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Ultimate shielding protection: Gore-Tex clinic

Many brands have realized the value of Gore-Tex.

Stevens is getting dumped on. Alpental too. Baker might open this weekend. Do you know what you’re wearing when the hinterland throws a kickoff party like it’s 1999 (literally). In the NW’s heavy, wet snow conditions that’s probably going to be Gore-Tex.

A glutton for techy info, I got wind that Gore-Tex was presenting a clinic Tuesday night at REI, so I went just cause, you know, it was free.

Julie Hudetz, a Gore-Tex athlete, former mtber racer, pro cyclist, telemarker, etc., spoke for about an hour on the brand, products and testing. Gore-Tex, of course, is that membrane incorporated into the outer layers of clothing, and stitched right into shoes and gloves. It’s full of tiny holes so small that water doesn’t pass through, but that keep the garment breathable.

Julie also gave a snapshot of the scientific reasons for dressing as we do for winter. For example, women really do have colder feet and hands than men, she says, because the blood in women’s bodies linger around the core, away from the extremities. Also, most of the body’s sweat glands are in the head, hands, feet and hip-region. But you were probably privy to that one already.

Above, that’s a Gore-Tex membrane. Thumbs up for staying dry.

At the Gore-Tex labs, headquartered in Maryland, products go through extensive testing: torture chambers, rain rooms, a Martindale test, during which wool or sandpaper is scratched for hours on the fabric to test its durability. You can see the intensity of it all here. Gore-Tex maintains their “Guaranteed to Keep You Dry” slogan by not only testing a product for waterproofness and breathability, but also its overall design. I.e. do the zippers allow water to seep through, etc? And they require their licensees to comply with that standard. That is, when a company wishes to make, say, a jacket with Gore-Tex, they’ve got to submit the prototype for rigorous testing, as well as a sample after production for the same review and Gore-Tex’s approval.

Beyond all that, Gore-Tex makes also the WindStopper fabric—pure salvation in the base layers. We experimented with spraying cold air on a regular fleece mit and then a WindStopper one. The difference was paramount. If you’re aware of the waterproofing power of Gore-Tex, translate that to wind-shielding power in a Windstopper fleece. Above, on the right, you can see the body heat protected a Windstopper fabric in relation to one without.

Of course, you’re going to pay for this all this technology, as well. But splurging on one or two necessary items really is going to make the difference in this NW neck. Nobody likes a debbie-downer when the elements kick in. What you may not know is that those high-priced pieces are hand stitched, some requiring four hours of labor for a single jacket. That labor is factored into the price.

The fact is, as of now Gore-Tex has the testing infrastructure, resources and deep history of research to create products that little, if no companies can compete with. And more and more, brands are signing on to incorporate the Gore-Tex material, e.g. POW Gloves, who just locked in a partnership for 2012.

It’s a cool thing what they have going on. I personally live in their stuff. But that’s not to say I’m not branching out—just stoked on gear, all kinds—but especially the kind that gets you into those NW hinterland parties, VIP style.

Gore-Tex membrane in hiking shoe.

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