Columbia Sportswear’s new rain jacket eliminates PFCs yet maintains performance

Columbia Sportswear’s new rain jacket eliminates PFCs yet maintains performance

Columbia Sportswear has unveiled what it believes is the first high-performance environmentally-friendly rain jacket made without the use of perflourinated compounds, commonly referred to as PFCs.

The new OutDry Extreme Eco rainwear technology will be available to consumers from next spring and features a "revolutionary" OutDry Extreme Eco Shell to which "no PFCs are intentionally added," according to the company.

The issue of PFCs in rainwear is an environmental problem that has been widely acknowledged by top brands in the industry, but solving the issue without impacting performance has proved to be a challenge.

Traditionally, these synthetic compounds are used as Durable Water Repellent (DWR) treatments on the surface of outdoor clothing, equipment and footwear, even though they don't break down readily, are bio-accumulative and persist in the environment.

While the outdoor industry has moved from long-chain PFCs to shorter chain compounds, which are thought to be less persistent, these nevertheless still pose some environmental risk.

Columbia says it has managed to solve the long-standing problem of eliminating PFCs by reinventing the conventional approach to rainwear construction.

Instead of taking a fabric treated with a PFC-based DWR, laminating it to a thin waterproof membrane, and lining it with another fabric or print that sits next to the skin, it started by eliminating the outer fabric layer - and thus removed the need for a protective coating of PFC-based DWR. Instead, its OutDry Extreme technology, launched earlier this year, features the OutDry Extreme membrane on the outside, and a wicking fabric next to the skin.

Removing any remaining PFCs from the OutDry Extreme membrane has resulted in the OutDry Extreme Eco.

In addition to developing a rain shell without the use of PFCs, Columbia has taken several other steps to make this is its most environmentally friendly performance rain jacket.  

For example, the new shell is dye-free, saving energy and more than 13 gallons of water used in a typical dying process for each rain jacket. The shells are also made with 100% recycled fabric, removing more than 21 plastic water bottles from the landfill for every jacket.

Raw materials have been sustainably manufactured according to Bluesign standards, hangtags are designed to minimise material use and are super slim, and jackets have been shipped in single-wall cartons designed to use 30% less materials as compared to double-wall cartons.

When the jacket launches in early 2017, OutDry Extreme Eco technology will be featured in two styles in both men's and women's, priced at $199.

Columbia says its next challenge is that while OutDry Extreme Eco offers a PFC-free alternative, it does not solve the PFC problem entirely. For the near future, short-chain PFCs will still be used in a majority of its waterproof products while the company works to find non-fluorinated alternatives across its product lines that also meet performance expectations.