Not all Gore-tex is the same.
Gore-tex is one of the leading producers of waterproof fabrics for garments and they produce a range of ‘membranes’ suited to different conditions, here’s what you need to know:
Gore-tex Active – durably waterproof, windproof and extremely breathable, the most breathable fabric Gore-tex makes. Garments are generally lightweight with excellent next to skin comfort. Most suited to trail running, mountain biking, fast moving, strenuous uphill.
Gore-Tex Pro – durably waterproof, windproof and highly breathable, they combine comfort with reliable weather protection even during extended periods in extreme weather. Garments tend to be extremely rugged and durable. Most suited to mountaineering, climbing, extended treks, intense activities.
Gore-Tex Paclite - garments are durably waterproof, totally windproof and very breathable. Designed to be extremely lightweight they are so versatile that you can use them across a spectrum of sports such as hiking, trekking, trail running and mountain biking. The lightest weight Gore-Tex jacket will be made with Paclite.
Gore-tex C-Knit - GORE-TEX® products with GORE® C-KNIT™ Backer Technology are 100 percent windproof and waterproof, yet lighter, more breathable and softer than comparable previous generation products. The increased breathability and softer feel is achieved through a revolutionary backer construction made of an extremely fine nylon circular knit fabric and a lamination procedure specifically engineered to complement this construction. Gore-Tex aren’t saying how breathability compares to other products such as Gore-Tex Active.
Polartec Alpha – Breathable Synthetic Insulation
Before the advent of this technology clothing which used synthetic insulation could get clammy and even damp if you were working hard and producing heat, causing you to cool down rapidly when you stopped. Polartec Alpha is a highly breathable alternative which keeps you warm without causing clamminess.
· Fluffy, open-weave internal pile allows moisture out
· Outer fabric is also highly breathable
· Not as warm as traditional synthetic insulation but much better for strenuous activity
‘Alpha Direct’ is the latest version of Polartec Alpha and is more durable than standard Alpha making it more flexible when incorporated into garments.
Read more about Polartec Alpha here.
Rab's Proflex fabric – Hardshell performance with a softshell ‘feel’
Currently featuring in Rab’s Kinetic Plus jackets this new fabric is remarkable, it has the stretch and soft feel of a 'softshell' fabric but it’s fully waterproof and very highly breathable. We’ve tested it in Iceland & Scotland and can confirm its performance and comfort – it also comes in at a reasonably low weight making it an exceptional all-rounder.
Berghaus ‘Reflect’ technology
An additional reflective layer adds 20% to performance. Berghaus have started adding a reflective mesh layer to some of their insulating garments which they makes the jacket 20% warmer compared to the same jacket without the reflective mesh, adding very little to the weight of the garment.
Hydrophobic Down – Down that is treated to make it perform better when wet
Hydrophobic down has been treated with a durable water repellent that enables the down to dry quicker and resist water for longer, meaning it will perform better in damp conditions. This makes down jackets that utilise hydrophobic down more versatile, as they can be used in cold, damp conditions without being damaged, which is great for the British climate.
There seems to be no weight penalty or other compromises with Hydrophobic down versus regular down, though there may be a slight price difference.
3m Featherless synthetic insulation that acts like ‘down’
Gear junkies will know that down still offers the best warmth to weight ratio and packability of all the insulation options, but synthetic fibres are catching up. 3M’s Featherless insulation is made up of synthetic fibres that act like down in the way they loft and the way they are loosely filled into garments.
Just like down these fibres need space to ‘loft’ and garments are constructed with baffles in much the same way as down garments are made. Insulation value is reportedly comparable to 650 Fill Power down so you get the warmth and performance of a down jacket without the drawbacks of down which can be problematical if it gets wet.
3M Featherless may be called by different names by different brands – RAB calls it ‘Cirrus’ but Marmot refer to it as ‘Featherless’. Other options are available such as Quadfusion Mimic from Haglofs and Polarloft from Mountain Equipment.