Columbia Sportswear Co. has pushed the needle on waterproof technology.
The Portland, Ore.-based outdoor brand today will unveil OutDry Extreme, a product it says will be the most waterproof and breathable in the market. The technology will be available on Columbia jackets beginning in spring 2016.
Jeff Mergy, director of global innovation, explained that the traditional approach to waterproof breathable shells is to take a thin waterproof membrane, cover it with a durable fabric treated with a repellent and line it with another fabric that will sit next to the skin. Gore-Tex developed this technology 45 years ago, he said.
However, Mergy said the outer shell breaks down quickly and begins to “wet-out” after only a few months, and the repellent features of the fabric degrade from abrasion, dirt and body oils. Once it is impacted in this way, breathability is impacted and the moisture generated by the wearer is not dispersed.
In contrast, Mergy said the waterproof membrane on OutDry Extreme is abrasion-resistant and placed on the outside of the garment, resulting in permanent water repellency. The membrane breathes because of microscopic perforations that allow moisture to escape, he explained, and the interior lining is a wicking textile for comfort. The patent for OutDry is pending, he said.
OutDry Extreme is Columbia’s most premium product and will be used in the company’s Titanium collection. It will be offered in jackets and rain pants for men and women, as well as children. The men’s and women’s jackets will range in price from $150 to $400 and be available in several colors and styles. A youth collection will be offered in 19 styles and retail starting at $120.
Columbia, which boasts a 33 percent share of the rainwear market, according to OIA Vantage Point POS Data, has in the past patented Omni-Heat Reflective, an insulation fabric, as well as Omni-Freeze Zero, a cooling technology.