Why So Many Brands Trust GORE-TEX
Designed to provide comfort and trusted protection, GORE-TEX garments help you make more of every day, no matter what passions drive you.
What is GORE-TEX?
Whenever you walk into any outdoor gear shop looking for a durable garment, you are bound to hear the word GORE-TEX thrown around. Most brands carry a GORE-TEX line of equipment and rightfully so. It is a material that is durably waterproof, very breathable, and totally windproof. GORE-TEX garments come in a wide range of styles, for a huge range of activities, but every single one comes with the GUARANTEED TO KEEP YOU DRY™ promise. So as a consumer, here’s what you need to know about GORE-TEX to help you make the right choice based on your chosen activity.
In 1958 Wilbert L. (Bill) and Genevieve (Vieve) Gore launched Gore in the basement of their home in Newark, Delaware. Bill left his job at DuPont to explore the potential of polymer polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). After about eleven years of material testing, in 1969, ePTFE, or expanded polytetrafluoroethylene, was created by Bill’s son, Bob Gore when he rapidly stretched PTFE under certain conditions. The result: an incredibly strong, microporous material that features low water absorption and good weathering properties. With this discovery, it wasn't long before they began to apply this property to outdoor garments.
Gore received its first commercial order for GORE-TEX fabric — the first breathable, waterproof, and windproof fabric on the market in 1976. Three years later, GORE-SEAM® sealing machines and GORE-SEAM® tape were introduced, adding greater waterproof protection capabilities for their garments.
How does GORE-TEX work?
Generally, creating a fabric that blocks rain and wind is relatively simple. However, creating a fabric that blocks rain while allowing sweat to escape is a different story.
The extremely thin, ePTFE is at the heart of every GORE-TEX piece. This membrane contains over 9 billion microscopic pores, approximately 20,000 times smaller than a drop of water, but 700 times bigger than a molecule of moisture vapor. This means that water in its liquid form is unable to pass to the inside of the membrane, but water as a moisture vapour from sweat is allowed to pass to the outside.
As previously mentioned, traditional GORE-TEX is a versatile fabric that can be used for all kinds of activities, from mountaineering to everyday wear. GORE-TEX can come in 2-layer, 2.5-layer, or 3-layer constructions, depending on what it’s being used for.
These fabrics bond the waterproof layer to the face fabric as above, but leave the inner layer loosely hanging on the inside. This inner layer is often made from a light mesh fabric to protect the waterproof layer and to provide comfort for the user. They do offer good levels of breathability as less “glue” is used to stick the layers together and they often feel softer and more pliable. This construction is best suited for occasional light use and should not be considered for serious outdoor pursuits.
2.5-layer fabrics look very similar to 3-layer fabrics but are usually lighter and more flexible. They are made by bonding the waterproof layer to the face fabric in the same way as a 3-layer construction, but the inner layer is made up of a micron thin coating to protect the waterproof layer from wear and contamination. This layer is often painted on to cover the entire middle layer or sometimes appears as a printed pattern, which is why it's considered as a half layer.
Regularly referred to as “hardshells”, 3-layer fabrics use a laminate, or sandwich construction of all three layers. This means the face fabric, waterproof layer, and lining are all stuck together to create a durable and hard-wearing fabric. This type of construction is commonly used for jackets that are expected to have a hard life and face continuous exposure to extreme weather while also being lightweight and highly breathable. This jacket construction is primarily designed for the rigors of mountaineering and winter climbing. However, they are incredibly versatile and can be used all year round in almost any condition and in any environment. If you are looking for one jacket to do everything, this would be the best option.
Types of GORE-TEX
The key to GORE-TEX’s success is its wide range of applied features and membrane types.
As the name suggests, GORE-TEX Active is better suited to more energetic, stop-and-go activities such as skiing or climbing. With these kinds of activities, you want a jacket that breathes well, allows for plenty of movement and provides plenty of protection. GORE-TEX Active is lightweight, incredibly breathable and made with a 3-layer construction for added durability.
GORE-TEX Paclite provides an extremely lightweight and packable construction making it the ideal solution for hiking, cycling, and other sports where weight and space are critical.
Garments made from GORE-TEX C-KNIT provide reliable performance across a wide range of mountain activities and can withstand the wear and tear associated with carrying heavy packs and multi-day outings.
GORE-TEX Pro is engineered to be rugged, durable, and able to withstand extended use in extreme conditions. When you’re taking part in more extreme activities that subject you to harsh conditions, such as multi-day mountaineering, guiding or free-riding, GORE-TEX PRO provides a robust 3-layer construction for maximum protection. This fabric is engineered with added durability to withstand abrasion in rugged environments while protecting against extreme and unpredictable conditions with frequent work-rest cycles.
GORE-TEX Technology Is Trusted By Many
Hopefully this information serves to guide you in making your next garment purchase. From jackets, over-pants, boots, and gloves, GORE-TEX is definitely built to last the test of time and weather. Some notable outdoor apparel brands that use GORE-TEX technology that are available at Appalachian Outfitters include Arc'teryx, BlackYak, Marmot, and Patagonia. Shop what's in stock here.