What is Gore-Tex® and How Does It Work?

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hikers under rainy weather

Are you an outdoor enthusiast looking for the best gear to keep you dry during your adventures?

Then you have probably heard of Gore-Tex®, the famous material known for its waterproof, windproof, and breathable properties.

But what is Gore-Tex® and how does it work?

In this article, we will dive into the history, properties, and uses of this versatile fabric. From outdoor sports to medicine and science, Gore-Tex® has proven to be a game-changer in many fields.

So, let’s take a closer look at this innovative membrane and discover why it has become a go-to choice for outdoor enthusiasts and professionals alike.

Key Points:

  • Gore-Tex® is a material known for its waterproof, windproof, and breathable properties, making it a popular choice for outdoor enthusiasts and professionals. It is also highly durable.
  • The material was invented by Robert W. Gore in 1969 and patented in 1976.
  • Gore-Tex® owes its functionality to the presence of micropores that prevent water from penetrating the fabric while allowing sweat to escape.
  • Outdoor clothing made with Gore-Tex® is constructed with multiple layers.
  • Gore-Tex® is a membrane, a laminate, and a technology all at once. It offers various performance levels.
  • Gore-Tex® is used in various fields, including outdoor clothing, medicine, and science.

1. History of Gore-Tex®

Gore-Tex® has a fascinating history that began with a fortuitous accident. In 1969, Robert W. Gore, son of Wilbert L. Gore, one of the co-inventors, stumbled upon a discovery while dealing with a sudden tear of the heated bars of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE).

This led to the creation of expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE), a solid material that could stretch more than 800% and contained about a billion micropores.

gore tex logo
Gore-Tex® logo

The highly microporous structure of this material was then presented under the name of “Gore-Tex” (Gore Fabric) and patented in 1976. For his contribution to the invention of this groundbreaking fabric, Robert Gore was honored with induction into the U.S. National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006.

Today, Gore-Tex® is widely used by companies around the world for its exceptional properties.

Read also: Hardshell vs Rain Jacket: The Difference

2. Functionality

Gore-Tex® is a unique fabric that owes its waterproofness and breathability to the presence of micropores. These micropores are created by ePTFE, a material that gives the fabric its exceptional properties.

With approximately 9 billion micropores per square inch (about 1.4 billion pores per square centimeter), the pores are small enough to prevent water from penetrating the fabric while allowing sweat to escape.

The fabric is also highly durable and features a DWR treatment (Durable Water Repellent) that causes water droplets to slide off the surface. Additionally, Gore-Tex® is windproof and breathable, making it an excellent choice for outdoor enthusiasts.

Read also: Synthetic (Polyester) vs Down Jacket: Which is Better?

3. Construction

Outdoor clothing made with Gore-Tex fabric typically consists of multiple layers. For instance, it may include an inner layer of soft lining, a layer of protection, and a Gore-Tex membrane. Above the membrane, there is another layer of protection, followed by an outer layer or shell made of Nylon or Polyester.

gore tex fabric composition
Gore-Tex outdoor clothing: fabric composition
Image based on fr:Image:Goretex schéma.gif, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

This shell has an abrasion-resistant structure and is coated with DWR treatment to prevent water and wind from penetrating the fabric while allowing sweat to escape.

Over time, the DWR treatment may wear off, but it can be reactivated by tumble drying or ironing the garment at low temperatures or by applying a new coating.

Depending on the construction, Gore-Tex fabric is usually made up of 2, 2.5, or 3 layers. The two-layer laminate provides versatility and comfort, while the stiffer three-layer laminate is designed for more demanding activities and is lightweight and compact.

4. Performance

Threefold Nature

Gore-Tex® is a unique material that possesses several qualities, making it a membrane, a laminate, and a technology all at once. Its threefold nature is due to the ePTFE, which acts as a barrier against the passage of water, making it a membrane.

Additionally, the ePTFE is placed between two layers of fabric or other materials, making it a laminate.

Lastly, Gore-Tex® is considered a technology because it is designed in various versions and performance levels to be used for different purposes. Its breathable and waterproof properties make it suitable for a wide range of activities, including outdoor sports and medical applications.

Performance Levels

Gore-Tex® offers various performance levels to suit different needs, including:

Paclite® is the lightest option, ideal for casual wear and everyday use. It is completely water-repellent, windproof, and breathable, making it perfect for travel as it is easily packable.

Pro is designed for outdoor sports and is highly resistant and breathable, making it suitable for mountaineering, hiking, freeriding, and motorcycling.

Active is the most breathable option, specifically designed for sports that require considerable physical effort, such as hiking, cycling, running, and cross-country skiing. It features a 3-layer solution that enhances softness and next-to-skin comfort.

Pro Shell is used for shoes, socks, and gloves and is highly resistant to abrasion and wear.

hiker under rainy weather

Two Product Ranges

Gore-Tex® offers two significant product ranges: the original Gore-Tex® products range and the WINDSTOPPER® products range (also known as Infinium™).

The Infinium™ range was introduced in 2018 and is designed for dry climates, as it is not waterproof. In some situations, comfort and performance are more important than waterproofing, and that’s why Gore-Tex® introduced Infinium™.

This range expands the brand’s offerings, providing a broader choice to meet the needs of a wider range of consumers.

5. Used in Many Fields

Gore-Tex® is a versatile membrane that finds applications in various fields, not just clothing. While it is primarily used in jackets, especially rain jackets, it is also used in numerous other clothing items, including shoes, gloves, and accessories.

Gore-Tex® is relied upon to provide durability and impermeability, making it an essential component of many products.

Science and Medicine

Gore-Tex® is a highly versatile material that is valued for its breathability and water-repelling properties. Due to these qualities, it is used in various contexts, including spacesuits. In fact, during NASA’s first space shuttle mission in 1981, astronauts wore spacesuits made from Gore-Tex® fabric.

The material’s versatility extends beyond clothing and aerospace applications. It is also used in medicine.

Additionally, Gore-Tex® has been utilized in the preservation of illuminated manuscripts, highlighting its strength and versatility. This material has revolutionized not only the clothing industry but also those of science and medicine.

Sports and Outdoor Clothing

Regarding sports and outdoor clothing, Gore-Tex® technology is widely used in various jackets and clothing items, as we have discussed in previous articles. Many of the brands we have reviewed, such as Arc’teryx, The North Face, Mammut, and Salomon, rely on Gore-Tex® for their technical fabric products.

The material’s exceptional properties make it an ideal choice for outdoor enthusiasts who require durable and reliable clothing.

Responsibility and Sustainability

Gore-Tex® places a significant emphasis on responsibility and sustainability, which is reflected in its brand values. They provide an annual update on their environmental and social projects, demonstrating their commitment to sustainability.

Additionally, they are founding members of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and utilize the Higg Index. By prioritizing sustainability, Gore-Tex® is setting an example for the fashion industry and demonstrating the importance of responsible practices.

6. Conclusions

Gore-Tex® has earned a global reputation for its innovative features, making it one of the most popular materials for protecting against extreme climates and conditions. Their motto, “Guaranteed to keep you dry,” is a testament to the material’s effectiveness.

Gore-Tex® is not only used in outdoor clothing but also in various medical applications and the aerospace industry. Its versatility and durability have made it a go-to material for a wide range of industries.

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