PFC-free Gear

Some pieces of gear are more important than others. One of those essentials is proper rain gear. Depending on the type of trip you’re making the result of bad rain gear can range from discomfort to outright danger.

In order to keep us dry much of our gear contains Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs). These are a group of man-made chemicals which pose a significant threat to our health and the environment. Even though there are still uncertainties about the exact effects of PFCs their impact has been linked to fertility issues and cancer. Traces of PFCs are contaminating air and water and have been found in the livers of polar bears and human blood.

Without becoming too technical, there are two types of PFCs most commonly used in outdoor gear; long-chain C8 and short-chain C6. Since concerns were raised regarding the long-chain PFCs many manufacturers have switched to using short-chain PFCs instead. However, C6 PFCs are also not harmless.
(In case you are interested in the ins and outs of PFCs have a look at this page of Nikwax)

In 2015 Greenpeace even launched a campaign called Detox-outdoor to urge outdoor companies to completely stop using PFCs. (You can join this initiative by signing the petition) Some companies have responded to this challenge, like Jack Wolfskin who has committed to phasing out PFCs by 2020. Fjällräven has even been PFC-free since 2012. Unfortunately there are also companies who are still using PFCs and have not shared any concrete timelines to completely phase out the use of these chemicals. Surprisingly one of these companies is Patagonia, which is known for its environmental activism. However, they have announced that some of their Fall 2019 products will be PFC-free.

Below you will find an overview of various brands and their use of PFCs. Including commitments to (partly) stop using PFCs at a certain year.

Greenpeace report – PFC Revolution in the Outdoor Sector (2017)

To be honest, the composition of the type of PFC and its impact on people and nature can be quite a technical and confusing story. Nevertheless, it is up to us to decide whether we want to use gear made with chemicals proven to be harmful for ourselves and the environment.

What are your thoughts on PFCs? Have you considered PFC-free gear?