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Why I’m hard on GORE-TEX, the King of Hype ™

Which side one? The hype: You need a $300 GORE-TEX jacket when you're outside. The truth: A $300 shell won't keep you dry, especially with long-term use and in extended wet conditions.

Which side one? The hype: You need a $300 GORE-TEX jacket when you’re outside. The truth: A $300 shell won’t keep you dry, especially with long-term use and in extended wet conditions.

When I discuss waterproof-breathable fabrics, a category that was invented and has been defined by GORE-TEX, I admittedly get worked up. In an early draft of yesterday’s post, for example, I called outright its marketing department know-nothings or liars, or both. And in multiple places I have forcefully explained the technological flaws of GORE-TEX and other branded and proprietary waterproof-breathable fabrics.

Why do I ride GORE-TEX so hard? Let me explain:

Because GORE-TEX is not satisfactorily waterproof or breathable

When the name of a product category is an oxymoron, we have reason to be suspicious. Seriously, how can a material prevent the transmission of moisture through it (“waterproof”) while also allowing the transmission of water through it (“breathable”)?

According to some questionable technical standards, GORE-TEX may be waterproof and breathable. But it’s completely disingenuous to describe GORE-TEX with the same adjectives that we use to describe glass and rubber, or my cotton pajama pants and running singlets.

Moreover, the fabric really only meets these technical standards in a lab. In the field, which is the only test that I care about, GORE-TEX and other WP/B fabrics fail, especially with long-term use and in prolonged wet conditions. While wearing them, I have gotten wet from the outside and the inside, via precipitation and perspiration, and sometimes both simultaneously. To understand why, read my best technological explanation.

Because GORE-TEX is the King of Hype ™

Few products are flawless. My 2WD Pontiac Vibe, for example, lacks sufficient power and all-weather performance for Colorado’s mountain roads. But so long as the manufacturer is honest and upfront about the shortcomings and limitations of its products, I’m willing to cut it some slack — at least I knew before I bought. I don’t think Pontiac would ever have claimed that my Vibe was as powerful as its GTO or that the AWD Vibe wouldn’t perform better in snow.

Despite the flaws of its fabrics, for decades GORE-TEX has taken the opposite approach: it is the King of Hype ™. I’ll use the marketing copy of its new Active fabric as an example:

GORE-TEX describes it as being “the most breathable GORE-TEX® products available.” Since the old Active fabric is described as “extremely breathable,” and since the product page features a GORE-TEX-clad mountain runner with the headline “FAST PACE, HIGH INTENSITY,” I can only conclude that the new Active fabric is even more suitable for such applications.

These claims are hilariously exaggerated, to the degree that I think GORE-TEX must set aside money to defend false advertising lawsuits. In the only first-hand report I’ve seen about this fabric, Stephen Regenold, the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Gear Junkie, shares his experience: “By the end of an hour-long trail run I was soaked with sweat. My base-layer top under the jacket could be wrung out” (italics added).

Okay, so this is just one review, and the conditions were challenging (39 degrees and raining). But I’m sure that other users will have an identical experience. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

Because other media fail to tell the truth

Too often, a product “review” is simply a regurgitation of a press release, and offers no critical analysis or insights from long-term use. This Gear Patrol post is typical — a review about a waterproof-breathable shell with no indication that it was tested during a rain event. And in this Q&A on Backpacker.com, its long-time gear editor reinforces the fallacy on exactly how GORE-TEX works — the story is less simple and convincing than the fabric having “holes too small to let water in, but large enough to let sweat vapor out.”

If you told me these articles were in Outside or another leading outdoor publication, I’d have no reason to not believe you. I get it, kind of: a pile of gear to test, publishing deadlines, uncooperative conditions, complex technologies, etc. But, still, do your f’ing job.

Personally, I’d rather only publish content in which I’m deeply confident. Thankfully, some other bloggers have a similar approach. For examples, read “When is a hiking rain jacket like a wet suit?” by Philip Werner of SectionHiker, and Dave Chenault’s “Shit that works” series.

In prolonged wet conditions, there's no surefire solution to staying dry. Get over it, and find a way to stay comfortable when wet.

In prolonged wet conditions, there’s no surefire solution to staying dry. Get over it, and find a way to stay comfortable when wet.

Because consumers believe GORE-TEX is a panacea

With a multi-million dollar marketing budget and a relentless, long-term, and aggressive marketing campaign, it’s possible to convince consumers of many things, including falsehoods. In this respect, GORE-TEX has been an undisputed success.

Their cause has been helped by at least two other factors. First, there has never been a strong counter argument, like by another fabric manufacturer with an entirely different solution. Second, consumers want to believe there is a panacea for wet conditions, because being wet when outside is uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous. GORE-TEX has capitalized on this fear.

Ironically, as a company I think more highly of W. L. Gore’s marketing prowess than I do their fabric technologies. Heck, it even convinced my own wife that she needed to spend $350 on a Patagonia Triolet jacket to keep her safe and comfortable while skiing in Colorado. At least to date, hype has won.

60 Responses to Why I’m hard on GORE-TEX, the King of Hype ™

  1. Chad December 16, 2015 at 7:21 am #

    Hopefully now that you’re working with Sierra designs you can be a driving force for change in the industry. At least they seem to be moving in the right direction with using rain gear that is more focused on venting instead of being “breathable.” Have you had any experience with the gear they have on the market? I’m waiting for them to release their new gear for 2016 because to me it seems like it could be the best option. Do you have any recommendations on rain gear at all at this point?

    • Andrew Skurka December 16, 2015 at 8:08 am #

      To SD’s credit, I think it’s onto something with Airflow Rainwear, rather than relying so much on fabric breathability, which currently is inadequate. However, SD’s proprietary fabrics have the same DWR problem that GORE-TEX and other ePTFE fabrics have. So my recommendation is still to consider rainwear a tool for extending your dryness, but not a method of ensuring it.

      Among SD jackets, my favorite is the UL Trench. The 2016 Cagoule is a viable option too, since it’ll be a 3-layer fabric; but personally I prefer a full-length zipper versus a pullover.

  2. Jeff December 16, 2015 at 8:35 am #

    Though I don’t own one, I like how the “Packa” has solved the DWR abrasion problem by creating a jacket/poncho type design which covers the pack as well as the wearer. It still has pit zips and offers the same type of air flow that SD’s “Airflow Rainwear” does, and I think the designer shows similar outside the box thinking that Mike Glavin & Co have at SD. My only wish is that the Packa was offered in a lighter WPB fabric, like perhaps one of the Pertex fabrics. I think the Sil/Pu Nylon would still be too hot for me, and the eVent is a bit on the heavy side given the amount of fabric required to cover both the wearer and the pack.

  3. Nick Gatel December 16, 2015 at 9:02 am #

    Excellent post!

    You have presented a cornerstone philosophical concept: contradictions cannot exist; if they do, check your premises. WPB is a contradiction.

    In the early 80’s I bought a Gore-Tex parka and rain pants. I still have them, because they didn’t do what Gore said they would, so I transfered them from my backpacking gear room to my urban wear closet.

    Almost 40 years later, in 2008, I tested the Gore-Tex waters again with a PackLite jacket. I thought that after 4 decades Gore might have gotten it right. The gear experts said they had. Sadly both were wrong.

