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Fabrics Glossary

A - C


Abrasion Resistant: fabrics that are built more durably to withstand abrasion from rocks, trees, and hard use. Oftentimes reinforced fabrics in the elbows, shoulders, and knees.


Absorption: When referring to fabrics, the taking in of moisture. Synthetic fabrics absorb moisture, but release it, allowing it to evaporate. Cotton absorbs water and retains it.


Alpaca: A type of wool that comes from Alpaca. Alpaca wool is extremely durable, soft and warm.


Antimicrobial: Material that does not allow bacteria and other odor-causing agents to grow in the material. Some fibers are treated, while others are naturally antimicrobial.


Bamboo: A fast-growing, sustainable fabric source. Bamboo is soft and naturally wicks moisture. It is also antimicrobial.


Blend: A fabric made from two different types of fibers. Polycotton is a blend of cotton and polyester. Wool-polyester blends are also common.


Brushed: A treatment to fabric that makes it softer and gives it a fuzzy look, such as flannel.


CLO: A measurement of the insulating qualities of a fabric.


Coated: Urethane-coated fabrics designed for water-resistance. Some coated fabrics are waterproof.


CoCona: A trademarked fabric made from Coconut shells. CoCona is antimicrobial and often used in base layers.


Cotton: Made from cotton plants, it is one of the most popular fibers for clothing manufacturing. It is highly absorbent.




Denier: A unit of measurement for the density of fibers, measured as the mass in grams per 9,000 meters. Materials that are less than one denier are typically considered microfibers.


Down: Made from the under-feathers of geese, down comes in several different fills ranging from 500-900. It is popular because of its compressibility and its insulating qualities.


DryLoft: Another product made by Gore, it is specifically designed as insulation. It is water-resistant, breathable, and retains its insulation and loft even when wet.


DWR: Durable Water Repellent is a treatment applied to fabrics to make them waterproof. Some fabrics are already waterproof and the DWR is applied to wick moisture off the outer layer. Other materials are only water-resistant from the treatment.


Fill: Material used to insulate between two other materials. The most popular fills are down or some type of synthetic fill.


Fleece: Soft, fuzzy, fluffy materials made from polyester and other synthetic fabrics that offer great insulation even when wet.


Four-way stretch: Materials that are woven with a type of spandex or other stretch material and are movable in four directions, rather than the standard 2-way stretch.


Gusset: A piece of triangular-shaped material added under the arms of upper-body garments in order to give them more movement and less restriction.


Hardshell: Refers to any material that is a waterproof outer-layer. Gore-Tex and other waterproof fabrics form the outer membrane of hardshells.


Insulated: Material that has insulation between the layers to help keep warmth in and cold out.


Laminate: A type of material that has either two or three layers bonded together to make a waterproof and/ or windproof fabric. GoreTex and other popular hardshell materials are popular laminates.


Lycra: A brand name for a type of spandex. Spandex is a synthetic material that provides stretch and movement in garments. It is often combined with other fibers to create blends.


Marindale Test: A European test that measures a fabric’s durability.


Microfiber: Material that is less than one denier. Typically, they are made from polyester and are extremely soft. They are often used to make cleaning clothes for sunglasses, goggles, and device screens.


Moisture Transport: The ability of a material to move moisture away from the skin and into the fabric, allowing it to evaporate.


Ply: A strand of yarn, string, rope. Many materials are 2-ply or 3-ply, referring to the number of strings woven together for each strand.


Polyester: Made from polyethylene, polyester is commonly used in outdoor clothing. It wicks moisture, is extremely durable, and is wrinkle-resistant. It is is often blended with other materials. It is also highly flammable.


Polypropylene: A type of synthetic fabric that is highly breathable, wicks moisture, and is used in many base layers. “Polypro” is a slang term for base-layers.


Ripstop Fabric: Fabric that has been reinforced and is a tight weave to prevent ripping. Ripstop fabric is stronger than most other nylon or synthetic fabrics.


Silicon Finish: A treatment made of silicon that is used on fabrics to increase their water resistance.


Silver: Silver is woven into fabrics to help give it antimicrobial qualities.


Softshell: Fabrics that are stretchy and breathable outer layers. Softshell materials are traditionally not waterproof or windproof.


Tafetta: a type of very permeable, mesh fabric that is used in tents, the inner linings of raincoats and windbreakers, and mosquito nets.


Taped Seams: A way of joining fabric using tape, rather than sewing. They are often used in waterproof fabrics to avoid making holes from sewing.


UPF: Ultraviolet Protection Factor, the ability of a material to block the ultraviolet light from the sun. Many materials are giving a UPF (like SPF) factor and are a good addition to sunscreen.


Welded Seams: Seams on synthetic materials that have been stuck together permanently by a heat process. The advantages are that they are lighter-weight, have no holes from sewing, and are permanently joined.


Wicking: A fabric’s ability to move moisture away from the skin and into the fabric where it can then evaporate.


Windstopper: Gore’s fabric that is completely windproof and breathable.


Wool: Made from sheep coats, wool has come a long way in the last 20 years. Treatments to soften it (taking the hooks off each strand) have made wool “allergies” and the old reputation of it being itchy go away. Now wool is popular because it is comfortable, antimicrobial, warm, and wicks moisture well.

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