Sunday, November 7, 2010

Super Fabric: Gore-Tex

      Gore-Tex is used in many products these days, from hats to boots.  It is one of the original technical fabrics and now has a few different variations.  Billed as a "waterproof and breathable" fabric, it allows the moisture vapor from the body to escape through tiny holes throughout the fabric that are too small to allow larger water molecules such as rain or snow through.  Many companies these days have their own versions of 'breathable fabrics' such as Marmot and The North Face.  While these items are cheaper then 'Gore-Tex' made products, they still don't quite compare. 

     When shopping for a water/wind-proof outer shell jacket I definitely suggest Gore-Tex.  Gore-Tex offers four variations when it comes to their outerwear;
  • Performance Shell: For everyday outdoor activities.  It is water/windproof and is the most versatile of the group.
  • Paclite: Jackets made from Paclite are just that; light, and can pack up into little spaces.  This is my favorite variation for New Yorker's as it fits in your ECB relatively well, and it makes a great rain/wind protecting outer shell.
  • Soft Shell: This version is helpful as it allows you to skip carrying extra layers.  It is water/windproof with the added benefit of being lined for warmth on the inside.  I personally like having a few layers, as it allows me to 'fine tune' my clothing's 'microclimate', so I'm not very fond of this type of Gore-Tex.
  • Pro Shell: Jackets made from this are for extreme conditions.  It has a two or three layer version.  Though most New Yorker's would not see the conditions these jackets are made for, they are a great investment as they will last a long-time, and are durable as hell.  Jackets made from this type of Gore-Tex tend to be expensive, but are worth the investment if you are often outdoors in the cold, you ski, or your an avid hiker/backpacker.
      Gore-Tex fabrics can be found in many boots, and shoes these days too.  I suggest any boots that you buy for hiking and backpacking have some form of Gore-Tex in them, as it can make a really big difference.  You find Gore-Tex in running sneakers these days, and though it is a nice touch, I feel it is an unnecessary cost to an already expensive product.  Running sneakers with Gore-Tex are for people who do a lot of trail running, not street runners.  There are a few different versions of Gore-Tex fabrics made for footwear;
  • Extended: This is for running and trail running type shoes.  It is meant for high activity in warmer climates.
  • Performance: This type of Gore-Tex is made for shoes that you would wear to get around town, or for light hiking.  It is by far the most versatile of the group, and is great for shoes or boots that you wear often.  Shoes made of this type of Gore-Tex are what I wear most of the year.
  • Insulated: This is the Gore-Tex fabric that you would look for in a hiking or backpacking boot.  This makes those big, bulky boots much more comfortable, breathable, and waterproof.  Never buy your hiking boots without it!  I will be doing a post on what makes a good hiking, and backpacking boot soon.
     You can also find Gore-Tex in items like hats, and gloves, but I still prefer some of the good ol' reliable fabrics like wool for those items.  You can read what I suggest for a hat here.  And you can read my post on my suggested layered glove system here.  Gore-Tex gloves are convenient and I definitely love how functional they are, but I still prefer the system I linked above. 

     As you can tell if you read this blog often, I'm a big fan of Gore-Tex.  In my opinion it really is a "super fabric" and once you own a product with a Gore-Tex fabric in it, you really start to appreciate how amazing it is.  You do pay for this technology though, as some Gore-Tex items can get pretty expensive.  It also needs a bit more maintenance to function properly.  The garment needs to be kept clean and free of dirt as to not block the small holes from doing their job and letting the moisture dissipate from your body.  You also need to replace the DWR (durable water repellent) coating on the outside of the item every few years which can be done by getting a simple to use spray.  Boots and shoes should be kept clean as well, and you should replace the DWR every six months.  I suggest buying a Gore-Tex coat and or pants for an outer shell, as its usefulness in and out of the city will be priceless.  As with everything else you buy in store and online, read the reviews and make sure the item is well made and worth the price.

     Here is a link to the Gore-Tex homepage if you would like more info.  The site lets you find what type of Gore-Tex product you want and gives you a list of all the companies that make it.  I suggest checking it out.  Below is the DWR that you spray on your product every few months, and soap you can use to clean them.


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