Gear Glossary

Gear Guide

Our product pages can sometimes sound a little daunting, but that's why we've made this Gear Glossary. We'll demystify "wicking," "siping," and shoes' "shanks," and you'll find entries on branded content like "Polartec®" and "DryVent™."Got a question about an obscure product feature? We've made talking shop a little easier, and the odds are pretty good you'll find the answer down below.  


Baffles are the sewn chambers on insulated products containing down or synthetic insulation. Baffles hold clusters of insulation in place. This prevents insulation from shifting, creating cold spots or drafts, and losing loft. Larger baffles hold heavier pockets of insulation and result in greater warmth. Smaller baffles provide a fuller range of motion and enhanced breathability.


Textiles certified as bluesign® approved meet the highest standards of consumer safety as well as environmentally and socially responsible production. Emphasizing input stream and supply chain management, bluesign® approval requires greater resource productivity and consumer safety, minimal water and air emissions, and improved occupational health and safety. The North Face, Patagonia, Toad&Co, prAna, Marmot, and Arc’teryx are all bluesign® system partners, amongst others, dedicated to supporting the rigorous bluesign® system standards.


Capilene® is a proprietary polyester fabric used by Patagonia to create baselayers and select casual products. It wicks sweat, stretches, and layers easily. Patagonia manufactures Capilene® fabrics with varying amounts of recycled polyester and Fair Trade Certified™ sewing. Capilene® comes in several weights and varieties. The versatile Capilene® Midweight retains warmth well, yet remains highly breathable. Capilene® Thermal Weight is Patagonia’s warmest baselayer and is intended for extreme cold. Capilene® Daily fabrics are used in lightweight tees and underwear. Capilene® fabrics are all crafted with odor-control, for example Polygiene® permanent odor control that inhibits the growth of odor-causing microbes.


Denier, often rendered as D or d, is a technical specification describing a fabric’s tear strength. Specifically, it measures fiber density. Higher denier fabrics sport improved abrasion resistance and greater durability. Higher denier fabrics will not rip or tear as easily as lower denier fabrics, although lower denier fabrics weigh less.


Down is the soft under plumage of geese or ducks used as fill in jackets, parkas, and sleeping bags as well as in home goods. As insulation down provides the greatest warmth-to-weight ratio and vastly outperforms synthetics. Down quality is often measured in fill power, a higher fill power results in a greater warmth-to-weight ratio. Brands work hard to ensure responsibly sourced down and fair animal treatment. Patagonia’s Advanced Global Traceable Down represents the industry’s highest standards for animal welfare, forbidding live-plucking and forced-feeding. The Responsible Down Standard created by The North Face is employed by countless brands and meets equally high standards. The Marmot Down Policy also requires supplies to adhere to the company’s strict animal rights policies.


DryVent™ is a proprietary waterproof and breathable fabric used by The North Face to create snow gear, rain jackets, and similar equipment. Similar to Gore-Tex® fabrics, DryVent™ is waterproof, windproof, and breathable. Its layered constructions perform extremely well in the field. It prevents water from reaching the wearer and allows vapor and other moisture to escape. DryVent™ replaced HyVent™ as The North Face’s primary waterproof and breathable fabric.


A DWR finish applies some level of water resistance to a product. The acronym stands for “Durable Water Repellant.” Water repellency beads and sheds moisture, keeping the wearer dry in mists or light rains and snow. Although a DWR finish is often applied to waterproof products, it should not be confused with waterproofing which typically requires seam-sealing and laminated fabrics. Recent advancements in fabric technology will likely obsolete current DWR finishes in the coming years, resulting both in improved efficiency and in more environmentally sustainable products.


Ethylene-vinyl acetate, EVA, is a copolymer used in the construction of most footwear and orthotics. This includes hiking boots, trail shoes, winter boots, running shoes, and casual styles. The copolymer’s rubber-like softness and flexibility serve as an excellent and responsive cushioning material, absorbing impacts from the trail or pavement. EVA is also known as foam rubber.


A 3M™ Thinsulate™ product codeveloped with Marmot, Featherless™ is a new premium standard in synthetic insulation. Featherless™ has the same warmth-to-weight ratio as high-quality 700 fill power down. It is bluesign® approved, denoting sustainable and responsible textile production, and it retains warmth even when wet. Featherless™ insulation is also extremely lightweight and highly compressible.


A proprietary technology of The North Face, FlashDry™ wicks sweat and provides efficient thermal management. FlashDry™ is often used in baselayers, athletic wear, and select casual apparel. FlashDry™ fabrics dry quickly and pull moisture away from the skin for improved comfort during aerobic activities.

Flatlock Seams

Flatlock stitching minimizes bulk around a seam. The stitching lies flat unlike in a traditional overlock seam. This prevents chafe and provides improved comfort under pack straps or similar loads. The reduced bulk also makes layering simpler. 


fabrics bond a waterproof and breathable membrane between an inner lining and an outer textile. Gore-Tex® is synonymous with weatherproofing, is made from polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), and represents the highest available quality. The microporous Gore-Tex® membrane sports over 9,000,000,000 pores per square inch; this guarantees breathability, letting vapor and moisture escape and simultaneously sealing out the elements.


