Functional products have always been conceived with usefulness in mind, but sometimes that function is forgotten in the routines of everyday city life. However, that does not mean that the gear we wear to the office, cannot also be worn as we leave our everyday life and head out into the outdoors. For decades, the GORE-TEX brand has masterfully bridged the gap between functional and aesthetic versatility - and time and time again shown that designing for the outdoors does not have to come at the cost of compromising personal style. In that vein, an essential part of the brand's philosophy is to develop product technology that can withstand all elements - but what happens when you do so?
Putting GORE-TEX products to the test on a 220-mile stretch
In March 2023, the GORE-TEX brand embarked on a 3-day bike ride from Seattle to Portland. Joined by two riders who call Washington their home, we put GORE-TEX products, and the technologies that continue to define the brand, to the ultimate test on a 220-mile stretch spanning across state borders, forests, mountains, and lowlands.
A remarkable stretch, immortalized by the annual STP ride that has made recreational biking from Seattle to Portland a celebrated occurrence since 1979. Initiated by brothers Mike and Rick Guam as part of an attempt to promote the development of bicycle trails in the region, the STP has grown to be the Northwest's largest bike ride and a cultural main event. Over the decades, the STP has played a significant role in bringing the communities of nearby towns together, with thousands of locals volunteering, and many more coming out to express their support. Every year, up to 8,000 riders pick up their bikes and embark on the 220 mile route two-day-journey. In homage to this iconic group ride, the road mapped out for the riders passed some of the same iconic spots along the way, but searched even further into the depths of the Washington forests and mountains, putting riders, gear, and bikes to the test.
Unless you're an experienced long-distance cyclist, a stretch of this length might appear unmanageable.
However, with the philosophy behind this ride being that accessibility to nature ought to be for everyone, we took the needed measures to ensure just that. In this spirit, the riders were supported with bikes from VanMoof which, although mostly associated with city usage, allowed for an easy transition into the outdoors.
The riders left the city dressed in gear from some of the most respected contemporary performance brands - both GORE-TEX partners and independents. In a wide array of brands, GORE-TEX technology sat in the center as an integral part of all featured outerwear and footwear. From Three-layers to WINDSTOPPER®, the equipment was put straight to its intended use, from the windy city to the rainy forest.
In the end, this turned the journey into an homage to a lifestyle where functionality does not exist in a vacuum of either city or outdoors but instead celebrates a way of life where the two sustain each other.
An Ode to Locality, Community, and The Great Outdoors
Known for its versatile environment and ever-changing weather, the Pacific Northwest is a haven for outdoor access, with climbing, road biking, and hiking access a stone's throw away. At the same time, cities like Seattle and Portland serve as beacons for the urban metropolis that has defined the culture and community of the region for decades. The very same surroundings that have shaped the cities are the ones that continue to sustain the local communities across the region.
For this journey, we joined forces with two people who know the area better than most. Living in Seattle and Tacoma respectively, Brandon and Jeein are prime examples of creatives of the region who have used their affinity for the outdoors to sustain their work in ways that respect and pay homage to the elements that surround us.
Brandon is born and raised in Seattle, and apart from stints across the country, he has kept the city as his base. As a photographer, writer, and designer, Brandon has infused his interests into all aspects of his creative work. This shines through in his visual affinity for the outdoors, particularly in the ethos of his brand Earth/Studies encapsulating landscape, geology, and atmosphere. The outdoors that defines his work, comes from years of climbing. The creativity that is invoked in this environment perfectly shows the symbiosis between city living and outdoor interest.
Born in South Korea, Jeein moved to Tacoma in 2020 following years of living in Los Angeles. After 10 years of working as a product designer, she founded Comfortable Adventures in 2020, specializing in making sustainable hemp-based outdoor wear for women. Rooted in Jeein's years of experience in outdoor climbing, Comfortable Adventures is an example of a contemporary brand that is sustained by the interests that defined it, to begin with. Today, Jeein is running the brand from Tacoma, while traveling across the West Coast for events and pop-ups that bring awareness to both the brand and women's climbing.
