The Best Gore-Tex Jackets of 2021
When the Seattle-based company, Early Winters, first introduced what they claimed to be “possibly the most versatile piece of clothing you'll ever wear” way back in 1977, who knew how true that statement really would be!
Fast forward to today, and we see Gore-Tex all over the place. From sporting and outdoor use to military outerwear, and you can even find that ePTFE material used in space suits. Really.
Think about just how it changed outdoor gear. Waterproof and breathable at the same time. While many of the best Gore-Tex jackets may have a handsome price tag, it's important to weigh the benefits, which easily outweigh any reason to pass.
We spent some time going through only the best to separate the hype from the real deal worth really considering. Check out our picks see if anything stands out.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 15 hrs of research
Enhanced visibility in low light
Top 10 Gore-Tex Jackets
1. Arcteryx Norvan
Enhanced visibility in low light
Could be more stylish
This Gore-Tex jacket is made by a reputable company that is known for its quality hiking gear. This jacket not only will protect you during harsh weather but it's also made to keep you warm in cold climates. If you are looking for a quality jacket to last you years to come and give you the protection you expect from a Gore-Tex jacket, then this is one to check out.Read more
This jacket from Arcteryx is fully waterproof and will protect you in the harshest weather conditions. It is also lightweight and highly breathable to ensure you stay cool at the same time.
This lightweight Gore-Tex jacket is made from N20p 3L GORE-TEX fabric with GORE C-KNIT backer technology. It is very breathable and very lightweight. It delivers durable waterproof protection.
It also allows you to be seen if you are in low light as it reflects. This is a great feature to keep you protected during night walks or adventuring.
Overall this is a great Gore-Tex hiking jacket, the only downside is it comes with a high price.
2. Outdoor Research Furio
The seams are not very durable
This Gore-Tex rain jacket is a great addition to our buying guide as it is brought to us by a reputable company that stands behind its products and this one is no exception. It is waterproof and made to keep you dry and insulated.Read more
This jacket brought to us by Outdoor Research is fully waterproof and has fully taped seams to ensure nothing is getting in and ruining your day. It also means it is highly insulated to keep you warm on a cold day.
The Outdoor Research Furio jacket is made from 100% Nylon which makes it waterproof, breathable and weatherproof. This jacket is known for its production technology with its 70D GORE-TEX and Paclite body fabric.
It is constructed for the outdoor lover who likes simple lines and functionality.
This Gore-Tex waterproof jacket is a bit more expensive than many items on our list but it does provide you with quality features that are worth it.
3. Marmot Minimalist
Good movement and airflow
A minimalist jacket that is durable
Some find it sits a bit small
The Minimalist jacket protects you from a variety of weather conditions. The GORE-TEX Paclite Shell offers great breathability, wind-proofing, and is waterproof. It is also lightweight, which is a huge bonus for many hikers and outdoor adventurers.Read more
Of course, breathability is always important; the zips under the arms provide ventilation to restore coolness and remove heat. Along with this, there are convenient and useful touches, such as a chest pocket that has a water-proof zipper so your goods won't get wet. The Marmot Minimalist has completely taped seams to keep wet weather conditions and moisture out. There is an attached storm hood that features a draw-string that is adjustable to your needs.
This Gore-Tex jacket is made from Paclite Technology 100% Polyester 3.6 Oz, Yd. It is very lightweight and is great for hiking, biking, and other activities where you would be doing light travel and for harsh weather conditions. The Gore-Tex technology provides this jacket with optimal weatherproofing, waterproofing, breathability, and packability.
Along with the above, there is also a chin guard. The Marmot Minimalist includes a Snap closing storm flap over the front zip closure. The nice thing about this jacket is the movement which is maintained by the patented Angel-Wing Movement so you won't feel constricted when needing to reach or move with freedom. Altogether, the Minimalist offers a large impact coat that will keep you feeling ventilated, able to freely move, and protected, to a degree, from the elements.
It's sold for a great price for the features and uses. The prices do change when it comes to sizes, color, and styles but still, a good value jacket.
