Gore-Tex® is a material that is famous worldwide and used for its numerous properties, like being breathable, windproof and waterproof, characteristics that make it optimal for outdoor sports and activities.
In today’s article we will see its strengths, along with a brief summary of its history and an overview of the main characteristics of Gore-Tex®.
How many times have you found yourself in front of a Gore-Tex® fabric? For example, during your day hikes, or during an alpine skiing holiday.
This membrane is waterproof and breathable enough to be used in various areas (also in medicine and in science, as we will see later in this article).
In this article we want to “focus the magnifying glass” on its characteristics, its history, its properties, in order to provide as much detailed and in-depth information on this fabric as possible, and hopefully help you make an informed decision on your next outdoor gear purchase.
Maybe you are wondering where its name originates from, or what are the characteristics that make it so famous and so widely used, for the most different purposes.
So, let’s find out by taking a closer look at this insulating and breathable membrane, one of the most popular that you will find on the market!
- 1. A Short History of Gore-Tex®
- 2. Functionality
- 3. Construction
- 4. Performance
- 5. Products that Use Gore-Tex®
- 6. Conclusion
1. A Short History of Gore-Tex®
The history of Gore-Tex® starts mainly from a lucky accident. In fact, in 1969 Robert W. Gore, son of Wilbert L. Gore – co-inventor – for a sudden tear of the heated bars of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), created expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE).
The solid ePTFE stretched more than 800%, creating the structure containing about a billion micro pores.
This material therefore had a highly microporous structure, and was then presented under the name of “Gore-Tex” (Gore Fabric).
It was patented in 1976 and for the invention of the innovative fabric, Robert Gore was included in 2006 in the U.S. National Inventors Hall of Fame.
To date Gore-Tex is used by many companies around the world.
2. How Gore-Tex® Works – Functionality
Gore-Tex® is a fabric consisting essentially of micro pores that guarantee its waterproofness and breathability. The ePTFE gives the fabric these characteristics.
It therefore consists of about 9 billion micro pores per square inch (about 1.4 billion pores per square centimeter). These are small enough to not allow water to enter from the outside, but large enough to allow sweat to escape.
It is also an extremely durable material, and waterproofing is also given by the DWR treatment (Durable Water Repellent), which makes the water drops slide off the fabric’s surface.
It is windproof and highly breathable, as we said before.
3. How It Works – Construction
A Gore-Tex fabric for outdoor clothing, is made up of several layers.
For example, it can be composed of these layers (see image below): An inner layer of soft lining on which is placed a layer of protection, and above this is placed the Gore-Tex membrane.
Above the Gore-Tex membrane there is another protection layer and, above that, the outer layer / shell which is usually made of Nylon or Polyester, has an an abrasion-resistant structure and is coated with DWR treatment.
This conformation allows sweat to escape, not allowing water and wind to pass through the fabric and membrane.
After using the Gore-Tex fabric for some time, the DWR treatment will wear off and start to loose its performance. You can reactivate it by tumble drying or ironing the garment at the lowest temperature, be it a jacket or a pair of trousers, or by reapplying the DWR coating as we have seen here.
Depending on the construction, usually the Gore-Tex fabric is made up of 2, 2.5 or 3 layers.
The two-layer laminate is made to ensure versatility and comfort in use, while the three-layer stiffer laminate is designed for more demanding activities, and also to be lightweight and not occupy a lot of space.
Gore-Tex® has several qualities that make it, at the same time, a membrane, a laminate and a technology. It therefore consists of a threefold nature.
It is considered a membrane, thanks to the ePTFE, which is like a barrier against the passage of water.
It can be considered a laminate, since the ePTFE is placed between two layers of fabric or other materials.
And at the same time it is a technology because it is designed in different versions and performance levels, to be used for different occasions and with different purposes, thanks to the fact of being breathable and waterproof.
Different Performance Levels
In particular, if we take a look at the performance levels of Gore-Tex, we can see that there are different options available, depending on the intended use:
Paclite® – is the “lightest” of the options, which is used in casual clothing and for everyday life; completely water-repellent, windproof and breathable.
The main feature of Paclite is its lightness, which makes it also suitable for travel. It is in fact easily packable.
Pro – is the option available for outdoor sports, highly resistant and breathable. Specific for mountaineering, hiking, freeriding, motorcycling.
Active – among the various options, it is the most breathable, suitable for sports that require considerable physical effort.
Especially designed for hiking, cycling, running and cross country skiing. It consists of a 3 layer solution that improves softness and next-to-skin comfort.
Pro Shell – is used for shoes, socks and gloves, it is highly resistant to abrasion and wear.
Two Product Ranges
The second range of products, Infinium™, was launched in 2018 for the driest climates, in fact it is not waterproof.
There are situations in which comfort and performance take priority, and that’s why Gore-Tex Infinium™ was launched. This way, the brand has chosen to guarantee a wider choice for everyone’s needs.
You might also like: Gore-Tex® vs SympaTex Technology: Which One is Better?
5. Products that Use Gore-Tex®
Gore-Tex® is a membrane that is used in multiple areas, not just clothing.
Numerous clothing items, such as shoes, gloves, accessories rely on Gore-Tex to guarantee durability and impermeability, even if it is mainly used in jackets, especially rain jackets.
In Science and Medicine
For its high breathability, and for its ability to repel water, it is also used in other contexts, such as in spacesuits. In fact in 1981 NASA’s first space shuttle mission carries astronauts wearing spacesuits made in Gore-Tex fabric.
It is a highly versatile material and therefore “multifaceted”: it is widely used also in medicine, for sutures, as for the synthetic ligaments of the knees.
It has also been used for the conservation of illuminated manuscripts. This is to underline the strength and the versatility of this material, which has literally changed not only the clothing industry, but also those of science and medicine.
In Sports and Outdoor Clothing
As for the purely sports and outdoor clothing sector, you can find the Gore-Tex® technology used in numerous jackets and clothing items that we have mentioned in previous articles.
Responsibility and Sustainability
An important part of the Gore-Tex® brand values is also the attention to responsibility and sustainability, guaranteed by the annual update about their environmental and social projects (source).
They are also founding members of SAC (Sustainable Apparel Coalition), and use the Higg Index, that we have mentioned in previous articles.
For its innovative features, Gore-Tex® has gained an international reputation, which has made it one of the most used materials to protect and resist the most extreme climates and conditions.
“Guaranteed to keep you dry” is their motto, and it is true if you think that Gore-Tex is also used in many branches of medicine, and even in the aerospace industry.