Patagonia’s proprietary breathable waterproofing technology, the H2No® Performance Standard produces lightweight, compressible, and weatherproof fabrics.H2No® shells front a DWR coated fabric backed waterproof and breathable membrane. Unlike similar products, H2No® shells maintain their weatherproofing without a traditional internal lining fabric. Although 2-layer shells employ a comfortable and moisture-wicking mesh or taffeta lining and 3-layer shells employ a knit backer, 2.5 layer shells actually forego the traditional lining entirely. This innovation results in extremely packable and comfortable products intended for performance and casual use.


Heatseeker™ is one of The North Face’s proprietary forms of synthetic insulation. It retains warmth extremely well, and it continues to perform in damp or moist conditions. Heatseeker™ appears in many products, including insulated jackets, gloves, pants, sleeping bags, and boots. Heatseeker is also lightweight and extremely compressible.


A natural fiber used in textile production for thousands of years, hemp creates soft, lightweight, breathable, and durable fabrics similar to traditional linen. Industrial hemp is illegal to grow in most countries, including the U.S., and is typically cultivated in Asia. Easy to grow and requiring neither pesticides nor fertilizers, hemp grows rapidly and has been shown to revitalize aggravated soil.


Himaltec® is Sherpa Adventure Gear’s proprietary waterproof and breathable shell fabric. Like comparable products, Himaltec® fronts a laminated face backed by a highly breathable membrane. Himaltec® fabric provides comfort and performance on the trail.


A last is the form of a foot around which cobblers and cordwainers construct shoes, boots, sandals, and other footwear. Lasts ensure accurate fits, that a shoe or boot runs true to size, and are often indispensable in the shoemaking process. Many brands, including Vasque, continue to manufacture boots using their original lasts, guaranteeing timeless fits and underscoring the companies’ dedication to craftsmanship.


Loft is a qualitative description of an insulation’s effectiveness. Loft is measured in fill power, and fill power is determined by the amount of space in cubic inches filled by one ounce of down or synthetic insulation. Loftier products are warmer and typically have a greater warmth-to-weight ratio. Loft is lost over time but can be maintained with proper care of one’s insulated garments. 


Marmot MemBrain® lamination is a proprietary form of breathable waterproofing technology. MemBrain® helps to retain warmth without sacrificing breathability, increasing wearers’ comfort and negating the chilling effects of similar breathable and waterproof fabrics. MemBrain provides superior performance in the field, and it results in long-term durable waterproofing.

Merino Wool

A kind of wool coming from merino sheep, a breed typically raised in New Zealand and Australia, merino wool is most well known for its exceedingly fine fibers. It will neither scratch nor itch like other wools. Merino wool retains warmth well in the cold, but it also breathes well in the heat. It provides efficient thermal management. Merino wool also wicks sweat, pulling moisture away from the skin, and dries quickly. It even naturally inhibits odor-causing microbial growth. Many brands, including Smartwool, Darn Tough, Sherpa Adventure Gear, Toad&Co, and The North Face, use merino wool in their products.


Modal is a natural fiber created from beechwood pulp. It has many of the same fabric-strengthening properties as Tencel®, and it feels incredibly smooth and soft. It also breathes well. The branded Lenzing Modal® is used extensively by Toad&Co, prAna, and other brands.

M Select™ DRY

Merrell’s proprietary waterproofing technology, M Select™ Dry is a waterproof and breathable barrier. It also wicks sweat, pulling moisture away from the skin to help reduce foot fatigue, swelling, and discomfort.

M Select™ FRESH

Merrell’s proprietary M Select™ FRESH inhibits the growth of odor-causing microbes. This creates a healthier environment from the foot, and it keeps the boot or shoe from smelling rank after a long day on the trail.


Mulesing is the removal of skin from the rear end of a sheep to prevent fecal buildup in the fur. Unlike consistent shearing, mulesing results in lasting harm to the animal. It is widely considered inhumane. Smartwool, Darn Tough, UGG, and other brands work with suppliers that prohibit mulesing and similarly  inhumane treatments. 

Organic Cotton

Unlike traditional cotton, organic cotton is grown without harmful insecticides, pesticides, fertilizers, or similar products. Organic production maintains soil health and reduces waste. Toad&Co, Patagonia, and prAna all utilize certificated organic cotton. Much although not all of Patagonia’s organic cotton is grown in the United States.


Polartec® has created innovative performance fabrics in the United States since the early twentieth century. Polartec® invented polar fleece and developed Synchilla® with Patagonia. With Arc’teryx, Polartec® also revolutionized softshell technology. This spirit of ingenuity continues to fuel the company’s products which include many of the most popular baselayer and insulated fabrics in the outdoor industry.


