What’s the difference between GORE-TEX®, GORE-TEX® Active and GORE-TEX® Pro?

By Outdoor Research, 02 April 2014

  • DATE

    02 April 2014


    Outdoor Research


    Rock Climbing

What’s the difference between GORE-TEX®, GORE-TEX® Active and GORE-TEX® Pro?

Ever wonder what the difference is between all the different types of GORE-TEX®?  After all, isn’t GORE-TEX® just GORE-TEX® – our beloved waterproof and breathable fabric that comprises the most rugged outdoor jackets?

The answer is a simple no.

Not all GORE-TEX® is created equal. But knowing what the different types are, how they are different and when to use which one sometimes feels mysterious.

There are three types of GORE-TEX® – GORE-TEX®, GORE-TEX® Active and GORE-TEX® Pro – and each are geared towards different activities. Since not all of these fabrics are intended for the same use, to know which type of jacket you need to get you must first know what activities you will be doing and what attributes you want. Will you be cross country skiing? Taking short afternoon hikes? Do you want something lightweight? Super breathable? Mega durable?

Just as a refresher to jog your weather-protection memory, GORE-TEX® is a material made by laminating, or sandwiching together, an ePTFE (expanded Polytetrafluoroethylene) membrane to other face fabrics to create a waterproof yet also breathable fabric. The membrane is an incredibly thin and microscopically porous material (the pours are 20,000 times smaller than a water drop) and allows moisture to pass out of the material but not let water in.

In addition, there are multiple fabric constructions: three-layer constructions (the membrane is bonded to face fabrics on both sides), two-layer (the membrane is bonded to a face fabric on one side and can have a liner on the other allowing the option for insulation), insulated and non-insulated. In addition, GORE-TEX® can be paired with a variety of face fabrics, have DWR treatments and be seam sealed to increase its protection level.

The type of GORE-TEX® will often dictate the construction, as does the end use of the product.

So, you ask, what are the different types?

The Three Types of GORE-TEX®

GORE-TEX® is a versatile fabric that can be used for anything from mountaineering to everyday, around-town wear. Durably windproof, waterproof and able to breathe, GORE-TEX® can come in anything from two- to three-layer constructions depending on the end use.

In addition, there is an offshoot of this product technology, called GORE-TEX® PacLite®, a 2-layer GORE-TEX® that is constructed to be lightweight, breathable and incredibly minimalistic. GORE-TEX® PacLite® are some of the lightest, most packable fabrics, ideal for activities that require saving space and weight – like running, hiking or cycling.

A good example is the Foray Jacket™ made with a two-layer GORE-TEX® with PacLite® technology. Just over 16 ounces, this feather-light jacket has been tested by our athletes and withstands the rough use of trails despite its miniscule weight.

The Vanguard Jacket™ is an example of a three-layer GORE-TEX® construction. The fabric is made by bonding the membrane to a resilient nylon face fabric and fleece-backed soft shell body to create a sturdy layer.

“I've been in the Women's Vanguard Jacket™ on top of frigid, snowy peaks in South America, Alaska, and in the North Cascades, completely dry and warm after hours of hiking to the top,” says Outdoor Research ski athlete Molly Baker. “The Vanguard is…built tough to function for your toughest jobs. I don't go skiing anywhere without the Vanguard.” 

GORE-TEX® Active – as the name merits – is meant for highly aerobic activities that you will likely do in a day (like cross-country skiing, alpine climbing or other stop-and-go activities). You want a jacket to breathe, and breathe well, when you are, for example, skinning up the backside of a mountain. But it also needs to be simultaneously protective in less-than-ideal conditions.

GORE-TEX® Active is lightweight, capitalizes on a minimalistic design and is incredibly breathable, which is ideal for these stop-and-go activities. Typically, GORE-TEX® Active (as well as GORE-TEX® Pro) are made with a three-layer construction.

“Anything with GORE-TEX® Active, and you’re stoked,” says Outdoor Research alpine athlete Kyle Dempster.

One of Dempster’s favorites is the award-winning Axiom Jacket™. The Axiom is a featherweight champ weighing in at just over 13 ounces and is made with a three-layer GORE-TEX® Active that uses nylon face fabrics. The highly popular women’s version is called the Clairvoyant Jacket™. It uses polyester face fabrics that have a distinct softness and quiet feel.

Last, GORE-TEX® Pro is engineered to be rugged, durable and ideal for extended use in extreme conditions – like a multi-day mountaineering, guiding or freeriding. Extended use activities that subject you to miserably conditions require a beefy, three-layer construction with maximum protection.


The Maximus Jacket™ is a three-layer GORE-TEX® Pro jacket made with a robust 70 denier nylon fabric body. In addition, three-layer GORE-TEX® Pro stretch panels are made with a 70 denier nylon and a touch of elastic to allow uninhibited movement while wearing the jacket.

“The Maximus…is the most functional technical jacket I have ever used,” says Zach Griffin, Outdoor Research ski athlete.

While jackets get the most attention, pants, gloves, hats and even gaiters can utilize the waterproof, breathable technology of GORE-TEX®. If you want to see more, check out the full list of Outdoor Research products that use GORE-TEX®.

Outdoor Research

Outdoor Research® is Designed by Adventure®. We provide Innovation and Inspiration for the Relentless Adventurer. Based in Seattle, Outdoor Research was founded in 1981 after a failed piece of gear on an Alaskan climbing expedition inspired ideas for a better design.

We develop innovative, functional, bomb-proof products that are beautiful in their simplicity, and our gear is backed by our Infinite Guarantee®. We listen to, value and empower each other and our fellow adventurers, inviting input from our customers, Athlete Ambassadors and the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations Test Team.

We answer to our customers, not Wall Street. We’re growing, as a company and as individuals. And we’re having fun along the way..

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