The market for textiles that have two desirable properties for a range of clothing and other applications - being waterproof and yet breathable - could be as high as USD 2.18 billion by the year 2022, according to research from Global Market Insights, Inc. The increased demand for environment friendly products and a growing market for active sportswear could push demand still higher, GMI's report suggests.

Outdoor activities commonly require waterproof clothing for running, walking, climbing, cycling and other activities to protect participants from the elements. However, while waterproofing keeps the rain out it also traps water vapour from perspiration, often leading to discomfort. There is a need for waterproof clothing that is at the same time breathable, keeping rain out but allowing sweat to evaporate through the textile. Similar demands are made of footwear too as well as modern tent materials to allow condensation to escape.

Just three years ago the waterproof breathable garments market size was more than USD 875 million but growth amounting to about 5.1% each year from 2015 to 2022 is anticipated by market observers. More people are taking up extreme, mountain-based sports too, which also pushes up demand. Waterproof and breathable footwear will surpass USD 550 million by 2022 at growth rate of 6.0%.

This rising demand coupled with an increased awareness of the need for sustainable products from the consumer and the marketing perspective means that recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles are being used more in textile production. This new focus on sustainability is also likely to fuel growth in the waterproof breathable textiles industry. By contrast, there is little movement upwards in demand for textile coatings as membrane technology is far more popular with consumers.

In parallel with recreational and leisure markets, densely woven waterproof breathable textile materials for military, medical and other work wear is also on the rise, with likely revenues of USD 231.5 million by 2022. Nevertheless, active sportswear will continue to account for more than 80% of the market share during the timeframe discussed by GMI in their report.

GMI highlights the key players in this sector as W. L. Gore & Associates (well known for its Goretex products) and eVent, which is part of General Electric. Some manufacturers offer environmentally friendly products that are PTFE-free, PFC-free and recyclable. Other companies in this industry include APT Fabrics, Columbia Sportswear, Heartland Textiles Co. Ltd., Patagonia, The North Face, Helly Hansen, Jack Wolfskin, Nike, and Mountain Hardwear.

David Bradley blogs at Sciencebase Science Blog and tweets @sciencebase, he is author of the popular science book "Deceived Wisdom".