Thursday, January 23, 2020

GoreWear Gore-Tex Infinium Review: Comfort and Performance Beyond Classic "Waterproof Breathable"

Article by Sam Winebaum and Jeff Valliere

W.L Gore, the makers of ubiquitous Gore-Tex products most often associated with high performance waterproof breathable characteristics, have in the last couple of years, taken their membrane and the laminated fabric covering, the essence of what makes Gore-Tex Gore-Tex, in a new direction with their Infinium product line. We have now extensively tested Infinium gloves from The North Face (RTR Review) and two GoreWear Infinium jackets along with run/XC tights and can say they are really onto something with this more breathable, lighter, softer but not quite as water resistant as their traditional approaches to protection from the elements.

So what is Infinium? Essentially the Gore-Tex membrane and associated fabric is made lighter, thinner, softer, stretchier, more pliable, more breathable, yet still totally windproof. It is more focused on those attributes and comfort than "waterproof" as classic Gore-Tex is or quite water resistant as traditional Gore-Tex Windstopper is. Jeff’s jacket features an Infinium outer shell with “persistent beading” characteristics while mine does not.

Sam: The result in my testing is the highest performance in terms of breathability combined with wind resistance, most comfortable high output activities (run and nordic ski in our case but also likely cycling outer layers) fabric I have ever tested. Gone is the rather stiff thick feel of prior Windstopper products including last year equivalent X7 GoreWear we tested with more breathability, better heat management, and less moisture absorption.

GoreWear sent Sam the R7 Partial Gore-Tex Infinium Hooded Jacket  and the X7 Partial Gore-Tex Infinium Tights and Jeff the Gore X7 Infinium Soft Lined Jacket to test.

To understand how GoreWear categorizes products “R” refers to run, “X” for nordic ski, “H” for fast hiking and “C” for cycling.  As seen in the photos above our mix and match tights from "X" Nordic skiing and jacket from "R" running is perfectly suitable for both,

R7 Partial Gore-Tex Infinium Hooded Jacket ($200)
Sam: The Hooded Jacket is a fully decked out run jacket. Notice I did not say shell as the fit is quite snug across the front with the length adequate but on the short side. You will get enough layers for most all running underneath but for some extra room I might size up. I am 5' 10" about 165 lbs. GoreWear should reconsider sizing to move run jackets away from essentially a cycling fit up front.

The jacket has a single chest pocket which holds my iPhone 11 Pro in case, a very well fitted hood with a thin elastic front band to keep it put and a rear drawstring if need be, a waist drawstring and decent reflective accents front and back. The contrasting blue and yellow sleeves are a nice touch which also help with low light contrast on the road.

The partial part (what is not Gore-Tex Infinium Windstopper) is at the back below the shoulders and from up about 8" inches from the waist and at the underside of the cuffs where we have a stretchy, thin very breathable fabric, again a feature to improve performance in high output activities. The rest of the jacket is the new Infinium flavor of Gore Windstopper
Sam: One can clearly see in the photo above how thin and translucent the Infinium Windstopper is. Not to worry, as while thin, soft and pliable, it is totally effective in blocking wind while being breathable and absorbing almost no moisture. There is an uncanny sense in this jacket, when things heated up, say on uphills, that it is literally pumping heat out and then, when in the wind and cold keeping the chill away. I also noted in warmer temperatures, despite the relatively snug fit ,that unlike other more water resistant jackets there was far less sticking of the fabric to bare skin. I ran many, many days without needing to wash it so the odor resistance is excellent as well.
I tested on the run and nordic skiing conditions from the low 50's F / 10 C to near 13 F / -10C and when properly and lightly layered underneath the protection and comfort in all conditions was superb. 
The jacket was never overwhelmed by my body heat in warmer conditions or cut through by wind and cold at the other extreme. While clearly not a "rain or heavy snow shell", for most running, nordic ski. or hiking conditions where some protection is needed and the output is high the Infinium Jacket is state of the art. My only gripes are that the fit should be a touch more generous over the front and the front zipper pull a bit beefier to make it easier to find and tug with gloves as the chest pocket’s is.
Available from Running Warehouse here

X7 Partial Gore-Tex Infinium Tights ($170)
Sam: I am more a run pants person that tights person. I generally find tights are either to thin, cold and clammy, to thick and overly warm, or so compressive that my already poor knee lift is impeded. Not so here!

The X7 Tights are very thin, slightly compressive and as with the Partial Infinium Hooded Jacket totally windproof on the front and highly breathable. I have run and nordic skied in them in colder conditions with warmer testing yet to come. Spring?  

They have flat waist drawstring, a thigh pocket (not large enough for a phone whereas last year’s X7 pant did and that was welcome ) and a snug mesh bottom cuff (with no zippers) that can be tucked into or stretched over the top of a nordic boot or winter socks for a touch of gaiter like protection.
While difficult to see (and I modified the photo colors to show)  the construction is very elaborate with essentially the partial part is full coverage of Infinium Windstopper over the front to the knees.
..with more breathable jersey fabric below and at the rear. The mesh cuffs can also be seen at the ankles in the photo above.

Range of motion running and nordic skiing was excellent but the wide seam behind the knee was more noticeable and more felt than I would like. 

