When buying a waterproof jacket, you want to make sure that it is made from a material that will keep the elements from getting in, whilst allowing perspiration to get out. There are a number of technologies available to help you achieve this. However, there’s one name that stands out above all others in the market: GORE-TEX.
GORE-TEX are renowned for producing some of the most waterproof, windproof and breathable fabrics around, and you can find the GORE-TEX logo on everything from coats & jackets to walking boots.
We’ve all heard of GORE-TEX, but what makes this fascinating fabric so special? In this guide we’ll help you get to grips with GORE-TEX, and tell you everything you need to know about this magical material.
What is Gore-Tex?
Put simply, GORE-TEX is a durable, breathable waterproof and windproof fabric found in lots of outdoor clothing, footwear and accessories.
GORE-TEX is made from expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (or ePTFE for short - phew!), which was created by Bob Gore in 1969 when he rapidly stretched PTFE under certain conditions. The result was an incredibly strong, microporous material that had low water absorption and good weathering properties - the perfect solution for outerwear.
By 1978, W.L. Gore & Associates introduced traditional GORE-TEX; the world’s first truly waterproof, windproof and breathable outerwear. The new fabric kept water and rain on the outside, whilst allowing perspiration to escape from the inside.
How does GORE-TEX work?
Creating a fabric that blocks rain is relatively simple. However, creating a fabric that blocks rain while allowing sweat to escape is much more difficult. The secret to GORE-TEX’s success lies in a number of features:
At the heart of GORE-TEX technology is an extremely thin membrane. 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.
Another feature of GORE-TEX is the laminate. This is when the membrane is bonded - or sandwiched together - with the main body fabric, usually a synthetic such as nylon. Gore-Tex comes in a range of fabric constructions, including three-layer constructions (where the membrane is bonded to face fabrics on both sides), two-layer (where the membrane is bonded to a face fabric on one side and can have a liner on the other, allowing the option for insulation), insulated and uninsulated.
Finally there is seam sealing. Sealed seams provide a waterproof jacket with complete weatherproofing and prevent it from leaking. If you look inside most waterproof jackets you will see strips of tape which are used to seal any gaps that have been created around the stitching. However, the more taping a jacket has, the less breathable it will be.
What types of GORE-TEX are there?
GORE-TEX technology continues to evolve, and today there are many different types of GORE-TEX fabrics available, including:
As previously mentioned, traditional GORE-TEX is a versatile fabric that can be used for all kinds of activities, from mountaineering to everyday wear. Durably windproof, waterproof and able to breathe, GORE-TEX can come in two- or three-layer constructions, depending on what it’s being used for.
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 three-layer construction for added protection.
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 freeriding, GORE-TEX Pro provides a robust three-layer construction for maximum protection.
What products that use GORE-TEX technology?
The most obvious products that use GORE-TEX technology are hiking jackets. Waterproof, breathable and windproof – GORE-TEX jackets provide the protection you need for most outdoor activities. Whatever jacket you choose, you should also consider how using base layers for ultimate protection against perspiration.
The GORE-TEX technology in boots helps make them highly breathable and waterproof. So, whether you’re walking through wet, muddy trails or your feet need to breathe on a hot summer’s day GORE-TEX-lined boots are guaranteed to keep you dry.
Another product that benefits from GORE-TEX technology is gloves. GORE-TEX gloves are both waterproof and breathable,meaning your hands stay warmer when it’s cold and drier when you perspire - even in harsh conditions.
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We hope that you have found this guide to GORE-TEX useful. If you have any questions about GORE-TEX technology, or any other waterproof fabrics such as eVent, don’t hesitate to ask the outdoor experts at Winfields.