Polygiene® permanent odor control inhibits the growth of odor-causing microbes through an application of silver salt to the fabric. It neither washes off nor irritates the wearer’s skin. Polygiene® fabric treatments are made entirely from recycled silver particles. The treatment is bluesign® approved, and it translates to fewer washes in-between wears for a single garment.


PrimaLoft® is a leading producer of synthetic insulation. Initially developed for the U.S. Armed Forces, the brand’s products have since become the most popular synthetic fills in the outdoor industry. PrimaLoft® Gold insulation has the brand’s highest warmth-to-weight ratio. PrimaLoft® Silver provides superior comfort. PrimaLoft Black offers similar benefits and is made from 60% postconsumer recycled content.


Polyurethane and thermoplastic polyurethane, rendered as PU and TPU respectively, are laminates applied to gear and apparel to ensure weatherproofing. Application of these laminates to the exterior of a product will render most fabrics waterproof and windproof. These finishes are found in footwear, rainwear, packs such as Patagonia’s Black Hole™ duffels, and similar equipment. TPU may also be used as a lightweight cushioning material.

Recycled Polyester

Recycled polyester, or polyester made from postconsumer recycled content, is derived from water bottles and similar discarded plastics. Creating polyester from these materials eliminates plastics from landfills, reduces resource consumption, and minimizes the reliance on fossil fuels. Recycled polyester is found in many products from Patagonia, The North Face, and other brands.


A shank is a lightweight internal supportive structure in a shoe or boot. Shanks are considered a necessary component of hiking boots. Resting beneath the insole, specifically under the arch, the shank minimizes the impact and force on a wearer’s feet. Shanks are typically made of lightweight steel, TPU, or similar materials.


The wave-like grooves in rubber soles, siping provides traction in wet or slippery conditions. Sperry’s innovative razor-cut Wave-Siping™ lends the brand’s iconic boat shoe its famous traction on boat decks or similarly slippery surfaces.


Softshell garments are typically lightweight, insulated, and weather-resistant shells that serve as mid-layers or outer-layers. Not to be confused with truly waterproof apparel, softshells are often treated with a DWR finish and are rarely seam-sealed. The purpose of a softshell is to offer a stretchy, breathable, and weather-resistant alternative to multiple excessive layers. The modern softshell was first created by Polartec® in partnership with Arc’teryx.

Synthetic Insulation

The alternative to down, synthetic insulation is typically made from polyester. Thermoball™, Ventrix™, and Featherless™ are all varieties of synthetic insulation. Synthetic insulation retains warmth even when damp, is typically less expensive, and is hypoallergenic. Most modern synthetic insulations either mimic down or provide other benefits such as enhanced breathability.


Tencel® is a branded lyocell fiber sourced from the pulp of sustainably grown eucalyptus trees. Produced with minimal waste, few byproducts, and reduced water consumption, Tencel® is often described as an environmentally friendly fiber. Tencel® typically strengthens fabrics. It resists wrinkling, fits well, and feels incredibly soft.


Thermoball™ is a synthetic insulation exclusive to The North Face and codeveloped by PrimaLoft®. It is lightweight and highly compressible, and it retains warmth exceptionally well even in wet or damp conditions. The warmth-to-weight ratio of Thermoball™ insulation mimics approximately 600 fill power down without sacrificing the water-resistant benefits typical of synthetic insulation.

Treadlite by UGG™

A proprietary foam outsole developed by UGG and used in many of their updated Classic boots and similar footwear. The reduced weight minimizes foot fatigue and maximizes mobility and flexibility.  It continues to provide the protective properties of heavier rubber soles. More importantly, Treadlite by UGG™ soles retain bounce and cushion more than typical soles, making them more durable and more comfortable.


Twinface sheepskin fronts silky suede backed by plush wool. The wool backing wicks sweat, pulling unneeded moisture away from your skin. It retains warmth in temperatures as low as -30° F. Twinface breathes well too, staying cool in temperatures up to 80° F. UGG uses twinface sheepskin in most products, and it’s the luxurious and comfortable material used to craft the brand’s iconic Classic boot.


Vibram® manufactures and develops branded outsoles popular in outdoor sporting boots, trail shoes, and trail running shoes. Different Vibram® sole types accomplish a wide variety of tasks yet always denote durability, traction, and performance. Merrell, Vasque, The North Face, and other brands all construct footwear with Vibram® outsoles.


Wicking is the process of pulling excess moisture away from the skin. Polyesters and merino wool are the most notable moisture-wicking fabrics. Wicking proves especially important during extreme aerobic activities. The removal and evaporation of sweat leads to enhanced comfort, breathability, and performance.

Zipper Garage

A zipper garage is a small flap or pouch covering the top of a zipper. This prevents water from leaking in at the top of the zipper. On a collar, the zipper garage also prevents the zipper’s top from chafing against the skin.

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