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  • Writer's pictureS. Lowell Gilliland

Waterproof Fabrics Part 1

Updated: Feb 19, 2021

The idea of WRANGELL is over a decade in the making. From humble beginnings in a garage, to building tried and true products for extreme conditions, WRANGELL has matured along with an industry that has seen dramatic changes over the last two decades. No matter what pursuits take you into the great outdoors, two of the most plaguing inconveniences faced in the outdoor world are weight and water, both where you want them least. In your gear! WRANGELL has sought to address both of these problems in our gear designs.

Nylon was invented by DuPont (Chemical Company) in the 1930s and became a mass produced synthetic fiber shortly thereafter. Fast forward to today, and we find nylon everywhere around us. From food packaging to fishing lines to the automotive, electrical and textile industry, we are surrounded by this synthetic material. After the second world war, the outdoor gear industry was quick to adopt this new synthetic material in the form of nylon fabric. It absorbed less water than its predecessors, was rot and mildew resistant and had increased abrasion resistance than other available fabrics. Eventually nylon fabric began being coated with a polyurethane (PU) coating to increase its resistance to water permeability. This PU coated fabric has become an inexpensive mainstay for constructing the majority of outdoor bags, backpacks and tent floors. This PU coating eventually peals and wears off. This reduces the water resistant qualities of the product. In addition to this drawback, polyurethane coatings chemically react with nylon fabric and weaken them if too much is applied. This limits the amount PU coating that can be applied to a nylon fabric. Enter thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU)

TPU films can be applied to fabrics and have a high abrasion and tear resistance as well as superior performance in dynamic flexion. Unlike PU coatings, Thermoplastic Polyurethane films increase fabric strength. This makes TPU coated fabrics excellent for high wear and extreme durability applications. Best of all, TPU fabrics are 100% waterproof (they are used to make the highest quality PackRafts).

WRANGELL strategically incorporates TPU coated fabrics into high wear and abrasion prone locations on our backpacks and bags. This allows us to produces a product that is constructed in its entirety from waterproof fabric. TPU coated fabrics are more abrasion and puncture resistant than virtually all other fabrics used in outdoor gear. They also will not soak up water or become heavier if exposed to wet conditions. Because of these qualities, WRANGELL believes that this type of fabric plays a key role solving the problem of gear becoming heavy when wet and keeping the inside of you backpack or bag dry.

To be continued...

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