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Originally published March 20, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 20, 2008 at 6:44 AM

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Getting in Gear

Competition gains on Gore-Tex

After a 32-year reign as undisputed king of waterproof-breathable fabrics, Gore-Tex stands to be dethroned by a couple new products. Though not exactly new...

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After a 32-year reign as undisputed king of waterproof-breathable fabrics, Gore-Tex stands to be dethroned by a couple new products.

Though not exactly new, eVent fabrics are just starting to gain a solid foothold in the world of outdoor apparel. Used in high-end tents and bivy sacks for years, and some specialty apparel, only recently has the cost dropped enough that the eVent membrane could be used in broader circles.

Like Gore-Tex, eVent is a microporous membrane that allows water vapor to easily escape, yet blocks liquid from passing through. Unlike Gore-Tex, the eVent membrane also repels oils, dirt, detergents and other common chemicals that can plug the microscopic pores. Since Gore-Tex by itself can't repel these contaminants, it requires a very thin shield of polyurethane over the microporous membrane. Unfortunately, this coating reduces breathability. Since eVent works without the coating, it breathes far better than Gore-Tex, allowing more sweat moisture to escape while still being 100 percent waterproof.

British Columbia-based Westcomb incorporated eVent into its line a few years ago, and its iMirage jacket sets a lofty standard for all-mountain rainwear. The iMirage features a trim cut with a nicely contoured hood. The combination of the highly breathable eVent fabric and well-positioned pit zips proved highly effective. As a hiker prone to sweating, I kept dry in an iMirage even when slogging up steep slopes in the Glacier Peak Wilderness during warm rain showers. I found the jacket's tapered athletic cut a tad tight for my nonathletic body, but for trim hikers, the fit is perfect.

The addition of an iPod control panel on the sleeve of the iMirage was a nice bonus for the 20-something hiker who also tested the jacket for us. He loved that he could control his music while leaving the iPod safely stored away from the rain. The iMirage jacket sells for $379 (U.S.). More information: www.westcomb.com.

The new kid on the block looking to overthrow Gore-Tex, and even eVent, is Schoeller textiles' new c_change membrane (www.schoeller-textiles.com). This unique product is truly a 21st-century innovation. The membrane's properties change with changing environmental conditions! Jackson Hole-based Cloudveil utilizes c_change in its Koven Plus jacket. This lightweight shell boasts sleek styling and a great universal fit, yet the highly functional jacket's design takes a back seat to the innovative fabric from which it is made.

To truly test the vaunted properties of the new material, we wore the jacket in hot, humid conditions in North Carolina and in cold, rain-soaked Olympic rainforests. We snowshoed on Mount Rainier and hiked through the Columbia River Gorge. And we found the fabric maker's claims far too modest. The pores of this "intelligent" fabric close up when they get cold, helping to seal in heat, but when hot and humid, the structure opens up, allowing the jacket to breathe better than any waterproof-breathable garment I've ever worn.

Currently, Cloudveil is the only widely distributed brand in the U.S. market to use c_change, but expect to find it in more jackets soon. In the meantime, the Koven Plus is an outstanding shell suitable for any mountain activity. It sells for $439. More information: www.cloudveil.com.

— Dan A. Nelson,

special to The Seattle Times

Freelancer Dan A. Nelson, of Puyallup, is a regular contributor to Backpacker magazine, and an author of outdoor guides with The Mountaineers Books. For the purpose of review, gear manufacturers lend products, which are returned after a typical use of four to six weeks. There is no payment from manufacturers, and they have no control over the content of reviews. Contact Dan with gear-related questions at gearguy@adventuresnw.net.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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