Gore-Tex is one of the most effective waterproof membranes on the market and was actually the first truely waterproof and breathable fabric when the first Gore-Tex jacket came out in 1977. To this day, it is a household name in the outdoor industry and for good reason. Gore-Tex continues to be a leading supplier of innovative, waterproof/breathable membranes that work extremely well.
What is Gore-Tex
Gore-Tex is a fabric made up of multiple layers designed to work together to keep you dry while offering good breathability so you don't overheat. Gore-Tex fabrics are made by laminating a ePTFE (expanded Polytetrafluoroethylene) membrane to a high-performance face fabric. Only the membrane is actually made by W.L. Gore, not the face fabrics. W.L. Gore has very high standards; any textile is subject to an array of tests before they decide if it is good enough. W.L. Gore does all bonding of the membranes and linings to the face fabrics.
There are three different types of Gore-Tex fabrics: Gore-Tex Pro, Gore-Tex Active, and Gore-Tex. Garments engineered with Gore-Tex Pro fabrics are built for maximized ruggedness and are ideal for extreme and extended use. Garments engineered with Gore-Tex Active fabrics are built for extreme breathability and are ideal for highly aerobic, done-in-a-day activities. Garments engineered with Gore-Tex fabric are durably waterproof and windproof, combined with optimized breathability-enduring products that maximize protection and comfort for the wearer.
Multiple fabrics and construction methods include insulated, non-insulated, 2-Layer, 3-Layer, and Z-Liner. 2-Layer Construction is deal for a wide range of outdoor activities, with this construction a Gore-Tex membrane is bonded to the outer fabric only. This construction can be combined with insulation, keeping the wearer dry and warm. Gore-Tex Pro and Gore-Tex Active use a 3-layer construction, unlike the 2-layer construction, this construction bonds the Gore-Tex membrane to both the outer fabric and the inner lining. The benefit: no movement between the layers, which means less wear and tear, and enhanced durability.
Even if two jackets use the same type of Gore membrane and liner, manufacturers get to choose from different face fabrics. The face fabric, as the outermost layer of a hardshell garment, plays a fundamental role in its overall performance, specifically in its durability, breathability and water shedding. Different deniers, intricate weaves, resilient yarns, and advanced DWR treatments drastically increase the face fabric's price. This is one of many reasons why hardshells from Arc'teryx, like the Alpha SV, are more expensive than hardshells like the L.L. Bean Ascent even though both use the Gore-Tex Pro membrane.
The extremely thin ePTFE membrane is the heart of Gore-Tex fabrics and what makes it durably waterproof, windproof, and breathable. One square inch of the membrane has over 9 billion pores. The amazing part is that these pores are actually 20,000 times smaller than a water droplet, but 700 times larger that a water vapor molecule. That is what makes the Gore-Tex membrane functionally waterproof, while at the same time allowing perspiration to escape from the inside. All Gore-Tex membranes except for Gore-Tex Pro have an oleophobic (oil-hating) later of very thin Polyurethane on the inside to protect the pores from sweat and body oils that can clog them. Unlike all other Gore-Tex membranes, Gore-Tex Pro uses a 100% ePTFE membrane with two thin layers of ePTFE laminate sandwiching a very thin band of ePTFE with a different microstructure instead of the PU layer and offers up to 28% more breathability because of it.
Seams are necessary when building Gore-Tex garments, which is unfortunate because they compromise the waterproofness of the fabric. For a garment to be waterproof it must be entirely sealed. That's why for durable waterproofness Gore-Tex products rely on Gore-Seam tape applied by specially trained manufacturers in certified factories. This is done on W.L. Gore's proprietary seam sealing machinery, and random samples have to be given to W.L. Gore for testing throughout a product's production run.
Gore-Tex Product Testing
Another thing that differentiates Gore-Tex from its competition is the company's role in the design and construction of every garment that bares its name. Any company that uses Gore-Tex is required to use W.L. Gore-certified factories and machinery. The fabric maker is also closely involved in the design and production processes. Every product must adhere to specific, often controlling, standards set by W.L. Gore. If a company wants to make jacket with Gore-Tex they have to adhere to every step of the process. W.L. Gore first sends the company material samples and the company designs and assembles the jacket. Then W.L. Gore has to approve the jackets style. They analyzes things like zippers, seam tape, hood design, wrist closures, etc. (For example, all Active Shell products must have a trim fit, few pockets or mesh lined pockets, as little seam tape as possible, and must weigh under 14 oz.) After style approval Gore subjects the jacket to rigorous water resistance, wind resistance, and durability testing.
Before any new Gore-Tex garment style is put into production it must pass the Gore lab style approval testing. This sophisticated outerwear testing facility is designed to simulate a variety of rain conditions. Using specially engineered rain nozzles strategically positioned in the chamber, we are able to test a garment's waterproof design in conditions that range from light drizzle to wind-driven rain. Then in the Martindale Test, wool or sandpaper is used to rub the fabric over and over again with considerable pressure. Depending on how tough the fabric needs to be, this vigorous rubbing can continue non-stop for hours … or even days. Then in the Cold Flex Test, Gore-Tex fabrics are squashed and stretched repeatedly in extreme temperatures for hours on end. The fabrics must survive this punishing test and emerge still durably waterproof. If at any point the product doesn't hold up to the high Gore-Tex standards, it is sent back to the drawing board. If the jacket meets all qualifications, Gore gives the go-ahead for production. This incredibly costly and time consuming system has a dramatic end result for the consumer: there are no bad Gore-Tex products.
Guaranteed to Keep You Dry
On top of all that, all Gore-Tex products come with an unconditional lifetime guarantee. If you are not completely satisfied with the waterproofness, windproofness, or breathability of your Gore-Tex product, then Gore-Tex will repair it, replace it, or refund your purchase price. No matter which manufacturer makes the product, if it has the Gore-Tex label on it, it is certified to be durably waterproof, windproof and breathable for its intended use. No other waterproof breathable manufacturer offers the same warranty.