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.
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.
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?
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.
Back in the 1970’s a bloke called Robert Powell did a critique of Gore-Tex in his excellent book: Backpacking for Pleasure. He emphasised that ventilation was of primary importance when it came to rainwear and that “in the field” Goretex just didn’t live up to the hype/bullshit that was espoused by Gore. That had been and still is the experience of many outdoor people. Nothing has changed. I feel sorry for the ‘newbies’ that go and spend a veritable fortune on a raincoat/jacket without first consulting experienced bushwalkers/cross-country skiers etc. I gave up on Goretex in the early 1980’s and went back to a well ventilated dry(waxed) japara coat.
If what you’re saying was true, Gore-tex would have died out decades ago. The fact that Gore has sold millions of Gore-tex products and they are increasingly popular world-wide is testament that people like it and it works. It speaks for itself.
The fact that millions of people believe in something doesn’t necessarily make it true.
Look at : aromatherapy, ghosts, religion etc.
I’ve spent 10 hour days outside in downpours and have stayed completely dry, comfortable under Gore-tex fabric in both feet and hoodie. Not sure what naysayers are talking about but the proof is in the pudding. Lightweight and waterproof, yup, just don’t poke any holes in it.
No but the fact it is TYE integral part of the military ECWCS clothing system and also what ALL of their bivvy bags are made of I’d say it 100% works.
The actual problem is you hobbyist and skier types types are consumerists at heart. You’re addicted to consumer products which suck, even the expensive ones. If you get military products I think you’ll find A) that $300 jacket is now under $100 and B) it works as advertised, is bullet proof and isn’t junk like high end consumer hobbyist gear. G’day morons
Protein powder is sold world wide and thats a scam, just like covid was lol, gortex is crap in the mountains doesn’t work, windproof yes waterproof no it’s rubbish
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.
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.
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?
How to cope with being wet:
2. Sleeping clothes
3. Big shelter
5. Motel room (the best)
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.
Cool trip. Be safe.
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. 😉
I have used gore Tex for years, I have found if you take care of it. It does do you justice.Nothing is perfect Andrew. Your always going to sweat depending on weather conditions. It is a great product. If you want to help with the gore Tex product I think it’s a great idea, or help with marketing. You seem to have a lot to offer, so please back it up with action.
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.
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.
I spent too much money on goretex motorcycle jackets. Yes the hype marketing info intox was working and even convincing me that the real small rain was in fact a thunders torm, that mysweat was effect of a high outside temperature. 2 years ago, I let all goretex at home. Riding dudes were calling me from lier to stupid… cold I wear a ski vest upon my ordinary motorbike jacket . Rain . A cheap trekking kway or poncho. Period…. I also read that gortex works on a precise constant wind pressure level…..and can’t stand to be manipulated…. No comments 🙂
I guess it depends on your riding style and weather patterns. A poncho wouldn’t happen full blast down autobahn in Germany. I once got a basic vinyl coverall rainsuit – it was heavy, flappy, difficult to pack, and I got super soaked in sweat before it started to rain, and I used it a total # times: 1. But for light rain and low speed, sure, go for it. I do some of what you do as fair weather backup – light PU pants and old mostly waterproof wind jackets that pack light. But as I have written elsewhere, I have been in some serious weather with GoreTex, and I have also tried without (akin to Water Bucket challenge on steroids).
@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.
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.
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.
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.
Andrew, do you advise taking off some of your “go’suit” layers before donning your puffy to warm up at rest stops?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is interesting. I’m trying to reconcile something, and I think you might be able to help. My GoreTex repair agent said that even when the DWR fails, the garment will still be waterproof, however, it will no longer be breathable, due to the outer liner wetting out, with the water sealing it. Now, on the other hand, a friend of mine said he participated in a demo once: he was first asked to dunk his hand in water, to get it wet. He then put on a very thin GoreTex glove, and immersed his hand in water for a few minutes. When he removed his hand and removed the glove, his hand was dry, suggesting that the the GoreTex IS in fact still breathable when covered with water!