    So I am back, again, to a smallish poncho, which mitigates most of the “billowing” fabric problem. It is 100% waterproof and has enough venting to keep me dry. I am done with Gore and similar fabrics with voodoo marketing.

    Thanks for taking this stand to call out Gore and the rest of the fraudulent companies.

  4. [email protected] December 16, 2015 at 9:14 am #

    Information like this and your book is saving me a lot of frustration and cash (no pack-covers!), so thank you. I’ve accepted that I’m going to have to suck it up and be wet while backpacking sometimes, but what are the ways you recommend for drying stuff more quickly when it’s dank and cold, like on your Alaska trips? Fires? Body heat?

    • Andrew Skurka December 16, 2015 at 9:22 am #

      How to cope with being wet:

      1. Mid-layers
      2. Sleeping clothes
      3. Big shelter
      4. Fire
      5. Motel room (the best)

      • Thomas Gathman December 18, 2015 at 3:15 am #

        Currently doing a southbound winter thru hike of the AT and I gotta say that after a long wet and cold day, number five is right on the money. Currently staying at a bed and breakfast in Caratunk Maine.

        Good read Andrew. I’m constantly constantly battling the layers game out here. Waterproof breathable is not a real thing in the field.

        • Andrew Skurka December 18, 2015 at 3:22 am #

          Cool trip. Be safe.

      • Gordon January 10, 2016 at 6:34 pm #

        Just got a chance to read this. I feel so much better about myself for a decision I made last week seeing that Andrew has given permission to get a motel room as a last resort. 😉

  5. TJ December 16, 2015 at 11:39 am #

    Feel better?

    Just a couple of things.

    When you say that a company has set aside money to defend false advertising lawsuits and then don’t back it up with examples…I call bullshit.

    When you claim Backpacker talks about the way Gore Tex works when they were actually talking about how waterproof membranes work…I call bullshit.

    When you say claims are greatly exaggerated but base that on the opinions of others, who may have their own reasons for denouncing something…I call bullshit.

    But as long as you’re “sure” other users will have the same experience as Gear Junkie reviewer, (who also said ‘No waterproof jacket I have ever worn can keep up with a body producing sweat.’) I guess that should be good enough, huh?

    Cool how you ripped off the word “panacea” from the GJ review though. No one probably noticed.

    Do you get my point? When you lay something out there for public consumption it’s not hard for it to be ripped apart. Grown ups are smart enough to CONSIDER THE SOURCE of what they read and see. That means taking advertising claims with a grain of salt just like I take your attempt to set yourself apart from the norm with a grain of salt.

    Everyone has their own motivations for what they do and, sorry dude, but you and Gore-Tex are playing the same game.

    • Andrew Skurka December 16, 2015 at 12:01 pm #

      Re the statement about false advertising lawsuits, you are reading it to literally.

      Re Backpacker, it failed to properly explain how membranes work, period. If there should be nuance in the explanation, they should have added it.

      I’m very confident, certain actually, that the performance of the new Active fabric will not match its marketing. Hell, they want us to believe that it’ll be as breathable as a base layer. Sorry, the technology does not exist yet.

      Maybe GJ ripped off “panacea” from me. I have a record of using it in regard to WP/B fabrics dating back to 2012: https://andrewskurka.com/2012/breathability-its-importance-mechanisms-and-limitations/. So…there.

      The comparison between me and Gore is a stretch. I think you stand mostly alone on that one.

    • Sean December 18, 2015 at 5:57 pm #

      @TJ: Gearpacker- sorry, Backpacker has consistently some of the thinnest reviews I’ve ever read. I seriously don’t pay any attention to them any more. If nothing else, they provide insanely short reviews and they pitch luxury item pricing like it’s completely affordable. I get that they have to advertise and that it’s part of the revenue stream, but I try to steer people clear of Backpacker.

  6. Ric R December 16, 2015 at 12:03 pm #

    Andrew,

    Excellent discussion and reasoning. I am also fed up with the entire industry on their description of water proof/breathability. You make an excellent point to, ” consider rainwear a tool for extending your dryness”. I sweat profusely no matter what the temps are. It can be 30 degrees out and once the heart rate kicks in I’m in my base layer and that it. So I have constantly been looking for that “unicorn” of a fabric that is breathable and water proof. But just like that mysterious creature it continues to evade me.

  7. Duane Lottig December 16, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

    I gave up on synthetic fabrics years ago. I’ve been skiing in a custom anorak made out of Ventile cotton with wool layers underneath. Ventile is a 100% cotton fabric, developed in WWII for RAF pilots because they were losing so many to exposure when they went down in the channel. This fabric increased their survival rate exponentially. It breathes, it sheds water, it’s light. You couldn’t pay me to wear a synthetic parka again.

  8. Eric December 16, 2015 at 5:59 pm #

    Thanks for speaking truth to marketing!

    This is all so true, and it’s great to see recognizable professionals standing up for performance instead of hype.

  9. Steve Cifka December 16, 2015 at 6:27 pm #

    Andrew, do you advise taking off some of your “go’suit” layers before donning your puffy to warm up at rest stops?

  10. Paul December 16, 2015 at 10:01 pm #

    For truly waterproof jackets and pants use the gear fishermen and yachties use. You will sweat like crazy but water won’t get in, Catch 22.

  11. Alan December 16, 2015 at 11:57 pm #

    I like your take on this and I’m seeing more express this POV. I read a pretty thorough article about these fabrics on BPL. Sadly it doesn’t seem like the technology really works yet. What makes me most want this to work are sweaty feet at the end of a day’s hike!

  12. Buck Nelson December 17, 2015 at 8:29 am #

    I agree that breathable fabrics tend to be over-hyped, yet breathables are still my rainwear of choice in most backpacking situations.

    I try to manage my expectations. If I’m working hard enough I’m likely to get sweated up in breathables OR nonbreathables. But I find that I dry out much quicker with breathables and it takes longer to get sweated up in the first place. I try to be sensible in my layering, pace and ventilation.

    I think that Gore-Tex is quite waterproof. Waders made of Gore-Tex work very well. And although it might not breathe as much as the marketing would lead us to believe, it still breathes significantly.

    Most of the time I’m wearing my raingear it isn’t pouring rain. I wear it for warmth and as a wind shell as well, and when it’s cold sometimes I sleep in it. I find well-built breathables make a significant difference in staying dry and comfortable.

    Of course, there is no best gear, only reasonable compromises.

    • Andrew Skurka December 17, 2015 at 8:34 am #

      During your longer outings, have you found wet-out to be a major problem like I have? Among the fabric’s two limitations (water-resistance and breathability) it’s the former that bothers me more, given my metabolism and the conditions in which I normally backpack. (I tend to run cold; and conditions are cool or cold during rain events, with relatively low humidity).

      I’m adding Buck’s response, which he sent me via email:

      The tops of my shoulders eventually get wet/damp in steady rain, but I find that with any rain-gear.

      The biggest shortcoming I’ve encountered with breathables is that some are susceptible to seam failure. I’ve had seams starting to leak at the end of long hikes, while other breathables have lasted for a couple of thru-hikes. And of course DWR eventually starts losing effectiveness and limits breathing, especially on tops of the shoulders.

