Gore Tex Active Shell – Tested

Time of year tested: Late autumn 2011 through to late January 2012
Intended use: Faster paced activity, running, walking, cycling and mountain biking.


I was lucky enough to be given a Berghaus Gore Tex Active Shell jacket to test after questioning how breathable this new Gore Tex fabric actually was. My test jacket is a stripped down garment with do hood and only a small pocket which suited me fine as I primarily wanted to use it for mountain biking through the winter months where I felt I could put the fabric through its paces.
Here I am putting Active Shell through its paces

On its first outing I packed it into my hydration backpack as it was not raining when I set out and after all, you don’t need a waterproof unless it is actually raining, right?! After an hour the heavens opened and in getting the jacket out of my pack I got quite wet so I thought I had messed up the first test somewhat by providing a pretty damp interior for the jacket to deal with plus we had a big hill to climb!

Undeterred, we carried on through constant rain and a healthy portion of mud being thrown over my brand new jacket, which remained fully zipped up to keep out the mud and drips running down my face but potentially limiting some valuable airflow.

The jacket was performing well, it was wet, 8 – 10 degrees or so and we had completed plenty of mixed climbs and descents to mix up the climate inside the jacket.  I have to say so far, so good; I feel comfortable and dry (where covered) and after an hour or two in these conditions we head back.

After getting back to the vehicle and stripping off the muddy layers, I fully expected to find some damp patches of perspiration build up especially under the hydration pack; but to my surprise everything was dry to the touch which was super impressive. I did of course use a wicking baselayer, which allowed the fabric to do its job.
The Mountain Equipment Firefox Jacket
show just how small Active Shell packs down

I have since tested the jacket on numerous occasions including running and road cycling with similar results. The exceptional breathability of the fabric perhaps shows up best when you are out with a group in wet conditions where everyone has had to opt for some form of shell layer to keep the rain and wind off.

My own findings were that others were stripping off outer layers when climbing hills due to over heating whereas my Active Shell was fine to leave on. Indeed, there is perhaps a word of caution to be used here as the fabric breathes so well there is no “micro climate” inside the jacket from heat and perspiration which means you have to choose a warm enough layer underneath for the conditions.
This is my most treasured Gore Tex jacket that I currently own as it serves me well as a lightweight waterproof and it is more breathable than any of my other windproof tops and it still packs incredibly small.
Mountain Equipment Firefox jacket

Gore Tex Active Shell is constructed in a three-layer make up, that is to say it has an outer shell face fabric, an inner scrim lining and then the Gore Tex bonded in the middle. The inner scrim layer provides a tactile layer for when it is against the skin and helps protect the Gore-Tex membrane.

It is worth noting that Active Shell is designed for ultra lightweight and will not offer the durability of a hill-walking jacket. That said, my jacket is still in one piece and has crashed through trees and taken a few tumbles with me.

I know that I have talked here about a jacket that we don’t stock and most of you will want something with a hood. The Mountain Equipment Firefox jacket and Firelight over trousers are the same fabric and make up. These are likely to serve equally as well for those looking for a super light and super breathable jacket that packs to nothing and can be worn all day if required. As you may expect being a Gore-Tex fabric it is not a cheap option but in my opinion it is worth every penny!
Simon Clark

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