4. The North Face Apex 2
Designed for hiking
May not be as breathable as other jackets on the market
Head out into the great unknown with this ultra-soft, yet incredibly waterproof jacket that has been designed with Gore-Tex. This rain jacket combines a stretchy exterior for the best movement on the market with a super soft knit interior to keep you feeling comfortable, dry, and warm. The nice thing about the North Face Apex is that it has been engineered for complete versatility in unpredictable conditions so you can head out in complete confidence.Read more
All in all, this option has a lot going for it. It offers water-proofing that others lack, breathability, limiting air penetration to reduce wind-chill, and is made from lightweight fabrics that regulate body temperature. The diversity of warmth, air ventilation, weather-proofing, movement, and soft, comfortable fit will keep almost any outdoors junkie feeling satisfied.
The Apex utilizes Gore-Tex protection combined with soft shell flexibility so that you are both protected and at ease in comfort. The fact that total functionality, aesthetics, and comfort were taken into account when creating this lightweight Gore-Tex jacket, makes it a really unique find on the market. When you need less material around your wrists, there are Velcro adjustable cuffs that you can fit your needs, as well as a cinch-cord at the hem of the jacket for further customization.
We found that the Apex was quite breathable due to its Pit-Zip venting, but that it might not stand up to rivals like the Arc’teryx Alpha. As mentioned, the jacket includes pit zips, which helped out in a cinch, and none of this is to say the jacket isn't breathable at all. In fact, we found it to be rather impressive how breathable it ended up being, relative to the insane amount of waterproofing that went into making the Apex what it is.
This Gore-Tex shell jacket has several different price options depending on the size and color. It is a very durable jacket with a longer lifespan which does make sense that it is a bit more expensive than some jackets on this list.
5. Mountain Hardwear Cloudbank
Breathability and heat venting designed in
For challenging weather conditions
Good pocket space for carrying.
Only for those challenging mountain and ski settings
The Cloudbank is a purpose-designed jacket for the mountains or ski conditions. Bags of confidence from the makers with a lifelong warranty. A fully protective body shell with built-in underarm venting if you build up a sweat. Also features a helmet-compatible design and lots of pocket room for carrying. If you want durability, style and functional protection, this is worth checking out.Read more
A full shell design for protection via the GORE-TEX 2L means waterproof, comfort and durability in very challenging weather. Ideal for in the mountains or while skiing. Underarm vents let you release built-up heat.
GORE-TEX 2L means you get a shell design offering full protection so that you will stay dry, warm and fully protected no matter what the weather throws at you.
Great style, two spacious chest pockets with secure zip fasteners and two hand pockets for warm hands or extra carrying space. You also get a powder skirt for even more durability. The hood is helmet-compatible and gives a three-way cord system for securing it.
The makers have gone for high durability, lots of comfort and sound protection and they back-up this jacket with a lifetime warranty. Considering the balanced price and what this jacket offers the wearer, this is certainly good value.
6. GORE Wear C3
Comes in many different colors
Great for cyclists and runners
Very limited color choices
This GORE Wear C3 is one of the most popular and well-liked jackets ever created. The reason for this is simple; this option is meant to be your go-to jacket for general usage, and it has the versatility to prove it. The jacket utilizes GORE-TEX Active technology. If you are looking for something seriously light that provides best-in-class protection and ultra-high mobility, you can’t go wrong with the GORE Wear C3.Read more
Thanks to the Gore-Tex technology, this jacket is very well known for its water resistance and weather resistance technology which also help with its windproof and breathable performances. The windproof jacket is great for cyclists and runners who are needing a little extra highly functional garments.
The GORE Wear C3s breathability performance is very good. The GORE-TEX Active material helps out a lot here, but what’s interesting is that the Alpha FL consistently performs better (with its GORE-TEX Pro membrane) than the Axiom’s, which in theory shouldn’t be the case at all.
The GORE Wear C3 is the best-fitting jacket in this entire guide by a wide margin. We’ve found that the jacket’s slim-fit design is almost a perfect mold for active use, while still providing plenty of room to layer up underneath. Best of all, the sleeve and hem lengths and sizes are all quite literally perfect in our book. Wearing this jacket feels like a natural extension of yourself.
It has a variation of prices depending on the size, style, or color you are selecting. If you are looking for the best Gore-Tex pro jacket that will last a long time and offer you plenty of great features, this jacket is the one for you.
