What do a 60-year-old birdwatcher and that cool streetwear guy you follow on Instagram have in common? Chances are, not a great deal. Until you begin to examine their choice of technical outerwear, that is. The answer is a Gore Tex jacket.
It’s a name you’ve no doubt seen stitched into the kind of gear worn by alpinists and hikers. But anyone with even a passing interest in fashion will have also spotted it cropping up under the banners of some of the world’s most distinguished and sought-after designer labels.
Fashion’s uncharacteristic obsession with utilitarian detail and outdoor clobber in recent years has created a perfect storm for this technical fabric to flourish. Partly because storms are what Gore-Tex deals with best, but also because the stuff is highly versatile, and just so happens to look the part when stitched together into an everyday wardrobe hero.
To bring you up to speed, here’s everything you need to know about the groundbreaking fabric, including what exactly it is and where to buy the best Gore Tex jackets for styling out the wet season.
What Is Gore Tex?
Created by father and son duo Wilbert and Bob Gore in 1969, Gore-Tex is a semi-permeable membrane that allows sweat to escape while remaining completely watertight. It does this by using microscopic pores that are 20,000 times smaller than a water droplet, but 700 times larger than a water vapour molecule.
The unparalleled functionality of Gore-Tex has made it the go-to fabric for performance, outerwear, and something of a byword for waterproof gear, whether deployed on shoes designed for climbing mountains or cool jackets . Think of it as what Heinz is to beans, or what Dyson is to vacuum cleaners that are fun to go around corners with.
There are plenty of variations of the fabric, too. Gore-Tex Pro, for example, boasts increased durability. You could probably blast it with a riot van water cannon for a month and it still wouldn’t let a drop through. Meanwhile, Gore-Tex Paclite and Gore-Tex Active provide lighter alternatives for outdoor workouts and day-to-day use.
The Best Gore Tex Jacket Brands
Scandanavians are no strangers to a bout of adverse weather. Perhaps that’s why they’re so good at making raincoats. Case in point: Haglöfs.
The Swedish outdoor brand is known for its innovative approach to staying dry. Streamlined cuts, technical details and supreme functionality are all par for the course. Look out for fusion designs incorporating more than one type of Gore-Tex fabric for increased performance out in the elements.
Still, if you’re willing to take the plunge, you’ll see why the best mountaineers, alpinists and athletes favor the Canadian brand’s minimalist jacket above any other. They’re made with surgical attention to detail, no unnecessary gimmicks and top-tier Gore-Tex materials as standard.
3. Nike ACG
Expect a mixed color palette of moody grey and shadowy black alongside fluorescent yellow and punchy pink. For Gore-Tex jackets with street appeal, you’d struggle to do better.
If you like the idea of superior build quality and attention to detail, but don’t want to walk around the city dressed like you’re on your way to go heli-skiing up the Matterhorn, Veilance is the solution.
The moody, minimalist arm of revered Canadian outdoors label
5. The North Face
Arguably the biggest name in outdoor gear, Gore-Tex jackets have become something of a calling card for The North Face.
The Californian label has been making waterproof outerwear for decades, which over the years have been bolstered by a number of high-profile hookups. There’s a long-running collaboration with hallowed skate brand Supreme, as well as The North Face Purple Label, a Japan-exclusive line with fellow Gore-Tex lovers Nanamica. If you’re looking for a brand to blame for fashion’s appropriation of dog-walking jackets, TNF is a good place to start.
Want to stay dry and do your bit for sustainability, too? A Gore-Tex jacket from Patagonia should do the trick.
The Californian outdoor brand has long been celebrated for its commitment to ethical and environmentally friendly production techniques. Couple that with a knack for a good fit and a dose of retro styling and you’re onto a winner.
Hailing from the outerwear-obsessed nation of Japan, Nanamica is a label that has garnered praise for its masterful fusion of casual and technical.
