Gore-Tex Active vs. PacLite – Which is Better for Me?

Gore-Tex is without a doubt an amazing fabric. With the invention of Gore-Tex in 1976, outdoor wear became waterproof, windproof, and, most importantly, breathable. Since then, the Gore-Tex company has continued to refine and improve its garments. 

Currently, there are many types of Gore-Tex products on the market, which can be confusing to a consumer. 

We will be focusing on two of their more lightweight products, Gore-Tex Active and Gore-Tex PacLite.

Keep reading to find out the differences and similarities between Gore-Tex Active and PacLite, and learn which one may be best for your needs! 

Gore-Tex Active vs. PacLite Jacket

Gore-Tex Gear In 2024

In order to understand the features of Gore-Tex and differentiate between products, it’s helpful to delve a bit into the history and technology behind Gore-Tex fabric.

Gore-Tex was invented by a family who was working with a substance called PTFE. They found that when it was stretched, it created a strong, microporous membrane (ePTFE). From this discovery, they developed a fabric that could be used to make waterproof, windproof, and breathable outerwear.

The Gore-Tex membrane is special because every square inch has 9 billion pores. These pores are many times smaller than water droplets, meaning water can’t get in. However, they are many times larger than water vapor droplets. Water vapor droplets can also be described as sweat. This means sweat can escape the membrane, allowing breathability.  

Gore-Tex Fabric Technology

So, Gore-Tex developed a pretty cool membrane, now how does that make a useful garment?

Gore-Tex garments are made by sandwiching the membrane between the inner and outer layers of fabric. Just below the membrane is a polyurethane (PU) coating that protects the membrane from oils and dirt which would otherwise damage it. 

Some versions of Gore-Tex garments use a 2-layer construction, which means the membrane is only bonded to the outer fabric. Others use a 3-layer construction, which means the membrane is bonded to both an outer fabric and an inner liner.

An interesting fact to note is the Gore-Tex membrane won’t actually work unless it is wet. In other words, the membrane won’t start “breathing” (releasing water vapor) until a small amount of water vapor has reached it through the PU coating.

Luckily, this doesn’t take too long, and you don’t really need it to breathe until you’ve worked up a sweat anyway.  

So, now that you’ve learned a bit about the history and technology behind both Gore-Tex Active and PacLite, how do you choose which version is best for you?

Gore-Tex Active vs. PacLite Comparison

Gore-Tex developed both Active and PacLite to be extremely lightweight options. However, there are some important differences between the two.

Gore-Tex Active

Gore-Tex Active is meant for those who prioritize breathability and lightweight above all else. Gore-Tex described these people as the sort who are doing “fast-paced, high-aerobic, done-in-a-day activities even in bad weather.” 

Gore-Tex Active uses a 3 layer composite, however, the PU coating is incorporated into the inner lining. This allows the membrane to breathe faster and more easily than standard Gore-Tex. The inner lining is comfortable against the skin and protects the membrane. But, the emphasis on weighing less and having more breathability sacrifices some durability. 

Gore-Tex PacLite

Gore-Tex PacLite is meant for those who prioritize a high amount of waterproofness in a highly packable, lightweight form. PacLite garments are also totally windproof. PacLite garments are great as a backup jacket that gets used in a sudden downpour or other change of weather.  

PacLite uses a 2 layer composite, which means there is no inner liner between the membrane and the wearer. This makes the garment extremely lightweight and packable, however, it also exposes the membrane material to more wear and tear. It is also not as comfortable and doesn’t feel as good against the skin as garments with an inner layer. 

Man Hiking on Mountain

Similarities Between Gore-Tex Active and PacLite

Both Gore-Tex Active and PacLite prioritize breathability and light-weightedness. In doing so, they both sacrifice durability.

That means they can be susceptible to wear and tear, and, in the case of the PacLite, contaminants of oil and dirt directly onto the membrane. Both are still Gore-Tex though, so they are highly waterproof and windproof. 

Difference Between Gore-Tex Active and PacLite

Gore-Tex Active uses a 3 layer composite construction whereas PacLite uses a 2 layer construction. The most noticeable result to the wearer is that the Gore-Tex Active has an inner liner and the PacLite does not. In the Gore-Tex Active material, the PU coating is incorporated into the membrane, creating a thin material. In the PacLite material, the thinness is achieved by foregoing the inner liner. 

It is important to note that in 2019, Gore-Tex released what they call PacLite Plus, which has an improved backing. It is softer to the touch, more comfortable to wear, and offers better protection from dirt and oils than PacLite. 

PacLite Plus was also designed with more of a focus on being resistant to tears and is even more durable than the original PacLite.

Gore-Tex Active vs PacLite – The Winner

If you need a stashable, extra rain jacket or layer that can get you home when the weather turns nasty, grab a Gore-Tex PacLite garment. 

If you are doing hard-charging, highly aerobic, outdoor activities and need something that will protect you from whatever may come out there, choose Gore-Tex Active. Both are lightweight, waterproof, windproof, and breathable, however, both are susceptible to wear and tear. 


As you can see from above, Active and PacLite are both great options that have some slight differences in performance. You should figure out which activities you’ll be participating in to make sure you get the best choice between the two!