Gore-Tex and Gore-Tex Pro differ in how they are constructed, but “Pro” is not necessarily better. Both are still used, because they have different purposes, so this article looks at the differences between classic Gore-Tex and Gore-Tex Pro.
The underlying technology of Gore-Tex is a membrane, made by stretching PTFE (Teflon) into a membrane, with pores 20,000 times smaller than a water droplet, but 700 times larger than a water molecule. Water droplets cannot get in, but water vapour can get out. That makes it waterproof and breathable.
This membrane is sandwiched between a durable outer “face” material, and a “backer” inner lining. The choice of these materials - and the way that the membrane is bonded to them - makes each type of Gore-Tex perform differently.
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Gore-Tex vs Gore-Tex Pro: Layering
- In 2-layer construction, the Gore-Tex membrane is only bonded to the outer material. The inner liner is not bonded to the membrane, but suspended on the inside. An insulating layer can be inserted between the membrane and the liner. Durable, comfortable, and good for cold-weather activities when insulated.
- In 3-layer construction, the Gore-Tex membrane is bonded to the outer material and the inner material. This reduces movement between layers and protects the membrane. More durable and less bulky than 2-layer Gore-Tex, for technical hard-shell garments.
- In 2.5-layer construction, the outer material is bonded to the membrane, and a thin inner layer is attached (but not bonded) to the inside. It’s light-weight and packable.
- In Z-liner construction, both sides of the Gore-Tex membrane are bonded to an extra buffer-material. This “Z-layer” sits between the outer material and the inner line, but bonded to neither. The Z-layer moves freely, so the fabric is less durable, but require less seams. Used for fashion, rather than technical, garments.
What Is Gore-tex Pro?
Standard Gore-Tex is available in all layering options, but Gore-Tex Pro is only ever 3-layered.
Gore-Tex uses Polyurethane as the inner lining, but Gore-Tex Pro uses a Micro-Grid backer. This snags less than Polyurethane, is lighter, and allows water vapour to escape more easily. In addition, Gore-Tex Pro only uses the hardest materials for its outer “face” layer. The result is a lighter, technical, more rugged and breathable fabric, which slides easily over clothing worn underneath.
Gore-Tex vs Gore-Tex Pro: Which Should I Buy?
Gore-Tex is more versatile than Gore-Tex Pro, and used in all-round garments. With the 2 or 2.5-layer versions, Gore-Tex can keep you warm, and the 3-layer version is high-performing, durable, reliable and breathable. Classic, 3-layer Gore-Tex is perfect for heavy-duty, waterproof clothing for backpacking, hiking, and even fishing or golfing. It will keep you comfortable and dry in every part of the UK, in all seasons.
Gore-Tex Pro is for high-intensity activities, in extreme environments with lots of wind, rain or snow, and where you might tear the fabric. That makes it suitable for stop-start activities like ski-mountaineering and winter ascents in places like the Cairngorms, Highlands or the Alps
Gore-Tex Pro clothing is more expensive, with more technical features like helmet-compatible hoods and toggles. It is only every a hard outer-shell, and will always require pairing with mid-layers. Gore-Tex original is more affordable, with more useful features and variations, including insulated versions.
Gore-Tex vs Gore-Tex Pro: Summary
Gore-Tex and Gore-Tex Pro do different things. Gore-Tex Pro is expensive, and good for specialists activities. Gore-Tex is more affordable, and suited to more general use.