But you are saying something different again – that a DWR failure will in fact result in a loss of waterproofness.
Can you enlighten me?
If the science is to believed, the person you are responding to was incorrect. DWR sprays are what allows water to bead off the surface to prevent wetting out, when the face fabric gets soaked. When the face fabric gets soaked, like you said, the membrane is still waterproof, it just doesn’t let any vapor through anymore because the exterior surface has wetted out.
Best WPB I’ve used by far = umbrella
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?
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.
[…] Why I’m hard on GORE-TEX, the King of Hype ™ […]
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.
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 🙂
You make a good case for umbrellas, but they only work out if you don’t need to be using both hands for something else.
[…] A month ago I read a post by Andrew Skurka titled, Why I’m hard on GORE-TEX, the King of Hype. […]
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?
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
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.. 🙂
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.
Best on line Gore Tex discussion.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I dunno man, Kokatat drysuits live up to the hype.
Well this is old… but people are still replying, so why not.
I have a arcteryx alpha sv, so nothing cheap, and couldn’t agree more. Now i do sweat more than the average person but only in really cold weather I can stay dry.
Still going to use it though, that fabric is so tuff. I’ve owned my jacket for seven years now along with a bib of the same quality and have slid down rocky hills, pushed through thick/pointy tree branches and have fallen on sharp rocks/ edges on fallen trees, hard enough to cut my skin underneath, without damaging the down layer or even a scratch on the shell.
Pretty old post so I dunno if anyone is reading this anymore. I remember quite a few years ago GoreTex was offered as an option on an external frame backpack! Talk about hype. Totally useless since there is no temperature differential in a backpack.
I still read these comments, and probably a few other subscribers, too.
Yes, a Gore-Tex backpack is pointless as well as unnecessarily expensive. You could accomplish the same thing with coated nylon, which costs $4/yd rather than $25.
No, coated nylon wouldn’t be nearly as waterproof.
Im using gore tex for snowboarding. My shell jacket is like 20.000mm rated or something like that. Does good job at keeping me dry. Even after all day on the hill. Breathability is questionable as I sweat like a pig when its warmer and improperly dressed. But feels like doing a good job. Super light and water repellent enough. I know my review is super scientific, but I like it. Had never let me down so far.
The only experience I have with GoreTex (or whatever) is skiing/backpacking in the Cascade/Coastal Mountains of Washington and Oregon. It is my opinion that this material does not work as advertised in ANY season in those areas. I guess the temperature differential isn’t great enuff. Don’t waste your money.
What do you think of fabrics like Polartec Powershield Pro?
They are truly air permeable (about 3CFM meaning you can breathe through it with some difficulty) but still effectively as waterproof as goretex. The material I’m using is rated at 5,000 hydrostatic head on one test and 20,000 on another – better than many tent fly’s! Of course in many situations I’d rather be using my water resistant 40CFM wind shirt but in heavy snowfall, high wind, or heavy rain when I’m working only at a moderate pace it seems to offer closer to the best of both worlds.
My next step is to experiment with this material for winter shelters – I’m hoping I can make a fully enclosed shelter where the giant bottom ‘vent’ where the fly hits the floor can be closed to block spindrift without it becoming a condensation nightmare. There is definitely a weight penalty but as the lightest of them come in around 2oz sq yard it isn’t so bad compared to a regular 4 season double wall tent. I imagine it will still require some manual vents at various points on the fly that can be designed to minimize snow ingress.
I think other WP/B fabrics have the same technological limitations as Gore-Tex, and their manufacturers are just as guilty as overhyping their performance.
Air permeability of 3 CFM is barely noticeable. It’s literally one-thirteenth as permeable as your windshirt. As a shelter material, the 3 CFM will add marginal value, and it will be far less effective than having true vents.
I can’t confirm this, but I don’t think that the HH tests used to generate ratings for WP/B fabrics and WP fabrics are the same. I struggle to believe that Powershield Pro, for example, is more waterproof than 1.5-oz DCF (Cuben), and there are many other WP/B fabrics that I trust even less that boast of even higher HH ratings, like 20k.
