Is Gore-Tex Breathable? Gore-Tex Breathability Ratings

Last Updated on 21/04/2022

is gore-tex breathable

Is Gore-Tex Breathable?

Is Gore-Tex breathable and is it really that much better than the alternatives? In this article, we found out once and for all whether Gore-Tex is breathable and just how breathable it is. We also clear up any confusion about what breathability actually means; it might not be what you think.

Gore-Tex is probably the most breathable and waterproof membrane on the market. That’s a bold statement but I challenge anyone to prove me wrong. 12 years of testing every type of waterproof fabric has taught me that while all waterproof fabrics perform fairly equally for the first few months, in the long run, there is only ever one winner.

Waterproof fabrics are great for keeping the weather out but they can be bad for trapping condensation on the inside. Breathability is key for things like waterproof jackets, pants, gloves, and footwear so that you don’t end up in a puddle of sweat. This is why Gore-Tex stands out among its rivals.

Gore-Tex is amazing in how it will not let water or air pass through but water vapor will travel freely through its billions of micropores. This means that you can be soaking wet before you put a Gore-Tex jacket on and even in the pouring rain your body heat will let you dry from the inside. The way this works is almost like magic and the reason it is used in so many different types of clothing. Further down the page, we share a video to demonstrate it.

What is the Most Breathable Gore-Tex?

The most breathable type of Gore-Tex is Gore-Tex Pro either with 2 layers or 3. A jacket made from Gore-Tex Pro Shell is one of the most breathable waterproof jackets available. It has a rough hydrostatic head rating of 28,000 mm of water and a breathability rating of 25,000 grams of water vapor per 24 hours. This is almost twice as breathable as Gore-Tex Paclite fabric.

Surprisingly the 2-layer Gore-Tex Pro material has the exact same ratings as the 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro fabric. The main difference is that 3 layer Gore-tex is more comfortable next to the skin and does a better job of wicking moisture towards the outer shell.

Gore-Tex Breathability Rating

All Gore-Tex fabrics have a waterproof rating of 28,000 mm which is significantly higher than almost all other materials. The breathability of the different variations of Gore-Tex does differ slightly as you can see below.

  • Gore-Tex Pro 2-Layer – 25,000  (g/m2/24 hours)
  • Gore-Tex Pro 3-Layer – 25,000 (g/m2/24 hours)
  • Gore-Tex Performance Shell – 17,000 (g/m2/24 hours)
  • Gore-Tex Paclite – 15,000 (g/m2/24 hours)

There is only one waterproof fabric that claims to be more waterproof and more breathable than Gore-Tex Pro and that is Mountain Hardwear Dry. Q Elite. Apart from that though there is no fabric more waterproof and windproof. There are however more breathable types of fabric but you have to sacrifice the waterproofing. If you want both then Gore-Tex Pro is the best.

How Breathable Is Gore-Tex Paclite?

Gore-Tex Paclite is the least breathable of all the different Gore-Tex variations out there. It has a breathability rating of 15,000 grams of water vapor per square meter of material over 24 hours. The main benefit of Paclite is that it is incredibly lightweight and packs down very small which makes it perfect for keeping in your bag when there is a chance of rain.

How Breathable Is Gore-Tex Pro?

Gore-Tex Pro is the most waterproof and breathable type of waterproof fabric out there and has a breathability rating of 25,000 grams of water vapor per 24 hours. That means that it will allow more water vapor to escape and also that it can escape much faster. Even when it is raining hard and you start to sweat inside a Gore-Tex Pro jacket, water vapor will escape so that you don’t get wet.

what is gore-tex waterproof material

How is Gore-Tex Breathability Measured?

Contrary to what many people think, fabric breathability is not about whether air can pass through it. It is about whether water vapor can. Water vapor is basically the perspiration from your body that needs to escape. As you sweat this will build on the inside of your garment unless it is breathable.

Breathability ratings are measured in grams and relate directly to the moisture vapor transmission rate (MVTR) which values how much water vapor will pass through a square meter of material in 24 hours.

Just like the waterproofing claims you see some brands make, you should be equally as cautious about breathability ratings. Gore-Tex doesn’t explicitly list these ratings on their website as they test their products differently from most. If brands are testing their own products in-house then any numbers they give should really be proven independently as well.

Breathability tests are often held in labs or under controlled conditions but in the real world, there are factors that will impact Gore-Tex breathability. Things like the weather, temperature, air pressure, humidity, altitude, and what you are wearing underneath can all have a big impact on how well a fabric breathes. For this reason, it is best to use breathability ratings as a signal of the level of breathability but not the deciding factor.

What is 10K Breathability?

The breathability measurement of 10K means that an average of 10,000 grams of water vapor can pass through a square meter of fabric within a 24-hour period. This is obviously far more than you will ever likely need as it would require drinking a lot of water just to stay hydrated. If a piece of waterproof clothing has 10K breathability it is a good sign you won’t be dripping in sweat.

What is 20K Breathability?

If a waterproof jacket is rated as having 20K breathability this means that an average of 20,000 grams of water vapor can pass through a square meter of fabric within a 24-hour period. This is obviously far more than you will ever likely need as it would require drinking a lot of water just to stay hydrated. If a piece of waterproof clothing has 20K breathability it is a good sign that it is very breathable.

Is There Anything More Breathable Than Gore-Tex?

You can get fabric that is more waterproof than Gore-Tex just like you can get fabric that is more breathable than Gore-Tex. But if you try and find an alternative to Gore-Tex that is both more breathable and more waterproof you most likely spend hours looking. Save yourself the time and stick with Gore-Tex.

There is one brand that claims to have beaten the Gore-Tex Pro membrane with a waterproof rating of 40,000 mm and a breathability rating of 30,000 g/m2/24 hours. We have not tested this particular fabric although we would guess that if anything it is equal to Gore-Tex Pro but find it hard to believe the numbers.

Other alternatives to Gore-Tex include:

  • eVent
  • Pertex
  • DRYTech
  • Dry Q
  • h2No
  • Analogy by Nikwax

Is Gore-Tex Really Breathable?

When we compare our Gore-Tex jackets to our other alternatives it is obvious to us that Gore-Tex is more breathable. Even when we match the Gore-Tex Paclite with the most similar alternative Pertex Shield the difference is obvious as soon as you start to get slightly warmer. To show just how breathable is, check out this video to show how easily water vapor can pass but air and water cannot.

Gore-Tex is the premium material for waterproof and breathable outdoor wear although it is expensive. If you want the best though then you should think of it as more of an investment.

We hope we answered your question, is gore-tex breathable, but feel free to leave your questions in the comments.


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This article has been written and/or edited by Andrew N. 20+ years of hiking, mountaineering, and camping experience, with access to all the latest outdoor gear.

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