Guide to all things GORE-TEX
24th February 2020 by Emma Mathias
Which Gore-Tex should I buy?
So you’re in the market for a waterproof jacket and the first thing you come across is.. Gore-Tex! To some, the holy grail of waterproof, windproof and breathable membranes, to others just another type of waterproof where eventually you’ll get wet! One thing you cannot avoid is that the outdoor market is literally drowning (no pun intended!) with the stuff. So which one should you choose?
Types of Gore-Tex and who they’re aimed for
All Gore-Tex products are identified by the Gore-Tex diamond swing tag. This not only represents your Gore-Tex guarantee but it will help you easily identify what type of Gore-Tex you are looking at. By following these categories and learning the basic differences between them all it won’t take long before you can narrow down which one is right for you.
Please note, this is not an in depth technical review - You can find scientific facts and figures about specific Gore-Tex products all over the internet, so rather than go into this amount of intimate detail here you’ll find a brief summary of the Gore-Tex products we sell along with their recommended usage.
Performance – the ‘normal’ one
The standard one of the bunch, but don’t let the word standard fool you. Although not as breathable or durable as Pro, it is more than adequate for at least 80% of outdoor activities. Generally these jackets will have a softer feel and have more ‘hill walking’ type features, whether that be slightly longer in the body, deeper pockets or less voluminous hoods. Modern day Performance Shell Jackets often use the innovative C-Knit Backer Technology , offering a lighter, more breathable and more comfortable feel also.
Recommended User: For people that need a durable product suitable for prolonged usage in any hill walking environment, or perhaps don’t want to fork out as much for a higher spec.
Men's Mountain Equipment Saltoro Jacket
Saltoro Jacket Mens
A 3L GORE-TEX 75D fabric with mountain hood.
Women's Mountain Equipment Saltoro Jacket
Saltoro Jacket Womens
A 3L GORE-TEX 75D fabric in a women's alpine fit.
Paclite Plus – the ‘lighter’ one
The lighter cousin. Contrary to popular belief, the Paclite is not designed as a more breathable alternative – it’s just lighter. Using exactly the same membrane as Performance, the extra weight loss is attributed to the scrim, or lack of one. In simple terms, it is 2 layer jacket with a protective layer impregnated on the inside, as opposed to a separate layer physically laminated on the back. This gives a lighter, more packable but less durable alternative to the above.
Recommended User: For people that prefer lightweight over durability but can still use their jacket in trying conditions – albeit for not as long.
Women's Arc'teryx Beta SL Hybrid Jacket
Beta SL Hybrid Jacket Womens
A 2L GORE-TEX® shell with PACLITE® Plus and reinforced with 3L GORE-TEX® in high wear areas.
Men's Patagonia Calcite Jacket
Calcite Jacket Mens
2.5L GORE-TEX Paclite® Plus fabric with a 100% recylced polyester fleece.
Pro – the ‘gnarly’ one
The all singing and dancing of the trio. More breathable and durable than the others, Gore-Tex Pro can be found in nearly every flagship model and more. Designed to be tough without compromising on weight, these jackets come with cutting edge technologies and features that come into their own in harsh mountain environments around the globe. The features are generally more relevant to the mountaineer – helmet compatible hoods, higher pockets that don’t interfere with harnesses and sometimes a shorter cut at the front to aid movement in snow to name a few.
Recommended User: High end usage in serious mountain environments, however they make great hillwalking jackets if durability is your thing and you don’t mind paying the price.
Women's Mountain Equipment Manaslu Jacket
Manaslu Jacket Womens
This 3 layer GORE-TEX Pro jacket will keep you dry in even the most extreme weather.
Men's Arc'teryx Beta AR Jacket
Beta AR Jacket Mens
The most versatile waterproof jacket by Arc'teryx, this 3L GORE-TEX Pro shell will take you anywhere.
Shake Dry – the ‘minimal’ one
New to the Epicentre this spring, Shake Dry is the lightest, most breathable Gore-Tex product yet with a unique water repellent technology. It is essentially a faceless membrane with a persistent beading surface which you can literally ‘shake dry’. Although classed as fully waterproof and windproof, the sheer nature of the product means that in reality its operating range is rather small, but has the potential to change the waterproof market completely.
Recommended User: Fell running and cycling in moderate to bad conditions.
Men's Mountain Equipment Propellor Shakedry Jacket
Propellor Shakedry Jacket Mens
Made with GORE-TEX SHAKEDRY, this jacket simply shakes dry once the rains have stopped.
Infinium – the ‘confusing’ one
Despite being ever present on a lot of swing tags for non-waterproof products, Infinium is not actually a membrane of any kind. Instead it represents a range of products designed with comfort and versatility in mind, rather than for any specific activity. Amongst the Infinium family you can find certain types of insulation such as Thermium, windproof products, including Windstopper and stretch fabrics.
Additional things to consider when buying waterproofs in general
Membrane technology is obviously very important, after all it’s these specific barriers that keeps the rain and water out. However there are a few other things to talk about that sometimes fly under the radar – and no, I’m not talking about getting obsessed with fancy figures such as Hydrostatic Heads and MVTR’s. Although these figures are not irrelevant, construction and fit are arguably more important.
How your jacket sits on top of other layers (and what these layers are!) goes a long way towards maximising your clothing’s potential. For example, you wouldn’t wear a £400 Pro Shell on top of a cotton t-shirt, as cotton will soak up every bead of sweat it can leaving you feeling clammy and uncomfortable. In my experience, Gore-Tex also hates skin – wearing it without something covering your arms is usually a mistake, especially with the cheaper products which generally have a more plastic feel inside. Another example of bad layering is layering up on top of another fully windproof layer, such as Windstopper. This will result in overheating the minute you put it on and start moving, despite being a brilliant product on its own!
In terms of fit, I loosely use the same rule with layering as I do with footwear - firm but not uncomfortably tight, likewise not too much movement – only relevant movement.
Secondly, breathability - or lack of - is the most common gripe amongst potential buyers, but it’s important to remain realistic no matter how much you spend. At the end of the day, as a person you have to start sweating first before your jacket can actually start moving the moisture, so depending on how much you sweat and how quickly will depend on just how much your garment can handle. This is the same for atmospheric conditions also.
To maximise breathability, whenever I look for a new waterproof I always consider what I’m going to wear it with, how it fits with what I have and.. seam tape. The one thing people don’t tell you is that seam tape does not breathe, so naturally the less there is, the more breathable your clothing will be.
People often ask, for example, why are Arc’teryx so expensive. One of the first things I do is turn their products inside out. Do the same with a cheap jacket and you’ll see what I mean.
Last but not least, durability isn’t just about the membrane or denier of face fabric, but the type of face fabric. Your more expensive Pro Shells will more often than not use a nylon face, rather than the more widely used polyester. This is more expensive, but in return you get a harder wearing jacket for less weight. On the flip side, if you can find a Performance shell with a Nylon face fabric, you might have just saved yourself a lot of money and have a product that will last a long, long time.