Guide to all things GORE-TEX
27th October 2021 by The Epicentre Team
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
While GORE-TEX might be a household name, few people realise how many different GORE-TEX laminates exist. Not only are there different categories or technologies of product (for example GORE-TEX PRO, GORE-TEX, GORE-TEX with Paclite Technology and so on), within each technology there are then also numerous different face textile options (the outer layer of the laminate that you touch and feel) to choose from, each with their own particular characteristics and subtle differences in performance.
Pro – the ‘gnarly’ one
GORE-TEX PRO is at the high end of the range in terms of performance and cost.
The GORE-TEX PRO category was introduced in 2007. The PRO marque represents those laminates which, in terms of being durably waterproof, rugged and highly breathable are the best. Perfect for Guides, outdoor professionals and for those who simply want superior waterproof technology for mountaineering, climbing and ski-mountaineering.
For 2020 GORE-TEX PRO gets a bit of a shake-up. We now have three versions of GORE-TEX PRO, and whilst they all still sit under the same set of general characteristics which have always defined the GORE-TEX PRO technology (i.e. durably waterproof, rugged and highly breathable) there are now some considerable and important differences between them.
- GORE-TEX PRO Most Breathable
- GORE-TEX PRO Most Rugged
- GORE-TEX PRO Stretch
What activities does Gore recommend Most Breathable for?
- GORE-TEX PRO Most Breathable is recommended for active use, and specifically by Gore for mountaineering, ice/rock climbing, trekking, freeride and backcountry skiing (as well as snowmobile use and hunting).
Men's Mountain Equipment Tupilak Jacket
Women's Mountain Equipment Manaslu Jacket
What activities does Gore recommend Most Rugged for?
- GORE-TEX PRO Most Rugged is recommended for all round use and specifically has opened up GORE-TEX PRO to be targeted to a range of activities not traditionally associated with GORE-TEX PRO garments. GORE recommends it be used for waterfowl hunting, offshore fishing, fly fishing, ocean and offshore sailing, kayaking, and off-road motorcycling, as well as mountaineering, ice/rock climbing, trekking, freeride and backcountry skiing, snowmobile use, and hunting.
Men's Arc'teryx Beta AR Jacket
Women's Arc'teryx Beta AR Jacket
GORE-TEX PRO Stretch
- Stretch occupies the same performance space in terms of breathability and overall performance as Most Rugged – i.e. it is less breathable than GORE-TEX PRO Most Breathable.
- From a stretch perspective, however, it really is quite exceptional: most fabrics stretch by extending from their normal state to an elongated state and this tends to create problems with durability. New GORE-TEX PRO Stretch is extremely clever because it starts in a ‘compressed’ state and stretches to its normal state.
In effect, the yarns are pulled closer together when relaxed, and when the fabric is stretched it becomes the same density as a conventional fabric. This makes it a stretch fabric with the same, or potentially greater, durability than it would be as a regular fabric. Apart from its impeded breathability versus Most Breathable, Stretch is also noticeably heavier, resulting from its greater fabric density. It is also considerably more expensive.
- A Tupilak Jacket made in GORE-TEX PRO Stretch would cost approximately 30% more than a regular model and would be considerably heavier. On balance none of the jackets that we have selected this season make use of this technology.
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.
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 Patagonia Triolet Jacket
Women's Mountain Equipment Rupal Jacket
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.
Men's Patagonia Calcite Jacket
Women's Mountain Equipment Saltoro Jacket
Additional things to consider when buying waterproofs in general
Membrane technology is obviously very important, after all its these specific barriers that keep 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.
Firstly, 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, 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 whether the seams are taped. 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.
Secondly, 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.
Last but not least is 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. It’s all very well ‘shelling’ out on a high-performance GORE-TEX jacket but in order to get the best performance it is crucial to consider your complete layering system. 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. You can read more about this in our layering guide.