Q:

Can I trust gear made with Paclite?

I considering purchasing a jacket and pants made of Gore-Tex Paclite that are on sale. Some of the garments I'm considering (Devil's Thumb Jacket and a Dabl Pants from The North Face) are no longer made with Paclite but are now made with Gore-Tex XCR. The jacket and pants are selling right now approximately 50 percent off, so they are a relatively good deal. Should I be wary of Paclite since TNF has stopped using it? Thanks for your advice. Jay Lenrow Baltimore, Maryland

Sep 18, 2003
Outside
Outside Magazine
A: Paclite has had a bit of a troubled history. It was introduced about three years ago, with great fanfare, as a "light" alternative to regular Gore-Tex. And it's pretty clever stuff. Gore-Tex needs some sort of protection from abrasion. In three-ply construction, that is achieved by making a fabric sandwich, with the Gore-Tex in the middle. In two-ply, a mesh layer is attached to the inside of the jacket. Paclite eliminated the fabric or the mesh by imprinting the exposed Gore-Tex with a pattern of small rubbery dots.

Alas, this may have been idea that wasn't quite ready for prime time. The first generation of Paclite, in which the Gore-Tex layer was sort of cream-colored, tended to discolor rather badly. So the Gore folks changed its color to gray, making the eventual discoloration less visible. Meanwhile, a number of users complained that the rubber dots were moving around (friction could push them like hockey pucks) or completely coming off. And even at its best, Paclite has some durability issues. What sort of abuse a user dishes out will vary, of course, but in general, Paclite was about half as durable as regular Gore-Tex. Yet it cost very nearly the same.

So, while Paclite still is around —- Mountain Hardwear puts it in its Borealis jacket, for instance ($325), and L.L. Bean in the Gore-Tex Ultralight Jacket ($249)—overall it's taken a lower profile than it had two years ago. For one thing, Gore's new XCR fabric is lighter than old Gore-Tex, yet just as durable, so that steals some of Paclite's thunder. Plus, a bunch of companies now have coated waterproof-breathable fabrics on the market that compete well with Gore-Tex on a performance standpoint, yet are lighter and less expensive. An example: Patagonia's Lightning jacket, for $189. The North Face also is moving toward proprietary coated fabrics for its sub-$300 jackets, and you'll see several new ones in the spring. I'm also told that a bunch of new waterproof fabrics will be hitting the market in the fall, and that the Gore folks are going to have a real fight on their hand to hold market share.

So-o-o, Paclite still is very much alive. But I'd look as well at some XCR products, such as Marmot's new-for-spring Liquid Steel ($360), and at some non-Gore alternatives.

Stay dry!

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