To better understand how your outdoor gear will perform, it is important to learn about different fabrics technologies. This will come in handy the next time you buy a new jacket, a pair of hiking shoes, or a backpacking sleeping bag.
If you know what are the specific properties of commonly used fabrics, why brands use them, and how they differ from one another, it will be easier for you to find the piece of gear that best suits your needs.
For quite a while, outdoor enthusiasts have been using Gore-Tex as a point of reference when evaluating different fabrics technologies. Omni-Tech is a newer fabric technology developed by Columbia Sportswear. It has quickly become one of the best alternatives to GoreTex.
So, if you are looking for high-performance gear that offers great weather protection, chances are you will end up comparing Omni-Tech vs Gore-Tex products sooner or later. You’ll find everything you need to know about the two technologies in our Omni-Tech vs Gore-Tex comparison.
Columbia Omni-Tech Technology
The Columbia Sportswear Company developed the multi-layer Omni-Tech system for its technical apparel. It is designed to provide air-permeable water protection. All Omni-Tech products are both waterproof and breathable.
The outermost shell features a water-resistant and stain-resistant Omni-Shield coating. So, in addition to repelling water, it does a great job of fighting dirt and grime.
The Omni-Shield coating causes water droplets to roll off the surface of the shell. It isn’t completely waterproof; it just minimizes contact with rain and snow.
The membrane within the second layer does the majority of the waterproofing. The third layer wicks away moisture and helps regulate body heat. It is either a lining that is not laminated to the two protective layers or a sprayed or printed material.
When only the outer shell and the waterproof layer are laminated together, it’s called a 2-layer construction. When there’s a printed or sprayed coating added to the lamination, it’s called a 2.5-layer construction.
Columbia is famous for manufacturing affordable outdoor clothing. Innovative technologies like Omni-Tech are part of the reason why the brand manages to deliver high-quality products without raising its prices. Since Omni-Tech is Columbia’s proprietary technology, it’s only used in Columbia’s products.
Gore-Tex is a breathable and waterproof membrane. It was invented over 6 decades ago. Interestingly, the Columbia Sportswear Company was one of the first brands to use it in its products.
While some brands still use the original Gore-Tex membrane, the Gore Company has developed a variety of newer waterproof solutions, such as the Gore-Tex Active and Gore-Tex Pro.
Most Gore-Tex Pro and Active rain jackets feature a 3-layer construction. Gore-Tex Paclite and Infinitum pieces of clothing have a 2L layer or 2.5L construction. The average 3L Gore-Tex system looks something like this:
Expanded PTFE, or ePTFE, a polymer with exceptional properties, is at the center of all Gore-Tex solutions. The material has around 9 billion micropores per square inch. These pores allow the fabric to breathe without losing its waterproofing properties.
To create the Gore-Tex laminate, the waterproof membrane is bonded to both the outer shell fabric and the lining fabric (hence the name 3-layer construction).
The shell and the lining can be made from high-performance polyester or nylon. To further waterproof the product, the outer layer of Gore-Tex fabric is coated with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish.
Many high-end outdoor brands, such as North Face and Patagonia, use Gore-Tex to enhance the performance of their gear. To ensure that these brands are using Gore-Tex properly, the Gore Company tests every single product that uses Gore-Tex.
While many brands are exploring other alternatives and creating their own proprietary materials, Gore-Tex still remains one of the best options for a well-rounded fabric. Gore-Tex gear is famous for being incredibly durable as well as wind and water-resistant.
Comparison: Omni-Tech vs Gore-Tex
If you are looking for a high-performance jacket or pair of shoes for outdoor activities, you need to pay special attention to breathability. In technical terms, breathability is the ability of a fabric to allow perspiration to escape to the outside.
A jacket made from a breathable fabric allows for complete comfort in a variety of weather conditions. But, most importantly, they help prevent overheating during arduous winter activities. Excessive sweating can be dangerous in extremely cold weather.
The breathability of a fabric is measurable. Lab testers express breathability in grams per square meter per 24 hours. To quantify the breathability of a fabric, one needs to determine how much water vapor can move from the inside of the fabric to the outside of the outer surface in a 24-hour period. The more grams of water it can wick away, the better.
The breathability of Gore-Tex fabrics ranges from 15,000 g/m2/24h to 25,000 g/m2/24h, depending on the specific Gore-Tex membrane. Columbia Omni-Tech rain gear has a breathability rating of 10,000 g/m2/24h.
While both fabrics are highly breathable, Gore-Tex is a better option for high-output activities.
