This month has seen the launch of the new, and reputedly revolutionary, Gore Active Shell fabric – a super lightweight, mega breathable yet still fully waterproof shell fabric. A few years ago, Gore upgraded their XCR fabric to become Proshell, a move which many saw to be a direct response to the competition from eVENT. Well, if that was a move to draw level with eVENT in the laminate technology race, then this must certainly be a move to head into the lead.
It is widely accepted that, in the UK at least, the waterproof fabric of choice must be a three layer laminate (see our waterproof gear guide to explain this). This gives the most waterproof protection while retaining breathability and comfort. With the current trend for lighter and lighter outdoor kit, the holy grail of waterproof technology is producing an effective three layer fabric that is the lightest possible. This is what Gore have attempted with Active Shell.
As the name suggests, Active Shell has been produced for the serious Active user, such as trail runners, mountain bikers, climbers and alpinists, who need lightweight clothing but may also require full weather protection when the elements turn against them.
“…This is the first, totally waterproof garment that really does feel comfortable next to your skin during highly aerobic uphill activities…”
said Martin Lankes, product manager at Gore.
The way Gore have produced this wonder fabric is by tightly laminating the internal wicking layer to a thinner layer of ePTFE membrane, and dispensing with the glue that has traditionally held them together. Obviously, in such a competitive market, Gore will not divulge exactly how this is done, but we are assured that it is almost that the two layers have been combined as opposed to being just glued. Not only will this affect the breathability, but it also means that jackets could be lighter than 280 grams!
Climbers Shop Deputy Manager Nick Cox attended the UK launch and was presented with a jacket to take away and test. His first impressions have been positive;
“…it’s early days, but it seems to be as breathable as any jacket I have ever worn before. I have been running in it a few times now with no problems, and I would like to test it on some longer runs soon…”
Mark, our resident Ultra-distance runner also has a jacket so it will be interesting to see what he thinks of it as well.
Nick is also excited about the possible garments that will be coming out from such brands as Haglofs, Arcteryx, Mammut and Mountain Equipment;
“…Although I’ve only seen a few test pieces from M.E, the gear should be really stripped down. Gore are encouraging all their manufacturers to use Active Shell in just their lightest and most minimal garments, that’s where it will really pay dividends…”
Although Active Shell appears to be a bit of a replacement for Paclite, we are assured that Paclite will not be phased out, instead being used for more lower energy orientated activities and for emergency gear.
One other positive thing is that the price should be quite reasonable. As the garments are aimed at the minimalist market, there should not be too many features and accessories that push the price up.
This advance in the technology is not unlike the progression that was brought about by the invention of eVENT, which increased the breathability of ePTFE fabrics significantly by getting rid of the layer of oleophobic (oil-repelling) material that Gore were using and incorporating it into the membrane itself. At the time, eVENT was heralded as the new wonder fabric over Gore.
Could Gore-Tex Active Shell do the same in reverse? Watch this space for more feedback and for info on the coming products for 2011.