      My last big trip was in temperate rainforest of SE Alaska where I hiked and kayaked primarily out of fixed camps. I went with a Helly Hansen Impertech jacket. Nonbreathable of course. It’s good stuff, but I still often got partially wet with rain blowing into my hood around my face, water running up my sleeves, and wetness on top of the shoulders. It saw some hard use, but by the end of the trip pocket corners were tearing loose and the ventilation flap in back pulled loose from the jacket.

      In the future I will probably continue to favor non-breathables for more sedentary trips and breathables for backpacking.

      I agree that getting wet from outside is worse than getting wet from inside, and that $350 Gore-Tex raingear is unlikely to perform much better than the best $150 rain gear.

      I also think your point about warm, dry sleeping clothes is an important one. If I can sleep warm and dry every night I can put up with a lot during the day.

      • MikkelFJ July 21, 2016 at 7:38 am #

        Regarding wet-out I don’t worry too much about it – I believe it makes the fabric a bit less breathable, but not significantly so – it prevents droplets from bouncing and thus drenches your pants and it is annoying. You can actually use wetting to your advantage: it cools you in the summer so you perspire less. If wetting gets you cold just add a thin layer, no big deal – and as Buck says, never mind a temporary sweat as you dry quickly and you won’t chill with proper layering. I don’t buy the theory of reverse vapor pressure on wet outer material, except under pressure from backpack straps or seat. Sometimes lightweight HH non-breathable pants are more practical than Gore-Tex and as backup in fair weather also for uppers – so here I sort of agree. Only, I would be very careful about relying on “brief shower protection” style jackets – I once nearly got hypothermia 2km from home running seemingly overdressed in a water resistant windbreaker in high summer when a rain and hail shower came out of nowhere. That could have been dangerous in remote areas without a shelter. I almost had to ask for help but managed to get home into a long shower – walking in order to reduce wind chill.

  13. Jeff December 17, 2015 at 11:43 am #

    Anybody here in the US have experience with Paramo’s “Analogy” “pump liner” designs?

    It’s supposed to be a significant departure from the traditional WPB fabrics most other systems use, but it’s not marketed here in the States. Mainly UK/Europe.

    My understanding is that the UK can experience some seriously wet weather, and with Peramo now offering items with a separate shell/fleece liner, the fleece liner can replace an existing base or mid layer and result in less overall clothing weight than their previous systems.

    I’m thinking of the 12oz Enduro Windproof jacket and the 15oz Enduro Fleece hoody.

    • Jon October 27, 2016 at 6:50 pm #

      Paramo makes very good gear IMO. It is easily reproofed with Nikwax, if it gets a puncture easy to fix by sewing it up and reproofing. They are quite heavy garments and very warm (can be worn next to the skin) so some weight savings are possible via no need for base layers etc. Plus they don’t have the goretex rustle and are very comfortable to wear. Almost impossible to destroy them apart from burning them.

      I use a Velez smock in winter (far too warm most of the rest of the year) and a Bora Fleece plus Feura Windshirt in warmer times. I also have the Torres gilet and sleeves which are designed to be put over wet clothing and a couple of Trail Shirts. Use the Bora or the Trail shirts with the wind shirt and you get a waterproof system apart from really prolonged heavy rain- that combo is not recommended for deep winters! The Trail shirts are reversible, one way they keep you warm. Turn them around and they cool you down- very neat shirts that look ok too if you go into a pub/restaurant.

      All of them are very good at shifting perspiration away and keeping rain out. But, like every other waterproof system you will get some dampness eventually as the outer layer becomes saturated. However they do retain body heat well and will shift water away from the body. I’ve never been cold or wet through when I use the kit. Have been damp though.

      My personal view is they are the best kit available to in terms of versatility, comfort and keeping me dry but they have their limitations. The only way to keep rain out completely is by using a Silnylon (or other non-breathable fabric) poncho and chaps. Then again, they have their issues too.

  14. Brad R. December 17, 2015 at 4:10 pm #

    I agree that Gore Tex is a lot of marketing, but I still find it to be the best, most durable WP/B Tech out there. I have had quite a few “proprietary” membrane jackets such as Marmot’s Pre-Cip, and Membrane Strata, Pertex Shield, Mont Bell’s Hydro Breeze, and others, and they don’t perform any better, and often worse, and have a bad habit of delaminating early in the garments life. I have also tried eVent, which is better in some regards, but I have had two different eVent garments delaminate (from different manufacturers).

    I have used two Gore Tex Paclite Shells for years of heavy use and other than the DWR wearing off regularly still keep the rain out. Do I sweat in them, yes, but they are as much to keep me warm as they are dry.

    The biggest problem with shells is that without their DWR they are useless and the DWR wears out quickly (less than a week in the Alaskan brush) and the aftermarket replacement DWRs are worse than the original factory applied DWR. I hope that the new Colombia Outlast and Gore Tex Active can at least alleviate that issue, but I have my doubts about the durability of the membrane without the protective face fabric.

    I will be curious to see what others think as they use these new jackets. They seem like they have the potential to actually be a breakthrough in the way rainshells are built. Now, does that mean they might not just be more marketing spin, no, not at all. Gore Tex has re branded the same basic membranes about 20 times each promising, but failing to deliver better performance.

    My biggest problem with Gore Tex (and like I said, I use one of their shells) is that they stifle innovation. They don’t let manufactures that use their membranes experiment with other technologies, like eVent. They force brands to exclude competitors as part of their contract negotiations, and most major outdoor apparel lines feel like they have to have the Gore Tex name associated with their brands as it is by far the most recognized WP/B Tech out there, and it does work, just not as well as it should, or as well as they like to say it does.

  15. Kurt W December 17, 2015 at 5:09 pm #

    Been getting rid of most my WPB for the last several years as I agree it doesn’t work as advertised. I also have problems with “moisture wicking” since I can out sweat any wicking fabric I’ve tried and “Warm when wet” because when you’re wet and it’s cold you’re wet and cold. Maybe one fabric is measurably warmer when wet in the lab but on my person in the field I can’t really tell the difference with modern fabrics. Have to throw on the impermeable rainwear and turn it into a wetsuit.
    Thanks for putting this topic out in the mainstream – good for discussion.

  16. JH December 18, 2015 at 12:20 pm #

    just catching up on reading this website, and I’m impressed, good job Andrew. It’s not often you get to see an experienced pro speaking candidly about gear in an unbiased way.

    Absolutely the whole waterproof-breathable thing is a myth! As soon as the spray-on repellant wears off a new Gore-Tex jacket the whole thing loads up with water in the rain and it gradually permeates the fabric. Here in New England we know that well! They’re still nice jackets, you get some polypro or fleece underneath and you’ll stay mostly dry and warm.

    Look to sailing and boating for true waterproofness – foul weather sailing gear keeps you totally dry, but it’s typically a rubber jacket with zero breathability.

    I see very little real innovation today in outdoor clothing, it’s all coming from a few large manufacturers in China now. Another myth to be dispelled – the “waterproof zipper”. These annoyingly slow and catchy zippers don’t keep water out, but they do make it difficult to jerk open your zipper or pocket with gloves on. I vastly prefer the previous wide-bore zipper with a flap that snaps over the opening to shield water. I still have an old US-made REI jacket with this system.

