GORE-TEX is synonymous with reliable storm protection. GORE literally pioneered the waterproof, breathable membrane technology that dominates the outerwear we all use, but understanding all of the GORE options takes some research. How much do you know about all the variations of GORE-TEX? Read on to learn the details about the GORE variations as well as the latest on the newest GORE PRO options, the highest performing membrane in GORE’s product line.
GORE-TEX is a Laminate
GORE-TEX is a material made by laminating a waterproof yet microporous membrane to a face fabric. The actual GORE membrane is incredibly thin and allows water vapor to pass out while not allowing water in. There are three primary GORE-TEX constructions:
2-Layer (2L) – Uses a two-layer sandwich of face fabric+membrane plus a non-laminated lining layer, often mesh, nylon or microfiber. GORE-TEX 2L can be paired with insulation and is generally warmer, heavier, and less expensive than 3L or 2.5L versions.
2.5-Layer (2.5L) – Uses a two-layer sandwich with a face fabric+membrane plus a spray-on or printed backer to add durablity to the membrane. It’s the lightest of the three constructions.
3-Layer (3L) – Uses a full three-layer sandwich with face fabric+membrane+knit backer. GORE-TEX 3L is the classic unlined, uninsulated shell. It the most durable of the three constructions and is lighter than 2L.
Which GORE-TEX is for You?
In addition to the three laminate types, GORE-TEX comes in a variety of performance levels: PRO, Paclite, Paclite +, Active and SHAKEDRY. PRO is the most durable version of GORE-TEX. Paclite is all about being lightweight and packable. Paclite+ is a more durable version of Paclite. Active is the most breathable version of 3L. And SHAKEDRY is the lightest and most breathable of them all, but it’s also less durable.
Most GORE-TEX outerwear for skiing is either regular GORE-TEX (2L or 3L), PRO (3L) or Active. Paclite (2.5L) and SHAKEDRY are typically specialty styles used for running and cycling. They can be used for skiing, it’s just that they are less durable than the alternatives.
GORE PRO 2.0
PRO is GORE’s most durable construction. And by durable, we’re talking durable weather resistance plus overall material durability. Until recently, the nature of the GORE PRO membrane meant it was paired with burly fabrics that made for a stiff, crinkly feel and somewhat heavier feel, while the other GORE products evolved to be lighter and easier moving. Now, GORE has applied much of the same lighter, stretchier, more breathable tech to their PRO level membrane and have three distinct PRO 2.0 variations: PRO rugged, PRO stretch and PRO breathable. The breathable and stretch varieties use lighter materials without compromising on the durability of the PRO products, while the rugged variation is even more rugged than ever.
In other words, GORE PRO is evolving to be have more stretch, be more breathable and more rugged than previous versions all while being lighter and easier moving. And all three PRO variations can be combined into a single jacket or pair of pants to cater to its end use. For example, a jacket could feature stretch across the back, increased breathability in the core, and rugged durability in the sleeves.
Choosing the Right Shell Jacket
While I am a strong advocate for backcountry skiing in softshells and other breathable outerwear as much as possible, I always pack a waterproof/breathable shell for windy ridge tops, stormy conditions and as backup. The first step to choosing the right backcountry ski shell is understanding the various waterproof, breathable techs on the market. There are many options, but GORE is generally regarded as the standard to which all others are measured.
Armed with the knowledge of GORE-TEX levels, choosing the right jacket for backcountry skiing comes down to a few easy to consider factors:
Weight – If you have the luxury of choosing a dedicated touring shell, the lighter the better. 3L is the construction of choice for a backcountry ski shell. If you need a jacket that will handle lift-serve and backcountry, look at heavier designs that offer more features and potentially durability depending on the materials used.
Breathability – Breathability makes a difference. GORE Active and GORE PRO breathe better than basic GORE options. The addition of pit-zip vents also makes a big difference, but zippers add weight and bulk.
Design simplicity – There is real beauty in design simplicity. It also directly impacts weight and packability. The more zippers, pockets, powder skirts, velcro flaps and corded adjustments, the more weight and the more stuff you have to deal with during transitions. Keep it simple and keep it light is my advice. Less is more when it comes to jackets for backcountry skiing. Look for a stripped down 3L design with two pockets and limited other features.
Here’s a collection of GORE-TEX jackets designed with backcountry skiing in mind:
Dynafit Radical GTX Jacket
Clean, simple, lightweight GORE 3L jacket, 13oz
Arcteryx Beta FL Jacket – $549
GORE PRO 2.0, Arcteryx’s lightest GORE shell at 12oz
Norrona Falketind Jacket – $469
Clean, simple, do-it-all GORE-TEX 3L shell, 16oz
Black Diamond Helio Active Jacket – $399
Lightweight GORE 3L Active shell, 13oz
Patagonia Ascensionist Jacket – $499
Lightweight GORE 3L Active shell, 13oz