We’ve already extolled the virtues of Gore-Tex in outdoor gear for keeping rain off and preventing sweat from building up inside your hiking clothes. This ever-present breathable waterproof fabric shows up in the best hiking boots, waterproof jackets and ski gloves and many view it as a mark of reliable protection from the elements. But if you’ve been browsing outdoor gear at all, you’ve likely noticed that there are several types of Gore-Tex membrane and you’re perhaps wondering how they differ. In this article, we take a look at four main types of Gore-Tex and describe which activities they’re best suited for.
This original Gore-Tex membrane devised in 1969 is 100% waterproof and will come with a tag reading “Guaranteed to keep you dry”. This is a lightweight, durable membrane that can be used in all kinds of garments for many types of activities. This membrane won’t become breathable until your sweat reaches the inner membrane, which is typically when you need it to start breathing for you anyway. For most hiking and outdoor activities, Gore-Tex provides ample protection.
Introduced in 2012, the Pro membrane is geared toward professional athletes and mountaineers exploring in the toughest conditions, and Gore-Tex states that this is their most rugged membrane. In addition to being 100% waterproof, the Pro doesn’t require any moisture to become breathable, it is totally windproof and extra stretchy and durable. This is what you need for gnarly mountaineering expeditions.
Gore-Tex Active has largely superseded the Paclite membrane, which was so lightweight it was fragile, and is again waterproof, but much thinner and lighter weight than the original membrane. With lots of stretch and increased breathability, the Active membrane is really designed for those of you who love to go fast and sweat hard in all conditions. It’s also ultra packable so you can tuck it into your backpack or running belt with ease. The price for the lighter weight, however, is less durability, but since you’re unlikely to wear this for scrambling, that won’t matter. Look for Gore-Tex Active garments for high-aerobic activities like trail running and cross country skiing.
The one type of Gore-Tex that isn’t waterproof is the Gore-Tex Infinium membrane. Infinium is merely water resistant, but it is much more breathable in return. It is also completely windproof so if you wear garments with Infinium on cold but dry adventures or in garments meant to be mid-layers, you’ll enjoy maximum breathability with great protection from any nasty windchill.
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.