Mountain Hardwear's Ted Ganio answers our questions about the new Mountain Hardwear Dry.Q Elite jackets
We've been fielding question after question about the new Mountain Hardwear Dry.Q Elite jackets... What is Dry.Q? Does it really breathe as well as they say it does? Will it last as long as my Gore-Tex jacket? Rather than answer these ourselves, we went straight to Mountain Hardwear for the real answers about this new technology. Ted Ganio, Mountain Hardwear's VP of Innovation, Technology & Equipment, was happy to sit down with us for an email interview, and here's what he had to say.
R/C: OK, I have to ask this first: what’s a “VP of Innovation?” That’s a pretty cool job title.
Ted: It isn’t a bad title, is it? Much more decipherable than my previous title of "Director of Merchandising," wouldn't you say?
My role at Mountain Hardwear is to drive our Innovation Roadmap. Innovation has been a hallmark of Mountain Hardwear since its founding in 1993. You can find industry-firsts all through our history, from the first taped softshells (Synchro Jackets) to the introduction of OutDry in gloves. We have continually challenged conventional thought in the name of bringing better solutions to our users. My job is to continue that work across all of our product categories.
R/C: Moving away from Gore-Tex is a bold move, and developing Dry.Q Elite surely took years of effort and piles of money. What prompted Mountain Hardwear to take this step?
Ted: We found ourselves holding a number of very powerful technologies: 80- and 100-wash DWRs, sonic-welding of seams, amazing new fabric faces and fabric backers for both hardshells and softshells, and a number of powerful barrier technologies. But we were not able to bring them all together in one meaningful garment in a way that we knew we could and in a way that we knew people wanted.
There were so many guardrails in place that our ability to be creative and innovative was completely shut down.
Honestly, if you take a look at all the Gore-Tex jackets offered, and you remove the brand logos, you see very quickly a staggering sea of sameness. Every brand, around the world, is creating the same garment out of the same binder of fabrics. It was time to stop the madness. It was time to build garments the way consumers want them.
R/C: It seems like there are quite a few conflicting rumors flying around about what Dry.Q actually is – specifically Dry.Q Elite – with terms like “eVent-like” and “eVent 2.0” being tossed around. Can you clarify the relationship between Mountain Hardwear and GE (owner of eVent Fabrics) that led to the creation of Dry.Q Elite?
Ted: As I mentioned earlier, we had a lot of different technologies and materials in our quiver at Mountain Hardwear, but we had been limited in how we could implement them. With the Dry.Q Elite project, we set one rule for ourselves: we wouldn’t play by any material suppliers' rules. We went into this project seeking out the highest quality base materials that we knew to exist. We sought out the finest laminating facilities and fabric finishers, and we worked with the highest quality garment factories in the world.
GE was one such material supplier. They make some of the best WP/B barriers available and we bought film from them. But we were very upfront with GE from the very first meeting. We only wanted to buy film. We didn’t need them to laminate it and we didn’t need their fabrics. eVent is GE’s full-blown fabric. We bought the film and then we took the film to our laminating partner in Japan and we built our fabrics from scratch, the way a fine craftsman builds a product: with the finest raw ingredients and the best tools available.
Along the way, we pioneered new DWRs: 80 wash durability on ePTFE films had never been done previously, by Gore or eVent or anyone else. We managed to find our way through the challenges that have stopped everyone else.
R/C: The Mountain Hardwear Drystein Jacket, a flagship of the new Dry.Q Elite line, features breathable stretch panels instead of pit zips. That’s a pretty brave statement about the breathability of this technology! What sets Dry.Q Elite apart from traditional waterproof/breathable fabrics?
Ted: The DryStein Jacket is my favorite piece in the Fall line, primarily because it’s everything I want in a hardshell, and nothing more. As simple as possible, and no simpler. The DryStein was built from the ground up on the merits of our new Dry.Q Elite technology.
In a nutshell, what sets it apart is that it begins working for you immediately – the moment you put it on. I like the analogy of a bathtub to help people understand why this immediate performance matters:
We all know bathtubs. They have two drains: one in the bottom and one about 70% up the side of the tub, to insure water doesn’t overflow from the tub onto the floor. So, traditional waterproof/breathable fabrics can be represented by our bathtub, but with the drain plug in the bottom drain of the tub. Now, we start pouring water into the tub (aka sweating in our jacket) and the tub begins to fill up. Water will continue to fill up inside the tub until the level reaches the side drain and the tub is 70% full. Now, finally, the water will start to go out of the tub. But if you’re pouring water (sweating) into the tub faster than it will pour out the drain, then you have only 30% of the tub left to fill before you dump water out onto your floor (aka wetting out the inside of your traditional shell.)