Day 1: Hitting The Road
Seattle - Vashon - Olympia
Monday, 7 AM: As the city awoke, the riders took off from downtown Seattle by the infamous Space Needle and started the journey south through First Avenue and past the earliest neighborhoods of Seattle. Leaving behind the city center, the road took them across the Duwamish River and towards the Puget Sound-facing waterfront of West Seattle.
With the sun bursting through the morning clouds, Brandon and Jeein made their way to Vashon via ferry, one of the most significant islands in an estuary that counts dozens of accessible islands. Known for its deep forests and steep climbs, Vashon was the riders' first encounter with the rapidly-changing Washington landscape. The island also lies between Seattle and Tacoma, making it a convenient and scenic detour from the industrial outskirts connecting the cities by land.
Upon reaching the island's southern point, the riders made their way to Point Defiance by boat, before making the way southwest towards Washington's often overlooked capital - Olympia - only interrupted by a lunch stop at Tacoma's legendary 1950s fast-food time pocket, Frisko Freeze. This last part of the route alongside the coastline offered glimpses into a lost industrial past of the area, in which dilapidating steel structures meet the distant Mount Olympus formations on the horizon.
The first day on the road came to a well-received end as the riders arrived in Olympia by sunset, catching a last look at the state capitol hill before wrapping up.
Inspired By The City, Applied For The Outdoors
The forecast for Day 1 showed inconsistent weather, and as a result, the riders were equipped with the silhouettes of the city and the functions against the changing elements in mind. WINDSTOPPER® and 3L recurred throughout all the outerwear layers, making it convenient for the riders to dress up or down in accordance with the weather changes. As they were not expecting much heavy rain, the riders both sported shoes with Invisible Fit® technology that offers protection in adverse weather conditions, while also allowing for flexible usage in stable weather.
Jeein wore the GORE-TEX WINDSTOPPER® set consisting of the Nunk Jacket and Alvar pants, both designed by Copenhagen-based Norse Projects, who have cemented their position as one of the most refined Scandinavian brands out there, merging minimalist silhouettes with all-round purpose.
For isolation and warmth, she sported a fleece from renowned Danish cycling brand Pas Normal Studio, and a base layer from Paris-based Satisfy Running, one of the most innovative and refined contemporary performance brands. The apparel was rounded off with the classic Vans Sk8-Hi, which after receiving the GORE-TEX treatment became more versatile than ever before.
In a similar vein, Brandon also wore an outer layer from Norse Projects, this time under their subsidiary innovative ARKTISK line. Developed for full adaptability in any terrain, the line mixes the best of Norse's design ethos and GORE-TEX technology's ability to withstand the elements.
Under this, he wore the featherweight Aloe long sleeve from District Vision's acclaimed performance catalog, and a Pas Normal Studios off-race fleece - which as opposed to the name also allows for easy movement on the bike. The toned best-selling Salomon XT-6 GORE-TEX complimented the almost achromatic styling.
The fits of both riders were elevated further with glasses and bandanas from District Vision and Satisfy, respectively.
Shop GORE-TEX Products
(1) Norse Projects Nunk GORE-TEX WINDSTOPPER® Field Jacket; (2) Norse Projects Alvar GORE-TEX WINDSTOPPER® Technical Pant; (3) Norse Projects ARKTISK GORE-TEX 3L Stand Collar Jacket; (4) Vans GORE-TEX SK8-HI Shoe; (5) Salomon XT-6 GORE-TEX Shoe
Day 2 - Through Woods, Rivers, and Railroad Towns
Olympia - Centralia - Longview
Tuesday, 8:00 AM: Well-rested and with an 80-mile stretch ahead of them, the riders left Olympia early and began the journey out of the suburbs and industrial outskirts. Under a gloomy sky, the road south led them into Lewis County, a region of Washington with wide rivers, sky-high Douglas firs, and several small towns that popped up as the tracks of the Northern Pacific Railway laid the foundation for new access across the Pacific Northwest. Although the majority of these towns are no longer part of the railway, the industrial history has left its mark, with once-booming towns now serving as a time-locked look into history.
