Fabric: Gore-Tex Pro
The Tupilak is the first shell I’ve worn that uses the new Gore-Tex Pro. The Gore Pro fabric comes in two different weights: 40-denier on the body and 80-denier on the shoulders and top of the sleeves. When I first got the jacket, the word that came to mind was BURLY.
The hand feel of the new Gore Pro is almost identical to the old Gore Pro Shell. The woven liner layer remains the same, and the nylon shells (the face fabrics) of each feel very similar to the touch.
Where the new Gore Pro differs from the old Pro Shell is in the laminate. The new Gore Pro laminate is composed of two layers of ePTFE that are basically smashed together. The inner layer (closest to the body) of the ePTFE is a sacrificial layer. It is designed to block all of the contaminates that would typically foul an ePTFE membrane, mainly sweat and dirt. The interface between the two layers of ePTFE is dense enough that the contaminates can’t make it through (in theory at least) which means that the outer layer of ePTFE remains un-fouled and therefore completely waterproof (for a more in-depth look at Gore-Tex Pro, see our Outerwear 201, p. 3).
The biggest news about Gore Pro is that it uses no PU protective layer. Again, NO polyurethane protective layer. That’s a really big deal. Gore came up with a way to ditch this huge vapor barrier that they have used since the 1970’s on all of their waterproof fabrics.
Gore claims that, as a result, this new laminate breathes over 30% better than the previous Pro Shell. And I would agree; the new Pro breathes better than the old Pro Shell. I would say this fabric breathes about as well as Gore Active (check out the Arc’teryx Beta FL review for more on Gore Active). I found myself leaving on layers in high output activities that I would have had to shed in some other Gore fabrics.
Still, as with NeoShell, there is definitely a point where the fabric just can’t keep up with your sweat. A hard shell, whether constructed with Gore Pro or NeoShell, is still a huge vapor barrier.
Head-to-Head: Gore-Tex Pro vs Polartec NeoShell
So how do Gore Pro and Polartec NeoShell stack up against each other?
The answer is ultimately surprisingly straight forward (for me at least), but it helps to first recap how the two jackets compare in some key areas.
NeoShell is more breathable. I would say perhaps 20-30% more breathable than Gore Pro. That’s a decent difference in breathability, but I am often outside of that “20-30% range” of sweating. In other words, if I have to take a layer off in the Gore Pro, I will almost always have to take that layer off in the NeoShell. I find that I tend to be either at max output, sweating hard and taking off layers, or I’m standing around cold and putting layers on. NeoShell excels in medium-output activities (like skinning on mid-angle terrain and moderate boot packs) and in these scenarios, the added breathability of the NeoShell is definitely appreciated.
NeoShell is also more comfortable, especially in the 4-way stretch version on the Centurion. The softer hand feel and quieter face fabric make NeoShell a very wearable fabric, both on and off the mountain. Gore Pro is much stiffer and louder, and to my knowledge, doesn’t have the stretch fabric option. Gore Pro just isn’t quite as comfy.