Editor's note: Robert W. Gore, the creator of the game-changing waterproof-breathable fabric that is Gore-Tex, has passed away at the age of 83. Gore was president of W. L. Gore & Associates for almost 25 years and company chairman for 30 years, but his biggest mark on the outdoor industry dates back to 1969.
That year, at a lab in Delaware, Gore discovered that by yanking PTFE (a.k.a. polytetrafluoroethylene, a.k.a. DuPont's Teflon), he could expand the polymer by 1,000 percent, creating ePTFE, a microporous structure that laid the groundwork for the birth of Gore-Tex technology seven years later.
The man and the company never looked back, as the fabric revolutionized an industry and is probably at work right now in your favorite snow jacket or hiking shoes. We at Gear Patrol mourn Gore's death, celebrate his life and revisit this Gore-Tex Pro story from last year, a prime example of how the brand continues to innovate to this day.
Outdoor enthusiasts know Gore-Tex has long been the leader in foul-weather protection — and Gore-Tex Pro is the brand’s highest-performing fabric. Targeted at the extreme end user and the outdoor professional, garments with this ingredient offer unparalleled protection, durability and breathability. And next year the material is going to be even better.
We journeyed to Banff, Alberta, Canada for Gore-Tex’s global announcement of the next generation of Gore-Tex Pro fabric. Three new advancements will be rolled out in the fall of 2020 across Gore’s premium Pro line aimed at making their high-end Pro garments more durable, more breathable and more mobile. Gore-Tex has branded the three technologies most rugged, most breathable and stretch. The announcement marks a significant step forward for Gore-Tex, as the past six years have been relatively quiet on the innovation front for Gore outerwear, while competitors such as The North Face’s Futurelight took center stage.
The most interesting and noticeable of the three advancements is Gore-Tex stretch. Historically, adding stretch to fabric meant compromising durability. Using a completely new process, Gore adds a thin layer of elastane between the face textile and updated membrane. This allows the use of a more durable woven face textile, protecting the stretch component from the elements and resulting in a fabric that has 20 percent stretch while maintaining exceptionally high durability.
To achieve what the brand calls “the most durable laminate Gore-Tex has ever made in the mountain sports category,” Gore developed a new membrane technology and paired it with 70-to-200 denier face textile. This new membrane, which is also used in stretch, carries a reduced environmental footprint over the current Pro garments by using a solution-dyed face and backer textiles.
For highly aerobic activity, most breathable is the same membrane that’s currently used in Gore-Tex Pro, but with a new lighter 30-denier face and lighter, solution-dyed backer. It’s the lightest laminate the brand has ever produced.
What does all this new tech mean for the consumer? Next fall, buyers can get a more activity-specific Gore-Tex Pro jacket. Gore partners, such as Arc’teryx, Patagonia and Mountain Hardwear can piece together the three new technologies into one Gore-Tex Pro garment based on the needs of the athlete to meet the demands of the extreme situations and environments. We can hardly wait.