To start off with...yes...i think Gore-tex was the standard for much of what we know today in laminates and membranes...however, I strongly believe that it holds its "King of Waterproofing" reputation based soley on association combined with the lack of technical knowledge in the outerwear consumer. Its so easy to say..."yeah, Gore-tex is the best out there" because that is exactly what we have been led to believe. Why search anywhere else when you hear "gore-tex is the best" ?!
I guess i should start off with the facts:
1)Gore-tex lost its patient- TRUE
2)Gore-tex is a membrane that is laminated to high-preformance textiles- TRUE
3)To increase the level of waterproofing Gore-tex is layered- TRUE
4)Gore-tex holds a high standard for the production of any product that holds the GORE-TEX name-TRUE
Alright so now that we know the facts lets discuss what they leave out...
During the process of Laminating a material regardless of whether or not it is a "membrane," a form of bonding material is required to sufficiently stack the set materials...(for the sake of not complicating this process im gonna use "GLUE" as my bonding material)
EX: High preformance material (polyester or polymide)
GORE-TEX Pro Shell Membrane
for 2L or 3L repeat GORE-TEX Membrane and GLUE
Insulation would most likely be free standing insulation here
Your equation for much of what we know in waterproof materials...so here is the down side and accordingly the reason for my title...
When you stack a material, especially one that is design as a single material, you are increasing the level of waterproofing but are you increasing the breathability? I think not...but hey i may be wrong. In addition, when a bonding agent is used this material becomes the key fault in waterproof coat. With wear, wash and basic use this bonding agent is going to dilude and eventually wear away, causing the garments basic structure to fall apart...Havent you ever wondered why most companies discourage the washing of your gear?
Now on to Helly Tech O2 by Helly Hansen...
First off, im not writing this to say this is the BEST membrane out there, because im sure with enouph research that could be disproved. What I'm writing is what i know about the material. Helly Hansens Helly tech O2 is a single laminate ranked at a minimum of 20,000mm (or 66 ft of rainfall) over 24hrs, and a 20,000 g/m2/24hr breathability. Yes, there structure is one of stacking materials, however they have developed a way of heat pressing these materials together into ONE piece of material (this is for a shell jkt) with insulation there is more layers but the essential "waterproof" layer is one piece. Every jacket that Helly Hansen calls "waterproof" is fully-seam sealed and every jacket that has Helly tech O2 has polyurethane, laser cut zippers or a YKK AquaSeal Zippers. They carry a LIFETIME warranty that covers all manifacturing defects. With any high-end waterproofing the price points do seem to increase, for a Helly Tech O2 jkt you will be looking at anywhere between $350-$700 for a fully insulated jacket, and i recommend that if you havent read about there new Enigma Flow Down Jacket, you take a look!
Before this turns into a book im gonna stop here...please let me know if i said something wrong or if you have constructive criticism
sidenote: In addition to owning a Jacket with Helly Tech O2 i received alot of my information from a representative at Helly Hansen