  17. David December 21, 2015 at 5:45 pm #

    2WD Vibe!??? Really!?

    But, what would you recommend for a waterproof rating for hiking? Is 20,000mm too waterproof for 3 season hiking? Would 10,000mm would be better?

    For example: Montbell is saying their Peak Shell is waterproof to 20,000mm with a breathability of 15,000g/m2/24hrs…. Or a Pertex Sheild with 10,000mm with a MVTR of 7,000g

    Either way, both are none gore-Tex, offer considerable cost savings, and different capabilities. But, I get it… Airflow through ventilation is more effective then Saran Wrapping myself with an expensive gore-Tex pac-lite rain suit.

    • Andrew Skurka December 21, 2015 at 6:28 pm #

      I don’t think the waterproofness and breathability numbers mean much, since they don’t address the biggest variable on performance — the durability of the DWR. If the DWR fails and the exterior fabric wets out, water starts coming in and the fabric doesn’t breathe.

      There’s no reported data on DWR durability, so don’t bother looking for it.

      Generally, I go for the least expensive jacket that fits me well (including when I’m wearing a mid-layer underneath it), has the features I want, and seems thick enough for water to be kept out for a while. Thin fabrics seem to wet out faster than heavier ones.

  18. Ben December 23, 2015 at 8:01 pm #

    Great post.

    Best WPB I’ve used by far = umbrella

  19. John K January 2, 2016 at 10:00 am #

    Given the inherent breathability of these fabrics, what would you carry for a storm prone mountain ultra where cardio output would be high but where rain and nighttime temps would rule out a simple dear windshirt?

    • Andrew Skurka January 2, 2016 at 10:13 am #

      Don’t confuse the argument I made in this post. I’m not saying that WP/B fabrics don’t work at all, but that they don’t live up to the hype.

      For the kind of race you described, I would use a brand new WP/B shell (so that its DWR has not been degraded) and have a mid-layer fleece available to wear over your running shirt and under your shell. If you have the option to swap out clothing at aid stations or crew points, I would have a fresh set of clothing at each opportunity, at least your non-shell layers, which will absorb the most water and which will keep you warmest when dry.

  20. Stanley Russell January 8, 2016 at 3:14 am #

    This is one of the most interesting articles i have read in a long time, as a note of introduction i have been designing high performance waterproof fabrics for over 20 years ..and quite frankly have never believed the hype on Goretex ..and for our own brand Aclimatise only use hydrophilic membranes as they work better in the environment that i live in ( Ireland cold,plenty of rain and wind ..good testing ground). I would like to explain why we only use hydrophilic membranes.. In laboratory breathable tests ( official standards for comparison) our hydrophilic membranes compare with Goretex and Event ..But the testing used is un realistic : Testing is carried out at 30C on one side of the fabric and 30C on the other in 65% humidity…. were do you get an environment like that ..a desert.. PHD testing by Dr Gretton showed that as the exterior temperature decreased condensation built up on the inside of the fabric : Now in the UK ambient temperature over the whole year is around 8C .. So if you put 30c on oneside of a fabric and 8C on the other you have a temperature gradient and cold bridging ( think single glass pain ) . Goretex , Event and other microporous products can only transfer sweat in vapour form and here in lies the issue and also the introduction of pit zips to garments to alleviate the Problem. On the other hand hydrophillic membranes breathe by molecular diffusion and the greater the temperer gradient the beater the transfer of moisture ( breathability) and this is the reason at Aclimatise we only use hydrophilic membranes ..they work in the environment that outdoor clothing is used in. Now turning to the issue of wearing clothing in wet weather …in prolonged rain NO waterproof fabric will work after the DWR has been compromised ( usually after around 30mins hard rain).. You will be dry from the outside but moisture will be building up inside with no where to go hence you get damp and feel the garment is not working. The benefit of Hydrophilic membrane are that they can act like a reservoir and store the moisture ( since due to the temperature gradient the moisture will be trying to get to the outside ) but once the membrane is saturated you will get a humidity build up inside the jacket… Pit zips would then help with this issue but then you stand to get wet from the outside. As a footnote at Apt fabrics ltd we supply all the waterproof fabrics used in the production of all Police garments in the UK … Why do you ask are our fabrics not used by major brands, i think the article I’m replying to states the obvious and the reason that we brought our own brand to market… I test the fabrics independently at reputable test houses to prove technically they work and we have a string of non nonsense testers who try our gear out in extremes ( our waterproof ( yes tape seamed fleece) was tested in Antarctica for 6 months by the Chief medical officer in temperatures down to -50C … Our waterproofs our tested in various climates and conditions and our testers are advised to tell us whats wrong with the garments so that we can improve them… I would love to work with more brands and introduce them to fabrics that work but if they already use Goretex i don’t waste my time ..As although I’m a small company Goretex don’t like me as i don’t believe in marketing BS… On a final point the best place I’ve found for Goretex ( PTFE) technology is in Fire suits in that environment i don’t know any technology at the moment to better it.

  21. Curtis January 11, 2016 at 9:42 pm #

    I recommend taking a leaf out of the book on how we do things on the West Coast of Tasmania. I’m talking about locals here too, not blow-ins.

    Tasmania is climatologically challenging in general – the West Coast much more so. Five seasons in a day, as they say. Rain, blowy, more blowy, rainier, deluge-a-thon. Crazy stuff, for all but the six weeks of summer you get.

    When I first moved to Queenstown, I got around in different sorts of fancy mainlander clothing, always wet as a shag and as soon as I stopped moving, I’d be cold. Tried all sorts of different things, none of which worked.

    Locals don’t dress like that. Locals wear shorts generally and use wool for the upper body exclusively. It gets wet – meh – at least you’re not freezing. Don’t fuss about the legs, they get wet anyway no matter what you wear. Gaitors instead, good tough ones. Good stout boots. Don’t wear so much and you won’t feel the cold. Keep a solid shell close by if it blows, otherwise the wind cut’s you down real quick.

    The best advice and example out of all of it though – carry an umbrella. Bloody magic things. Never go anywhere without mine, a Helinox these days, they’re nice and stout. This was the one best tip out of them all. Not so good when it’s blowy but you learn how to vane real quick – two good reasons, if you don’t vane then your umbrella eventually goes into drogue mode which makes them resentful creatures afterwards, and, if you don’t vane then your head gets wet. The whole purpose of the umbrella is to stop your head and upper torso from getting inundated, thus allowing your nice woolens to work their magic in optimum conditions. This is the one thing I go on about until people are sick and tired – a strong umbrella, when your out and about, is your best friend.

    Nowdays I live in the West Australian Goldfields and rain around here is something of a novelty. You hear stories about it every now and then and everyone knows at least one bloke who claims to have been rained on this year (or so they say) but I still go nowhere without my umbrella. Because it’s also exceedingly good at keeping your pate from getting sun-cooked and in a far cooler (temperature cool, not Fonzy cool) way than wearing a broad brimmer like a cow cockie. Getting addlepated in the sun is a bad thing, hurts like hell, can be dangerous. So umbrella it is. Oh and when you want to pull up for a blow, have a quick camp for ten, you’ve got your own bit of shade right there with you to drop over your face.

