From the Mag: MFG Products – Gore-Tex

Comments by Sara Owen/


Kimmy Fasani at the Gore-Tex labs | Photo: Blotto

In the snowboard world the name W.L. Gore & Associates doesn’t ring a lot of bells, but its waterproof, breathable Gore-Tex material is as ubiquitous as overpriced resort beers. Developed 35 years ago, the Gore-Tex membrane has hundreds of applications from spacesuits to dental floss, but it’s best known as a technical material used in outerwear. Like a kid ordering a Coke, snowboarders ask for Gore-Tex by name when purchasing gloves and outerwear because it is synonymous with quality. For the 2012-13 season brands like Burton, Volcom, Oakley and Patagonia have integrated Gore-Tex into their lines.

Gore is so confident in the performance of its namesake material that it offers a best in class guarantee. If a consumer is unhappy with the product then Gore — rather than the brand that uses the material — repairs, replaces or gives a refund for it. Gore’s belief in the quality of its product is based on 100 diabolical tests used to evaluate waterproofness, windproofness, breathability, durability and comfort.

In the New York Times it was reported that under Federal standard military gear is considered waterproof if it doesn’t leak when subjected to rain falling at a velocity of an inch per hour. In Gore’s Rain Chamber products are subjected to three times that amount. Burton rider Kimmy Fasani has experienced the Rain Chamber firsthand, “It’s like being in the biggest downpour you’ve ever been in. It’s wet, loud and an amazing tool for companies to test out the efficiency of their waterproofness.” Without getting into an extended science lecture, Gore-Tex membranes have microscopic pores that are about 20,000 times smaller than a water droplet, so whether Mother Nature serves up light slush or a torrential downpour it stays dry.

Snowboarders repeatedly work up a sweat while hiking and shoveling only to sit on a chilly chairlift or wait for the rest of their crew to hit a jump. In most cases this quick shift from action to no action brings more discomfort than trying to squeeze into Shaun White’s animal print pants. To that end, Gore created a 12 by 12 foot chamber with treadmills and exercise bikes to measure the comfort of gloves and outerwear in a variety of conditions. Testers experience temperatures ranging from -22oF to 104oF, humidity up to 90 percent and up to 12 mile per hour winds, while computers measure factors such as heat loss and heart rates. The Gore-Tex pores are 700 times bigger than a water vapor molecule so perspiration easily evaporates.

Visitors to places like Rogers Pass, MT and Vostok, Antarctica are some of the lucky few who have experienced the kind of temperatures reached during The Crumple Test. The durability and waterproofness of an item is tested at temperatures as low as -45 oF because fabrics have a tendency to crack and leak in subfreezing climates. The Martindale Test looks at the material’s resistance to abrasion, another key one for snowboarders who wear backcountry packs, snowmobile or kneel to test snow pack stability.

Patagonia team rider Josh Dirksen regularly puts his gear through hellish conditions riding and splitboarding in the Northwest U.S. and the Swiss Alps. He’s essentially a real life testing facility, and he knows what he likes. “There are other garments on the market with similar fabric technology, but my outerwear needs to be more than just a piece of waterproof, breathable fabric over my head. The Gore-Tex logo guarantees the design and construction of the outerwear will match the quality of the fabric.”