Last week, I was invited to the Philadelphia area to be a part of the Gore-Tex Experience More Blogger Summit, a meetup of several outdoor bloggers from around the country. We were invited to learn a bit more about Gore-Tex and the company behind it, as well as get some behind-the-scenes factory tours and opportunities to ask tons of questions along the way.
I’ll admit, before heading east, I didn’t know that much about Gore-Tex, other than it’s a breathable yet waterproof fabric that seems to be in most of my hiking boots and a few of my colder-weather jackets. You’ve most likely seen either the Gore-Tex or Windstopper label on one of your favorite outdoor items, but the first night highlighted some of the other stuff Gore does – which is a lot. The main component of Gore-Tex is found in everything from NASA space suits to Glide floss, Elixir guitar strings, replacement human arteries, and even ropes used for deep-sea dredging and anchoring – and it’s called ePTFE.
It’s short for extended polytetrafluoroethylene, which – if you’re at all mildly concerned about the environment – sounds terrifying. But it’s not as bad as it sounds. While the material does use a few less-than-savory chemicals in its production, it’s mostly formed from fluoride and carbon, which occurs naturally. The ePTFE itself is a flexible rubbery substance that, when heated, can be stretched while maintaining its strength. Here, we get a little demo of one of the finished products from Gene, one of the Gore associates :
Gene and Emily, another associate, walked us around the Gore Capability Center, a sort of exhibition space / museum that shows off everything Gore can do, so that prospective buyers can figure out if Gore can help them with something they’re working on. Like a hydrogen fuel-cell moped, for instance.
Everyone at the Summit fell under the general umbrella of “outdoor bloggers” – hunting, fishing, camping, backpacking, trail and marathon running, ultralight, rock climbing, and hiking were all represented – but I know most, if not all of us were impressed with the sheer range of uses for this mysterious component of our shoes and jackets. I also know a few of us nerdier outdoor bloggers were really digging all the science.
Afterward, they took us into a presentation room and gave us a sneak peak at their new outdoor community site, which is slated to launch in mid-November. I’ll have a bit more on that closer to their launch, but from sitting and talking with some of the Gore employees and seeing everything they put into their product, I really got the sense that this is a company who really understands their market.
This isn’t a company that has to hire a research firm to find out what kinds of people are using Gore-Tex, it’s a company made up of people who actually use Gore-Tex in the wild. On the second day, we went to a few Gore facilities in Maryland and Delaware, and even just from walking through the cubicles and offices, you could tell that. Everyone had hunting trophies, summit photos, or other outdoor memorabilia absolutely filling every available space.
I’ll have more on the rest of the Summit in the coming days, including some factory tours, Q&A sessions, and some new technology on the way to stores soon.
Disclosure – all of my expenses were paid for by Gore through the duration of the Summit.
He has also been featured on Good Morning America, NPR, and the Associated Press, as well as in documentaries for Columbia Sportswear and the OTIS College of Art and Design.
Casey is currently writing a book on day hikes in Los Angeles for Mountaineers Books.
This post was written by Casey Schreiner on November 2, 2009