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Fabric Technology

Information relating to Standards, Designs, Materials and Terminology used by products on this website is outlined below.

CORDURA
Cordura® is a lightweight fabric incorporated into workwear to enhance tear and abrasion resistance, this is due to the high quality, resilient Nylon yarns used to create it.  With an exceptional strength-to-weight ratio and remarkable resistance to tears, scuffs and abrasions, Cordura can withstand more than three times the amount of wear of standard workwear fabrics.
DENIER

The denier, symbol D, is a unit of measurement that describes the linear mass density of the material, it is the mass in grams of a single 9,000 meter strand, as a reference, 1 denier is the mass of one 9,000 meter strand of silk. Denier is a good measure of strength and durability when you’re comparing two deniers of the same material. For example, a 400D nylon bag is not as strong as a 600D nylon bag. However, when you’re comparing between different materials (for example, nylon and polyester) all deniers are not equal. Since nylon is a stronger material than polyester, 420D nylon is actually stronger than 600D polyester.

This measurement is commonly used to describe materials used for bags and jackets, the lower the denier the finer the material.

HI VIS CLOTHING
Applicable Australian Standards:
AS/NZS 4602.1: 2011 - High visibility safety garments – Garments for high risk applications. The standard defines 3 levels of protection, class D-day only use; class N-night  use; class D/N-day or night use.
AS/NZS 1906.4: 2010 - Retroreflective materials and devices for road traffic control purposes - High visibility materials for safety garments

Class D – a garment designed for daytime use only. Class D garments are intended to provide the wearer with high visibility under daylight viewing conditions and generally not effective when viewed under artificial light.

Fluorescent Materials - Fluorescent materials must meet the requirements for Class F in AS/NZS 1906.4. They are impregnated with a pigment which has the property of converting light in the UV spectrum to light in the visible spectrum, hence noticeably increasing the amount of visible light reflected from its surface. It will therefore only work where there is an appreciable amount of UV light, i.e. daylight, falling on the material. Artificial night-time light sources contain little UV light. The pigments used in fluorescent materials can usually only be applied to man-made fibres such as polyesters. 

Non Fluorescent Materials - Where safety requirements require a garment to be made of natural fibres (materials that are not capable of taking a fluorescent pigment) the fabrics may use a non-fluorescent colour as specified in AS/NZS 1906.4, class NF in lieu.
A Class D garment shall, as a minimum, encircles the upper torso. There shall be a minimum visible area of background material of not less than 0.2 m² on the front and the back of the garment meeting the requirements of either fluorescent or nonfluorescent materials.

Class N – clothing designed for night-time use only, this is achieved using retroreflective materials which comply with AS/NZS 1906.4 Class R or class RF materials; the colour of the background material is not specified. Retroreflective tape reflects light back to its source with a minimum of scattering, when the headlights of a car illuminate a retroreflective surface, the reflected light is directed towards the car and its driver rather than in all directions as with diffuse reflection.


Retroreflective material shall be applied to garments in strips not less than 50mm wide consistent with the minimum pattern requirements.

The durability of retroreflective tape is largely dependent on the washing it receives, the minimum cycles to be expected from some tapes are shown below.

Wash Cycles for Retroreflective Tapes
3M #8906 30 home wash cycles at 60 ºC; 0 dry cleaning cycles
3M #8910 50 home wash cycles at 60 ºC; 20 dry cleaning cycles
3M #9920 50 home wash cycles at 90 ºC; 50 dry cleaning cycles; suitable for industrial washing
3M #8935 50 home wash cycles at 60 ºC, for flame retardernt tape

 

 Class D/N– a garment designed to provide high visibility for both day and night use; these garments shall comply with all the requirements of both Class D and class N garments.

UPF RATING

Applicable Australian Standards:
AS/NZS4399: 1996 - Sun protective clothing - Evaluation & classification

The UPF rating indicates how effective a fabric is at blocking out solar ultraviolet radiation. The testing is performed according to Australian/New Zealand standard AS/NZS4399. UPF ratings range from 15 to 50 with higher ratings indicating more effective blocking and therefore better protection for the wearer of a garment made from the fabric. Fabrics that test higher than UPF 50 are rated as UPF 50+.

The fraction of ultraviolet radiation passing through the fabric is the inverse of the UPF rating (i.e. 1/(UPF Rating)).  Typical UPF Ratings and Protection Categories are:

UPF Ratings
UPF Rating Protection Category  % UV Radiation Blocked
UPF 15 - 24 Good 93.3 - 95.9
UPF 25 - 39 Very Good 96.0 - 97.4
UPF 40 - 50+ Excellent 97.5 - 99+

 

WATERPROOF PRODUCTS

The term waterproof is misleading as very few products are 100% waterproof, there are broadly two types of waterproof fabrics: non-breathable and breathable.