Dry.Q Elite is that same bathtub, only we have removed the plug in the bottom of the tub. As soon as you start pouring water into the tub, it begins to go out. And even if you’re pouring water into the tub faster than it can go out the drain, you still have the entire tub to fill before you risk dumping any water onto the floor of your bathroom.
The “driving force” talked about around traditional waterproof/breathable fabrics is really the fact that until the humidity climbs to 70% inside your jacket, very little moisture is being pushed through the fabric. This was clearly demonstrated to us by the US Government’s R&D facility in Natick, Massachusetts. They developed the Dynamic Moisture Permeation Cell Test (DMPC Test) which measures both RET and MVTR across a spectrum of humid conditions. In that test, we clearly see that air permeable waterproof/breathable fabrics are not affected by nor require the presence of humidity. They simply work all the time. This is definitely not the case for the traditional waterproof/breathable technologies.
In addition to this immediate performance, our “drain hole” is bigger than the drain holes of a majority of the traditional waterproof/breathable fabrics.
The end result is that I no longer need two jackets for my adventures. I used to carry one for the way up the mountain, usually an air-permeable non-waterproof softshell that would breathe enough that I wouldn’t sweat it out, and then one for the way down – a waterproof hardshell that would offer absolute protection. Now I just take my DryStein!
R/C: Such superior breathability in a totally waterproof & windproof is a major breakthrough for a hardshell. However, we’re confused... how can jackets this breathable still be windproof? How is the windproofing of a jacket rated and/or tested?
Ted: This question and your confusion tells me you’ve heard some of the disinformation being put out.
Our industry has long considered any fabric which allows less than 1 cubic foot per minute (CFM) of air to pass through to be windproof. Styles that you consider windproof, like Mountain Hardwear’s Android Jacket or The North Face’s Apex Bionic, actually allow as much as 8 CFM and yet we and anyone who wears them knows them to be windproof for all intents and purposes.
When we talk about air permeability in our Dry.Q Elite garments, we are talking about 0.05 CFM – a level that is truly imperceptible when you are wearing it. Many of the WindStopper fabrics are air permeable as well and we have never pondered their windproofness.
Also, I think we need to be clear in our terminology: for as long as we have had waterproof and “breathable” fabrics, breathability has ALWAYS referred to the movement of moisture, not air. So it’s vital that we not inter-mix the idea of moving air through a fabric and moving liquid water through a fabric. Liquid water is orders of magnitude larger than either a single molecule of water or "air."
R/C: Naturally, the first question most customers ask is about the durability of a jacket that breathes this well. What kind of testing has Mountain Hardwear done to ensure the long-term waterproofness and performance of Dry.Q Elite jackets? Some of us are pretty good at torturing our gear!
Ted: We knew that we could not provide anything less than what already existed as we were working to bring so much more. As a result, we subjected Dry.Q Elite fabrics to 500 hours of continuous testing. Long-term waterproofness AND long-term breathability had to be guaranteed.
Our testing was conducted by an international 3rd party testing lab. We tested waterproofness, air permeability, and Moisture Vapor Transmission Rates (MVTR) at 5 different intervals: before washing, after 50 hours of washing, 100 hours of washing, 300 hours of washing, and 500 hours of washing. And we tested the MVTR at each interval using 3 different test methods: RET, the upright cup method, and the inverted cup method. We wanted to really understand what the true durability of Dry.Q Elite was and we wanted to be sure we were really bringing a better solution to market.
R/C: In our part of the world, the air is warm and humid much of the year – conditions that impair the breathability of foul-weather apparel – so the air permeability of Dry.Q Elite is specifically relevant. The Mountain Hardwear Ampato Jacket looks like it might be a great rain jacket for the southeast; who came up with the idea to put a high-end, super-breathable technology into a jacket with a hanging liner and a $235 MSRP? We love it!
Ted: I have to give credit to our Outerwear Team for that one. Honestly, we believe air permeability has a place at every level of the waterproof-breathable spectrum. Today, the hurdles are around the cost of the technology and we are working hard to clear those hurdles. The immediate MVTR performance enabled by air permeability should be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of their MVTR performance needs.
Thanks again to Ted for taking the time to chat with us about this exciting new product line, as well as being willing to give us straight answers! If you'd like to read more about the Dry.Q Elite family of shell jackets, you can check out our previous blog article here... or you can skip the homework assignment and shop now at rockcreek.com!