    Yep. Umbrellas. Vastly overlooked item of kit, saves you a tonne of trouble. Get one. Stop whining about how wet you are and get one. Trust me on this, I shit you not 🙂

  22. Sue June 2, 2016 at 7:55 pm #

    Hi Andrew, I’m so pleased that I came across your website via google.
    Last year I trekked the Haute Route and the weather wasn’t good one day in particular.
    My supposedly waterproof Columbia jacket got drenched and I was saturated and freezing all day.
    I realise that all jackets are not waterproof however mine was more like a raincoat! Can you recommend a jacket that would be good for trekking as I’m heading off to the Dolomites soon?
    Much appreciated.

    • Andrew Skurka June 3, 2016 at 7:12 am #

      You have two options. You can get any NEW waterproof/breathable jacket, and the DWR will work.

      You can also get a pure waterproof jacket, like The Packa, or an umbrella or poncho.

  23. Justin June 8, 2016 at 9:10 pm #

    Mostly agree with the overall gist of the post. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to come up with more comfortable rain gear. While i like the ventilation of ponchos, my upper chest area still often wets out with a traditional one because the ventilation isn’t as good there.

    Solution: I cut out a large part of a front of a poncho and put a highly WR, near permanent DWR fabric on that has some air permeability (since i always carry a WR windjacket, i’m not worried about a little wet through). Makes it a little more comfortable. I’m working on making a partial poncho from scratch, that has an EPIC like fabric on the outside, and Tyvek 1443R underneath. The silicone treated outer fabric has a truly durable DWR and air permeability (it’s not waterproof, aka HH is below 1500 mm), this outer later is to provide initial breaking of the force and speed of rain drops, while the under Tyvek layer prevents any bleed through water coming through. The outer layer also protects the Tyvek from abrasion, tearing, UV damage, etc.

    No fragile DWR’s to wash/wear off, nor do they need a hot air dryer to refresh same–occasional rinsing and rarely wash with camp soap can maintain them in the field.

    The 2nd half of the poncho is a non breathable, fully waterproof fabric, as it’s mostly just going over pack, and doesn’t really need air permeability.

    My other solution for colder weather, is similar to Paramo type concept, except using lighter materials, a more modular system, and again, no fragile, temporary DWR’s. Silicone treated fabrics (much thicker [thus more durable] coating of DWR than the C6, C8, etc type DWR’s) plus woven polypropylene (MUCH tougher than thin, non woven forms of PP such as DriDucks material). Again, these also need to be periodically rinsed and occasionally washed with camp type soap to maintain sufficient hydrophobic levels, but you don’t actually need to re-apply DWR (at least not for a long time), nor have a high temp, clothes dryer. Can actually be field maintained for longer trips.

    I’m a bit obsessed with figuring out the lightest, most comfortable and long lasting systems, not just because of my backpacking interests/hobby or pro enviro ideals, but also because i’m somewhat of a (non stereotypical) prepper (i say that, because i’m not anywhere near being conservative, right wing, etc). So i’m very motivated to “get it right”, because if there is a collapse, well, you won’t be able to go to that nice warm and dry hotel room, and your gear and clothes become your basic, permanent survival system.

    • Andrew Skurka June 10, 2016 at 7:00 am #

      I’ve only had one experience with EPIC, circa 2002, and I was unimpressed with it. It wet through about as quickly as a windshirt. You must have more trust in it, which might be deserved if the fabric as evolved since then.

      • Justin June 11, 2016 at 9:26 am #

        In both of the above cases, it’s acting only as the outer layer. In one case, there is a moderately WR windjacket beneath, and in the other, there is a windjacket and a layer of 1443R Tyvek underneath (highly WR with decent measurable CFM and doesn’t rely on a traditional, temporary DWR).

        With both official EPIC and EPIC like fabrics, there is a very wide range of HH and CFM levels to be found. HH can range anywhere from around 1500mm to around 70mm and CFM can range anywhere from almost 0 to 50 or so. Both HH can be less and CFM more, if you add your own silicone coating to highly breathable fabrics like i’ve done.

        The reason why the US military likes and uses EPIC so much is because even though as an outer layer, it will wet out in even moderate rain (even the more highly WR versions), it dries very fast because of the silicone coating on the fibers, and that same DWR can be field maintained unlike C6, C8, wax based, and most other DWR’s. It’s not that it physically loses the DWR and wets out like other fabrics, where the DWR washes and abrades off, but just that a single layer of fabric cannot be both sufficiently waterproof and air permeable at the same time–so water can and does get through.

        They use it as an active layer, where they know they will get wet, but everything is designed to dry fast. There is no other highly WR layer underneath.

        In my case, i’m using it more like a 2 layer WPB system. I know rain will get through the single layer siliconized fabric, but by that point, much of the force/speed of the rain droplets has been minimized a lot, and then the highly WR fabric(s) underneath deal with the water that does ingress.

        The point, and what’s different about this system, is using two layers of fabrics that don’t require adding a DWR and which do have a truly durable WR nature. Then combined with the ventilation of a poncho, you can get about as much practical and usable, in a consistent sense, air permeability as is currently possible vs an umbrella + windjacket which only works in more mild or ideal conditions.

        If you’re interested in testing the concept, i could send you out a modified poncho with a large front panel of this DIY 2 layer WPB fabric on it. The only request would be to use it, give it at least a mini review, and to send it back. This is not a commercial venture at all, but you’re able to get out a lot more than myself (i work a full time, and part time job and sometimes it’s hard to take off larger amounts of time, except for occasionally in the summer as my full time job is at a school).

        Ironically, the poncho i have modified is a Sierra Designs poncho (just because i got it at clearance prices awhile back).

  24. Justin June 12, 2016 at 8:55 am #

    I should add that the above is still far from being perfect or ideal. Both silicone and polyethylene have fairly low surface energy, but not low enough to also repel oils. Since they absorb oils, and other debris (dirt, plant matter, skin cells, etc) gets stuck to oil, these materials can lose their hydrophobic, DWR properties.

    This means that they need to be occasionally rinsed in cleanish water, and more rarely degreased (all synthetics should be occasionally degreased, since most of them absorb oils) to work most effectively.

  25. doug zdanivsky July 9, 2016 at 3:00 pm #

    Here’s a good article (with links to other articles of the same ilk) on the hype surrounding Gortex, HyVent, etc. and the oxy-moron that is a ‘breathable’ waterproof membrane. It might work in the labs, but as we’ve learned, in the actual outdoors, it is all hype. And the higher-end manufacturers (Marmot, Arcteryx, Outdoor research) are all in on it. Why else would their ‘hardshell’ jackets and pants also have huge pit-zips if the membrane itself is so breathable? A material is waterproof (rubber, silicone), or it is not. In between there are varying degrees of permeability (nylon – cotton). If you are working in wet conditions and wearing a waterproof shell layer or ‘rain’ jacket, you are GOING to get wet, either from without (when it eventually wets through), or within (from sweat). The trick is to layer in such a way that we stay COMFORTABLE when we get wet. We accomplish this by wearing a moisture-wicking base layer, and a hydrophobic but 100% breathable middle layer underneath our shell layer. In my experience, soft and hard shell layers are primarily useful for keeping warm in WINDY conditions, and fabrics treated with Gortex or any other treatment will start to wet-through more and more easily with time and use. So rather than spending $600 on the latest and greatest ‘waterproof’ Gortex (or HyVent or H2NO, or whatever) jacket, spend $200-300 on a jacket that is comfortable, waterproof (as I say, this will fail after a while, but shouldn’t in the initial months/years depending on use) has the features and quality you want, but doesn’t make any claim to breathable membranes, and relies primarily on mechanical venting (pit zips, etc) for getting rid of excess body heat. You will then still have plenty left over for a top quality fleece sweater and moisture-wicking baselayer, and you will be the better for it!