The first town that the riders were met by was Tenino, a town most known for its 130-year-old quarry that was subsequently filled with rainwater, and later converted into a community pool. As the road took them further south they encountered Centralia, which as the name indicates has played a central role in the urban development of the region. After making their way through the suburbs surrounding the old town, Brandon and Jeein touched down at the main street, where the 1930s Fox Theatre still echoes a booming past.
After a quick lunch stop with the remaining 55 miles in mind, the team continued off the country roads, taking them through the extensive farmland, and the towns of Chehalis and Napavine, before arriving at the last break spot of the day, Winlock. While that might not, justifyingly so, ring a bell, the town is the unexpected home to the record-breaking landmark - the world's largest egg.
Right as the riders got back on the bikes ready to take on the final stretch to the final destination of Longview, the first drops of rain fell, finally putting the GORE-TEX technology to its rightful use. It wasn't long till the sky cleared up once again, however, making the final transition into the industrial-era timberland city a smooth one.
Minimalism in a Maximalist Nature
The styling of Day 2 had an enhanced focus on minimalist cuts and insulation allowing for full mobility on the bike, and an ability to withstand the changing weather of Washington. Because of the expected weather changes, we equipped both riders in 3L jackets, complimented by WINDSTOPPER® layers that enabled quick adjustments based on comfort and weather.
Jeein's fit consisted of the wind and waterproof Anelle GORE-TEX coat from the subsidiary Arc'teryx Veilance line, merging a minimalist design language with craftsmanship and uncompromising functional abilities. Since its conception in 2009, Veilance has been a trailblazer in the refined performance-oriented design philosophy and continues to move the boundaries for what functional wear can look like.
Under the coat, Jeein was wearing the Psylo Overshirt from Toronto's retailer and brand Haven, designed under the label's acclaimed in-house line. In a similar vein to Veilance, Haven follows a less-is-more design approach where fabrics, colorways, and purposeful detailing all play a vital part in the appearance of the garment. To stay warm in the ever-changing Washington weather, Jeein wore the thermoregulating CloudMerino long-sleeve from Satisfy Running as a base layer.
The pants she sported are also from Satisfy Running, and the fit was completed with the New Balance 2002R GORE-TEX. A silhouette that gained wide attention following the release of the Protection Pack, and has since established itself as a New Balance staple.
Brandon wore the lightweight Arc'teryx Beta AR jacket, which is all-around usage. The Beta jacket has been an integral part of their rotation for years and has often included GORE-TEX technologies. So much so that the GORE-TEX PRO material it boasts was developed in close collaboration with Arc'teryx.
The breathability and packability of Haven's Scope jacket made it a fitting secondary layer. The military-inspired silhouette comes with a standout warmth-to-weight ratio, and its lightweight feature allows for mobility. Satisfy's AuraLite long sleeve serves as the soft and durable base layer, which came in handy as the sun peaked out and the temperature rose.
With Norse's Alvar WINDSTOPPER® pants complimented by Nike's GORE-TEX Invisible Fit-treated Pegasus Trail 4, Brandon was draped head to toe in GORE-TEX technologies, which altogether showed a wide array of design approaches and garment versatility coming together in practice.
Shop GORE-TEX Products
(1) Arc’teryx Men’s Beta AR Jacket; (2) Norse Projects Alvar GORE-TEX WINDSTOPPER® Technical Pant; (3) Nike Pegasus Trail 4 GORE-TEX Shoe; (4) Haven Scope Jacket; (5) Arc’teryx Veilance Women’s Anelle Coat; (6) Haven Psylo Overshirt; (7) New Balance 2002RX Shoe
Day 3 - From The City To The Outdoors - And Back!
Longview - Vancouver - Portland
Wednesday, 8 AM: After two days on the road and the soreness that followed, the team got ready to take on the final stretch leading them into Portland. The gloominess from day two had continued overnight and by the early morning hours, it had turned into heavy rain and once again the GORE-TEX technologies were put to use. After getting out of the Longview, the road took the riders into the woods and towards the biggest climb yet at Devils Peak. With ease, the riders took on the 300m elevation and descended into the town of Woodland marking the beginning of the transition back into the city.
