Gear Guy

Why can’t I find jackets made with PacLite?

I just read Outside's review of the new light technical shells coming out on the market and I realized that none of them are using W.L. Gore's PacLite material. A few years ago this stuff was the rage, but now I don't see any big ne manufacturers using it. Why is PacLite going off of the market? Is it a crummy material? Aaron Provo, Utah


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It’s a pretty good material, actually. PacLite, as some of our more gear-savvy readers know, is a lightweight version of Gore-Tex that was introduced with much fanfare a few years ago. The Gore folks cut weight from regular Gore-Tex by eliminating the mesh liner used in two-ply Gore-Tex and the fabric inner layer used in three-ply. They did this by coating the inside of the waterproof membrane with little rubbery dots. The dots helped hold the material slightly away from whatever it was rubbing against when worn, thus protecting it from abrasion.

The stuff had cosmetic problems right out of the block. It was crankily for one thing. For another, it tended to turn sort of grayish, which didn’t have any impact on performance but didn’t look good. And then some of the dots would either migrate or fall right off, which again wasn’t a huge performance problem but didn’t inspire confidence. Gore fixed most of these issues in subsequent versions. But PacLite’s worst sin that it was very nearly as expensive as regular Gore-Tex, yet by Gore’s own admission lasted only about half or two-thirds as long, depending on usage. Understandably, once consumers learned this they started to question the wisdom of forking over $350 to $400 for a shell that might be toast after a couple seasons.

Last year Gore itself more or less killed PacLite itself by introducing Gore-Tex XCR, which was lighter and more breathable than its previous material, and used the same two-ply/three-ply construction methods that have been proven with earlier Gore-Tex. So the market has split between XCR at the high end, and various makers’ proprietary waterproof-breathable fabrics at the middle and low ends. Some PacLite garments still are out there-L.L. Bean makes quite a nice lightweight shell called the Ultralight for $249 that uses PacLite-but it’s fading away.

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