My runs and nordic skis so far in conditions from about 13 F/ -10C to 30 F/ -1C I was amazed how such a light tight could be at the same time so warm, breathable and temperature regulating, and wind resistant. I was never chilled even during some windy picture stops.  One of my runs had strong winds on a small ridge along the way and we stopped to take pictures and I was perfectly fine. This said this is tight for fast movement ups and downs and not for long hours standing around in cold. While nothing obvious can be felt there, is a very slight warm and fuzzy feel to the interior fabric over the thighs. 

While quite a stout investment for a tight, I think it is a worthy one if you want a very light high performance tight. It would be an ideal piece for a marathon be it ski or run in cold conditions or those long marathon prep runs in winter. I do wish for more reflectivity beyond the logos, 

GoreWear X7 Gore-Tex Infinium Soft Lined Jacket ($280)
Jeff: The Gore X7 Gore-Tex Infinium Soft Lined Jacket is an amazingly versatile mid/outer layer for high output activity, ideally running or XC Skiing.  The X7 Infinium Soft Lined jacket comprises stretch fit, breathable materials with strategically placed black Infinium panels full length along the outer arms, around neck, shoulders and down the back.  

The stretch panels are soft and allow for maximal freedom of movement and very good breathability.  The Infinium material integrates well, allowing for a nice blend of wind resistance, water resistance (just the Infinium panels) which is adequate for warding off sprinkles or light/dry snow showers, but if prolonged snow, wet snow or rain, I would for sure add a waterproof shell.

All of the shiny black material on the front, back and along the full length of the top of the arms is Infinium, whereas the yellow are the more breathable stretch panels.  The only other material are the black panels on the underside of the arm cuffs that are a bit more durable.
The layout of the stretch material along with the Infinium provides freedom for a great range of motion when swinging arms running or I imagine the reachy pole action when XC skiing.  The Infinium, while it looks crinkly, is soft, supple and quiet, easily passing my pre dawn, pre run 0 decibel sneak around the house criteria.
I have run in this jacket in a wide range of conditions, from my normal daily 6am runs by headlamp, usually in the 20F-30F degree range, to windy mid day runs in the 30’s and even a few days with temps climbing into the 50’s.  

Interior view of the jacket below, where the panels are strategically sewn for the best combination of protection and breathable ventilation.  While not fuzzy, the interior is soft and comfortable.
On calm days in the 20’s / -4 C the X7 Infinium Soft Lined Jacket is adequate with just my favorite, thin wool baselayer, but if it gets at all windy, I will add a thin jacket over it to cut the wind.

I have run on days that have started off in the 20’s or 30’s, yet climbed into the 50’s so above 10 C where I was worried that I would overheat, but surprisingly that was not the case.  The X7 was quite breathable and not at all clammy despite the fact that I was working hard and sweating moderately. I did unzip much of the way to vent and rolled up the sleeves to help mitigate heat.

As Sam describes above, fit is slim and very much reminiscent of aerodynamic cycling clothing.  If I run after a meal, it really feels snug, but once I get running and burn off some breakfast, I don’t really notice the slim fit as much.  That said, it is a piece that I will only wear for running and never around town or hiking, it is not the least bit casual, it is all speed.

The collar is snug without being confining and does a great job keeping out the drafts.

I have not yet had the need, but if you choose, you can cinch the neck down even tighter with the draw string adjustment from the back of the collar.

For me, pockets are a huge plus and there are three generous pockets here (with easy to grab tabs), two hand pockets and one Napoleon chest pocket that can easily accommodate a smartphone with no bounce.  The hand pockets are roomy and large enough to stash gloves, beanies, food, etc....

There are also draw string adjustments on the waist hem.

Overall this is a great mid layer (cold or bad weather) or outer layer (when not precipitating) for the 20 F / -6 to 50 F / 10 C range, primarily during high output running and skiing.  The Infinium is a wonderful material, very soft, quiet and supple, durable and high quality with excellent breathability with no clammy feel and great moisture transfer.  

I would love to see Gore offer this X7 model with a hood. In my opinion, at least for the 6am, often cold and windy mountain running that I do year round, in the Winter I am a big fan of having a hood to keep out draft around my neck, particularly when it gets windy, I really like tucking inside a hood for warmth and to reduce wind noise.  To mitigate, I have been using a buff style neck gaiter which is a reasonable alternative, but a hood would be great. Greater reflectivity would also be a nice touch, as only the logos are slightly reflective. Finally, a slight relaxation in fit would be nice, but I could also stand to lose a few holiday pounds too, so perhaps a daily reminder to back off the snacks!

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The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
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Anonymous said...

Sam, thank you very much for this. Can you please compare the X7 to the R7 Goretex Shakedry? I have found the R7 Shakedry to be almost my perfect running jacket. It is comfortable, light and breathes very well. And it is fully waterproof unlike the X7.



Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Michael,
The R7 Infinium jacket is clearly both more breathable and less water resistant than the ShakeDry. It is just as wind resistant as far as I can tell This said I found the ShakeDry soaked through in about 20 minutes anyway. The R7 is far less crinkly and plasticky feeling.
Sam, Editor

Anonymous said...

Sam you gave your weight and height, but I can't see mention of the sizing at all? Unless my reading comprehension is bad, which is possible!

Sam Winebaum said...

So sorry Anonymous. I was medium in all fine. This said GoreWear Tops in general quite, maybe a bit too, fitted for me