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Gore-Tex Fabric Technology


It appears 1978 was one of the greatest years ever. Why? Two reasons really. The first is that my mommy gave birth to me in 1978, and a close second to that is the invention of Gore-Tex, the first truly waterproof and breathable fabric. Since that magical year, Gore continues to innovate products for outdoor enthusiasts with the latest and greatest technologies. If you're wondering why Gore-Tex finished second to my arrival on planet Earth, it's because I'm writing this. If Gore-Tex wants to take over this project for me, then he/she/it/they can be the first reason. That would give me a lot more time to look for great pictures of Athena Karkanis on the interweb. Sorry if this is the worst so far. On to the good stuff.
If you don't care to read all of it, here are the highlights. Click to skip right to your favorite part.

What the heck is a Gore-Tex fabric?

Gore-Tex fabrics are kind of like onions - they have layers. Not as many layers as an onion, but enough layers to keep you dry in wicked weather. Gore-Tex fabrics are created when the smart kids laminate a Gore-Tex membrane to another high-performance textile, and then seal them with the most logical, innovative solution for that fabrics intended application. The result is a Gore-Tex masterpiece that provides guaranteed waterproof protection. From water. So whether you're in the market for some Gore-Tex boots, a great Gore-Tex jacket, Gore-Tex pants, or other Gore-Tex rain gear, rest assured that the Gore-Tex construction you just paid a few extra bucks for will make you the coolest cat in the backcountry, and also keep you cozy and dry.

The Membrane

Membrane can be a really creepy and disgusting word in an anatomy class, but for our purposes here it's pretty awesome. A Gore-Tex membrane is the heart and soul of all Gore-Tex products, and when you look really close you'll notice it contains over 9 billion microscopic pores per square inch. That guy over there counted them. If you aren't up on pores, these pores are actually 20,000 times smaller than a water droplet, but 700 times larger that a water vapor molecule. I'll do the math for you - this makes a Gore-Tex membrane completely waterproof from the outside, while allowing perspiration to escape from the inside and frolic off into the wild. The Gore-Tex team also integrates an olephobic (oil-hating for peeps who prefer normal words and hyphens) substance into each membrane to prevent the penetration of body oils and insect repellents that could otherwise affect the membrane. These membranes got a job to do and cannot be bothered with our oils.

The Laminates

A supes cool Gore-Tex laminate is constructed by bonding the aforementioned Gore-Tex membrane between high-performance fabrics that offer incredible breathability. Always remember, all Gore-Tex fabrics are completely waterproof, windproof, and breathable. There's not a slacker in the bunch, no matter what fabrics are bonded to the membrane. Again, there are a number of different outer fabrics and fabric constructions available, so Gore-Tex outerwear pieces and footwear can be designed and crafted to accommodate what's most important to every outdoor dork including weight, texture, abrasion resistance, and so on.

The Seam Sealing

So seams are kind of necessary when building Gore-Tex goodies, which is unfortunate because they can compromise the water and liquid protective properties of the fabric. Seams and needle holes may be itty bitty, but they can and will still leak. Sorry about it. The Gore-Tex solution? Completely seal those suckers up.

Hi, Gore-Seam Tape. Welcome to the party. To maintain absolute waterproofness and liquid resistance, Gore-Tex uses this unique tape, backed by reliable Gore equipment and know-how I must add, to ensure that every single seam and tiny stitch hole is sealed. What's up waterproofness?

Gore-Tex never assumes their tapes are as cool as they can be, so they continue to research and innovate taping and sealing techniques to help improve garments by means including reducing weight, refining their drape, and increasing durability. Gore-Tex minds rarely allow themselves to rest, but when they do they dream of ways to continually improve the fabrics, tapes and sealing techniques. And cuties. There are cuties wearing Gore-Tex outerwear in the dreams instead of dorks in lab coats.

How the heck does Gore-Tex work?

I don't know. But I'm reading up on it right now and will try to answer that question for you. It's gotta be in here somewhere. For starters, other technical fabrics lose their effectiveness when subjected to hard use, extreme conditions, and frequent washings. Gore-Tex fabrics don't play that. Each piece of Gore-Tex is designed to be durably waterproof, windproof, and breathable while maintaining performance and reliability for the life of the end product. That's a pretty bold statement, so let's back this up with some cold hard facts. You will quickly learn the Gore-Tex membrane has a lot to do with all of this.

The Waterproof Thing

Remember the Gore-Tex membrane talk we had earlier? If not, here is some of the most important stuff. A Gore-Tex membrane features a microporous structure that makes the fabrics completely waterproof. Each microscopic pore is approximately 20,000 times smaller that a drop of water, so that means water and other external moisture simply cannot penetrate the membrane. So whether you're playing in the rain and snow, or jumping in puddles, your Gore-Tex outerwear and footwear is going to keep you dry. Quick reference: Membrane = waterproof.

The Windproof Thing

The work of the Gore-Tex membrane does not stop with the waterproof thing, for you see, the Gore-Tex membrane is also engineered to create an impenetrable shield from windy conditions to keep your hot bod warm, comfy, and protected in the windiest of conditions. The windchill effect can be a bitch. Here's what happens - when cold air creeps into your outerwear and clothing it steals the heat from your body's sensitive microclimate. Microclimates are my favorite climates. Windproof Gore-Tex jackets and outerwear keep that rocking microclimate of yours protected and toasty warm by keeping the wind out. Quick reference Part II: Membrane = windproof.

The Breathable Thing

So Gore-Tex keeps out the water and wind, but what about letting perspiration out? It has to do with pores again. The Gore-Tex membrane features pores that are 700 times larger than a water vapor molecule, so that perspiration can easily evaporate through the Gore-Tex fabric and help you stay dry from the inside out. So nice of you to share your perspiration with the world. I find breathability to be really important when I'm active, both my ability to breathe and the ability of my outerwear to breathe, so the breathability of Gore-Tex is pretty great. Quick reference Part C: Membrane = breathable.

Earlier I wrote that the Gore-Tex membrane is "the heart and soul of all Gore-Tex products," and I meant it dammit. Combine the membrane with innovative laminates and a super wonderful seam sealing process, and you've got the most versatile technical fabric in the whole wide world. By keeping the elements out while provide awesome breathability, Gore-Tex outerwear has proven to be the most trusted pieces of outdoor enthusiasts all over the damn place, no matter what the activity. I wear my Gore-Tex jacket to golf in the rain, take Fido out to make poopy when the weather sucks, or just kicking major ass in a water fight with the punk kids down the street. Losers.

Time to pass this on to the Pretty McCutes who makes Moosejaw.com hum along. She also cries a lot. Before we part ways, be sure to check out all the brilliant crap I wrote about Gore-Tex Outerwear and Gore-Tex Footwear. Or click on one of the categories below to find a Gore-Tex product you can grow old with. As if anyone is still reading. As if.


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