor (sweat) to vent immediately after the body produces it. As a result, it results in a more breathable fabric that erases the possibility of overheating — keeping you dry at all times.
In addition to the immediate ventilation of water vapor from the inside, eVent is just as waterproof as other forms of WBF — meaning water from the outside won’t find its way inside. Furthermore, it’s designed for every type of weather condition and maintains a steady state of humidity and temperature.
Despite the DirectVenting technology making it fully breathable and waterproof, eVent has never reached its popularity as Gore-Tex. But, of course, that’s not to say some people out there don’t prefer eVent over its competition.
What Is Omni-Tech?
The third and final type of waterproof breathable fabric we’re going to detail is Omni-Tech. Many of you have likely heard of this amazing fabric technology because it’s a staple in most clothing products by Columbia — one of the most popular sports brands in the United States of America.
Much like eVent and Gore-Tex, Columbia Omni-Tech is a multi-layered fabric that provides a wide range of benefits. The innermost layer allows water vapor and heat to exit the material, while the middle layer gives Omni-Tech its waterproof ability — keeping you dry at all times.
What makes Omni-Tech unique is the outermost layer. It features a new type of technology called Omni-Shield, which allows for a more stain-resistant experience. When exposing the fabric to dirt and grime, Omni-Shield makes it easy to remove the dirt while washing.
While the outermost layer (Omni-Shield) isn’t completely waterproof, it does repel water upon impact. The middle layer eventually stops any water droplets that get past this layer, also called the membrane. That’s what makes Omni-Tech stain-resistant, waterproof, and breathable.
Since the invention of Omni-Shield, Columbia has invented several other technologies that help separate themselves from the competition. They also offer Omni-Heat, which is added to clothing to help keep you warm, and Omni-Wind Block, which provides a more windproof design.
Omni-Shield is often viewed as a more popular option than eVent, but not so much compared to Gore-Tex — which is still the most popular waterproof breathable fabric. Instead, a majority of Omni-Shield’s popularity comes from the growing popularity of the Columbia brand.
|Durability||Omni-Tech’s Omni-Shield outer layer protects it against stains, dirt, and grime. Softer, dries much more quickly, more malleable.||Gore-Tex fabrics are long-lasting, even after exposure to tough conditions. More stiff and rugged||Omni-Tech is more stain-resistant due to the Omni-Shield outer layer. Can be light or heavy, Gore-Tex utilizes a PU film that might lead to overheating, harder to maintain and clean|
|Waterproof rating||10,000mm. The garment can withstand over 32 feet (10,000 mm) of rainfall in a single day without letting moisture in.||28,000mm. Gore-Tex’s rating starts at 28.000mm. Depending on usage the waterproof layer can last 3-10 years.||eVent has a waterproof rating that starts at 30.000mm|
|Breathability rating||10.000 g/m2/24hr.||15-25.000 g/m2/24hr.||15.000-25.000 g/m2/24hr.|
eVent vs Gore-Tex vs Omni-Tech Comparison
Since eVent, Gore-Tex, and Omni-Tech are all different types of waterproof breathable fabrics, they’re generally used for the same purposes. With that said, they each come with their unique benefits that appeal to certain groups of people. Do you know which one you prefer?
Don’t worry if you don’t. While we’ve already detailed what each WBF is and why they’ve grown to be so popular in today’s modern world, we’re going to take a hard look at the differences between each to give you a better idea of which one is the perfect fit for you. Let’s get started!
To start our waterproof breathable fabric comparison, let’s first take a look at eVent vs. Gore-Tex:
- eVent was launched in 1999, while Gore-Tex was launched in 1970
- eVent can be light or heavy, while Gore-Tex is mostly heavy and durable
- Both eVent and Gore-Tex are made of ePTFE
- Gore-Tex utilizes a PU film that might lead to overheating
- eVent utilizes a dry system called DirectVenting that helps keep you drier on the inside
- It doesn’t need to be wet for water vapor to escape, but Gore-Tex does
- eVent has a 30.000mm+ waterproof rating, while Gore-Tex has a 28.000mm+ rating
- Both eVent and GoreTex have a breathability rating between 15.000-25.000 g/m2/24hr
- eVent is harder to maintain and clean than Gore-Tex because the PU layer protects from oil and grease
- eVent is more breathable and keeps you drier, but Gore-Tex is more warm and durable
Continuing with our waterproof breathable fabric comparison, let’s take a look at eVent vs. Omni-Tech:
- Technology eVent is offered by eVent Fabrics, while Omni-Tech is offered by the popular brand Columbia
- eVent is both light and heavy (depending on the outer and inner layer), while Omni-Tech is a little softer to the touch
- eVent is more breathable and dry due to the DirectVenting technology that allows water vapor to escape immediately
- Omni-Tech is more stain-resistant due to the Omni-Shield outer layer
- Omni-Tech is more water-repellant due to Omni-Shield
- eVent has a waterproof rating that starts at 30.000mm, while Omni-Tech rates at 10.000mm
- eVent has a breathability rating between 15.000-25.000 g/m2/24hr, while Omni-Tech only rates at 10.000 g/m2/24hr
- Omni-Tech is more malleable and flexible, though eVent isn’t that far off from it
- Omni-Tech is much easier to clean and maintain than eVent due to the Omni-Shield coat
To finish our waterproof breathable fabric comparison, let’s take a look at Omni-Tech vs. Gore-Tex:
- Gore-Tex has been around for over 50 years and was the inventor of WBF, while Omni-Tech is owned by Columbia — a popular brand in the United States
- Omni-Tech’s Omni-Shield outer layer protects it against stains, dirt, and grime, but Gore-Tex not so much
- Both Omni-Tech (Omni-Shield) and Gore-Tex (DWR treatment) help repel water due to the outer layer
- Omni-Tech has a waterproof rating of 10.000mm, while Gore-Tex’s rating starts at 28.000mm
- Breathability rating of Omni-Tech has is 10.000 g/m2/24hr, while Gore-Tex’s rating ranges from 15-25.000 g/m2/24hr
- Gore-Tex more stiff and rugged than Omni-Tech, which is more malleable.