7. Burton Breach
Highly weather resistant
Durable Gore-Tex material
All seams taped
Lots of durability
Stylish and fashionable
Super carry power, lots of pocket space
This is a fully taped jacket to ensure being waterproof with a twin layer design. Offers great protection for skiers on powdery slopes and even in stormy conditions. Waterproof and protective while giving lots of functionality, good pocket space, for carrying goggles and other items safely. All seams are fully taped to double up and ensure waterproofing. This is a very functional Gore-Tex ski jacket with lots of style.Read more
Designed to give protection on powdery slopes and even in storm conditions. The classic design is two layers of protection, this jacket is fully-taped, totally waterproof while giving great breathability.
40% recycled materials, a thermolite insulation design, this has hollow fibers to trap warm air while ensuring a larger surface area for moisture evaporation. All seams are fully sealed and the fabric is water-resistant. These materials offer full protection from chilly winds and snow. The attached hood is fully helmet-compatible.
This jacket is marketed as being not too tight or baggy and a great fit for ski sports. For functional style you get microfleece zip pockets, a zip-up chest pocket, an interior thermal pocket for ski googles and a zip closure, a secure ski pass pocket and interior mesh pockets for extra carrying space.
A classic style jacket giving all the protection needed on a ski slope in the mountains. Lots of style and very functional. Lightweight with lots of protection and comfort. However, all of this comes at a very steep price.
8. Arc’teryx Alpha FL
Hood large enough to fit a helmet
While there are plenty of high quality hardshell Gore-Tex jackets out there, including some that are more advanced than the FL, this jacket, in particular, combines the best of everything; a conveniently middle-of-the-road price, a striking aesthetic, and functionality that is hard to rival. The FL stands for Fast and Light, and Arc’teryx mean it; this is one of the simplest, most minimalistic hard shell GORE-TEX jackets ever made.Read more
This is far and away one of the most breathable jackets out there at the moment. The Alpha FL really shines during high-intensity activities, but it’s also a fantastic companion for lighter jaunts as well. The GORE-TEX Pro membrane works extremely well here, despite the fact that this jacket doesn’t have any pit zips or additional ventilation to speak of.
Originally, the jacket actually featured GORE-TEX Active technology, but in 2015 it was swapped out in favor of the GORE-TEX Pro 3 layer membrane used in other top quality products in the last few years, including many of those in this guide. The difference with the Alpha FL, though, is that few jackets have included the 3 layers GORE-TEX Pro material and still come out feeling as light, mobile and breathable as this jacket does.
Over the last few years, this insulated jacket has worked its way up to the top of many lists, not just our own, and has made a name for itself in the larger outdoors community. The Alpha FL is shaped by Arc’teryx’s Trim Fit design, giving it the perfect fit for those looking to do something requiring lots of motion, such as climbing or skiing.
All of this being said, this jacket isn’t a be-all-end-all solution to your outdoor needs; if you’re needing something for prolonged, multi-day hikes through very harsh conditions, this 3 layer Gore-Tex jacket might not hold up for you in the end.
9. Burton Radial
Gore-Tex double layer waterproofing
Two way front zipper
40% recycled materials
Thermo temperature regulation
A little baggy, make sure to size down
Giving a combination of consistent warmth and comfort, this jacket has thermolite insulation, a living lining that is thermo-regulated. Made from around 40% recycled materials, all seams are taped to guarantee staying dry in wet weather. This is a very stylish wet weather jacket that comes with a lifetime warranty.Read more
The seams in this jacket are fully taped. Dryness is ensured by two waterproof layers of Gore-Tex. With a living lining for body temperature regulation, the jacket traps warm air and the surface area allows for efficient evaporation. The contoured hood is helmet-compatible, and it features a water repellant front and rear gaiter design.
Twin layers of Gore-Tex, made from 40% recycled materials. The durability level of this jacket means that it comes with a lifetime warranty.
This style is for standard wet weather conditions and offers fashion mixed with functionality in terms of staying dry and comfortable. The style is reflective of everyday use.
