The 1970s were a decade in which a wide variety of new fabrics became available on the market, leading manufacturers in the outdoor industry to jettison those more traditional fabrics, such as cotton and wool, in favour of these new, more advanced materials. These functional fabrics had a clear advantage over traditional fabrics: they have a much smaller pack size and were significantly lighter as well. One of these functional fabrics was Pertex.
Ever heard of it? If not, you’re in luck. In the following, we’re going to talk a bit about Pertex, including everything from its origin to variations and the properties thereof to its area of use.
Pertex is the result of a collaboration between Hanish Hamilton, a British mountaineer and Perseverance Mills, a company that had specialised in the manufacturing of nylon fabrics for parachutes. With Pertex, these two managed to create a lightweight and tear-resistant fabric that is moisture-wicking to boot. And so the Pertex we know today was born. And this material has remained an integral part of the outdoor industry ever since. Of course, there have been further developments to the fabric over the years, resulting in new fabric variations that are extremely lightweight and highly breathable. Now, there is a family of Pertex fabrics on the market, the members of which are used in all sorts of different areas.
The original Pertex fabric is still available today – with slight changes – as Pertex Classic. Not only is this fabric lightweight but it is very durable as well. As a result of its special composition, the material also happens to be windproof, water repellent and extremely breathable. Thanks to these key features, Pertex Classic is often used as the outer shell for down and synthetic jackets as well as sleeping bags. Plus, it’s very well suited for lightweight windproof jackets as well.
Pertex Microlight boasts properties very similar to that of Pertex Classic, but it is much lighter. This material comes with a DWR coating and thus offers more weather protection than Pertex Classic. Plus, this fabric is extremely downproof. As a result of the softness of the material and reduced weight, down and synthetic insulation can fully loft.
One of the lightest, but still strong and durable fabrics is Pertex Quantum. Like Pertex Classic, this fabric is also perfectly suited for down and synthetic jackets as well as sleeping bags. The incredible thing is that Quantum is significantly lighter than Microlight but still manages to be strong and durable. The lightest option is Quantum GL. This material boasts the best strength-to-weight ratio and is thus primarily used for ultra-light activities.
If you plan on travelling with a sleeping bag or down jacket in regions where the annual rainfall and humidity are high, the insulation therein needs much more protection. This is where Pertex Endurance comes in. This water-resistant and high-performance water-repellent nylon laminate provides excellent protection from moisture for sleeping bags and jackets alike. Plus, the material has excellent breathability and heat retention. Manufacturers like Montane or Exped use this material for things like high-quality and weatherproof down sleeping bags. Of course, Endurance is used in down jackets and all sorts of insulated clothing as well.
Pertex has a fabric designed to be used for softshells as well. This fabric is called Pertex Equilibrium. One of the key features of this fabric is the duplex weave construction, which not only provides excellent weather protection but also is highly breathable as well. The tough outer fabric also features a DWR finish, which works together with the double weave to keep light rain and wind at bay. Plus, due to the more open weave on the inside, moisture can be moved away from your body more quickly to ensure comfort on the interior. This fabric also boasts a great weight-to-performance ratio and is best suited for light softshells with maximum performance and a high level of comfort.
Inherent to all hardshells is the ability to shield you from snow, rain and wind. And of course, they should be breathable as well. After all, what difference does it make if you get wet from the outside (from rain or snow) or from the inside (due to sweat)? This is where Pertex Shield comes in. As all Pertex fabrics, Pertex Shield is extremely breathable. However, what’s different about Perxtex Shield is the fact that it has a membrane, which works together with a DWR finish to provide reliable weather protection.
The clever thing about this is that the combination of a highly technical outer fabric and a microporous coating ultimately led to the development of a strong and functional fabric. But the fun doesn’t stop there. With the fabric Pertex Shield+, Pertex took it one step further. Not only is this fabric lighter than the original Shield version, but it also has a PU membrane, which serves to provide a very high level of breathability that increases the harder you work. As a result of this dynamic breathability, this fabric is primarily used for lightweight and waterproof clothing.
I know it’s hard to believe, but Pertex Shield AP takes the breathability thing to a whole new level. This material is exceptionally strong and combines maximal weather protection with optimal breathability. This is due to the special constitution of the membrane. It has a microporous structure, which allows water vapour to escape but does not allow moisture to get in. In addition, the fabric is also very tough and durable. Thus, it is best suited for long periods of use in extreme conditions, all the while ensuring reliable protection over the course of the garment’s entire lifetime.
Pertex is not just one fabric. It’s an entire family of fabrics, the individual members of which are used in a wide array of areas, ranging from down sleeping bags to hardshell trousers. In addition to the plethora of other characteristics of the individual fabrics, their key features include a high level of breathability and light weight.