Want to know what’s the difference between H2No and Gore-Tex? Even though they are developed by different brands, these two fabrics are actually very similar! Both are waterproof, windproof and breathable, and they both come in several different versions that are used in different types of garments.
But there are some important differences, from the average price of garments that use the fabrics to their overall versatility and application. And there’s a gap in performance, but it’s much smaller than you think.
I’ll go into a lot more detail about both H2No and Gore-Tex below, and I will cover all the important similarities and differences of these two waterproofing technologies!
H2No is Patagonia’s proprietary waterproof fabric. They develop it in-house, which allows them to cut costs in production when using this material in their products. Patagonia products with H2No fabric are usually priced better than their items that use other technologies, so it’s a great option for people who are shopping on a tight budget.
Gore-Tex, on the other hand, is a much pricier option. But it’s also considered the leader on the market when it comes to waterproofing technologies, and it’s used by a wide variety of brands. Even Patagonia has products that use Gore-Tex instead of their in-house technology, and those tend to be better, tougher and pricier.
And that’s it for the intro. We’ll get into a lot more detail about these technologies now, starting with all the different verities of both H2No and Gore-Tex!
Both these technologies are available in several different verities, each of which is best for a different purpose.
Patagonia H2No fabrics come in 2-layer, 2.5-layer and 3-layer options. All three versions and waterproof, windproof and breathable, but there are some minor differences between them. The 2.5-layer H2No is the most lightweight of the bunch, and it features superior packability. For that reason, this particular version of Patagonia’s waterproof fabric is mostly used in outdoor gear, specifically jackets that are supposed to be ultralight and packable.
The standard 2-layer H2No fabric is known for next-to skin comfort, and is thus more often used in jackets for mild weather. This particular version of H2No features superior breathability, so it’s perfect for physically demanding activities that can make you sweat.
Finally, there’s the 3-layer H2No fabric. It’s the toughest and thickest out of the bunch, so it’s most often seen in Patagonia’s heavy duty jacket. It is as waterproof as a fabric can be, which is why most of their rain jackets feature the 3-layer H2No.
Gore-Tex is also available in several different options, just like Patagonia’s H2NO in-house material. All of the versions are 100% waterproof and breathable, but they’re each designed for specific activates. There’s Gore-Tex Paclite, which is the lightest option out of the bunch and is most often seen in more casual clothing. This is a lightweight and packable fabric, designed for hiking, camping and everyday wear.
It’s actually similar to Gore-Tex Active, but it’s slightly less flexible. With the Active technology, all the focus is on keeping you comfortable while you’re out and about. Garments that use Gore-Tex active are meant for running, cycling, hiking, mountaineering and skiing.
Then there’s also Gore-Tex Pro, which is the most rugged protection the brand offers. It’s most often used in gear for climbing, freeriding and hunting, as it offers protection in extreme conditions. This fabric is also super tough and durable, while at the same time allowing for excellent freedom of movement.
Even though these two materials have similar performance, they are composed from different items. That ultimately impacts their strength and durability, so let’s talk about that.
Gore-Tex is extremely tough and that’s thanks to stretched polytetrafluoroethylene construction. And that’s just the proper name of the chemical compound more widely known under the Teflon brand name. Yup, Gore-Tex is constructed from stretched Teflon, which is exactly why the fabric manages to be so incredibly tough. A Gore-Tex jacket can survive close encounters with sharp rocks without so much as a scratch or a thread coming loose, making the fabric a great option for garments that need to be ultra durable.
Also, Gore-Tex has a wide variety of other applications. I’ll talk in more detail about that later, but it’s worth noting that it’s not just used to make waterproof clothes.
H2No, on other hand, is made from recycled ripstop nylon. As far as man-made fabrics go, ripstop nylon is one of the toughest and most durable options. That’s why it is commonly used in sleeping bags, backpacks and other luggage – all those items are exposed to heavy use, and tend to go through a lot of wear and tear.
A nylon jacket is tough and durable, but it’s just not as ridiculously strong as a Gore-Tex one. So, if you want a jacket that you can put through hell and back, go with something made from Gore-Tex. But if you just need something tough for everyday wear, Patagonia’s H2No is more than up to the task.
Patagonia and Gore-Tex both claim that their materials are 100% waterproof no matter what. But it’s actually super easy to test that claim and see who exactly is telling the truth. Both fabrics have waterproof ratings, so let’s talk about those!
The waterproof rating of a garment is measured with the Hydrostatic Head test, which gives us a waterproof rating in milimeters. Basically, the test measures just how much water a fabric can repel in a period of 24 hours, before it starts getting soaked. And even the most waterproof of the fabrics have their limits, but for the best ones it’s exceptionally high.
So, for a garment to be deemed waterproof, it has to have rating of at least 1,500 mm. Anything up to 2,000 mm is suitable for daily wear in light rain, and 5,000 to 10,000 is considered waterproof in any weather condition.