Lab testers use static-column testing to determine the waterproof rating of a fabric. The rating depends on the amount of water pressure the fabric can withstand without leaking.
Lab testers place a 1-inch-diameter tube over a piece of fabric. Then, they start to fill the tube with water. The waterproof rating of the fabric is the same as the water’s height in millimeters when leakage begins.
So, if the fabric can withstand 5,000 mm of water pressure, they will give it a rating of 5,000 mm or 5K. The higher the number, the better.
A fabric that has a waterproof rating of at least 5K is suitable for moderate rainfall. Outdoor gear that has a waterproof rating of 10K or higher is the best option for heavy rain and snowfall.
Omni-Tech has a waterproof rating of 10K. Columbia Omni-Tech jackets will keep you dry in most weather conditions.
The waterproof ratings of Gore-Tex jackets range between 20K and 28K. Undoubtedly, Gore-Tex offers better protection against heavy, wind-driven rain and snow.
However, if you don’t plan on adventuring in really extreme weather, going with a Gore-Tex jacket with a really high waterproof rating is overkill.
The fabric and the technology behind it are not the only factors that determine how waterproof a product is. For instance, a jacked must also be fully seam-sealed in order to be really waterproof. A jacket with a high waterproof rating but stitched seams doesn’t actually offer full protection against the elements.
When it comes to outerwear and footwear, many people see the use of Gore-Tex as a sign of durability. Gore-Tex waterproof-breathable fabrics are used only in high-end technical jackets, hiking pants, and boots.
Omni-Tech isn’t as durable as Gore-Tex, but you can still count on Omni-Tech outerwear and footwear for long term use.
Omni-Tech jackets are considerably more affordable than Gore-Tex jackets. Gore-Tex fabrics are also stiffer than Omni-Tech fabrics.
So, if you want to get good quality clothing or footwear without spending too much money, going with Omni-Tech jackets, pants, and boots may be the better choice.
Omni-Tech vs Gore-Tex: Fact Sheet
- Options: One-standard 3-layer shell
- Breathability: 10,000 g/m2/24h
- Waterproof rating: 10K
- Water repellent: Omni-Shield DWR coating
- Options: Pro, Pro Shell, Active, Paclite
- Breathability: 15,000 to 25,000 g/m2/24h
- Waterproof rating: 20 to 28K
- Water repellent: Gore DWR; Gore PFCEC-free DWR
Best Columbia Omni-Tech Gear
Columbia Rebel Roamer Rain Pants
- Fabric: 70D nylon
- Weight: 12.5 oz
- Waterproofing: Omni-Tech waterproof/breathable membrane
The Rebel Roamer is the best performing pair of pants for the least money. It will keep you dry in storms just as well as high-end models.
Despite the low price, the Rebel Roamer pants offer exceptional functionality. Thanks to the Omni-Tech technology and the quality DWR coating, you can wear them for long periods of time in rainy weather without worrying about getting soaked.
The waterproof/breathable membrane allows moisture to escape, but there are no zippered vents. Even though the Rebel Roamer pants don’t have many extra features, they are super comfortable.
The wider cut allows for great freedom of movement and the internal fabric feels nice against the skin. The pants are surprisingly compressible and lightweight, so they won’t take up much room in your backpack.
The Rebel Roamer pants may be the best option for you if you are going hiking or backpacking on a tight budget. Columbia doesn’t make a version of the pants for women. Instead, the brand makes the Storm Surge pants for women. The fabric of the pants is different, but the performance is just as great.
- Excellent weather protection
- No vents
Columbia Firecamp Hiking Boot
- Outsole: Omni-Grip rubber
- Midsole: Techlite EVA
- Upper: Cordura textile
- Weight: 15 oz
- Waterproofing: Omni-Tech waterproof/breathable membrane
Rated at -25 F, the Columbia Firecamp boots will keep your feet warm and dry even in the most rugged cold-weather conditions. To keep you sure-footed, the boots have a high-traction Omni-Grip outsole.
Considering that the boots feature a waterproof membrane and synthetic insulation, they are surprisingly lightweight. The outsole is flexible and the midsole provides extra cushioning. The Firecamp hiking boots provide a good combination of comfort and flexibility.
However, some users claim that the fit is narrower than advertised, so make sure to try them out before you buy them. If you get the size right, you’ll be able to comfortably wear them for a long time on your adventures.
The Firecamp Hiking Boot comes in a few different colors, and there is also a version for women.
