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How Gore-Tex Changed The Game

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We were saddened to learn of the recent passing of Robert W. Gore, who invented the technical material Gore-Tex that has become such a staple of winter sports and outdoor sports outerwear since its invention in 1976. Robert Gore’s decorated career included becoming president of W.L Gore & Associates, the company hitting a billion dollar valuation in 1996, and being awarded the Winthrop-Sears medal for “Entrepreneurial achievement that contributes to the vitality of the chemical industry and the betterment of mankind” 

But what is Gore-Tex, and how did it change the game? 

Waterproofing isn’t new. 

Fishermen and sailors have had waterproofs called “Oilskins” since in 1898. A New Zealander, named Edward Le Roy, got sailcloth and painted it with a mixture of linseed oil and wax to make a waterproof garment that would enable sailors to work on deck in harsh conditions while keeping their insulating layers dry.

The oils and waxes were soon replaced with plastics and the sailcloth became lightweight cottons. But still, they weren’t exactly designed for athletic endeavours. The main issue being that, while they kept water out, they also kept water in. when you worked hard, you would quickly saturate your clothing with sweat that couldn’t escape, which would then cool dramatically. Aside from being uncomfortable, it also makes hypothermia a major concern in colder environments! 

So for the longest time, winter sports used water repellent  coatings on fabrics that still had woven surfaces. This lets moisture escape while you exercise, and they work great...unless it’s snowing, or you fall in the snow, or it’s very windy, or they get saturated....In which case you quickly become extremely cold and wet. 

How Gore-Tex changed the game.

While researching a new way to make plumbing tape, Robert Gore was stretching Teflon PTFE material and noticed that under tension the material developed microscopic pores. These pores were thousands of times smaller than a water droplet, but big enough for air to move through them. 

Suddenly, the outdoor sports market had a material that was totally waterproof, but also let hot air with moisture vapour escape. It was the first ever breathable waterproof membrane, and it ushered in a new era of technical fabrics.

Today we’re surrounded by membrane technology in garments. Every brand has their own version with slightly different properties, but the principal remains the same across the board. In fact, it’s only recently that concepts such as nano-spinning have pushed the technology further. 

In waterproofing alone, Gore-Tex and other membrane technologies have enabled people to survive higher levels of exposure, flourish in harsh environments, and advance human exploration beyond our natural capabilities. 

Outside of action sports, the membrane technologies have made huge advancements in the medical field, and have applications in everything from heart surgery and blood filtration to space suits, and even musical instruments! 

The Gore-Tex Legacy.

Gore-Tex materials can be found across the action sports world and are championed by brands like Volcom, Burton AK, Hestra, and Arcteryx, that are designed to help you perform in the harshest environments. 

If you’re interested in learning more about outerwear and what products are right for you, just drop us an email to sales@snowtraxstore.co.uk and one of our friendly team will be happy to help!  

Alternatively, head to our blog post on on How To Choose Your Outerwear for more information on the types of waterproofing available. 

Posted in: News


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