Living in the incredibly rainy city of Vancouver, I’m sure everyone around here has heard of Gore-Tex. However, for those of us who haven’t got the slightest clue to what that is, sit tight and read on for a quick background on this mystical waterproof material.
Gore-Tex was developed around the 1970′s and is actually a chemical constituent of Teflon (which is the coating you get on some pots and pans to prevent stick). Over the years, Gore-Tex has been used for a variety of applications, but it is most-well known for its use in breathable and waterproof gear. What makes Gore-Tex so effective is that the Gore-Tex material (or membrane as they call it) has billions and billions of pores that are 20,000 times smaller than a water droplet yet only 700 times larger than a water vapour molecule. Thus, the membrane effectively keeps out water but is still breathable.
That’s actually what they advertise on their website, but is it true? I’m sure many of you have bought jackets that advertise themselves as being completely waterproof and breathable but after you’ve worn it for a couple of times, you find that the waterproofness becomes less effective. I admit, I was a victim to this. However, it seems that the people at Gore-Tex aren’t messing about since they have a guarantee that their garments will keep you dry. If you aren’t satisfied with the waterproofness, windproofness, or breathability of one of their products, Gore-Tex will actually refund, replace, or repair that product. But this guarantee comes at a price; Gore-Tex jackets usually come with a pretty hefty price tag. But after getting sick of purchasing countless amounts of supposedly “waterproof” jackets which have failed, I decided to invest in a Gore-Tex jacket to test whether or not it’s as good as they make it out to be.
My first Gore-Tex purchase was an Arc’teryx Alpha SV waterproof shell. This is considered one of the most durable waterproof shell that Arc’teryx produces. It is built with the Gore-Tex Pro Shell, which is Gore-Tex’s top of the line material. I was lucky to snag it for $300 exactly ($650 full retail) and let me tell you this, Gore-Tex is not a joke.
This by far is the best jacket I have ever owned. You can blast this jacket with a hose and the water will literally slide right off (which is actually the first thing I did when I got the jacket). The construction of this jacket is tip top and it’s made in Canada unlike other jackets which resort to cheaper labour in third-world countries. The jacket is stitched together just like any other garments, but those stitches are sealed by a waterproof laminate to ensure no leakage. I wore the jacket everyday during the winter when rain poured every single day. And every single day the Gore-Tex never let me down. I am confident to say no other material can compete to Gore-Tex. Once it rains, the droplets of water actually bead on the jacket and slides off. It’s like the images you see of water droplets on leaves on the Discovery Channel. It’s windproofness is quite satisfactory as well. However, the jacket was designed for the most severe storms, and a little rain is just a joke. So, I decided to take the jacket and test it on the slopes of Grouse Mountain on a day where snow and rain met together with a fury. After 3 hours of snowboarding with limited visibility, I finally turned in to the lounge to relax. And after being so used to being damp from wearing incompetent jackets, I was extremely surprised to come away bone dry especially in the extreme conditions outside. There was absolutely no dampness at all which showed how breathable the jacket was. The water droplets on the jacket also dried off in a very short period as well. I was able to head back out in 15 minutes being completely dry and comfortable.
However, there are some drawbacks to the jacket. The jacket itself is nothing but a shell with no insulation. This is no problem on the slopes since you are constantly generating heat so a simple sweater underneath will do. But, just wearing a sweater underneath the jacket in 3 degrees doing casual activities is inadequate. Also, there is no powder skirt accompanying this specific jacket (other models have it though) and so powder will ultimately find its way underneath after a while. I countered this drawback by purchasing a Gore-Tex bib so my entire legs to torso was covered. Another thing as well, I find that the pockets are a bit awkwardly placed since they are placed in the centre of the chest instead of the typical side pockets.
But, with those design flaws aside, the Gore-Tex material itself definitely endured the Vancouver weather no problem. The Alpha SV jacket is actually $650 full price which is a bit too much in my opinion, but since I was lucky enough to snag it for $300, it is one of the best investments I have ever made. A lot of phony jackets with poor waterproofness may run up to $150 to $200 and I say chipping in an extra $100 for the Gore-Tex is well worth it. However, if you were to purchase a Gore-Tex jacket for $650, I definitely would not spend that amount on a simple shell but instead look at a warmer and waterproof alternative such as Canada Goose. You can also spend less for a lower-end Gore-Tex shell such as the Paclite or Soft shell which is cheaper yet suitable for Vancouver weather. To be honest though, if you have the money available and want an outerwear that will deliver, you can’t go wrong with Gore-Tex.