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To start with, a bit of background. The waterproof and breathable membrane, invented by Gore-Tex, revolutionised outdoor leisure in the ‘70s and ‘80s. It provides athletes with two crucial properties: protection, with its waterproofness; and comfort, thanks to its breathability. “It’s a very thin micro-perforated film that lets the water vapour of sweat escape but also stops raindrops getting in,” explains Camille Miquerol. “This film is sandwiched and protected between the outer and inner fabrics, so the whole structure is called a laminate.”
Both waterproof and breathable, these membranes may have no thermal insulation, and be used as occasional protection. Such models are very light and packable, enabling the keenest enthusiasts to push on in rain or wind. A membrane can also be paired with a lining (a Mix & Match compatible zip-out liner, for example). In this case it becomes your main jacket, both protective and warm, and able to deal with any weather – the ultimate grade of comfort, whether you’re up a mountain or downtown!
“What sets us apart from other brands,” says Michaël Svitex, “is that for each of our technical products, we offer a waterproof and breathable membrane, with or without lining. That’s our philosophy.” At Lafuma, three kinds of membrane are used, based on the type of activity. Let’s start with the most protective: the Gore-Tex.
Example: the Shift Gore-Tex model. It’s a very lightweight jacket in unlined PacLite, for fast hikes lasting one or two days. It’s also the ideal jacket for trail running when you get up into cold, high surroundings. Lightweight and compact, it can be stashed deep in your pack, and only pulled out if it turns rainy or windy. It transforms an iffy situation into an enjoyable trip! In a nutshell: the promise of protection from water, and of comfort by wicking sweat away.
Example: the Ulster Zip in JKT (men’s or women’s version) is partly proofed, whereas the Way GTX Zip in JKT has all its seams sealed. It’s your job to pick the right option, depending on what you have in mind: the former is better for urban wear and short walks, while the latter is recommended for longer excursions.
Example: the Jasper combines all the qualities of a softshell, and versatility in particular. Protective yet light, breathable and supple, and adaptable to everyday life, it also features a PFC-free water-repellent finish. To stay dry and protected from the elements.
Over recent decades, thanks to evolving fabrics, design and construction techniques, athletes have been able to go further, protected from adverse weather and kept dry because sweat is shifted away from the skin.