For over 50 years, Delaware based W.L. Gore & Associates has been developing materials and garments designed to enhance our experience in the outdoors and protect us from the elements. Over the years, I’ve had many jackets and gloves with Gore-Tex® material but none that were lightweight enough that I would consider running in them. However, in the last several years the game has changed a great deal for outdoor-garment manufacturers. This article from Outside Magazine’s March ’12 issue will allow you to get your full polytetrofluoroethylene geek on, but for this review what you need to understand is that W.L. Gore & Associates invented Gore-Tex® as well as WINDSTOPPER® material which may have kept many of us from dying while severely underdressed and committing the cardinal sin of starting a run with the wind and coming back against it.
You may have also noticed that GORE RUNNING WEAR has been popping up at retailers online and at your favorite running specialty stores. Apparently this fraction of the company has been making running clothes since 1997, but I, for one, just started noticing them in the past two years. Gore emphasizes outfit systems, of which there are nineteen different systems alone for men on their website, to maximize the performance and layering of each garment for the recreational runner, marathon runner, and trail runner. I was provided with several different pieces from the trail running collections, some from the X-Running Warm Outfit System, and some from the X-Running Cool Wet Outfit System. What I found was that these garments are highly specialized and very well made. Many of them became staples in my regular gear rotation.
X-Running Warm Outfit System
X-Running 2.0 Shorts ($70)
Without a doubt, this was my favorite piece of gear from the Gore line, and it has the most applicability to ultrarunning. Why? Because these shorts can carry a ton of cargo, and they offer compression and warmth in slightly colder temperatures. I favored the X-Running 2.0 Shorts during long runs in the 40-55 degree range when I wanted to carry a great deal of gels, salt pills, toilet paper, whatever. In fact, when I fully loaded these shorts with gels I was able to carry 14 gels via four pairs of elastic loops around the waistband, mesh pockets on my lower thighs, and a zippered envelope pocket on the back of the shorts. I did experience some difficulty with gels falling out of the loops, but after some trial and error I found GU gels to fit best and don’t have this problem. The loops were also handy to attach a thin pair of gloves and one could even thread a featherweight jacket through them.
These are 2-in-1 shorts offering a compression layer of Lycra with a modesty protecting 9-inch outer short which is lightweight and breathable. Seamless construction left me chafe-free, and while I felt that the compression properties left something the be desired, these shorts did provide additional warmth in cool temps.
X-Running Zip Shirt ($90)
While lining up for a 50k trail race this summer feeling especially “Euro” in this shirt, I heard a fellow racer say, “Check that guy out, he’s wearing a bike jersey.” The similarities are obvious, and for all intents and purposes, the X-Running Zip Shirt is a very lightweight cycling-style jersey. This is not without its merits as this trail running shirt offers great breathability, a half-zip for extra ventilation, and several storage pockets on the back. Two elastic pockets allowed me to store empty gel foils, and a zippered pocket offered additional gel or pill storage. GORE uses welded-on seams across the shoulders to give this shirt some structure when wet, and mesh inserts underneath the armpits offer additional ventilation.
X-Running Windstopper Active Shell ($160)
At just 3 ounces and packing down into a small pouch on the interior, the Windstopper Active Shell was another gem that I take out of the closet anytime I needed a featherweight waterproof shell. Many featherweight shells I own repel rain to a certain degree and eventually get saturated, sticking to my arms and cooling my core temperature. This jacket really does repel water and I didn’t leave home without it when venturing above treeline this summer. The only drawback I could find to this jacket is the lack of pockets for any storage.
X-Running Cool Wet Outfit System
X-Running Gore-Tex Active Jacket ($300)
Definitely the most bizarre piece of the bunch, the Active Jacket is a very waterproof and windproof sleeveless jacket meant to be worn with GORE’s Windstopper running sleeves which are included. Initially, I was very skeptical of this setup, but for those of you spending a great deal of time in 40-degree temperatures with a lot of rain, I found that this jacket and sleeves combo offers great lightweight protection which got me through runs in the low twenties with only the Windstopper Baselayer Shirt underneath.
Essential Baselayer Windstopper Shirt ($70)
This is the warmest t-shirt I own, and the dichotomy of Windstopper material on the front of the shirt and an open mesh on the back makes this an ideal base layer to keep your core warm in cold, wet, and windy conditions. A very thin and form fitting base layer, at 5’10” and 145 lbs I had to wrestle into a size medium, and I would’ve fit in perfectly on the set of Jersey Shore. However, while running I didn’t notice the form fit and valued this shirt as a great single layer under either jacket for windy and cold weather.
X-Running Socks ($19)
With a higher rise that covers the ankle completely, these socks appear to be made for mountain biking. But, after wearing them for several long runs, I found the X-Running Socks to provide a nice bit of ankle protection from cacti, roots, and rocks in addition to the flailing inner edges of my running shoes. A mixture of thin wool and COOLMAX material in all the right places makes these socks a great piece of gear for all weather conditions, but I chose to wear them in cooler weather. I’ve worn these socks weekly for the last seven months and they show very little wear and are becoming favorites for the winter-running season.
Gore certainly makes top-level gear with an emphasis on Outfit Systems designed for certain weather conditions. The formed fit of their products and durability over the last seven months has shown me that they certainly set out to make the best running gear for any condition. While I don’t have any doubts about the durability of the gear, I do have qualms with the pricing. For a budget-minded runner, any one of these items is so expensive as to steer them away, and with Outfit Systems priced from $400-$700 dollars many runners with a blue-collar ethos or limited income will be turned off outright. Hopefully in the future, as the GORE RUNNING brand grows, the prices shrink to a more affordable level.