We’ve got the scoop on a new, eco-forward waterproofing technology
In many cases, waterproofing is one of the most critical aspects of gear performance—whether you’re trying to stay dry during a day of ice climbing, or out for a snowy overnight where dryness can be a matter of life or death, you need to trust your gear to do its job. For a long time, a small number of waterproofing technologies have dominated the scene (GORE-TEX, anyone?), but that’s starting to change. A new technology has joined the show: HDry, a direct-lamination waterproofing process, which got its start in Europe, is now making its way to North America.
We spoke with Gary Schloss, CEO of GHS Holdings, a high-quality glove manufacturer and the company spearheading HDry’s debut in North America. With 40 years of experience in the glove industry, Schloss is as passionate about waterproofing as he is about quality design. HDry technology is currently being used to waterproof gloves, shoes, and backpacks, and is already partnered with renowned gear companies like Scarpa, Orvis, Rossignol, Duluth, Dissent, and more.
Schloss helped break down what makes HDry different from its competitors, how its waterproofing process behooves the environment, and offers a tip on care. Our interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What is HDry, and how is it different from GORE-TEX?
The biggest difference: HDry provides a seamless, laminated waterproof seal, unlike traditional waterproofing treatments that rely on sewing and taping.
Take a glove for example. A traditional waterproof glove (that doesn’t use HDry) is typically built in layers. In between the gloves’ shell and its liner, a layer of waterproof material is sewn in, attached at the fingertips and base of the thumb/palm. Once sewn, the glove is flipped right side out. In these cases, the waterproof layer is typically “free hanging,” meaning there are no attachment points besides at the tip of the fingers and at the base of the thumb/wrist. This sew-system helps the waterproof layer from sliding around inside the glove, but still allows for some flexibility in the knuckles and palm.
HDry was created to eliminate the “free hanging” layer, and thus, eliminate any gaps and space that could potentially let in and retain water. That way we’re not allowing the environment from the outside to come inside. Instead of sewing in a waterproof layer of material, a stretchy waterproof membrane is bonded directed to the inside of the gloves. This lamination process uses heat and pressure, and completely removes any gaps to create a seamless waterproof layer that’s still flexible and breathable. The same goes for shoes and backpacks. Waterproof membranes are constructed to fix the exact shape of a given boot or backpack, then inserted inside the product and subjected to enough heat and pressure to completely bond the membrane to the shell material.
The result is a bit lighter than when using traditional waterproofing tactics, as less materials are used. HDry-treated products also dry faster, creating more comfort within the chamber that you’re trying to create.
Where did HDry come from?
The story begins in 2005, when Italian engineers created a waterproofing technology now known as “OutDry.” This technology was eventually acquired by the outdoor brand Columbia, which still uses it to waterproof garments, gloves, and footwear to this today. HDry builds upon this initial waterproofing project, developing its unique and unprecedented lamination technology. Over the years, use of HDry has grown more popular among European footwear, glove, and backpack brands, and with its debut on the North American stage in January 2021, time will tell how it’s incorporated in the production of U.S.-based gear.
What makes HDry boon for the environment?
We perform at a very similar level to GORE, and we do it without added DWR treatments to the exterior shells. We also have no PFCs in our process, so no perfluorinated compounds, which are known to be harmful to the environment. And no ePTFEs, which other waterproofing technologies use.
In a world where carbon-zero is becoming the new normal, we probably use less material than other processes, which is part of sustainability. Membrane inserts are customized. Every pack that we make, we tailor that membrane to the exact specifications of the pack. Every boot has a certain dimension, whether it’s a big outline boot or a smaller day hiker, we are consistently creating customized patterns for our membrane. So therefore we don’t have stock patterns, but we’re efficient and reduce our waste.
Also, HDry-treated products are built to be durable. By eliminating the free-hanging insert, we’re reducing the amount of internal abrasion. You won’t have all this stuff rubbing around together and creating situations where you could degrade the nature of the materials that you’re working with.
All of the HDry manufacturing processes and materials used throughout the lamination process are well above industry standards (OEKO-TEX STANDARD 100 certified). As it’s role in waterproofing spreads, HDry aims to reduce the environmental footprint of the outdoor and apparel manufacturing industries at large.
How should we care for product
There’s really no difference in care between HDry and, say, GORE-TEX. You simply need to follow the recommended practices detailed for a given product.
Emma Athena is an award-winning journalist and fresh-air lover. She writes about adventure and the environment, where humans and nature intersect at their most impactful moments. When she’s not glued to her keyboard or curled up with a book, she’s running in the mountains with her dog or camping with people she loves. To read more of her work and get in contact, visit emmaathena.com.