I’d agree with you it’s barely noticeable in a garment but it does seem to make quite a difference for shelters. I have a custom eVent bivy which, at 0.5CFM, I have yet to experience condensation issues even in cold and wet conditions. I have not tried it in highly humid conditions and don’t plan to – but if that small of a difference can reduce condensation by a significant amount I would imagine a total of 3CFM would definitely help. In comparison I’ve tried the standard non breathable bivys and a fancy goretex bivy and both immediately had major issues with condensation. The design of the bivys was different but essentially at the end of the day your enclosed in a bag annone had any venting options besides opening the main ‘door.’
There is also a full eVent Rab 4 season single wall tent called the Latok Mountain – every review I’ve read has positively rated it for condensation issues compared to other single wall shelters.
The small.microclimste next to your body producing massive amounts of perspiration while actively sweating I’m sure would be much more difficult in terms of venting than a space like a tent with a much larger air volume, a much larger area of fabric for water vapor and air to pass through, and generally less actively perspiring people inside (of course not ignoring the fact that you lose quite a bit of water in your sleep – but that is low in comparison to working hard skiing or snowshoeing)
Back to the subject of clothing, though, my only concern with Gore-tex and eVent is whether or not the membrane is truly rain proof. The way I see it, the DWR will wear-off eventually. Still, I would happily buy Gore-tex if I was sure that even when the DWR wears off, the fabric would still be just as rain-proof as a plastic bag. My first priority is waterproofness, THEN comes breathability. This is because when I’m in the wilderness, my first priority is survival and protection from the elements, THEN I care about accomplishing my active goals (like climbing or hiking). So it all comes down to whether Gore-tex is truly rainproof even when the DWR wears off. Finding the answer to that is very difficult indeed.
“So it all comes down to whether Gore-tex is truly rainproof even when the DWR wears off. Finding the answer to that is very difficult indeed.”
See my earlier reply above. I have been using goretex submerged in water with DWR washed off and also in extreme rain on motorcycle. It is waterproof until the seams are worn heavily, and even then it is waterproof enough to swim in ice cold ocean water. DWR keeps the pores free of water and makes the material breathe better, but even without DWR it still works to a degree.
MikkelFJ thanks for the info. I had read your previous reply, and it looks like you have a lot of experience with Gore-tex all over the world. In light of what I’ve seen, I’m inclined to come to this conclusion: Gore-tex is over hyped, as with any brand that has clinched an industry. It’s almost certainly overpriced. Mainly, breathability is not nearly as magical as people would make us believe. Hiking in the rain will be wet and miserable even with Gore-tex. Still, assuming Gore-tex remains completely waterproof even after wet-out, I still see a significant advantage over non-breathables and trash-bags. I would be willing to pay more to have something that will breath most of the time, and be 100% rainproof ALL of the time.
Still, it does depend on what you’ll be doing. If you’re gonna hike the PCT, Gore-tex is going to be way less effective than if you’re climbing Rainier. The DWR from Nikwax wash-in will last for a pretty long time, depending on the jacket. So for 3-4 day trips and what-not, I think Gore-tex is awesome. Even for longer trips, I would consider Gore-tex to be better than non-breathables in just about every situation. Any other considerations are dependent on the specific jacket or pant: seam-sealing, zippers, vents, hood, durability, etc.
Andrew, if you’re monitoring this, and sorry if you addressed and I missed it, but what do you think of Gore-tex pro fabric? I’m hiking in Iceland in September and seeking a sustained cold and wet conditions solution.
Also, have you hiked in a packa yet? It seems great, but I’m wondering what people do when they have their packs off/if it’s an issue.
Thank you so much!
I think Pro will be just as susceptible to the inherent limitations of WP/B fabrics: not 100 percent waterproof, and not that breathable. Is it “the best imperfect option”? I don’t know.
