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Gore Tex Fabrics Explained

See also: How to Choose a Membrane

All Gore-Tex products are made with a Gore-Tex membrane sandwiched between a face fabric and an inner layer. The face fabric provides protection and can bem made from different materials and thicknesses giving the brand using the membrane options on how the want the final garment to perform.

There are 3 Gore Tex waterproof membranes. Gore-Tex, Gore-Tex Pro & Gore-Tex Active. There is also Gore-Tex Windstopper, which is windproof, but not waterproof. This article will explain the different constructions and uses of each of the membranes.

  • Gore-Tex - Great breathability which is tough, light and durable.
  • Gore-Tex Pro - Built for maximum durability and protection.
  • Gore-Tex Active - Breathability and weight optimised at the expense of durability.
  • Windstopper - Completely windproof and weather resistant softshell membrane.

Constructions

The Gore membranes are made into different constructions to give better performance in various areas, those constructions are detailed below. Gore-Tex is available in all 3 constructions, Gore-Tex Pro and Gore-Tex Active are only available as a 3 layer construction.

2 Layer
2 layer construction is where the membrane is bonded to the outer fabric only. This means that the lining inside is separate and can move freely, this improves wearing comfort and versatility and means that the membrane can be used with insulation.
3 layer
3 layer construction is where the Gore-Tex membrane is bonded to both the face fabric and the inner lining. The advantage of this is increased durability as the layers can't move against each other. Though it does give the garment a harder feel.
Z Liner
Z liner construction is bonds the membrane to a lightweight fabric, a liner is then freely suspended between the outer fabric and the lining. This construction means that there are fewer sealed seams which gives brands more freedom in terms of the design of the garment. It also allows the membrane to be combined with insulation.

The Membranes

Gore-Tex

The Gore-Tex membrane is very versatile and is used in 2 layer, 3 layer, z liner constructions as well as being able to be combined with insulated garments. This means that it can really be made into clothing suitable for any activity whilst retaining the Gore-Tex standard for a durable, waterproof and windproof piece. The diagram shows the outer fabric which is bonded to the Gore-Tex membrane. Below the membrane is a Polyurethane (PU) coating. This protects the membrane from dirt and oils which would damage it, but before it will allow the membrane to work it has to be wet. This means that a Gore-Tex garment will not start breathing until it has been worn long enough for a small amount of water vapour to reach the inner of the membrane. This isn't a major issue as you don't necessarily need the garment to start breathing until you've worked up some heat anyway.

Gore-Tex Active

Gore-Tex Active is for those who value breathability and light weight above all else. It is a thin and light version of Gore-Tex and the result is improved breathability and a lighter weight garment. Like Gore-Tex Pro it is a 3 layer membrane, however as it has a thinner and lighter construction these garments will not be as durable as Gore Tex and Gore Tex Pro. The diagram shows that the lining fabric is incorporated into the PU coating, this allows the membrane to breathe faster and more easily than standard Gore-Tex. It also makes it more comfortable against the skin and so better for activites where fewer layers are likely to be worn.

Gore-Tex Pro

Gore-Tex Pro replaced Gore Pro-Shell in 2012 and has significantly increased performance compared to the old Pro-Shell membrane. It is built for maximum durability and is therefore ideal for prolonged use in tough conditions. The diagram shows the Gore-Tex Pro membrane bonded to the face fabric and a Micro Grid backer fabric. This is the secret to Gore-Tex Pro - it doesn't use a PU membrane, which means that it doesn't require the membrane to be wet before it starts to breathe, increasing performance. The Micro Grid backer fabric is also exclusive to Gore-Tex Pro and it gives less internal abrasion and snag resistance, whilst improving breathability and decreasing weight. It also allows the garment to slide easily over mid-layers and feel more comfortable on skin.

Paclite

Gore-Tex products with Paclite technology are garments which have been specifically designed to be lightweight and packable - perfect for that waterproof which you always take with you but rarely ever wear. The garments still feature the same Gore-Tex or Gore-Tex Pro membrane but utilise much thinner lighterweight fabrics to achieve a lighter, more packable garment. This construction does come at the cost of durability. Both Gore-Tex and Gore-Tex Pro membranes can feature Paclite technology.

Windstopper

Gore-Tex Windstopper is another Gore-Tex membrane which is completely windproof, though it is not waterproof. As with the waterproof membranes it is available in a number of different constructions making it an ideal windproof membrane across a wide range of garments. The different constructions are detailed below.

Windstopper Active Shell
Windstopper Active Shells are the lightest and most packable garments in the Windstopper range. They offer excellent breathability as well as water resistance. They are designed for use during highly aerobic activities such as running, road cycling, mountain biking and cross-country skiing. They are able to cope with a variety of weather conditions including strong wind, light rain and snow.
  
Windstopper Soft Shell
Windstopper Soft Shells offer a bit more warmth than Active Shells as they feature a thin fleece inner. The are designed to combine the comfort of a soft mid-layer and the water resistance of a shell into one garment. They are ideal for a wide range of aerobic activities such as hiking, backpacking, cycling, hunting and general mountain sports. They are able to cope with a variety of weather conditions including strong wind, light rain and snow.
  
Windstopper Technical Fleece
Windstopper Technical Fleece provides more warmth than the Soft Shell as it has a microfleece outer and a thin, wicking polyester fleece inner. It is ideal as a mid or outer later and offers far more protection than standard fleece which offers little protection from wind. Ideal for general outdoor wear in activities such as hiking, fishing, golf, mountain sports and paddle sports. Able to cope with windy and cooler conditions.
  
Windstopper Insulated Shell
Windstopper Insulated Shells provide maximum lightweight warmth by including an insulating layer in addition to outer and inner fabrics built around the Windstopper membrane. Garments with this membrane are designed to keep warm air in and the cold wind out, while allowing perspiration to escape easily. It is best used for activities in cold and windy conditions.