  26. doug zdanivsky July 9, 2016 at 3:09 pm #

    PS If it’s raining and I’m working hard I don’t think even the ventilation provided by a Packa would keep me dry. I just wear my poly baselayer and hat and embrace the suck, knowing that when I stop under a bit of shelter I have a nice dry midlayer to keep me warm.. 🙂

  27. MikkelFJ July 19, 2016 at 3:26 pm #

    I don’t really agree with that post very much. I’d love to see prices of GoreTex coming down, and I’m sure there are a few other materials that are of equal or better quality by some measure, and all products evolve. E-vent is the only brand beyond Gore-Tex that I’d really trust and it also seems to be a more breathable and more pleasant material overall, but it might offer too little wind protection and possibly fewer guarantees on strength.

    The real problem is that every vendor has their own brand and even if it works, it says nothing about strengths and seams and once you finally get to trust something the market has moved on to new names and products.

    I recognize that the performance of Gore-Tex may be beyond what most users need for a few days on ski, and that the price may not be justifiable, but that does not make Gore-Tex pure hype. To me it matters little if the equipment is is two days old or fifteen years old. It should not fail catastrophically when I depend on it, and I certainly do not plan to replace essential gear every 5 years. I might not use some equipment a lot in a single year, but long term it pays off. I tend to prefer the 3-layer sandwiched material which is very tough, but not as light, cheap or flexible as some other Gore-Tex and non-Gore-Tex material.

    Gore-Tex needs vapour pressure and as with all breathable materials water can potentially seep at pressure points. It isn’ t perfect and you don’t always have to wear Gore-Tex, but it is very good for its intended purpose. Gore-Tex also prefers DWR but it isn’t mandatory – I believe it can even breathe under water to some extend. And, not all Gore-Tex is created equal.

    Admittedly I have not tested a lot of non-Gore-Tex. Some of it I have been sort of happy with for a long time until it suddenly failed miserably in a solid downpoor or breathed worse than a plastic bag if possible – seams have eventually failed and pores have clogged beyond recovery.

    During a ski holiday with an old non-Gore-Tex, but supposedly breathable, jacket I was literally soaking wet each evening and had to hang my layers for drying. I brought my truested heavy Gore-Tex motorcycle jacket for the next snowboarding trip. I was completely dry each evening except from snow entering during crashes. I later upgraded to Arcteryx Gore-Tex shell and bips which was much lighter and snow proof also in deep powder crashes. As the pants was not motorcycle quality i ripped a tiny tear during a 500m drag after a ski-lift as I refused to give up trying to recover. The tear was easily fixed.

    I have crashed several times in Gore-Tex motorcycle gear. I one crash I broke the membrane in one tiny area but never bothered to fix it, but largely the membrane has been unaware of the events unfolding. I have ridden in torrents of rain in ex-Yugoslavia until my motorcycle and I got into knee deep water on a steep downsloping road where we found it prudent to stop for break. A few days later half of Germany was flooded. I was dry. The only problem I have found is insignificant seeping through the seat due to the high pressure sitting on the motorcycle in heavy rain. I have ridden a Gore-Tex jacket in 45C degrees in a Maroccan desert. I could have taken the jacket off, another rider did but he got a heat stroke. The jacket protected me from the external heat and evaporated enough to reasonably cool me even though I was soaked in sweat as I would have been in any sort protective clothing.

    I also have a Gore-Tex drysuit that keeps my almost bone dry during warm summer canoe trips in Sweeden and while kitesurfing in ice filled ocean waters in the winter of Denmark. In water in winter the evaparation is not quite as good and a little sweat can build up so a strong wicking layer such as Arctery phase can help, otherwise the sweat built up amounts a most to a minor invoncience, but obviosly avoid cotton. An inferior material with more sweat build-up could be dangerous in those conditions as sweat conducts heat directly to the ocean. The DWR quickly washes off a drysuit during kitesurfing and it doesn’t pay to recoat. This isn’t ideal, but also isn’t a big problem. While moving a canoe over a semisubmerged log I accidentally pierced my thigh by a sharp broken off branch, or so I thought. The suit was undamaged with no visible signs of the encounter at all. There was only a sore thigh. Users of other non-Gore-Tex suits are generally happy until the seams start to leak, and many prefer using thich winter wet suits, or switch to wet suits early in the season. I have no problem using my drysuit much longer into the season, but this also relates to fit. Once I jumped into the suit in cotton T-shirt and jeans for a quick surf on a hot summer day. Not a drop of water or sweat.

    I have Gore-Tex gear some of which some has lasted decades. It has been crashing, dragged, stabbed, submerged, expostested to heavy rain, icy water and desert heat while canoeing, snowboarding, skiing, kitesurfing, motorcycling and general goofing around in dense forest.

    The few times the material has failed slightly, it has protected my skin and taken much less damage that I would have expecged. Mostly it hasn’t taken any damage at all, neither by time, exposure, or force.

    I really wouldn’t trust any other brand to stand up to this kind of abuse, but not all users need those assurances. As to price, I think it is too expensive, but long term still good value compared to the alternative.

    Whether it is worth it is an individual assessment, and it isn’t always the wise choice for a given application, but when the conditions warrants its use, it performs and it isn’t hype.

  28. Excelsior July 24, 2016 at 8:52 pm #

    Best on line Gore Tex discussion.

  29. MarkL August 15, 2016 at 8:38 am #

    As a backcountry ski patroller in the Pacific Northwest, I am out working hard in some of the worst conditions for fabrics like Gore Tex: very wet outside, but not that cold, so very sweaty inside. When I teach a mountain travel class and we talk about gear, for years we have told the students about the limits: when its just as wet outside as inside, breathing does not happen.

    In the last couple of years I have been experimenting with combinations of soft shells and a WP layer. If it is precipitating too much for a soft shell, I’m probably going to get wet anyway due to the lack of breathability, so I might as well have a cheaper, lighter, more waterproof outer jacket. So sometimes I wear a softshell under my waterproof layer. The idea is the uninsulated soft shell I use is much more breathable than a WP/B, so at least a lot of my interior vapor is able to pass through it and will condense on the inside of the WP outer layer, but with the soft shell in between it doesn’t make me as clammy, even if I am still damp. I’ll still eventually wet out from one side of the other, but it so far it seems like a more versatile system for a wider range of conditions, at less cost.

    • Andrew Skurka August 15, 2016 at 9:30 am #

      I know my clients are always disappointed when I tell them this reality. I wonder how yours feel when you tell them that their new $600 ski shell isn’t going to work the way they think it will.

      What are you using for a WP shell? I have yet to find something that has the weight and features I want. But I’ve been looking for the exact reasons that you have!