Yes, I used the Packa last summer on a big trip. If you need to pull your pack off, you can still keep the Packa draped over you.
I’d argue that GoreTex Pro is 100% waterproof until seams eventually are worn, and this mostly happens in the foot and knee area. As I stated earlier, I use GoreTex Pro in a Kokatat Dry Suit, and it is 100% dry outside those areas.
But Andrew has a point in that breathing is not 100% effective and you will get damp – but skiiing in non-GoreTex will get you incredible much more damp. OTOH I’ve done hard rescue work training in non-breatable heavy rubber rain gear with ventilation, and it also works – here Goretex would just be to expensive compared to the wear.
On a balance I’d choose GoreTex pro for most things, but it is fair to point out that it isn’t perfect and that you wouldn’t want it as the only outerwear.
I would agree with MikkelFJ. As a mountaineer/backpacker in western Washington, rain is an old friend. I believe Gore-tex Pro to be 100% waterproof, from a technical/scientific standpoint. Just ask any pro fisherman who uses Gore-tex waders: can’t argue with that. That said, here is something I’ve learned: Hiking in the rain = getting soaked.
I just used my Gore-tex Pro jacket on a rainy descent from a glacier on Mt. Baker and my base-layer was soaked by the end. On the same trip, I stood in the rain for long periods of time with the same jacket and stayed totally dry. Still, leaking fabric and sweat are not the only potential causes of getting wet. All rain jackets have a giant hole in the top for your head. They also have large holes in the sleeves for your wrists. If you cinch these down, you sweat like a pig, but if you open them, rain get’s in. It’s a no win situation. Also, pit-zips can let rain-water in, especially while hiking. Some climbers just wear light, quick-drying layers for hiking in the rain and plan on changing into dry clothes when they get to camp.
Bottom line: there is more to staying dry than waterproofing and breathability. Gore-tex isn’t the miracle fabric it’s made-out to be, nor is is garbage. The membrane is waterproof, but that alone doesn’t keep you dry.
Edit: I’m sure there are ways to stay dry while hiking, but I’m equally sure there are major cons to those systems. Also, I find that I tend to ignore misting rain and light sprinkling while hiking (I don’t put up the hood). But this water adds-up, and contributes to getting wet inside the jacket. One last addition: wpb fabrics suck at breathing, and condensation happens even if you’re not sweating a lot.
I owned an REI labelled rain anorak with a Gore-Tex inner layer, mid 1980s vintage. I used it whilst hiking the Appalachian Trail and various side trails. Wearing the anorak left my arms soaked with sweat. The difficulty in interpreting the reason for this issue was that I only wore the thing in wet weather, as intended. But certainly this left me dissatisfied with the product performance. I decided to have another go this year with “lightweight-packable-waterproof-breathable” in the form of a Patagonia rain parka. Same issue–clammy and sweaty in the rain.
I suppose this boils down to basic thermodynamics, specifically the concept of chemical potential. Water molecules (sweat) on the inside of the semipermeable membrane will not diffuse to the outer side of the membrane that is exposed to a water concentration that is the same or higher, such as during high humidity/rain. I did find the Patagonia parka to be less susceptible to sweat buildup in the cooler, dry weather (<30% RH), but of course it makes no sense to wear it under those conditions.
Consequently I donated the Patagonia to charity and went back to my ventile cotton parka, purchased many years ago in New Zealand.
This is a stupid article. You have 2 choices in rain while outside (unless you want to wear an oiled cotton coat) 1) plastic that doesn’t breathe at all 2) or Goretex that kind of breathes. Plastic ponchos are very poorly designed for high movement activities in the rain because the only way they can breathe is by having a giant opening on the bottom and at the arms – this also fails to keep you dry……AND because plastic does not breath AT ALL, these garments wet out almost immediately. (In fact, contrary to your poor understanding of wetting out – this is actually caused by sweat and interior garment condensation, not by water leakage from the outside.
