Waterproof and Breathable: Is it possible?

AscentShell is an Outdoor Research exclusive, proprietary fabric that’s a waterproof, breathable three-layer fabric that broadens your comfort zone during aerobic effort throughout changing conditions. It’s created by an electrospinning process where charged polymers are affixed to a grounded surface. Those polymers gather into a breathable membrane that, under a microscope, you can see forming a web that allows sweat vapors out but stops water from coming in.

This process also allows all AscentShell gear to be soft to the touch and keep a great mechanical stretch while remaining waterproof. That’s why we keep talking about Active Waterproof Stretch.

The AscentShell is a highly technical fabric. It is created using electrospun membranes from very small polyurethane (PU) short staple fibers that are electrically charged and then randomly laid to create a waterproof barrier that is air-permeable.

This technology has been around for about five years or so but not many people have put it into garments yet. There are only a few suppliers in the world that can control the quality to use it in textiles. The OR version is proprietary and is made with a close partner.

Some membranes have to reach a certain level of humidity for the membrane to start working to move vapor out. This one does not need that difference in pressure from inside to outside.

With this technology, you can create far more, and different size “holes” for vapor to escape. And with a modicum of air coming in, your sweat is in a constant little circulation chamber where it’s drying quickly.

It’s still waterproof, and you won’t feel the slight air coming through. There’s just enough to dry the vapor that’s pushing out and that allows more sweat to push out faster, keeping you more comfortable.

All of this creates a fabric that gives high levels of breathability and comfort in a dependable, waterproof shell without being ridiculously expensive. In addition to this, the amazing stretch, which is not normal in hardshell jackets, increases comfort and versatility.

Why choose AscentShell?

The AscentShell fabric is specifically aimed at tackling breathability. With that in mind, moisture moves out faster to keep you drier while you’re active. If you are involved in fast paced activities in wet conditions, the AscentShell fabric technology works to keep you as dry from the inside as the outside. It’s also softer, stretchier, and quieter than the Gore-Tex fabrics in most peoples’ hardshells.

However, if you’re standing around in the rain or doing something not as active, then other waterproof technologies like Gore-Tex may be more appropriate for long-term use in non-sweaty conditions.