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eVent fabrics overview

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Gore-Tex may have the name. But the new kid in town is eVent, a waterproof/breathable laminate manufactured and marketed by the BHA Group Inc., a subsidiary of General Electric Company.

While the brand debuted more than five years back, eVent fabrics (www.eventfabrics.com) is still unknown to many outdoors consumers. But the formula — which is used in everything from jackets to shoes — is reaching a critical mass.

Originally created in a lab as a venting membrane for industrial air-pollution filters, the eVent name is now found on jackets from the likes of Westcomb and Rab, and on shoes from Keen, Hi-Tec and Teva. Hats, gloves, gear bags, and bivy sacks from various companies employ eVent as well.

eVent-based Drillium Jacket

So what makes eVent so special? Like Gore-Tex and other waterproof/breathable laminates, eVent allows sweat to pass through while keeping the elements out. But the BHA Group claims that eVent lets moisture escape up to twice as fast as the competition.

Distilling the science, eVent essentially creates a membrane with millions of tiny pores — a microscopic voodoo that’s proprietary and patented. Further, it differs from the competition, the BHA Group says, in its hydrophobic reaction to water: While some waterproof/breathable fabrics and membranes absorb water or sweat — letting moisture soak in, seep through and then evaporate on the surface — eVent, according to the BHA Group, skips the absorption step, letting moisture escape faster.

In my tests, eVent has performed as promised. Over the past few months, I tested the Drillium Jacket from Rab (www.rab.uk.com) and the V-Lite Radar shoes from Hi-Tec (www.hi-tec.com), among other eVent-based products.

For breathability, the jacket won high marks. Biking hard in the cool weather, spring rain tapping on my shoulders, the piece seemed to breathe about as well as a waterproof garment can manage.

The shoes shunned moisture from the outside, letting me hop through shallow streams and slosh in puddles, though breathability was harder to measure down there.

In truth, a million variables — from outside ambient temperature to your aerobic output on any given day — make field tests like this kind of mushy and qualitative.

But the bottom line is this: eVent breathes, no doubt; it’s waterproof; the science seems to make sense; and more and more companies are jumping on the train.

In other words, if you want waterproof and breathable, and you see the words eVent fabrics, your product of choice is probably a safe bet.

(Stephen Regenold writes The Gear Junkie column for eight U.S. newspapers; see www.THEGEARJUNKIE.com for video gear reviews, a daily blog, and an archive of Regenold’s work.)

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