For the value, you get pit-zip ventilation which is mesh lined, two-way front zipper, a contoured hood that can be adjusted at the rear and front and it is helmet-compatible. Fully taped seams to ensure dryness and protection. A regular fit giving style and comfort. This jacket comes at a buyer-friendly price.
10. Marmot Essential
Comes in 4 different colors
Fit is awkward
As one of the first jackets to include GORE-TEX’s new GORE C-Knit technology, the Marmot Essential had a lot to prove when it was released. Designed as a jack-of-all-trades, this option delivers on the promise of a lightweight, yet protective outer layer that won’t break the bank. The Marmot Essential is perhaps the most flexible and versatile of all the jackets on this list.Read more
The Marmot Essentials build quality is exceptional, and all of the seams appear to be solid and built to last. The hood seems a bit shaky, as the size just isn’t what we’d want from a product like this. The weather protection on it is wonderful when it comes to its Gore-Tex performance.
This jacket is made from 100% nylon with plain weave, 1.1 oz/yd. This is great for rainy days or casual everyday use. It has GORE-TEX with PACLITE technology that provides the jacket with excellent breathable and waterproof capabilities.
The Marmot Essential has a rather awkward fit, especially for those women typically fall between sizes. Many have noted that the medium is a bit short in the sleeves and hem, while the large is a bit too baggy for our personal taste.
If you’re looking for a jacket to “live” in, you might just find your match in the Marmot Essential. That being said, it isn’t a perfect jacket by any means. This option is mid-range pricing but it is well worth it. You get what you are paying for and that is a very stylish and high-quality Gore-Tex jacket that has a long life span.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
It is crucial to understand what sort of weather you’ll be putting the jacket through on a regular basis.
Do you live in the rain-soaked, fog-washed Pacific Northwest? If so, you’ll likely want a jacket with a powerful rainproof design in order to maximize your ability to keep dry; but if you’re in a dryer climate like the mountains of Utah or Colorado, having the latest in rain-resistant materials probably won’t do you a lot of good. Opting for something with more insulation will usually be the better option for you if you live in a place like this.
Ever since GORE-TEX was first invented in 1969 by way of a fortunate accident, the outdoor world has never quite been the same. The material brought with it substantial changes to enthusiast expectations of what a piece of clothing could achieve as far as weatherproofing goes.
Today, GORE-TEX works by sandwiching an ePTFE (expanded Polytetrafluoroethylene) membrane in between other types of fabrics, creating a seal that blocks out rain and wind from reaching the innards of the shell, thus the name hardshell jacket. These coats excel at keeping our bodies completely dry during even the most precarious weather, and they do so by utilizing a number of different fabric technologies, stitching styles, and layering systems.
GORE-TEX jackets have multiple different permutations, from a 3-layer system where the membrane is bonded to the fabric on both sides, to a 2-layer one where one side is lined, sometimes with insulation and sometimes not. Depending on how the fabric is set up, certain jackets might be ideal for a specific type of activity.
By extension, certain technologies might be best suited for particular use as well. Let’s further break down hardshell jackets by the common technologies used by major manufacturers.
Today, GORE-TEX is still the leading technology used in most hard and softshell jackets.
While a handful of competitors exist today, none of them have been able to establish the brand awareness and consistency that GORE-TEX has long enjoyed. The material is in use by a variety of popular brands, including Arc’teryx, The North Face, Outdoor Research, and more.
GORE-TEX: The original GORE-TEX fabric is a versatile, all-around wind and waterproof material that is well-suited for a variety of tasks, from hiking to everyday town use. The material often comes in both 2 and 3 layer designs, depending on the nature of the jacket it is being used in.
There’s also an offshoot of the material in production today, called GORE-TEX PacLite. PacLite features a 2 layer design that is extremely packable and breathable, making it very ideal for situations where every bit of weight counts, like cycling and running. It is also a very appealing option for travelers looking for an easy-to-travel-with jacket.
GORE-TEX Active: As the name suggests, this material utilizes a lightweight design to create a durable jacket that performs well during demanding tasks, like cross-country skiing and mountain climbing. GORE-TEX Active features enhanced breathability and a 3 layer system for the material itself, like the GORE-TEX Pro material listed below.
The key difference between the two lies in the fact that GORE-TEX Active is usually used in lighter, more stretchable jackets than the Pro variant is used for.
