Last Updated on 26/01/2022
Gore-Tex is arguably the most well-known waterproof material in the world, but what is Gore-Tex used for? Gore-Tex is found in almost any waterproof garment, from jackets to pants, and even hats and socks. It’s chosen for its durable waterproof qualities, as well as the fact that it is lightweight and breathable.
Gore-Tex is one of the most well-known and best performing waterproof membranes used in outdoor clothing. The one-way membrane sits between layers of fabrics, preventing raindrops from entering the jacket while letting body vapor evaporate.
In this article, we will look at what Gore-Tex is used for and why it’s the popular choice for most waterproof garments.
What is Gore-Tex used for?
There are a lot of waterproof materials on the market, but of all of those, what is Gore-Tex used for?
The most common use of Gore-Tex is in waterproof jackets. These range from lightweight waterproofs that can scrunch into the smallest backpack, all the way to heavyweight skiing or mountaineering jackets.
Gore-Tex can be bonded to the other layers of fabric in various ways. This might be just to the outer layer, or to both the outer and inner layer, or to neither, sitting as a floating layer. This variety means that a Gore-Tex membrane works well with shell jackets, as well as those with inner linings or insulation.
Chances are that if you’re wearing rain pants, you’re probably working quite hard. The breathability of Gore-Tex is essential to prevent your legs from getting soaked from sweat as you hike up a mountain or through a trail. As with jackets, rain pants benefit from the range of thicknesses and linings that work with Gore-Tex.
The development of a Gore-Tex membrane perhaps had the most radical impact on footwear. Prior to this, if you wanted a pair of waterproof boots you relied on heavy-duty leather. Okay, so there were canvas boots, but these weren’t as durable or as waterproof as leather.
The addition of a Gore-Tex membrane within the layers of footwear has broadened shoe design to include more ventilation as well as softer materials, like nubuck. When you’re active on the trail, your feet are likely to sweat a lot, so knowing you have a waterproof, breathable pair of trail shoes is a bonus.
Wearing the hood of your rain jacket may end up being more inconvenient than comfortable. Okay, there’s a time and a place for them, but sometimes we want to be able to hold conversations or have a little more freedom of movement than hoods can allow.
A hat with a Gore-Tex lining is an easy way to make sure your head stays warm and dry, but without having a hood flapping about your ears, or blinkering your vision. It also helps that a Gore-Tex hat will allow your head to breathe as you exert yourself. Of course, in really heavy rain, or high winds, you may want your hood up as extra protection.
If you’ve ever had to endure a day out on the trail, or mountain, with cold water dripping from the ends of your fingers, then you will appreciate a good pair of waterproof gloves. If your waterproof gloves don’t breathe properly, there’s a good chance that your hands will sweat and cool down throughout the day.
Gore-Tex gloves are particularly popular with mountaineers and ski-mountaineers. Not only are they dry all day, but the breathability keeps your hands warmer and more usable. The additional benefit is that if your hands get wet and you put them back into your gloves, the moisture can evaporate through the Gore-Tex pores, rather than being trapped.
Waterproof socks? But we’ve just looked at how good Gore-Tex is for waterproof footwear? It’s true. If you have Gore-Tex footwear, the chances are you won’t need to wear Gore-Tex socks. However, if you have non-waterproof shoes on, you can quickly change to keep your feet dry by putting on some waterproof socks.
One sport where Gore-Tex socks are extremely popular is mountain biking. A lot of mountain bike shoes are made from canvas and are not waterproof, but biking with cold, wet feet is an easy way to lose feel and control. A pair of breathable Gore-Tex socks can make or break your day.
If you’re not sure what a Bivvy bag is, they’re a lightweight shelter that can be used, in some instances, in place of a tent. Bivvy bags range from open-necked sacks, to fully zipped in bags, and even those with hooped ends like a miniature tent.
With your entire body and sleeping system inside the bag, there’s a lot of body heat and potential vapor for your bivvy bag to contend with. A Gore-Tex lining not only keeps the weather out, but you get a dry and condensation-free night.
Why is Gore-Tex So Good for Outdoor Gear?
Gore-Tex has perhaps the best waterproof to weight ratio on the market. It is one of the only fabrics with a guarantee, too. You know when you buy Gore-Tex that you’re getting a quality waterproof garment.
If you’re working hard, you’re liable to get as wet from the inside as you would from the outside. A breathable jacket lets your body breathe and carries water vapor away. This means you stay dry and your insulation or wicking layers work as they should regulate your body temperature.
The rigorous testing that Gore-Tex equipment goes through ensures that it will withstand the test of time. Garments that want to carry the Gore-Tex branding have to be sent to Gore for quality testing. This testing includes stress testing, abrasion resistance testing, and quality control of the taped seams.
Okay, so there are materials that are lighter than Gore-Tex that is fully waterproof, like dollar garbage sacks. But if we’re talking about quality, breathable, waterproof fabric, Gore-Tex is one of, if not the best qualities for the weight of the material. The full weight of the garment will depend on other features and fabrics, but Gore-Tex itself is lightweight.
Gore put all potential jackets bearing the Gore-Tex branding through rigorous testing for both quality and durability. This means that you can be sure that your jacket is going to stand the test of time. Gore-Tex has a waterproof guarantee, too, so any garment can be returned within the lifetime of the product.
Why is Gore-Tex Waterproof?
We’ve talked a lot in this article about the Gore-Tex membrane, but how does Gore-Tex membrane work?
Gore-Tex membrane is made from expanded PTFE, also known as Teflon. In an expanded PTFE membrane, there are more than 9 million pores per square inch. This means they’re tiny.
The pores are so tiny in fact, that they are around 2000 times smaller than a normal water molecule. However, they are also 700 times larger than a molecule of water vapor. This means that rain cannot penetrate the membrane, but water vapor can escape the other way, making the jacket both waterproof and breathable.