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When I was about 16 years old, my friends and I decided that we wanted to go on an over night backpacking trip in the Wasatch mountains of Utah. I was pretty new to the outdoors and I didn't have much of the gear that would be considered a necessity by many backpackers' standards. Our trip went pretty well, but it only took that one trip for me to realize that there had to be some better products and equipment than what I was using.
Well, in 1994 the internet was not what it is today and so I couldn't just logon and start researching gear. Instead, I visited the local R.E.I to see what type of gear real outdoorsmen use. While I was browsing through all of the cool stuff that R.E.I. has, I noticed tag stitched or sew into different clothing items. "Gore-tex®". I didn't know what goretex was, but I knew that there had to be something to it because everything that had the goretex label was priced considerably higher than other similar products. Wanting to know more, I called one of the helpful R.E.I. staff over and asked them what it was. If you are asking that same question, let me help you out.
Goretex was developed by W.L. Gore & Associates. You will usually hear or see phrases like "Guaranteed to keep you dry®" associated with goretex. The makers of goretex claim that products utilizing this technology are both waterproof and breathable. So what is it? It is actually a thin membrane that product manufacturers usually laminate to the inside of a fabric, like nylon. Without getting too techi, the goretex membrane is a polymer (plastic) called ePTFE (expanded polytetrafluoroethlene). Goretex has billions of these tiny polymer fibers overlapping each other. This micro-porous membrane, as it is called, has 9 billion pores per square inch. The pores are so small that liquid water cannot penetrate the membrane, but they are big enough that perspiration can escape.
So there you go. Goretex is a pretty simple concept, but it has really revolutionized the outdoor industry as far as clothing and footwear comfort are concerned. Goretex is used in many other applications including tent fabric. So, the next time you see that goretex label on something, you'll know why it costs so much more.