Gore-Tex fabric have a rating of a whooping 28,000 mm, which is higher than any other fabric on the market. That’s exactly why they are the champion! And the fabric was known to get a rating over 30,000 mm in previous tests, which actually made them switch up things.
Patagonia’s H2No fabric is waterproof by all standards, with a rating between 10,000 and 20,000 mm. It’s obviously not as waterproof as Gore-Tex, but considering that 10,000 mm is considered to be suitable even for extreme weather, they certainly deserve a chance to prove just how well they can perform. And at a much lower price tag than Gore-Tex!
Breathability of fabrics is crucial for your comfort, especially in clothes that you wear during demanding physical activities. When you’re hiking and climbing you tend to sweat more, so you need gear that’s breathable. The best jackets are the ones that allow the moisture inside to evaporate, but at the same time don’t let any external moisture get inside the jacket.
H2No and Gore-Tex are both supposed to be super breathable, in addition to being extremely waterproof. And just like waterproofing, we can compare the breathability of these fabrics with number ratings.
The breathability of a fabric is measured by the amount of vapor that passes through the fabric over a 24 hour period. The end result is recorded in grams of vapor per a square meter – g/m2. And just like with waterproofing, the higher the rating the more breathable the garment.
An average product might have a breathability rating of 5,000 g/m2, while a high end one will be rated at 20,000 g/m2. And that’s exactly how it is with Gore-Tex – the different versions of the fabrics have different rating, but on average it’s between 15,000 – 25,000 g/m2. On the other hand, the breathability rating of H2No fabrics is between 12,000 – 15,000 g/m2. It’s not a massive difference; in fact, there’s an overlap between Patagonia’s most breathable fabric and the least breathable version of Gore-Tex!
What’s interesting is that Gore-Tex is not the most breathable fabric that exists. That’s actually eVent with a breathability rating that goes up to a whooping 25,000 g/m2!
One of the major differences between the two technologies is how they are used. Patagonia’s H2No is only used in clothing – jackets, pants, parkas, waders and bibs. And it’s exclusive to Patagonia – you won’t see any other brand using the H2No Performance Standard fabric, so if you would like to try it out you will have shop specifically Patagonia clothing.
Gore-Tex, on the other hand, has a much wider use. Apart from also being used in jackets, gloves, shoes and sleeping bags, the fabric has some weird applications that you likely know nothing about. It has certain medical applications, it’s used for conservation of illuminated manuscripts and it works as a membrane for sealed battery products.
But my favorite by far are the medical applications – Gore-Tex is used for sutures, heart patches, synthetic knee ligaments and even vascular grafts! That’s something that H2No just can’t compete with .
Of course, our focus here isn’t on application outside of outdoor gear. But this does tell us just how reliable and versatile Gore-Tex technologies are, which is exactly why so many people opt to pay the higher price tag for Gore-Tex products.
Neither of these technologies is exactly cheap, but H2No garments are usually cheaper than their Gore-Tex alternatives. The main reason for that is because Patagonia produces H2No in house, they are able to offer better pricing on the garments. They also sell clothing with Gore-Tex, but those items tend to be pricier.
And that’s because Patagonia, The North Face and all the other brands have to buy Gore-Tex in order to integrate it into their products. It’s pricey enough for those brands, and when you add the markup plus all the other production costs, you’re left with a pretty expensive product.
But that’s okay. Gore-Tex is expensive to manufacture specifically because it is such high quality. All of the variants are breathable, waterproof, windproof and exceptionally durable – you will have zero regrets if you end up getting a jacket or a pair of shoes that have a Gore-Tex membrane.
Another reason why Gore-Tex garments are expensive is because brands tend to pair them with pricier insulation. You won’t see a Gore-Tex sleeping bag that features cheap insulation and seams that are falling apart. No; when you see Gore-Tex in a garment, it means that the brand is pulling out all the stops, which results in a pretty high price tag.
Perhaps the largest advantage of Gore-Tex is that it’s more widely available. It is used by brands like The North Face, Marmot, adidas, Salomon and even Patagonia, among dozens of others. Whether you’re looking to pick up a waterproof Gore-Tex jacket or a tough and rugged pair of Gore-Tex hiking boots, you should have plenty of options in your hometown.
The material is so widely used that you can find it anywhere in the world, which can’t be said for Patagonia’s H2No.
The main issue with Patagonia’s fabric is that they keep it exclusive to their brand. Therefore, you can only get something made from H2No if you purchase an item designed, made and sold by Patagonia. The problem is that you might not have access to their items, depending on where you live because Patagonia doesn’t have stores all over the world.
They do have a great online shop that ships to most countries on the planet. But then again, Patagonia is a pricey brand and not everyone is happy with dropping $200 on an item they can’t even try on to check the fit. Plus, online shopping comes with all sorts of extra costs like shipping and import fees.
Ultimately, the availability of an item is exactly what determines just how popular it’s going to be. No matter how much you’re dying to try something out – if you can’t get your hands on it, the hype is going to die down pretty fast. Especially if you can pick up an even better, more durable alternative for the same price!
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.