GORE-TEX Pro: The “Pro” variant of GORE-TEX is designed from the ground up for use in some of the harshest places on the planet, for extended periods of time. This material uses a 3 layer system like the GORE-TEX Active uses but also makes use of extremely rugged materials like 70 denier nylon in order to achieve such impressive protection against the elements.
If you’re wanting material for a multi-day hike, a treacherous climb, or just a particularly frigid destination, a GORE-TEX Pro jacket won’t steer you wrong.
The style depends on the purpose of your jacket.
General Purpose jackets are usually made with heavier fabrics and materials, usually utilizing a 3 layer GORE-TEX membrane or other equivalent technology. The majority of the jackets in this review still fall into this category. These (usually) tend to have more features and utilities than their lighter counterparts, such as additional pockets and more robust, weatherproof zippers.
Light & Mobile
Light & Mobile jackets are the product of a race to the bottom of the scale, where some of the top outdoor gear companies in the world compete with each other year after year to create the lightest, best-performing jacket possible. Our top pick this year was a Light & Mobile jacket, proving definitively that the category could compete with its larger, more beefy brethren.
Everyone has a budget, and in the world of Gore-Tex jackets, there’s something for just about any price point.
Like with many things in life, you tend to get what you pay for with hard shells, and they are certainly not all made equally. The more expensive a jacket is, the more likely it is to feature advanced insulation, better wind and waterproofing, and more pockets and safety features as well.
Waterproofing a Gore-Tex jacket will eventually be required because despite the inner layer being a breathable waterproof membrane, the outer layer (shell) of the jacket will lose its waterproofing, soak up water and stay wet, blocking the effect of the Gore-Tex. Dirt, grease, and muck will also hamper a coat’s breathability. Consider using a waterproof spray to protect your jackets.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
When it is time to clean your Gore-Tex jacket, be careful to clean it properly as if you do not, you might cause damage to a very expensive jacket in your wardrobe.
The proper way to wash your Gore-Tex jacket is to wash in your washing machine on delicate and use liquid detergent, do not use powdered detergent as it may stick and stain your jacket. Once the jacket is cleaned, throw your jacket in your dryer on delicate or hang dry.
There are two main types of hardshell jackets included in this guide. The first type of jacket is the General Purpose jacket, which is a workhorse that is usually made of heavier, more durable construction than the second type of jacket; the Light & Mobile.
It’s no secret that the trend in hard shells is trimming product weight without sacrificing warmth and protection from the elements, which has really led to the birth and subsequent proliferation of the Light & Mobile jacket.
Other Factors to Consider
Do you do a little bit of everything? Could your Saturday morning be just as easily spent ice climbing as it could be spent hiking and camping? If so, you might want to consider a more generalized jacket that features flexible material, such as GORE-TEX Active.
If, however, you are looking for something, say, only for ice climbing, it might be best to choose a specialized type specifically engineered for that.
There are a number of factors to consider before you jump to making your first hardshell purchase, but far and away the most important one is the intended usage for the jacket. Are you going to be venturing into the deep wilderness in an area rife with extreme conditions, or are you going to be walking your dog every morning in the rain in Seattle?
Do you need something more mobile to fit your active or on-the-go lifestyle, or is the heavier, more durable approach for you? Do you enjoy upgrading and renewing gear every few years, or do you like to pick one thing and stick with it?
Depending on your answer to these questions, you might want to consider a particular style of jacket in order to maximize its effectiveness for your needs. You might also find that you don’t even need a hardshell jacket at all and that something like a softshell jacket would be better for you.
Our guide includes options for every type of purpose and we're sure you will find one that fits your needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What is Gore-Tex fabric?
First introduced in 1978, Gore-Tex fabric is created by laminating the GORE-TEX membrane to high-performance textiles, which are then used by authorized garment manufacturers to make outerwear, accessories, and footwear.
q: What is the life expectancy of Gore-Tex fabric?
It really depends on you. The Gore-Tex membrane won’t deteriorate with time, and the garments are guaranteed to be durably waterproof and breathable. Just use common sense and wear your garment for its intended use; i.e, don’t wear a lightweight cycling jacket on a backcountry camping trip.