- Good breathability
- Omni-Grip technology
- Completely weatherproof
- The fit may be too narrow for some
Columbia Evapouration Rain Jacket
- Fabric: Nylon
- Weight: 11.7 oz
- Waterproofing: Omni-tech waterproof/breathable 2.5L protection
If you need a new jacket that will keep you dry in the rain but don’t want to break the bank, the Evapouration jacket may be one of the best options for you.
Its quality DWR treatment will hold up for a long time against the elements. It doesn’t seal around the face as well as other jackets, but it still does a great job of keeping the rain out.
The Evapouration jacket is breathable, even though it isn’t as breathable as Gore-Tex jackets. The Omni-Wick moisture management system does a decent job of wicking away sweat. Moreover, it features decent ventilation options, including mesh-lined hand pockets and pit zips.
Weighing in at 11.7 oz, the jacket is impressively light. You can also stuff it into its own hand pocket. To keep the cold out, you can easily cinch up the hem and the wrists.
The Evapouration jacket isn’t as comfortable as most higher-end models. And, since it uses just 70D nylon instead of ripstop, you can’t expect it to last for an incredibly long time.
After all, it is an entry-level jacket. But, considering that the jacket costs only around $60, you’ll have a hard time finding a better waterproof jacket in this price range.
- Omni-Wick technology
- Good value for money
- Pit zips
- Could be more comfortable
Best Gore-Tex Gear
Arc’teryx Zeta SL Shell Pants
- Fabric: 40D nylon ripstop
- Weight: 8.6 oz
- Waterproofing: Gore-Tex Paclite Plus 2L protection
Super lightweight and stormworthy, the Zeta SL is one of the best all-around performing pairs of pants on the market. Its minimalist design, coupled with high-quality fabrics, make the Zeta SL great for a wide variety of tough conditions.
On top of providing all-day protection from the elements, the Gore-Tex Paclite Plus fabric offers above-average breathability. The fabric is comfortable, and the articulated fit allows for great freedom of movement.
The pants don’t have bells and whistles. They don’t even have pockets. But, what they lack in extra features, they compensate with exceptional toughness and longevity.
The pants come in just a couple of different colors. There’s also a version for women.
- Very breathable
- Excellent storm-worthiness
- No pockets
Hoka One One Kaha GTX Hiking Boots
- Outsole: Vibram Megagrip rubber
- Midsole: EVA
- Upper: Full-grain leather
- Weight: 16 oz
- Waterproofing: Gore-Tex waterproof/breathable membrane
There are very few boots that can compare to this Hoka One One Kaha pair in terms of performance, durability, and comfort. Undoubtedly, the One One Kaha boots provide better stability than the Columbia Firecamp boots and most other models on the market.
Thanks to the effective tread pattern on the Megagrip rubber, the amount of grip these boots have is impressive. They excel in wet situations as well as dry trail conditions. Their wide ankles offer great protection against rolled ankles.
The blend of proprietary foam layers in the midsole makes the boots incredibly comfortable and warm. On top of the Gore-Tex barrier, the boots have a flood height of 5.5 inches. Your feet will stay dry no matter how soggy the trail gets.
- Great traction
- Amazing comfort
Mammut Nordwand Advanced HS Hooded Jacket
- Fabric: Nylon
- Weight: 16 oz
- Waterproofing: Gore-Tex 3L Pro waterproof/breathable protection
If you are going hiking during the icy winter months, having a quality hardshell jacket is a must. And, as far as hardshell jackets go, the Mammut Nordwand Advanced HS Hooded Jacket is among the best models on the market.
Very few jackets have such an impressive DWR finish. It will continue to bead water even after months of regular use.
The zippers are watertight and the wrist cuffs will stay closed no matter what. So that your base and mid-layers will stay warm, the drawcords on the waist and the hood allow for a perfect seal.
A lighter model may be a better choice for drier conditions since this jacket is a bit on the heavier side. However, the performance benefits and the exceptional build-quality are worth the added mass. You can expect this Gore-Tex jacket to last quite a long time.
- Good breathability
- Excellent waterproofing features
- Pit zips
Omni-Tech vs Gore-Tex: The Conclusion
Gore-Tex is the winner of this Omni-Tech vs Gore-Tex showdown. Even after all these decades, outdoor brands haven’t been able to invent a better waterproofing technology. Moreover, the Gore Company is constantly coming up with new Gore-Tex solutions.
But if you want to save money on outdoor clothing and equipment without making too many sacrifices, you won’t make a mistake if you go with Columbia Omni-Tech. For the average adventurer, Omni-Tech fabrics still offer more than enough protection from the elements.
Read also: Best Leggings for Hiking
I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.