In a move to stay ever-relevant with outdoor consumers and the growing demographic of hikers and trekkers worldwide, W.L.Gore said it will broaden its “ingredient” product offerings beyond the waterproof-breathable laminate the company has been famous for since 1969. The innovations come out of the company’s Distinct Capabilities Team – just one part of a unique horizontal team member structure that has been the subject of business management classes, books and conversations since Gore’s founding in 1957.
The company previewed its latest membrane technologies in advance of the upcoming Outdoor Retailer Winter Market tradeshow, revealing products that will be available through its partner brands in the Fall of 2016.
An expansion into new, “water-resistant” categories is intended to address gaps between hard and soft shell protection and insulation, the company said. “If they see it’s going to rain all day, they will grab their Gore-Tex jacket and be guaranteed to stay dry. But, if they see there is only a slight chance for some light rain, then they want something different,” said Chris Eisenmann, product specialist at W.L. Gore.
The new technology is part of a broader strategy of future innovations under an updated “Gore Branded Products” nomenclature and branding to represent its non-Gore-Tex products. The “Gore-Tex” ingredient mark stays the same and will continue to represent guaranteed waterproof-breathable protection, including the Gore-Tex Active, Gore-Tex, and Gore-Tex Pro designations, as well as the new Gore-Tex C-Knit construction available this Fall in jackets from more than a dozen brands.
“Not everything needs to be fully waterproof,” continued Eisenmann. “We realized in this space of different weather conditions, there are different opportunities for our products.” In other words, said Eisenmann, people’s ability to predict the weather through the use of mobile technology, and adjust plans according, has created the need for Gore to adapt its offerings. “We feel we have a lot more apparel technology to offer consumers under the Gore name. We don’t want to be limited.” He also said they realized that globally, it rains less than 50 percent of the time.
The key new products include a first-ever two-layer membrane designed to be used with insulation (ie. puffy jackets), introduced as Gore Thermium. This new spin on an ePTFE shell construction promises to be windproof, water-resistant and breathable – but not waterproof. The laminate will need to be seam sealed and coupled with a partner brand’s insulation of choice sandwiched with an inner lining.
Regarding Thermium, shoppers will need to understand that Gore is not developing a new insulation product, but rather offering a new type of barrier (membrane) to protect insulation from the elements for increased performance. Any puffy insulation used with Thermium must be non-stitched (continuous synthetic or batted) – but that’s up to each individual brand to develop, who next year will include Marmot, Arc’teryx, Black Diamond, Salewa, Armada, Mammut and more.
New Gore Windstopper
The new (essentially updated) Windstopper fabric is being described in two primary categories — products with Light Rain Resistance and products with Insulation Protection – while conglomerating technologies previously called Active Shell, Soft Shell and Technical Fleece.
The new Light Rain Resistance technology is meant to protect from drizzle and extend the usability of your soft shell. The new Insulation Protection will be used in jackets designed for high-intensity output in cold climates, keeping wind at bay while letting sweat out.
Gore will work with retailers to educate consumers on the differences between upcoming “Gore” and “Gore-Tex” technologies so stay tuned for some exciting new apparel offerings to come out of Winter OR in January and Summer 2016.
If you really want to wow your outdoor gear geek friends, just tell them that your Gore-Tex jacket has nine billion extruded polytetrafluoroethylene pores per square inch, and that each pore is 20,000 times smaller than a raindrop, but 700 times larger than a water molecule. And that’s why it’s waterproof-breathable, duh.
Lastly, in any conversation about waterproof-breathable laminates, which are all treated with a chemical-based Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish, it’s important to note that Gore has been a leader in eliminating long chain Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in its DWR treatments. Part of a sustainability commitment the company says is an “integral element” to its business, they eliminated long-chain PFCs/PFOAs in 2013 with a renewed commitment to DWR research in 2015.