Believe it or not, Goretex does not need DWR to function. Wetting out occurs because you have been in the rain so long or the DWR is so worn down that the outer layer saturates preventing moisture escape form the inside of the jacket causing you to soak in your own sweat. The DWR helps to remove water from the outside of the garment to prevent saturation, but it is the material itself (Goretex) that prevents water from permeating the inside. This exact same thing occurs with plastic ponchos or rain jackets every time unless you are sitting totally still.
At least with Goretex, you have some breathe-ability. It is not perfect. I wet out every time in my green surplus poncho even on short hikes, but in my goretex I can go for 10 mile runs in light drizzle and be fine. In down pours it is different, but by that time it is no worse than the plastic poncho. It is the best technology there is for high activity level stuff in the rain. Plastic rain gear and ponchos wet out twice as fast and are not suitable in design for such activities – especially the poncho.
Goretex is worth the money – please go where your trash bag in the rain in peace.
No you’re wrong I’m afraid. Wetting out is actually a technical term about the spread of liquids on surfaces and is used in several industries to mean the same thing. It’s to do with bond energies but in simple terms is means water spreads out and coats the fibres – to the eye this is soaking into the surface, as opposed to beading up as you find on fresh DWR coatings.
This is old, but really informative. Wanna add my bit….
I owned a Norrona dri3 (their proprietary 3 layer WP/B fabric) hard shell jacket. After (just?) 2 years of light use, one rainy day water just started leaking right through the fabric. Not through the seams nor only through the areas where the DWR had clearly been worn off (shoulders – from back pack). No, it went straight through in the places that should’ve been no problem. It wasn’t from within (perspiration), either. I tested the shell afterwards a couple of times, just standing in moderate/heavy rain for max half an hour, about 5°C, perspiration next to none. Same result.
So, would it be safe to say that the dri3 fabric is not waterproof at all? As long as my experience goes it only works until the DWR is intact. Anyone with a similar experience?
p.s.: to be honest, Norrona accepted my claim and offered me money back or another product to my liking. A thumbs-up reaction on their part, what bothers me, though, is I never got any technical explanation on the failure. So, all things considered, I’ve lost most of my faith (or, better put, marketing based false beliefs) in WP/B materials.
Nevertheless I’m wondering: was this just bad luck/bad product and Gore-Tex/Event membranes in fact are essentially better?
Gianni: I wouldn’t loose faith in ALL wpb fabrics due to the failure of one (obscure) proprietary fabric. I have used eVent and Gore-Tex, and have been pleased with both fabrics.
That said, I wore my Gore-Tex Pro jacket for a three hour hike decent from a base camp on Mt. Baker in steady rain, and I was soaked by the end. Since then, I have used the same jacket (no washing or treatment) in heavy rain and stayed bone dry. So there are a lot of factors.
IMHO: Gore-tex, eVent, and 90% of propriety fabrics are completely waterproof. BUT humidity, ventilation, hood design, fit, zippers, seams, etc all have to be in your favor to stay dry.
I think you got a dud. A good test might be to use a sink to run water over the fabric in a small spot, putting a paper-towel (or just your hand) on the under side. Make sure the fabric is “wetting out” then see if it soaked through.
Curious if you have used the latest polartec WPB fabrics like Neoshell / Powershield Pro. I also was not a big fan at all of Goretex but in the right conditions I’ve found these to be significantly better. They are effectively waterproof as is Goretex but they differ in that they actually do let a small amount of airflow through. I got ahold of some of the testing spec sheets and powershield pro was coming in at around 3 CFM – certainly still not even close to something like a nice breathable 40 CFM windshirt but at moderate exertion even this tiny amount of air permeability seemed to make a huge difference in terms of moisture transport.
Now I’m not saying that if your trail running up a hill in humid raining conditions your not going to sweat out but for colder drier conditions (especially with lots of wind) I’ve been able to use these jackets without soaking myself with sweat as long as I stay exerting myself only moderately.
I’m also curious if you have ever tried to use hardshells as a sort of semi – VBL. My logic being that they wouldn’t block all perspiration but might slow moisture transport by a significant amount allowing you to extend your insulation another few days before it’s compromised by frozen moisture.
