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The Science Behind Adventure: Wickron

Summer is now in full swing, the days are long, the weather is warm, and without a doubt you’ve probably been reaching for your shortest cut and lightest weight apparel to beat the heat while enjoying the great outdoors. Chances are those items you’re wearing are not some old-school cotton things from the 90’s that weigh you down feeling heavy and sweaty after a day outside. We can all give thanks for that! But, have you ever wondered how and why your synthetic garments seem to feel and function so much better than the cotton clothes of yore?

Here at Montbell, we spend A LOT of time designing, refining, and innovating ways to make every aspect of the outdoor experience better. We think you’d be surprised to know that even the most seemingly ordinary features of something like a trail running shirt have some pretty cool science behind them.

Let’s take a dive into the science behind the adventure, with Montbell’s groundbreaking fabric that has been keeping generations of outdoor enthusiasts cool and dry:

Cooling Down and Drying Quick

Everyone wants to be able to enjoy being outside during the summer while staying as cool as possible. Lucky for us, nature has come up with a solution to this problem in the form of sweat. In fact, within the animal kingdom, only humans and horses are able to produce quantities of perspiration large enough to create a significant cooling effect. Without this ability, performing sustained physical activity under the hot sun would not be fun.

As the body perspires, water accumulates on the surface of the skin. Movement and exercise generate heat which is absorbed by that water. Having taken on this heat energy, the water begins to evaporate taking that heat away with it, which in turn cools the skin. The more that evaporation occurs, the greater the cooling effect. So, in crafting a “cool” feeling garment, our engineers have to consider the evaporative cooling that takes place when you sweat.

Cool is what we want, and cold is what we don’t. In fact, if evaporation isn’t occurring efficiently, and all that sweat and excess water sticks around, you can actually cool things too much. If the body is wet for an extended period of time, as you may have experienced when standing around in wet clothing, the cooling effect can work too well and you’ll get cold.

As designers of outdoor clothing, we want to minimize the rapid cooling that occurs from excess wetness at all costs, as hypothermia can be a concern (even in summer) and comfort and enjoyment are paramount.

The Problem with Cotton

An ideal summer garment needs to be able to help with evaporation and be able to keep you dry when you stop for breaks on a hike or climb. Next-to-skin garment materials need to facilitate the natural cooling from sweating and, at the same time, be quick-drying so we built these features into Wickron.

As the name suggests, Wickron comes from the word “wicking”, which is something the fiber does magnificently. Using some special chemistry and polyester fibers, the spaces in-between the threads of Wickron fabric work to draw a liquid away from its source, spreading it out over the surface of the material for faster drying. We are proud of the technologies that we develop but we take even greater satisfaction in improving upon our inventions, Wickron being no exception.

Without a doubt, cotton is one of the most common materials that make up shirts and other everyday clothing items. As a natural fiber, cotton feels nice against the skin and it can help you feel dry and comfortable. For casual use around the home or office it is a great material, but for demanding physical activities, especially in the outdoors, it is not the best choice. This is because cotton is actually too good at absorbing moisture. The core fibers of a cotton garment soak up water molecules but don’t release them very well. As a result, items made from cotton can become heavy and waterlogged, which isn’t good then when a cold front hits and you’re wearing a cotton shirt that is drenched in sweat.

Superior Wicking and Quick Drying

With the shortcomings of cotton in mind, Montbell began development of what would become our proprietary Wickron fabric in the late 1980s. Since then, we’ve been continuously improving our design to create today’s highly breathable quick-drying fabric that is perfect for warm weather and high-octane activities.

When we looked at our initial Wickron formulations, we realized that we could improve performance by applying a water-attracting treatment to the outside of the polyester fibers. At first, applying a substance that attracts water to a fiber that is intended to wick it away may seem contradictory. However, through careful research and development we discovered that it actually aids in the effectiveness of the wicking action. And because the treatment doesn’t penetrate into the fibers, perspiration is kept on the outside of the fabric where it evaporates quickly.

In addition, depending on the intended use of a Wickron garment, we can manipulate the size and shape of the fibers to enhance different aspects of performance for different use cases. Wickron Cool feels especially cool, Wickron ZEO was developed to provide dry warmth. No matter the use, Wickron in all its forms will help you feel comfortable by staying cool and dry.

Comfort



In order to improve evaporation efficiency, Wickron features polyester fibers with irregular shapes. This way, when water comes into contact with the surface of the fibers, it spreads quickly and dries faster.
*The polyester in Wickron employs a variety of shapes to enhance specific aspects of garment performance.

Breathability Comparison



To maintain the fabric’s breathability, we developed a special spinning method to limit the nap, or the raised “fuzzy” surface on the fabric.
- Wickron
Because there is little nap, the fabric breathes better. Even if the fabric gets wet, the ability to breathe isn’t affected as much.
- A standard spun thread
The nap reduces breathability and also increases the possibility the fabric will pill.

UV Cut



UV Cut is a measure (percentage) of how effective a fabric is at blocking UVA and UVB radiation. Color, weave/knit and fiber type are some of the factors that can affect how well a fabric is able to block UV radiation from reaching your skin. Montbell bases all of our testing standards on white colored fabric, which is generally the least effective at blocking UV radiation. Even when this fabric is white, it blocks more than 90% of UV radiation, offering good protection and peace of mind when you are active outside. Wickron fabric has developed a weave technique that promotes breathability, while still having an ability to block the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation.

Anti-Odor Properties



Titanium dioxide is blended into the fibers, which reacts to the Sun’s ultraviolet light to break down bacteria. This helps control odor by controlling the odor’s source, bacterial growth. This is similar to silver ions and is a semi-permanent solution.

Care instructions



Another property of Wickron is its durability to machine washing. However, please avoid using fabric softener as it can affect the wicking properties of the fibers.

Wickron isn’t just for T-Shirts

We’ve utilized Wickron in many of our products when quick drying properties and breathability are necessary. So if you want to feel cool and comfortable, look for a product made of Wickron.

Wickron


feel cool and next to skin comfort



By using shorter fibers, we can produce a tactile feel similar to cotton. Great for outdoor activities and everyday loungewear.

Wickron Cool and Cool Lite


better breathability and improved drying



We designed thinner material to trap less heat and less water between individual fibers. As a result, evaporative cooling is efficient and perfect for activities that are physically demanding.
- Cool
The inside of the fabric has peaks and valleys to decrease the surface area of the fabric next to skin, helping you feel cool.
- Cool Light
Utilizing a new knitting technique, we are able to create an even thinner fabric without sacrificing durability.

Wickron ZEO


keeps you dry but also warm



We created a 3D-patterned fiber with tiny pockets to trap air and insulate, without giving up the fabric’s ability to wick and dry quickly. Wickron ZEO is perfect for situations when temperatures can fluctuate wildly and warmth is needed to prevent rapid cooling. Wickron ZEO Thermal is available for cold weather activities that are physically demanding.