The brand’s key pieces are its Gore-Tex jackets. Often constructed using Gore-Tex and employing techniques usually reserved for performance gear, these are garments built to withstand anything a mountain could throw at them but with styling that wouldn’t look out of place down the pub.
Is Gore-Tex Waterproof?
In a word, yes. Gore-Tex is waterproof. That little detail is the brand’s number-one selling point. However, while a Gore-Tex jacket will never let water through, the outer layer must have its durable water repellent (DWR) coating refreshed every now and then if the liquids are to keep beading off like water off a duck’s back.
Not doing so won’t stop the jacket from being waterproof, it just means that the shell can become saturated and heavy in rainy conditions.
Are Gore-Tex Jackets Warm?
At their core, Gore-Tex jackets are made to protect you from wet conditions, rather than insulate you against the cold. If your’e wondering if Gore-Tex jackets are warm, remember that this material acts as a shell against wind, sleet, rain and snow. Gore-Tex fabrics will only be warm if there are a few internal layers to it.
Aside from throwing on a solid mid – layer when you don your Gore-Tex jacket, you’ll be able to find plenty of options that are designed as winter jackets, too. Whether they’re fleece lined or filled with down, there are heaps of Gore-Tex jackets out there that will keep you dry and warm… Talk about a double whammy!
How To Wash Gore-Tex Jackets
To keep your Gore-Tex jacket performing as it was intended, occasional washing is required.
To do so, ensure all zips are securely fastened and wash at 40 degrees with a small amount of liquid detergent.
For best results, air-dry the garment. Once it’s no longer wet, tumble dry it for 20 minutes. The heat will reactivate the DWR coating.
If the outer layer isn’t beading liquids, you can purchase a DWR and reapply it yourself. Beware not to use it if your jacket is made from Gore-Tex Shakedry, though, it’ll work just fine without it.
Things to Consider When Buying a Gore-Tex Jacket
Picking a men’s Gore-Tex jacket or Gore-Tex parka isn’t just about the fabric. There are a few other variables you’ll want to take into account when shopping for your new waterproof.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. That means, Gore-Tex or not, if there’s somewhere for water to get in, it still will.
A good Gore-Tex jacket will come equipped with waterproof, rubberised zippered pockets that lock the elements out, or at the very least, a storm flap that covers the zipper. That last thing you want is water pooling in your pockets.
You’ll even find some Gore-Tex jackets have different kinds of pockets like exterior pockets and even handwarmer pockets to keep your fingers cozy and dry.
Gore-Tex is highly breathable. However, if you’re going to be pushing your jacket to its limits by doing a HIIT workout up Ben Nevis, a little added breathability can help.
Pit zippers are an excellent way of letting some of the excess heat out, but make sure they’re watertight. Alternatively, some jackets use a mix of Gore-Tex and Gore-Tex Paclite to reduce weight and increase breathability in key areas, like the back and underarms.
Drawcords provide a handy way to tailor your jacket to your exact requirements. Examine the quality of the toggles and other hardware, as this is a good signifier of overall quality.
A good Gore-Tex jacket will have a drawcord at the hem and either one or two in the hood (one for adjusting the size of the hood from the back and another for decreasing and increasing the diameter of the face opening.)
4. Taped Seams
Gore-Tex may be fully waterproof, but unless the seams of the jacket itself are ‘taped’, the hundreds of holes left behind by stitching won’t be.
Taped seams – a process in which a machine melts a coating over the seams to seal them – prevent water from creeping in at a jackets weak points. If a Gore-Tex jacket doesn’t have them, don’t buy it. Simple.
There’s really no sense in purchasing a waterproof jacket without a hood, because when it comes pouring down, the last thing you’ll want is a soaking wet head of hair.
A good Gore Tex jacket will have a hood to lock in body heat and keep you dry from top to bottom. If you’re grabbing a Gore-Tex jacket to take to the slopes, it’s worth looking into a helmet-compatible hood, or at the very least, one with drawcords, as mentioned above.