Here's what Gill has to say about their Fabric:
"When it comes to waterproof and breathable fabrics you may well be confused by numerous technical sounding names, not to mention being confronted with a host of fancy swing tickets all claiming to be the best. At Gill we choose not to use high profile branded fabrics as they not only add to the cost of the garment but limit the choice of both quality and suitability of materials available to us."
"We search the world for the best fabrics to suit the end use and then test them to destruction. If a fabric needs an additional coating to withstand the rigours of the southern Ocean then we give it one. Our tests are carried out in our laboratory They are then corroborated independently. We test our fabrics not just as new but after artificial aging to simulate years of use. Finally they are put out into the field for further testing. There is always a product some where in the Southern Ocean under test."
"When the testing is complete we rank the fabric according to end usage and classify it according to our renowned Fabric System™ (see above). These tests are not one off tests but are repeated before each production batch. This attention to detail ensures that the Gill fabrics perform as well if not better than anything in the market today and ensures the quality of our products remain at the highest level."
Types of Fabric
"Today all fabrics are breathable so the choice comes down more to the handle and feel. This in turn is affected by the weight, density of the weave, and whether the proofing is a coating or laminate."
"Some of us still refer to wet weather gear as “Oilies” or “Oilskins”. As the name suggests these were canvas type materials with fish or linseed oil rubbed into it to make it water proof and used by the early fishermen and sailors alike. Whilst the process has improved enormously over the years, it is still a case of spreading a coating of polyurethane onto the fabrics. Today this is done on the inside of the textile fabric so it is protected from external damage. The element that makes water bead up and run off is an invisible durable water repellent finish, usually Teflon®. This is not relied on for waterproofness but prevents the fabrics from absorbing water. This adds weight and reduces breathability."
Coatings are the more traditional approach. A Polyurethane based resin is spread onto a woven fabric, a bit like butter is spread onto toast. It first has to fill in the weave undulations to seal it and then build up a layer that covers it all evenly. Finally the fabric is dipped into a solution of Teflon® for water repellency on the exterior.
"Laminates are a more recent development. A laminated waterproof fabric is made by spreading the coating resin onto a long roll of non absorbent paper. This means the coating thickness can be finely controlled. The paper and waterproof film is then laminated to the textile woven fabric and the paper is removed. The end result is a fabric that is lighter, whilst being just as waterproof. It is more flexible, softer and much more comfortable to wear."
Conventional waterproof fabrics fall into two main categories.
"A two layer fabric is a woven textile with a laminated or coated finish on the inside. In most cases the garment would then have a lining. This protects the coated surface and makes it more comfortable to wear as an unlined fabric may feel a bit clammy. The advantage of two layer fabrics are that they are generally lighter and less expensive to produce. Examples would be Inshore/ Coastal Sailing Waterproof Clothing and Dinghy Wear."
"Three layer fabrics take the two layer material and laminate and a lightweight mesh type fabric is bonded on the inside of the fabric to protect the coated surface. Inevitably it makes the fabric a little heavier but this can be offset because the garment does not need a lining. It is a modern misconception that lined garments are better, they can reduce breathability, increase weight and add a layer to get caught and snagged. Three layer garments are considerably more expensive to produce. The speed at which the seams can be sealed is slower and the sealing tape itself is much more costly."
How Have Fabrics Changed?
Fabrics have changed enormously over the last twenty years or so. I am not just referring to the waterproof technology but also the weight, handle and feel.
We have gone from stiff heavy PVC and neoprene coated fabrics to lightweight woven fabrics with the latest membrane technology.