Non-breathable waterproof fabrics are typically used for low-intensity activities in extreme weather conditions. Heavy-duty, PVC-coated rain suits used by commercial fisherman and dock workers are a good example. These garments offer very high weather protection, but don’t allow any internal moisture vapor to escape, which makes them a poor choice for activities like skiing and ice climbing.

Water resistant & breathable fabric resists external moisture and also allows sweat vapor to escape, making it appropriate for a wide range of activities. Most "waterproof" garments fall in this category, they vary from being:-

  • Showerproof - these are treated with one or more coatings to the face fabric.
  • Waterproof -  made with a waterproof membrane and taped seams, the high end garments for adventurers have a property membane with high water resistance and breathability.

When comparing different fabrics, the water resistance and breathability ratings are used, water resistance is commonly measured by the Static-column test, in this test a 1-inch-diameter tube stands vertically over a piece of material, the tube is filled with water, and the water's height in millimeters when leakage begins becomes the waterproof rating. For a jacket to be deemed waterproof, it must achieve a minimum 1,500mm rating. Jackets can be rated as high as 20,000mm or above, but the average rating is typically between 5,000 and 10,000mm. Keep in mind that as the rating goes higher, so too will the price.

Breathability rating is measured and indicated in grams (g). The measurement is determined by finding the Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate (MVTR). The MVTR determines how many grams of sweat per 1 square meter can escape a jacket in a 24 hour period. The higher the number, the more moisture escapes and the more breathable it is. Entry-level breathable fabrics will have MVTR ratings in the range of 2,000-3000g. Fabrics at the high end of the breathability scale will have an MVTR around 25,000g.

The water ratings below are a guide only as the fabrics used in the layers and their construction method do affect how they perform in the real world as compared to the laboratrory (some fabrics with a low static pressure rating can perform similary to those with a higher rating).

 

Waterproof Rating (mm) Resistance provided What it can withstand
0-1,500 mm Varies, none to some resistance to moisture Light rain, dry snow, no pressure
1.500-5,000   Light to average rain or snowfall
5,000-10,000 mm Rainproof and waterproof under light pressure Moderate to heavy rain, average snow, light pressure
11,000-15,000 mm Rainproof and waterproof except under high pressure   Heavy rain, average snow, light pressure
16,000-20,000 mm Rainproof and waterproof under high pressure Heavy rain, wet snow, some pressure
20,000 mm+ Rainproof and waterproof under very high pressure Heavy rain, wet snow, high pressure

When a product is referred to as water resistant it means it can withstand the effects of rain, snow and other wet weather but it could leak if submerged in water.

When evaluating wet weather clothing, the following factors need to be considered:-
  1. number of layers forming the bonded material used (generally speaking, more layers are better).
  2. component fabrics used for each layer
  3. the water resistence rating of the material used
  4. the breathability rating of the material used
  5. methods of constuction of the product - are seams sealed, do zips have storm covers etc.

Layered Fabrics

Materials used in wet weather clothing consist of several layers as shown in the figure below, the number of layers may vary as may the fabric used for each layer. 

The layers shown are:

layers in wet weather materials
  1. Outer face material, typically nylon or polyester. This fabric protects and looks stylish, it is not the main fabric producing the water resistance.
  2. DWP (durable water replellant) coating on the face fabric, this encourages the water to bead on the face fabric.
  3. Laminated membrane, this is has microscopic holes which stops water droplets entering the clothing but allows water vapour to pass through.
  4. Finally, a fine scrim or mesh is bonded to the inner surface for comfort in 3 Layer (3L) fabrics.

Typical mid-range fabrics tend to have values of 5,000 mm of water resistance and 5,000 g of breathability; the best materials have 20,000 mm and 20,000 g.

 

SAFETY BOOTS

Height
The height of footwear is the measurement from the top of the sole at the arch to the top of the upper.

A 5-inch (125 mm) hiker boot will rise to roughly the wearer’s ankle and allow for maximum flexibility at the ankle.  A 6-inch (150 mm) boot will rise to about the top of the ankle and provide some support for the joint, while an 8-inch (200 mm) boot will rise above the ankle and provide more ankle support, the latter boot is classified as a Hi Cut boot on this website.

Toe Caps
The three materials used for making toe caps are steel, alloy and composite; the main differences are in the weight and metal detectability, they all meet the impact resistance in the respective standards.