      • MarkL August 16, 2016 at 9:19 am #

        As far as the jackets, for the in-area ski patrollers and search and rescue people they need something tough and durable, which the 3-layer jackets are very good at. The primary drawback to the lighter weight shell is durability. If I’m bushwhacking – which does happen backcountry skiing – I have to wear the soft shell on the outside for protection.

        I’ve been using the Outdoor Research Helium II, which is made with Pertex Shield + (yes, a supposedly WP/B). It is much less expensive than Gore Tex and less breathable. They also make the Helium HD which has pit zips to aid ventilation. I think the reason it seems to work is because even when it wets out, the soft shell helps prevent the moisture from migrating directly onto the insulating layer. It’s almost like having a 3-layer jacket, but with the liner layer separate from the membrane.

        I honestly can’t say whether it is actually drier, but it seems more comfortable. I’m still experimenting. This is for day tours. I don’t know how well this would hold up in a prolonged multi-day wet outing.

        I also totally agree on your opinion about shoes, especially the dry time. I am very disappointed in how limited the selection is for good hiking shoes that are not WP/B. Oboz has a few models and I have been wearing those.

        What is your opinion about treated down? Feathered Friends and a few of the cottage makers do not offer it because they feel there is a slight loss of loft with limited benefit at higher cost.

      • MarkL August 27, 2016 at 11:04 am #

        There is a jacket I am thinking about trying out this winter: The OR Foray. It has zips from hem to pits so it can vent sort of like a poncho.

        Yes, you still have the issues you mention (e.g., DWR), but it is not unreasonably heavy ~16oz and stouter construction than the ultralight Helium. Seems like an intriguing option for effective venting, which is imortant for me going up the skin track when it is 30 degrees and raining/snowing.

        One aspect you don’t really address in your analysis it the role of temperature differential between the interior of the garment and the exterior in forcing the breathability flow and movement of moisture to the outside.

  30. Kyle Banerjee September 8, 2016 at 7:00 am #

    There is a lot of misleading information here. First off, a disclaimer. I have been a Gore-Tex product tester for many years and I do receive consideration for sharing my views. However, I spend too much time cycling, mountaineering, and kayaking to use gear that doesn’t work.

    First of all, it’s important to realize that waterproof/breathable fabrics are not magic. If you’re in relatively warm rainy weather, sweat is not going to evaporate for the simple reason that the relative humidity is at or near 100%. Likewise, when you start adding pockets, filling them with stuff, adding a backpack, etc., you will are both insulating yourself and interfering with the operation of the garment. And if you are working hard enough that you’d sweat no matter what, no layer will magically make it evaporate.

    All of these fabrics require vapor pressure to function. That means that the bigger the difference in temperature and the bigger the difference in relative humidity between inside and outside the garment, the better they work. It appears the author’s conditions involve relatively small temperature and humidity differentials.

    Even in dry weather, you can swamp out a base layer with no jacket when it’s below freezing. So if you take the temp up to 39°F, add rain and a jacket, it’s not going to evaporate better. However, as the effort level and temps drop, it will seem to work better.

    In other words, the problem isn’t that Gore-Tex doesn’t work, it’s that the was using the wrong tool for the job and has unrealistic expectations to boot.

    • Andrew Skurka September 8, 2016 at 7:13 am #

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Kyle. If Gore-Tex were half as honest as you are being, I would feel no need to write such a post. But they’re not honest. They grossly exaggerate the performance of their products and never admit the limits of current waterproof/breathable fabric technology. That is my chief complaint with Gore-Tex. And as an outdoor educator, I feel that it’s important to loudly counter Gore’s marketing machine so that users have more realistic expectations of this product.

      • Kyle Banerjee September 8, 2016 at 8:30 am #

        I am all in favor of honest discussion of what products are and what they aren’t as I think this helps people enjoy that outdoors and be safe.

        I totally get where you’re coming from. For the first few years that I tested for Gore-Tex, I recommended against using their products for cycling (I rode over 10K miles per year for many years) which couldn’t have made them too happy. What I said at the time was pretty much the same thing you said in this article and that what you really needed to do was to come to terms with being wet. I had a much easier time recommending their stuff for mountaineering in extreme cold because the vapor pressures are huge so the sweat goes right through and appears on the outside of your jacket as ice.

        Materials have improved over the years and so has the competition. And now, there are a couple Gore-Tex products I can recommend for cycling (with a few practical caveats). But I digress

        The reality is that you pay quite a bit for some breathability and what you’re doing determines if that’s worth it or not. As a practical matter, most people that buy outdoor gear don’t use it in a way that the differences would be relevant — the lifestyle community is huge while the enthusiast community is tiny. So in some ways, they’re buying more of an image and an idea than a product. And a lot of companies’ marketing reflects that.

        I do agree with your premise that a lot of so called reviews really just regurgitation of marketing copy by people who don’t even use the gear that much. I think this is unfortunate, so I’m glad to see people such as yourself independently write their thoughts and experiences.

    • Ken Mitchell December 30, 2016 at 7:01 pm #

      Kyle, your summation that some people have “used the wrong tool for the job” and that their expectations are unrealistic is spot-on. After 31 years of military service, the vast majority of which has been combat arms, I have learned that there are only a handful of practical uses for “waterproof” garments and none of them involve physical exertion beyond a slow stroll to the latrines, the mess hall, or back to your hooch.

      In the 80’s it was the rubberized poncho and they also had the rubberized parka with pants. Eventually we were issued the Gore-Tex parka and pants and you would have thought that they were entrusting us with state secrets. However, it didn’t matter whether you were issued clothes made out of rubber or space age materials, if you were a young infantryman and you put that stuff on for a patrol you could count on two certainties: 1) A cantankerous sergeant was going to gruffly inform you that “It doesn’t rain in the Army, it rains ON the army!” 2) You were going to be stopping around the first kilometer to get that stuff off of your body in a hurry.

      The bottom line is that rubberized materials and Gore-Tex materials are equally as effective at keeping you dry and protected from the wind when you are either sitting still, walking slowly around camp, or sleeping out in the open. That’s assuming that the temperature is cool enough to prevent perspiration while essentially immobile. Mr. Skurka’s approach seems to mirror that of the common infantryman, and that is to just accept that there are times when you are going to be wet, maybe all day. If you are wearing the appropriate materials otherwise (wool, moisture-wicking, hydrophobic, etc) then just drive on until it is time to camp then get yourself dry and out of the elements. From my experience, the real advantage of modern Gore-Tex materials is that it weighs next to nothing and packs up into a much smaller space than rubberized garments.

      Please understand that I have not trained in Arctic conditions, and pretty much all of my experience has been as a ground pounding dirt merchant. So, I have probably excluded a fair number of activities and situations in which Gore-Tex might be quite useful while in motion.

  31. Kyle Banerjee September 8, 2016 at 8:03 am #

    If you receive compensation in any form for writing about things related to the companies that provide that compensation, FCC regulations require you to disclose this. I personally find it hard to believe you don’t at least get pro deals.

