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Which is Best? 2. 2.5 or 3 Layer Breathable Waterproof Fabric / Gore-Tex

What is a Waterproof Fabric & Layered Construction?

Waterproof fabrics, like Gore-Tex and others, are made using a series of layers but some use 2 layers, some use 2.5 layers and some use 3 layers, so what is the difference and why should I care?  Here we explain the pros, cons, advantages and disadvantages of the different construction methods.

 Gore-Tex

Most waterproof / breathable fabrics have 2 layers (2L); this is the traditional approach used by Gore-Tex and most other specialist fabric manufacturers. 

The outer layer is the visible layer; the one everyone can see and touch on the outside of the garment.  It is the layer which forms the structure of the garment so it can vary enormously in weight, texture, colour, pattern and design. 

The inner layer or membrane is an invisible layer and is where all of the magic happens, turning an ordinary piece of fabric into one which is both waterproof and breathable. 

The two layers are bonded together. Many 2L garments will be loosely lined with mesh or another fabric (not bonded to either of the 2 layers) to provide protection for membrane which might otherwise wear or rub off.  Some garments replace the need for a separate lining material by spraying a half layer of protective film to the membrane whilst others achieve the same objective by bonding a full third layer of protection.

ConstructionSummaryAdvantagesDisadvantages
2L

2 layers bonded together.  Fabric plus a breathable and waterproof membrane.

Warm and durable (if lined).Bulky and heavy (if not lined) or poor durability. 
2.5L

Same as 2L except no need for a separate lining. Extra durability is achieved by printing or spraying a thin protective film onto the membrane on the inside of the garment.

Lightest, least bulky and most ‘packable’. Flexible and comfortable to wear.Not as durable as 3L.
3L

Same as 2.5L except the protective spray is replaced by a more durable scrim layer,
bonded to the membrane.

Low bulk with maximum durability.Some loss of flexibility
and comfort.