A lot of waterproof products keep you dry and comfortable—until they don’t. Think delamination, decreased durability or a drop in breathability, which is not helpful if you’re sweaty on a climb or worse, suffering through a soggy jacket in sub-zero conditions.
So when we started building breathable waterproof products, we wanted to create gear that performs at the highest level and for the long haul.
To ensure every product upholds our performance and longevity standards, we established a benchmark along with a series of tests for waterproofness, breathability and durability rigorous enough to be backed by our Ironclad Guarantee.
What is H₂No®?
Where We Are
Our H₂No® Performance Standard is not a technology or specific material—it’s an extensive, years-long testing process that every single one of our waterproof materials and waterproof products must pass both in the lab and in the field to earn the H₂No title. It’s intentionally demanding so that we say yes only to products that guarantee long-lasting waterproof performance and breathability.
While lab tests can’t perfectly mimic Mother Nature, they are extremely useful in helping us develop our H₂No fabrics and ensuring they meet four major performance points: waterproofness, breathability, surface repellency and long-term durability.
We also work closely with a select group of testers chosen for their sports expertise who are more than happy to push our materials to the limits and poke holes in our designers’ lofty ideas. They help us confirm that the materials, design and construction are top-of-the-line for a wide variety of activities, whether it’s alpine pushes, long days skiing or getting caught in the rowdiest of thunderstorms. Here’s a more detailed look into the H₂No process.
PHASE 1: LAB-TESTING THE MATERIAL
To measure complete waterproofness, we subject our fabrics to a “Killer Wash,” our wet flex and abrasion test that simulates up to 30 years of use in drenching conditions. We gauge this by putting pressure—in the form of a cylinder of water measured in millimeters—on the fabric to see how far we can push the limits before the fabric starts leaking. The first Killer Wash tests are performed at 20,000mm of water and then again to ensure the fabric maintains a 10,000mm water rating. This means we only select fabrics that will meet industry standards for waterproofness even after extensive use.
Breathability means a fabric must simultaneously repel water from the outside while allowing heat, sweat and moisture to escape from the inside. We test this by measuring a fabric’s Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate (MVTR) and Resistance to Evaporative Heat Transfer (RET), tests that measure how effectively vapor and air can pass through a waterproof material under different conditions, from fly fishing to alpine climbing. We then retest breathability after Killer Wash to ensure that the material performs all of the above after simulated prolonged use.
Even if water isn't getting through the waterproof membrane, a saturated outer fabric can reduce breathability and comfort. That’s why surface repellency—how well water beads and rolls off face fabric before the moisture ever reaches the interior coating or lamination—is so important. To test that, we spray our materials with water at varying intensity levels to simulate both light and heavy rain, measuring the resulting beading on a 1–5 scale. We then retest after Killer Wash to ensure that materials still repel and bead water after extensive use. (Love your shell, and it will love you back: You can refresh surface repellency through normal wash and care. Learn more here.)
By running tests before and after Killer Wash, we get an excellent sense of how a material will perform after years of use, not just in terms of waterproof performance but also in physical construction. We're looking out for delamination, membrane degradation and more. Beyond waterproof durability, we also extensively test the physical durability of our fabrics, measuring tensile strength, ripping resistance and abrasion resistance to ensure they can keep up, no matter the forecast or terrain.
PHASE 2: FIELD-TESTING THE MATERIAL
Once a material passes our many lab tests, it's adapted into an existing product design—say, a prospective material sewed into a Triolet Alpine Jacket silhouette—so our field testers can help us understand real-world comfort. Sometimes we even incorporate two different materials into one design so our testers can compare performance more directly. Every material we consider for use gets at least two months of continual use in the field before it’s even considered for use in a product.
PHASE 3: LAB-TESTING THE DESIGN
Once an individual material passes our lab and field tests and is adopted into a new product, we run more tests to make sure that the material and design meet our (very high) standards. We’re analyzing:
Durability and construction: Seams, tapes and trims need to be as durable as our fabrics, so the final garments must pass additional lab tests, like ensuring seams don’t leak before and after a Killer Wash.
Design execution and function: All of our products are carefully reviewed by our Design, Quality and Repair teams to ensure you never have to deal with issues like waterlogged zipper garages. They also verify that key elements can be easily repaired, so you can keep your gear in play and out of landfills.
Prototype testing: We call on our ambassadors and other testers to try out individual protypes. We start with one version, review their feedback, make changes and repeat this whole process until we get the most effective and reliable waterproof version of the product.
PHASE 4: FIELD-TESTING THE FINAL DESIGN
After the prototyping process is complete, we put dozens of samples of our final design into the field with our global ambassador team for several months of field testing, ensuring that the final product is ready for our customers. Think of it as the final sniff test.
Beyond rigorously testing (and re-testing) our waterproof materials, we are actively working on ways to reduce the impact waterproof products have on the environment. That means creating the highest level of performance products without relying on petroleum-based materials or perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), water-repellant compounds used in DWR that persist in the environment and never degrade. By Fall 2022, about 90 percent of our weather- and waterproof garments will be PFC-free, including insulation pieces, midlayers and some outerwear, all of which have passed the gauntlet of H₂No tests.