  32. Mike M October 31, 2016 at 12:50 am #

    I have been using Gore-Tex gear (jackets, pants, boots, gloves, running/all-around shoes, paddling jacket, hat, fishing waders) for about 30 years. Currently, my oldest piece of gear is a 16-17 year old pair of Gore-Tex ski/snowboarding pants by the now defunct company Wave Rave. They have seen the most use (snowboarding, volunteering for ski area events for over 13-14 years in every kind of snow/rain/sleet condition, sitting/kneeling in snow for long periods) and still keep me bone dry and warm; they are the only pair of snow pants I’ve had since I bought them, and I absolutely love them. Next is a pair of Burton Gore-Tex snowboarding gloves. These are about 10-12 years old I think, and they look it from the outside, however they still keep me warm and dry. My hiking & field work boots: REI/Raichle leather & Gore-Tex, 9.5 years old, still keep me bone dry & warm. The dorky ol’ OR Seattle Sombrero…15+ years, still bone dry. Just yesterday I spent the better part of the day hiking up and around a forested mountain in search of chanterelles in constant rain, complete with some bushwhacking through wet underbrush. I was in Gore-Tex head to toe, and other than where a little rain water leaked in around my jacket cuffs and neck, I was bone dry (oh, and warm:) I have lived in western Washington (PNW) for most of my life. I know several other sea kayakers in the PNW who go out year ’round in the Pacific Ocean, Puget Sound, and our big rivers in rain, snow, wind, and most of them have Kokatat Gore-Tex dry suites. I have seen a LOT of rain and Cascade Crud in my life. I have tried other, cheaper waterproof/non-breathable (rubber) and waterproof/breathable gear, and I always come back to Gore-Tex because of no or very low breathability, poor waterproofness, or leaky seams in the cheaper products I’ve tried. In the world of outdoor recreation folks, I do not consider myself a gear head; I don’t look through magazines or the web for the latest gear (and then buy that gear). I pretty much buy something of high quality and then use it until it dies. When I have to replace a piece of Gore-Tex clothing, it is never because it is leaking and leaving me wet, cold, and miserable. It is because of some other catastrophic failure on the clothing. Yes, Gore-Tex is and always has been one of the most expensive pieces of waterproof/breathable clothing out there, but it has NEVER let me down. Since I really don’t read outdoor magazines much anymore or read outdoor clothing advertisements on the web, I really can’t say much about Gore-Tex marketing (I don’t know what they’re claiming other than “waterproof and breathable”), but when I hear or see the word ‘Gore-Tex’, the three words that first come to mind are “waterproof”, “breathable”, and “well-made”, and that is from 30+ years of first-hand experience.

  33. CG December 4, 2016 at 4:57 pm #

    It looks like there is a misinterpretation on how waterproof membrane technology works combined with exceedingly high expectations by some of the most hardcore folks on the planet.

    In quoting the beginning of this article.

    “Seriously, how can a material prevent the transmission of moisture through it (“waterproof”) while also allowing the transmission of water through it (“breathable”)?”

    Membranes vent vapor (sometimes measured in Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate), NOT LIQUID. The minute you start sweating it does not mean your membrane will magically push the sweat through and keep you dry. This is why tests done with these membranes are often done with water standing on the outside while air is typically pushed from the inside via an air pump to produce visible bubbles. This would be a good example of lab vs reality though. You don’t have a lot of pressure in the jacket to push vapors outwards.

    The major misconception here is that GORE-TEX, or any other membrane available today is breathable while also pushing out liquid, this is not true. It blocks water from coming in while letting water vapors out. Water vapor is less dense than water and therefore can escape via the same membrane that water cannot penetrate. This is why you often see Pertex defined as “air porous”. The trick is making it unidirectional in order to also be windproof from one direction.

    In the end, you can expect these membranes to keep you drier (never completely dry) by letting highly humid water vapors escape. The grey area and perhaps hype, is how much actually escapes and how much is it actually helping. I believe that once DWR has warn off and you sweat a lot, it will seem as if the membrane is leaking and especially if the shell has a coat of water on it from a consistent down pour. At this point the membrane is probably venting close to nothing because vapors cannot escape past the denser water barrier on the outside of the jacket. Based on this observation, I don’t disagree with the statements that these technically advanced membranes are still 100% affected by a lack of DWR once it wears off.

    To add insult to injury, these microscopic membranes are effected very much by oil and dirt. If you have a dirty and oily GORE-TEX shell that hasn’t been washed recently with warn off DWR, you might as well be wearing a rubber rain jacket. Again, this is often misinterpreted as a leaking shell when its really just your sweat pooling from being entirely trapped. If you combine this issue with under layers that are acting as sponges you will be drenched.

    With all that being said, the only thing I expect from my membrane is to keep the water out while also letting water vapor escape. There is never a time where I expect to sweat a lot that I also expect to stay completely dry. One tends to appreciate the waterproofing more if they are also not sweating. In reality, this is probably the only time a membrane can 100% keep up with the moisture levels inside of a jacket.

  34. Laszlo July 25, 2017 at 4:26 am #

    A lot of bitching on Gore-tex, but I didn’t see anything constructive in your article. If you think they are so bad, why don’t you recommend something else? I tell you why, because it doesn’t exist! I had several jackets, including The North Face hyVent, which is total crap – sent it back after 2 months, Jack Wofskins’ Texapore, which is the same crap. The Gore-Tex is the ONLY material which doesn’t get wet if impregnated properly. You sweat? For sure you do, you even sweat when it’s hot with a t-shirt on. How can you not sweat with a hardshell rainjacket on??? Your article is a total nonsense, I am wondering how come so many people believe you.

  35. Nozmeister August 17, 2017 at 4:47 pm #

    Nothing wateproof is breathable. Goretex is waterproof for sure. Days of offshore sailing have proven this to me several times. Breathable? Well a bit – better than the old rubberised stuff but not very. But there is not a good alternative. Paramo? – that’s just the other way, sure it’s breathable in that if you happen to be in cold enough temps that your’e not sweating buckets in their fleece liners. But waterproof? Don’t make me laugh. If PFCs are not good enough the Nikwax’s C0 tech is 10x worse. Paramo hype is even worse than Goretex because they effectively piss on you and tell you it’s not raining – except they let it rain you and tell you you’re not wet because you’re kind of damp/warm and that’s apparently the same as being dry. It isn’t.

  36. bob August 26, 2017 at 3:29 pm #

    gore tex is in fact technically and practically waterproof. Feel free to sue gore tex if not. that you create condensation and that the water repellent washes out is a different issue that exists everywhere (well, maybe not with the gore tex GTX actually, but I haven’t tested that one).

    I’ve personally tested regular gore tex and not only does it fullfil the technical waterproofness requirements, but weighted in a bath tub overnight it’ll also stay dry (just like polyurethane coatings). You have to put quite the pressure to penetrate it, which unless you’re doing diving with, you can’t. Even storms just don’t have that pressure on impact.

    so basically, please stop spreading lies that you can’t even back up with half proper experimentation.. thanks

  37. Zuberfizz September 17, 2017 at 12:30 pm #

    I dunno man, Kokatat drysuits live up to the hype.

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  1. Andrew Skurka Brings us Back to Gore-Tex … - January 7, 2016

    […] Why I’m hard on GORE-TEX, the King of Hype ™ […]

  2. Who Should You Believe: Andrew Skurka or Gore-Tex? | PopUpBackpacker.com - January 17, 2016

    […] A month ago I read a post by Andrew Skurka titled, Why I’m hard on GORE-TEX, the King of Hype. […]

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