46 years and counting: Mountain Equipment and GORE-TEX
For 46 years and counting, the partnership between the GORE-TEX brand and Mountain Equipment has been steadfast. Our combined quality has enabled people to connect with nature and push to the extremes, guided by the principles of quality and simplicity.
“Simple products that work really well stand up for themselves.”
- Matt Fuller, Mountain Equipment Product Engineer
As an enthusiastic mountaineer with over 7 years of experience at Mountain Equipment, Matt stands by the need for simplicity and quality in products. Mountain Equipment and the GORE-TEX brand reflect this throughout their shared history. A heritage maintained today by innovators like Matt. But where did this all begin?
A Tale of Two Brands: Pursuing Quality over Quantity
Back in the 1950s in Manchester, handing out too many discounts to mates at his climbing shop, Mountain Equipment founder Pete Hutchinson balanced the books by making outdoor gear round the back of the shop. With the mindset of an alpinist, not a profit-oriented businessman, Hutchinson concentrated on the simple details of the gear. Pursuing quality over quantity. As the quality of Hutchinson’s gear grabbed attention, he moved to small-time manufacturing, and in 1961 Mountain Equipment was born.
3 years earlier, on the other side of the North Atlantic, Bill and Vieve Gore opened a small business from their basement in Delaware. Yet it was their son Bob Gore in 1969 who discovered ePTFE - a versatile polymer with properties that revolutionised the outdoor gear market.
Thanks to the GORE-TEX fabrics' versatile functionality, durable performance and state-of-the-art protection, Mountain Equipment immediately sought to use the fabric.
The outcome of fusing this fabric with Mountain Equipment jackets was the start of a quality partnership that has lasted generations.
Driven by innovation: The first-ever Mountain Equipment GORE-TEX jacket
Both the GORE-TEX brand and Mountain Equipment continued to strive for quality together. In 1977 the Mountain Equipment Original Cascade jacket was released. This was the first-ever Mountain Equipment GORE-TEX jacket, a quality protective garment designed for mastering the extreme. The Cascade was the first of many key milestones that marked this intimate partnership.
Mountain Equipment went on to be early adopters of GORE-TEX Active, WINDSTOPPER® and the GORE-TEX Pro technology. Matt Fuller, who developed an entirely new sleeping bag construction while achieving his PhD in down insulation, proudly highlights that Mountain Equipment was the first brand to launch a GORE-TEX INFINIUM™ shell sleeping bag.
In 2017 the British army even performed a South Pole crossing using those very sleeping bags. Our innovative nature continued in 2018 when 10 mountain guides pushed the GORE-TEX Pro fabrics to the limit while surviving blistering Scottish weather for 6 months.
The choice to integrate Mountain Equipment gear into this trial was a direct result of mutual trust and an enduring partnership between the brands.
Mountain Equipment was heavily involved in the testing and development of GORE-TEX Pro products and indeed was the lead global development partner for the Most Breathable GORE-TEX Pro category.
Jackets such as the Lhotse, Manaslu and Tupilak, which Matt Fuller acclaims to be the most effective Mountain Equipment waterproof jackets available, came from these very tests. All were integrated with GORE-TEX Pro technology.
Made for the mountains – A simple need for quality
“Ultimately, GORE-TEX just works.” - Matt Fuller
Matt recalls as a kid his dad talking about his first GORE-TEX jacket, “it was a big revolution, the difference was crazy - suddenly you weren't just soaked from the inside. There's a simple recipe and a simple message 'Guaranteed to keep you dry.' The core message has stayed the same. For Mountain Equipment: ‘we make products for the mountains’ and for the GORE-TEX brand: ‘we defend against the elements.’”
The trust in quality between the brands makes engineering products much simpler.
Matt remarks “as soon as you start doubting the material, you have to start adding features to make up for shortcomings.” He compares it to a tailor-made suit, “it's a really nice fabric that fits really well. Done. That suit's design has not changed for hundreds of years." In many ways, that's what Mountain Equipment aims for:
A good fabric, which fits well, works well. That’s it. Alpinists don't care about frills and clutter. They want something to be simple and to work.
Sewn into Mountain Equipment’s approach to outdoor gear, this grounded ethos guides the brand. Upheld by Matt and his colleagues, it connects strongly with Gore’s commitment to quality and durable performance.
So, after 46 years of partnership, what’s next?
Outdoor gear tomorrow
Old school jackets weighed up to a kilo. But the new Mountain Equipment GORE-TEX gear will weigh less than half of that. The next Mountain Equipment launch in Spring/Summer '22 will bring two new models integrated with innovative GORE-TEX Active fabrics that have been in the making for a while. The completely new and innovative ‘Firefly Jacket’, weighing a super-light 200 grams, is designed for fast-moving sports such as running, trail-running and fast hiking. This mountain sport jacket will be extremely breathable thanks to the GORE-TEX technology. The ‘Firefox Jacket’, re-engineered for the ’22 release, is more of an all-rounder. Weighing 300 grams it is purposed for backpacking, hiking and trail-running. As has always been the case, this gear will fit into both Gore and Mountain Equipment’s values of quality and simplicity.
Find out more about our partners at GORE-TEX.