Let's talk Gore-Tex®
Take a look at the history of Gore-Tex®, how it works and the technologies it offers within our range.
Gore-Tex® is a huge name in the outdoor industry, it is synonymous with hard wearing, technical, breathable garments and footwear. It is the original, waterproof but breathable fabric, repelling liquid water while allowing water vapour to pass through. Made of stretched polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) more commonly known as Teflon, it has also been found very useful outside of the outdoor gear world, including its use in space suits, preserving illuminated manuscripts and heart patches.
Gore-Tex® was co-invented in 1969 by father and son, Wilbert L and Robert W Gore. In 1969, Bob Gore stretched heated rods of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and created expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE). Oddly enough, it was born out of a happy accident when Bob Gore out of frustration, yanked on a heated PTFE rod causing it to unexpectedly stretch by 800%, forming a microporous structure that was about 70% air. This material was introduced to the public under the trademark Gore-Tex®.
Now, the Teflon in Gore-Tex® is actually not quite watertight because it has very small holes (or pores) in it. It’s microporous, but don't worry, It's guaranteed that rain will not get through. The pores are less than one micrometre (one millionth of a metre) in diameter – less than one fiftieth the width of a human hair. Water in liquid form cannot move through holes this small, but water in a gas form such as steam can. When you sweat, your body produces steam. The water molecules in steam are 700 times smaller than the pores in microporous Gore-Tex®, so when you sweat, heat is generated, the steam easily flows from your skin, drifts through your clothing and then easily through the pores in your Gore-Tex® membrane, it’s diffusion. Water in rain is totally different from sweat, a water droplet contains trillions of water molecules and is around 20,000 times larger than the pores in microporous Gore-Tex®, it’s not going to get through.
History and science lesson over, as a company, Gore-Tex® have since released several other technologies under the Gore name, not all of them waterproof. We’ll be taking a look now at the variations of Gore within our range and what makes them specially made for different conditions and uses. We’ll start with the original….
How Gore-Tex® has really shined compared to modern day membranes and technologies is its durability. If you were to take a Gore jacket and a jacket of another membrane into the field on day one, they would perform very similarly, but 5 years later? Gore has been highly regarded in its time for it's ability to last for years and years. Many of us have a relative who still has their classic Berghaus Gore jacket from the 90s which despite very heavy use, countless walks and rubbing from things like rucksacks, baby carriers, rocks and dirt, still works incredibly efficiently. It is the go to membrane option for footwear, there is no other piece of outdoor gear which is under as much strain and stress as what’s on your feet and Gore’s strength makes it the ideal option in many hardy, waterproof shoes and boots. You can find standard Gore-Tex® on The Rab Kangri Jacket, Berghaus Highland Ridge Jacket and Arc’teryx Zeta AR jacket among others and many pieces of footwear within our range (just look for "GTX" in the model name).
The next level
Despite being the original wonder material, Gore-Tex compared to modern day membranes has been overtaken on two factors: weight and breathability. Enter Gore-Tex Pro®. It is lighter, 30% more breathable than standard Gore-Tex® and just as durable. Brands such as Mountain Equipment® and Arc’teryx® use it in their most technical garments designed for outdoor professionals and serious outdoor enthusiasts who need the best weather protection available. This is gear for going further, made using a unique 3-layer construction where the membrane is durably bonded to both the outer nylon protecting it and a specially developed robust inner lining which keeps the weight down and allows breathability to be increased. You can find Gore-Tex Pro® on the Mountain Equipment Lhotse Jacket, Manaslu Jacket and Arc’teryx Beta AR and LT.
Paclite is designed to be as lightweight and packable as possible so that it can be pulled out at a moment’s notice and not drag the wearer down. Paclite® is made up of a 2-layer laminate construction in which a special Gore-Tex® membrane is bonded to an outer shell material. This results in an extremely light weight, packable garment that can be squished down easily into your pack. On the inside, the membrane is protected by a durable thin film instead of a backer. These garments have proven very popular with hikers, runners, climbers and cyclists for their practicality and versatility. You can find Gore-Tex Paclite® on the Patagonia Calcite Jacket which uses a fully recycled face fabric.
The dry days
When you still want high performance but don’t need waterproofing, that’s where Infinium comes in. Not so much a specific material but more a range of wind proof, water repellent and highly breathable systems built into different pieces of gear. These garments are built for comfort, performance and functionality. The Rab Infinity Jacket is constructed using a Gore-Tex Infinium® with Windstopper® membrane to offer a flexible, functional and totally windproof garment that offers maximum breathability. Gore-Tex Infinium® is the Gore you want in all dry conditions.
Read Ian's review on the rab Infinity Jacket here
This post was written by Oli, who runs the TL Blog. He still has his old military Gore Jacket from when he was a young teenager, it still works well 13 years later but is definitely too small on the arms. Here he is under a crude forest shelter sipping tea with his dog, Paisley. Catch more of his posts every week on the TL blog.