- Omni-Tech dries much more quickly than Gore-Tex
- Both Omni-Tech and Gore-Tex are durable (more so Gore-Tex), but Omni-Tech is softer
- Omni-Tech is less expensive and easier to maintain than Gore-Tex
- Gore-Tex feels warmer on the body, while Omni-Tech requires layering for warmth
Let’s do a quick recap of what we’ve learned in our waterproof breathable fabric comparison. Gore-Tex is the most popular of the three and is known as the company that invented WBF technology. Omni-Tech is best for avoiding stains, while eVent provides greater breathability.
You can’t go wrong with either of the three, but it boils down to preference for each individual. eVent is more suited for active individuals, Gore-Tex is much more durable in nature, and Omni-Tech is best-suited for those that like to get dirty. So the real question is which one do you prefer?
We’ve learned a lot about three of the most popular waterproof-breathable fabrics available in the market today. Omni-Tech, Gore-Tex, and eVent are some of the best out there, but that doesn’t mean we’ve covered everything you need to know.
To ensure you make an educated and informed decision when shopping for waterproof breathable fabric, let’s go over some of the most prominent, relevant, and related questions you might have:
- What is a waterproof breathable fabric used for? Waterproof breathable fabric has a wide range of uses in the world today. It’s largely used for garments that protect your body from extreme weather conditions, such as rain, wind, and snow.
- What are other alternatives to Omni-Tech, Gore-Tex, and eVent? While Omni-Tech, Gore-Tex, and eVent are three of the most popular WBF options, you can also consider FutureLight, DryVent, Dry. Q, and H2NO — all of which are waterproof and breathable.
- Can you machine wash waterproof breathable fabric? It is safe to put your waterproof breathable fabric in the wash, but don’t overload the washer and use warm water. It’s best to let them air-dry, but you can use a low-heat tumbler to dry as well.
- Which WBF is the most durable? Of the three most popular options, you’re better off choosing Gore-Tex if you want something that’ll last for a long time. Of course, this does come with a higher price tag.
- Which WBF is the most breathable? Due to the DirectVenting technology used by eVent Fabrics, it’s not only more breathable than Gore-Tex and Omni-Tech but also keeps you drier on the inside.
- Which WBF is the most stain-resistant? For those that like to get dirty in their waterproof breathable fabric, you’re better off choosing Omni-Tech. The outermost layer, made of Omni-Shield, is stain-resistant and easier to clean.
- What is FutureLight? Offered by The North Face, one of the most popular sportswear companies in the world, FutureLight is a WBF with three layers. The WBF membrane is sandwiched between a tough exterior and soft interior for a versatile look and feel.
- What is DryVent? The North Face offers another WBF, DryVent . It was a direct answer to Gore-Tex, while FutureLight is their new and improved technology. DryVent is a PU-based fabric that’s windproof, waterproof, and breathable.
- What is Dry. Q? This is another WBF technology that’s used in Mountain Hardware’s line of sportswear. There are a variety of different types of Dry. Q, allowing for a versatile line of clothes that fits every lifestyle.
- What is H2NO? Finally, Patagonia, another popular sportswear brand offers H2NO a WBF technology. It can be found as a three-layer or two-layer fabric but utilizes DWR treatment on the face of the fabric to make it water-repellant.
The world of waterproof breathable fabrics is constantly evolving, and there are always new competitors or alternatives being introduced to the market. However, if you’re interested in WBF jackets, pants, gloves, hats, and more, you can’t go wrong with either of the three most popular options — Columbia Omni-Tech, Gore-Tex, or eVent.