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Why 3 layers are better than 2

1st Nov, 2013

Over the years, the construction of waterproof-breathable garments has evolved, but the elements that any garment needs are still the same:  The first layer is the face fabric, the durable fabric that is the outside layer of protection against wear and tear.  The second layer is where the magic happens, the waterproof breathable membrane.  The final inside layer is the layer that protects the membrane from abrasion and pore-clogging contaminants and helps the jacket feel good on your skin.  The methods of construction are named for how many of these elements are fused together in the final fabric, and there are three main types:

2 Layer Construction:  In 2 layer fabrics, only the face fabric and the waterproof-breathable membrane are laminated together. The inner protective layer is a separate fabric or mesh liner that hangs on the inside of the jacket.  This was the original waterproof-breathable construction.  The principle benefit is cost of construction as a hanging mesh liner is inexpensive to manufacture and hides inexpensive and unsightly seam taping.  The drawbacks are weight (the added layer adds ounces), bulk (the hanging liner makes the garment harder to pack down, and usability (the liner is flimsy and cumbersome and can make it awkward to put on and take off garments, especially in a hurry). They also take longer to dry than 3 layer products. 2 Layer construction is most commonly seen in casual and fashion jackets, and some rain pants as well as less expensive “Coastal” sailing kit.

3 Layer Construction:  This came along to answer the needs of alpinists and hardcore users who wanted to address the drawbacks of 2 layer construction.  A very lightweight non absorbent mesh is laminated on the back side of the waterproof-breathable membrane, effectively making a sandwich between the mesh and face fabric.  This made garments lighter, more packable, and more durable (because the waterproof-breathable membrane was never exposed, even to the inside of a hanging liner).  The drawbacks to 3 layer construction are that laminating three layers together decreases the flexibility of all three and more complex production and higher fabric cost drives up the final product cost.  You find 3 layer construction in the top of the line gear from most companies producing gear for all outdoor activities.

At Hudson Wight we think the benefits of 3 layer construction for sailing gear are so clear that we don’t even offer 2 layer construction as an outer shell. Instead we offer our HW1 Jacket and Trouser set direct to customers at prices normally only seen on 2 layer products and recommend them for all forms of sailing, Inshore or Offshore.