And obviously, a ski instructor who wears his or her garment every day will need to buy a new one sooner than a skier who takes his or her garment out twice a year will. If you maintain your garment properly, you can expect it to last.
q: Will Gore-Tex keep me warm?
Yes. Gore-Tex fabric is windproof, so it blocks cold air and wind that can disturb your body heat and cause windchill. However, Gore-Tex fabric itself doesn’t have any special insulating qualities, so in really cold conditions, wearing extra layers underneath your outerwear will ensure that you stay warm and comfortable.
q: What is the best way to wash my Gore-Tex jacket?
Be sure to read the manufacturer’s care tag first. Wash your Gore-Tex garment in the washing machine in warm (105°F/40°C) water. For the best results, use a small amount of liquid detergent. Please do not use powder detergents, fabric softener or chlorine bleach.
q: How to Waterproof a Gore-Tex Jacket even more?
Waterproofing a Gore-Tex Jacket will eventually be required because despite the inner layer being a breathable waterproof membrane, the outer layer (shell) of the jacket will lose its waterproofing, soak up water and stay wet, blocking the effect of the Gore-Tex. Dirt, grease, and muck will also hamper a coat's breathability.
Re-proofing is quick and easy for all waterproof breathable jackets using a combination of washing and technical re-proofing products such as those made by Nikwax, Grangers or Toko.
Wash the garment using a soap-based wash such as Nikwax Tech Wash, or you can also use pure soap flakes if you can find them in the shops.
A soap-based cleaner will remove dirt from the shell and Gore-Tex membrane. Do NOT use detergents, washing powder or fabric softener because these will block the pores in your Gore-Tex membrane and affect breathability.
You can either hand-wash or machine-wash your waterproof jacket, but if you choose to machine wash you must remove all traces of washing powder and fabric softener from the machine beforehand, i.e. clean out the drawer and give the drum a quick rinse spin. Bear in mind that if you are using soap flakes, these can clog some washing-machine filters, so keep an eye on your machine if you do it often. There's a more in-depth guide to washing Gore-Tex here.
You can rub neat Tech Wash or soap into any areas with stubborn stains before washing. You can even use a soft nailbrush or old toothbrush, but be careful not to damage the shell material.
You'll need about 100-150ml of Tech Wash per item, depending on how hard your water is.
Rinse the garment thoroughly in clean water or do an extra rinse cycle in the washing machine.
Step 3a - if the jacket is worn next to the skin or has a wicking layer:
You don't need to wait for the jacket to dry out from washing...
Lay the jacket out flat and spray the entire outer shell with Nikwax Spray-on TX Direct (or similar).
Make sure you cover all external surfaces of the jacket and leave the TX Direct to soak in for a couple of minutes.
Mop up any excess using a piece of kitchen towel - you don't want pools of it to form.
Step 3b - if the jacket goes over non-wicking or multiple layers:
You don't need to wait for the jacket to dry out from washing...
Repeat the washing process (hand or machine) but use 100ml of Nikwax TX-Direct (or similar) instead of Tech Wash.
Again, make sure that there is no trace of detergent, washing powder or fabric softener in your machine beforehand.
Either air-dry or tumble-dry the jacket, depending on what it says on its care label.
Wear your jacket in the rain and marvel as water runs off it like it was brand-new again.
You should notice two things - the surface treatment causing water to bead and not 'wet out' the fabric. And also an improvement in breathability - usually best understood by you feeling less clammy.
Note: some people report better results if you can feel the waterproofing. Nikwax says you don't need to do this - it's only necessary for fluorocarbon DWR treatments.
q: What is DWR?
Gore-Tex garments are treated with an ultra-thin treatment known as DWR or durable water repellent. This treatment causes water to bead up and roll off the outer layer of the jacket, instead of being absorbed. Regular wear and tear, plus exposure to dirt, detergents, campfire smoke, cooking odors and other impurities diminish the protective DWR treatment.
When water no longer beads up on your Gore-Tex garment’s outer fabric, you can restore its DWR by using a topical spray-pump available at retail outdoor stores. These special treatments help maintain and restore the DWR on the outer shell fabric of the garment so that it remains water and stain repellent.