The following stretch was characterized by vast farmland, suburban communities, and lumber mills. The forest gradually became the countryside, and the countryside gradually turned into the outskirts. The rain of the morning had stopped, and in its stead, a clear blue sky started appearing over the landscape. Gradually, the landscape turned into cityscape as the riders approached the Portland suburbs of Vancouver, situated on the Northern bank of the Columbia River that naturally separates Washington from Oregon. Upon crossing the Interstate bridge, they officially left Washington behind with Portland in sight.
After touching down in St. John to catch a quick glimpse of Cathedral City Park, Brandon, and Jeein made their way through northern Portland along the Willamette River as downtown appeared on the horizon. Sore and tired from three days on the road and 220 miles behind them, they finally made it to the Burnside Bridge, marking the end of the journey that took them from the city to the outdoors - and back again.
Equipped for the sun, rain, and wind
Moving from the higher elevated outdoors to the flat grounds around the city has a remarkable impact on the weather conditions you are exposed to in Washington. The last day of the ride came with the biggest ascents and scenic changes on the route, and as a result, the gear needed to allow for comfort both in all weather and ensure mobility. To serve this purpose, we brought out all of the GORE-TEX technologies once again, from 3L to WINDSTOPPER® and Invisible Fit.
Jeein wore the in-house GOREWEAR Endure jacket, designed specifically for bikes and trails in all weather conditions. Despite being both waterproof and wind-stopping, the jacket is packable and lightweight, making it easy to wrap it up on the go as the weather changes.
As a second layer, she sported Haven's Strata Shirt made with GORE-TEX WINDSTOPPER® technology. Despite it being both water-resistant and windproof, the breathability and softness of the shirt make it an ideal mid-layer as well. To match the two heavier layers, the base layer consisted of the Deva Long Sleeve from District VIsion, a soft and stretchy base layer with a barely-there feel.
For the wet roads, Jeein wore Arc'teryx Beta GORE-TEX pants with a side zipper that makes both fit and movement fully adjustable for the wearer. In a similar vein, she donned the Asics HS4 S Gel Sonoma 15-50, one of the latest Asics silhouettes to receive the GORE-TEX treatment. The model has been here, there, and everywhere, since the iconic Japanese sportswear brand debuted the silhouette in 2023. While originally intended for trekking, the Sonoma line has become another example of designing for the city, with functionality in mind.
To start and finish in the same manner, Brandon returned to Norse for the Nunk GORE-TEX WINDSTOPPER® jacket. Inspired by the M65, the windproof jacket also consists of a recycled outer fabric that ensures water repellency. With four front pockets, the style is ideal for keeping all of your essentials nearby.
Under the Nunk jacket, he wore yet another wind-stopping Norse style, the Ryan WINDSTOPPER®. Although it shares similar technology as the jacket, the Ryan shirt is light and breathable, which proved useful as the sun came out and the jacket was dropped. The Cloudmerino Waffle base layer from Satisfy ensured that Brandon stayed warm throughout the day on the road, without compromising on movement and comfort.
Considering the rainy terrain, he wore the GORE-TEX Windstopper Recon pants from Haven. Designed for year-round purposes, the pants combine rugged durability and technically advanced performance, which allows for wear in all weather conditions. The slightly drapey silhouette makes them suitable for both the city and the road. To tie it up, Brandon wore the coveted Asics Gel-Kayano 14 GORE-TEX x Beams, which amassed international attention upon its release due to its two-layer appearance. The outer net protects from dirt all the way up your ankle but once removed the Gel-Kayano 14 stands as a perfectly shaped shoe for everyday life.
Shop GORE-TEX Products
(1) Norse Projects Nunk GORE-TEX WINDSTOPPER® Field Jacket; (2) Haven Recon Pants; (3) Asics x Beams Gel-Kayano 14 GORE-TEX Shoe; (4) Haven Strata Shirt; (5) Norse Projects Ryan GORE-TEX WINDSTOPPER® Bomber Jacket; (6) GOREWEAR Women's Endure Jacket; (7) Arc’teryx Women’s Beta Pant; (8) Asics HS4-S GEL-SONOMA™ 15-50 GTX Sneaker
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