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It will soon turn six on a gorgeous summer’s evening in the wild and dizzying Massif du Vercors. We’re walking on an arête: sharp but easy. On one side, a 300m drop; on the other, an expanse of grassland where we’d happily pitch our tent for the night.
But, as often happens on summer evenings, clouds gather overhead and a fine drizzle heralds the storm. We slip into our waterproof, breathable jackets to set up the bivouac. They guarantee we’ll stay dry, even during high exertion.
Have you ever wondered how that works? How the rain is stopped from getting into your favourite jacket, although perspiration is let out? It’s a technical answer, but important to know so that you can fully benefit from our technical jackets’ performance; look after them better; and extend their life. Here to tell you more is Maurice, our lab manager:
It all begins with a waterproof, breathable membrane – an incredible technology invented in the 1970s, and whose leading exponent is Gore-Tex. It lets water vapour out through its pores, which are too small to let raindrops in. The result: you stay dry when it rains, and your perspiration is removed.
This highly fragile membrane is protected by a soft, comfortable fabric backing that’s in contact with your skin. The membrane is also protected by a strong, water-repellent fabric outer that forms the protective barrier of your jacket, so that it lasts for years.
But if rain falls, there’s a risk the jacket could - like any fabric – absorb moisture. Even if the wet doesn’t get past the barrier of the membrane, it could deform the outer fabric and stop it from breathing. The outdoor industry’s solution? Apply a water-repellent finish on the outer fabric: raindrops now roll off, and cannot penetrate this fabric shell.
This chemical treatment – essential for waterproof, breathable jackets to function correctly – historically consisted of chemicals called perfluorocarbons (PFCs). Since 2011, when Greenpeace published its report, these substances have been pinpointed for their harmful effects on human health and the environment. Lafuma thus adopted a PFC exit strategy.
We now use TEFLON ECOELITE technology, a finish partly made with plant-derived materials. It maintains a high level of performance (to keep you dry) while reducing our environmental impact (in tune with our pioneering commitment).
Today, 96% of Lafuma products are PFC Free – for the health of our community, but also to safeguard the wild landscapes of the Vercors (and elsewhere, of course)!
One last thing: if, while putting up your bivy in the rain on that evening in the mountains, your favourite jacket – which you’ve had for five years – is penetrated by water: don’t panic. Maybe you’ve forgotten to do the annual care routine that will keep it performing properly!