Top 5 Winter Fabrics
by Olivia Moore
Even when the weather outside is frightful - rainy, snowy, windy, cold, wet, dark - runners are out there. And, thanks to these technical and high-performance fabrics, every runner can brave nearly every element without much discomfort.
By far, Gore-Tex is the most evolved "technical" fabric, and it's not a fabric at all. Actually, it's a membrane which is layered onto other fabrics to produce the desired results. That's why so many kinds of clothing can utilize it. Combining two substances in a unique, patented formula, it keeps out wind and water yet is still very breathable. The ePTFE (expanded polytetraflurorethylene, discovered by Bill Gore in 1969) membrane contains 9 billion pores per square inch, making it hydrophobic, or water-hating. Each pore is smaller than a droplet of water but larger than a molecule of water vapor. This means no liquid water can penetrate the pores, but moisture vapor from sweat can easily escape. An oleophobic, or oil-hating substance prevents contaminants from penetrating the membrane, protecting its waterproofness and breathability.
What puts Gore-Tex above and beyond all other winter fabrics is its waterproofness. The makers of Gore-Tex have pioneered nearly every innovation in waterproof design and seam-sealing technology. The company is fanatic about quality-control, maintaining such a high standard of quality and durability that they can offer an amazing guarantee. If you're not satisfied, you may send the garment back to the manufacturer and they will repair it, replace it or refund your money.
BEST FOR: RAIN, SNOW, COLD, WIND
A cousin to Gore-Tex, Windstopper is also made by the folks at Gore. Its most valuable feature is exactly what the name implies - it makes fabrics completely windproof. It is created by taking an ultralight ePTFE membrane that is durable and windproof but still extremely breathable, and laminating it to various high-performance fabrics. Windproofness is determined by measuring air permeability through the fabric and associating this measurement to the resulting heat loss at different wind speeds. Fabrics that show an air permeability rate of 1.0 cubic feet per minute (cfm) or less are considered completely windproof. Windstopper fabrics rate at 1.0 cfm.
The outside is coated for water repellency but, without seam sealing, it cannot be considered waterproof.
The advantage of garments made with Windstopper is that they offer warmth from fewer layers, allowing greater freedom of movement and breathable comfort during activity.
BEST FOR: COOL, COLD, WINDY
Polartec includes a variety of Climate Control Fabrics. Their properties are three-fold: to keep skin dry, insulate and protect the wearer from the elements.
In the first category, Polartec offers its next-to-skin fabrics that are breathable and move moisture away from your skin so you stay dry. The fabric itself dries quickly and can be worn alone; in colder temperatures it makes a great first layer. The patented construction of these fabrics pulls sweat from the skin, through the fabric and spreads it over a wider surface area for the most effective evaporation.
The second Polartec category is thermal fabrics, used primarily for insulation. Durable yet lightweight, they offer warmth without adding excessive bulk, so you run with greater range of motion. The fabric construction is breathable, like the next-to-skin fabrics, so sweat passes through and away from the skin to keep you dry. It's great to use as a middle layer. Finally, Polartec's outer layer offering is weather protection fabrics to protect you from wind, snow or light rain. These fabrics are constructed of a windproof, water-resistant membrane laminated to the fabric (such as in the Windstopper). These are breathable, durable and have good stretch and recovery.
BEST FOR: COLD WEATHER INSULATION WITHOUT BULK.
Dryline offers incredible moisture management. Made of a combination of 63% nylon, 23% polyester and 14% Lycra, it is a soft, pliable fabric. Its moisture transfer design draws perspiration from your skin to the garment surface, where it evaporates and keeps you from heating up or cooling down too quickly. The unique two-layer nylon front panel protects from wind chill, while the polyester back fabric is engineered to stay dry and comfortable no matter how much you perspire. Thanks to Lycra, garments made with Dryline fabrics stretch comfortably and are great for summer as well as winter running. The moisture management system is activated automatically when your body heats up, so you'll either stay cool or warm, and you'll always stay dry.
BEST FOR: YEAR-ROUND USE; USE IN COOL OR COLD WEATHER FOR LAYERING.
Garments that incorporate illumiNITE technology offer a different kind of advantage to winter runners: better visibility. Using advanced reflective and coating technologies, the illumiNITE matrix is created by embedding millions of microscopic reflectors, called sataLITE DISHES, into the weave of the fabric. These reflectors are like mirrors which throw the light back to its original source. This reflection creates a silhouette image of the runner that can be easily seen, even at dusk and after dark. Further innovations have allowed the illumiNITE technology to incorporate wind and water resistant properties. Also, the makers of illumiNITE have developed a technical moisture management system for better breathability. These developments make it another excellent choice for winter running.
BEST FOR: NIGHTTIME RUNNING.