Gore easily dominated the waterproof-breathable fabric market for around 3 decades, but over the last few years other brands have been catching them up. eVent have won much industry acclaim for their fabric, which professionals and punters alike find to be incredibly breathable. They're not the only competitors: Pertex, best known for producing lightweight yet durable and weather resistant fabrics, introduced waterproof, moisture vapour permeable Pertex Shield, in 2007.
Momentum has been gathering, too. This Autumn Polartec's NeoShell (news item here) and Mountain Hardwear's DryQ fabrics (news item coming soon) arrive. Mountain Hardwear and Polartec are both claiming their fabrics offer significantly more air permeability than 'the leading waterproof-breathable.'
However, Gore claim the new Active Shell is the most breathable waterproof fabric they have ever produced, so are they set to storm back into the lead?
Top brands have bought into the fabric – Adidas, Arc'teryx, Castelli, Gore Bike Wear, Mammut, Mountain Equipment, The North Face, Specialized and Berghaus amongst others. To make sure the fabric performs to the best of its ability Gore have laid down guidelines for products made from Active Shell – a close performance cut, minimal pockets, mesh pocket linings and as little tape as possible, plus a maximum weight restriction.
How does it compare to the competition?
While Gore isn't claiming increased 'air permeability' like Polartec and Mountain Hardwear (see the news item on NeoShell here), they are claiming Active Shell is as breathable as the new DryQ and NeoShell fabrics. It's certainly the most breathable waterproof fabric Gore have produced so far.
How does it work then?
Glue reduces breathability, so Gore have constructed this material differently. Rather than gluing an outer shell to a membrane, gluing a thin PU layer to that and finally bonding a liner inside, they've simplified things. The membrane is bonded directly to the fabric that sits next to your skin. The membrane is thinner and the backer is more stretched out, too, so sweat can get out faster. Gore say Active Shell will be as waterproof as the rest of their 'Guaranteed to Keep You Dry' fabrics.
What's it for?
Lightweight and super breathable, Active Shell is designed for moving fast. Cyclists, runners, adventure racers, and alpinists will be the most interested in it.