Top 5 Winter Fabrics
by Olivia Moore
Even when the weather outside is frightful - rainy, snowy, windy, cold, wet, dark - runners are
out there. And, thanks to these technical and high-performance fabrics, every runner can brave
nearly every element without much discomfort.
By far, Gore-Tex is the most evolved "technical" fabric, and it's not a fabric at
all. Actually, it's a membrane which is layered onto other fabrics to produce the desired
results. That's why so many kinds of clothing can utilize it. Combining two substances in a
unique, patented formula, it keeps out wind and water yet is still very breathable. The ePTFE
(expanded polytetraflurorethylene, discovered by Bill Gore in 1969) membrane contains 9 billion
pores per square inch, making it hydrophobic, or water-hating. Each pore is smaller than a
droplet of water but larger than a molecule of water vapor. This meaans no liquid water can
penetrate the pores, but moisture vapor from sweat can easily escape. An oleophobic, or
oil-hating substance prevents contaminants from penetrating the membrane, protecting its
waterproofness and breathability.
What puts Gore-Tex above and beyond all other winter fabrics is its waterproofness. The makers
of Gore-Tex have pioneered nearly every innovation in waterproof design and seam-sealing
technology. The company is fanatic about quality-control, maintaining such a high standard of
quality and durability that they can offer an amazing guarantee. If you're not satisfied, you
may send the garment back to the manufacturer and they will repair it, replace it or refund
BEST FOR: RAIN, SNOW, COLD, WIND
A cousin to Gore-Tex, Windstopper is also made by the folks at Gore. Its most valuable feature
is exactly what the name implies - it makes fabrics completely windproof. It is created by
taking an ultralight ePTFE membrane that is durable and windproof but still extremely
breathable, and laminating it to various high-performance fabrics. Windproofness is determined
by measuring air permeability through the fabric and associating this measurement to the
resulting heat loss at different wind speeds. Fabrics that show an air permeability rate of 1.0
cubic feet per minute (cfm) or less are considered completely windproof. Windstopper fabrics
rate at 1.0 cfm.
The outside is coated for water repellency but, without seam sealing, it cannot be considered
The advantage of garments made with Windstopper is that they offer warmth from fewer layers,
allowing greater freedom of movement and breathable comfort during activity.
BEST FOR: COOL, COLD, WINDY
Polartec includes a variety of Climate Control Fabrics. Their properties are three-fold: to
keep skin dry, insulate and protect the wearer from the elements.
In the first category, Polartec offers its next-to-skin fabrics that are breathable and move
moisture away from your skin so you stay dry. The fabric itself dries quickly and can be worn
alone; in colder temperatures it makes a great first layer. The patented construction of these
fabrics pulls sweat from the skin, through the fabric and spreads it over a wider surface area
for the most effective evaporation.
The second Polartec category is thermal fabrics, used primarily for insulation. Durable yet
lightweight, they offer warmth without adding excessive bulk, so you run with greater range of
motion. The fabric construction is breathable, like the next-to-skin fabrics, so sweat passes
through and away from the skin to keep you dry. It's great to use as a middle layer. Finally,
Polartec's outer layer offering is weather protection fabrics to protect you from wind, snow or
light rain. These fabrics are constructed of a windproof, water-resistant membrane laminated to
the fabric (such as in the Windstopper). These are breathable, durable and have good stretch
BEST FOR: COLD WEATHER INSULATION WITHOUT BULK.
Dryline offers incredible moisture management. Made of a combination of 63% nylon, 23%
polyester and 14% Lycra, it is a soft, pliable fabric. Its moisture transfer design draws
perspiration from your skin to the garment surface, where it evaporates and keeps you from
heating up or cooling down too quickly. The unique two-layer nylon front panel protects from
wind chill, while the polyester back fabric is engineered to stay dry and comfortable no matter
how much you perspire. Thanks to Lycra, garments made with Dryline fabrics stretch comfortably
and are great for summer as well as winter running. The moisture management system is activated
automatically when your body heats up, so you'll either stay cool or warm, and you'll always
BEST FOR: YEAR-ROUND USE; USE IN COOL OR COLD WEATHER FOR LAYERING.
Garments that incorporate illumiNITE technology offer a different kind of advantage to winter
runners: better visibility. Using advanced reflective and coating technologies, the illumiNITE
matrix is created by embedding millions of microscopic reflectors, called sataLITE DISHES, into
the weave of the fabric. These reflectors are like mirrors which throw the light back to its
original source. This reflection creates a silhouette image of the runner that can be easily
seen, even at dusk and after dark. Further innovations have allowed the illumiNITE technology
to incorporate wind and water resistant properties. Also, the makers of illumiNITE have
developed a technical moisture management system for better breathability. These developments
make it another excellent choice for winter running.
BEST FOR: NIGHTTIME RUNNING.