I have not used NeoShell since 2010. Those garments quickly wet-out and got very heavy, and I was not pleased.
WP/B layers cannot be used as VBL’s. They allow too much moisture through.
Have any of you tried the Hanz (sealskinz) waterproof socks?
I’m from snowy Canada and we would use the garbage bag as a sock trick when our feet got cold in the snow or when doing cold water crossings. However, it makes for very very sweaty feet when its not winter.
I tried the sealskinz socks to see if they were any better than plastic bags on a 3 day summer cross-swamp trip and they worked great. It rained the whole time and my feet were 7inches under water at least half of the time… but my feet were only ever so slightly damp by the end of it all… not wet, and not shriveled up. so i can attest that they definitely breathed better than the bread bags of old. we’re talking being submerged in water for hours… so wetting out has nothing to do with these guys being able to breathe. they don’t have much information on their website about how the membrane works, but it works… and it is super stretchy… if only they made a merino wool sweater with their membrane sandwiched in between.
While I agree that materials such as Gore-Tex are not breathable enough for most of us, I think Mr. Skurka is misunderstanding the big picture. The idea of breathability is relative. Gore-Tex certainly is waterproof. And yes, it is breathable. Relatively breathable. There are numbers and studies to prove that. If that wasn’t so, the FCC would have put a stop to Gore’s claims years ago for false advertising. As we can see, that hasn’t happened. The idea that it is no longer waterproof because it wets out is nonsense. A DWR is a plus but, not necessary for waterproofness. Most of this post is ridiculous. After reading this post, I have to really take other reviews from Mr. Skurka with a grain of salt.
Scott: I totally agree. Andrew Skurka is correct that Gore-tex isn’t nearly as amazing as Gore would have us believe. You can easily get soaked to the skin wearing a $500 gore-tex pro jacket. I can testify to all this from personal experience.
But the idea that Gore-tex fabric leaks is ridiculous. Pro fishermen use Gore-tex waders. If it leaked, they wouldn’t use it. Period.
I think there is a time and place for a rain poncho, just like there is for an umbrella. There is no perfect form of rain protection. That said, I think a good wpb jacket is the most versatile form. And for some activities, it is the only thing that will keep you dry.
I just came across this blog post after trying to look up information as to why my very expensive Gore Tex Pro jacket seemed to be ‘leaking’ in the pockets. I can’t work out whether it’s reassuring or not to discover that it’s not and that it’s a problem inherent with it. One thing I know is that it’s damned irritating to discover that your pockets are basically useless for putting anything in them that you want to keep dry i.e: pretty much everything. I totally agree that Gore Tex do a massive hype job around their products that isn’t backed up by real world use.
However, I did used to use Gore Tex boot liners (cheap ones from military surplus) and they worked absolutely perfectly, out in days where my feet where exposed to constant, heavy rain for 8 hours or more. Feet were completely dry.
They really need to work on the double layer pocket problem!
As a motorcyclist, you can say that my last saturday ride in temperatures between 6 and 2°C at mostly 130kmh, is pretty extreme even for Gore Tex.
Well my top quality 1 year old leather boots with GTX leaked after about 4h, and my Sympatex clothes started leaking as well, I generally find Sympatex much better than Gore Tex, but yes all these layers aren’t totally waterproof and for people that have tough usage of the clothes, they are really not enough.
I laugh at the people commenting that they disagree, most seem to be holiday skiers, if you think your usage is tough on the garments, think again !
So for me since on a motorcycle you don’t sweat a lot and prefer extreme waterproofness, I’ll be going back to good old waxed canavas and non GTX boots, I’m confident they’ll be cheaper and easier to maintain than me using can after can of nikwax DWR on clothing…
My experience is also that Goretex boots are next to useless, and I have heard dealers admit as much. The reason being the constant stress placed on the area. I would not generalize that to other areas of use, as I have written earlier. I have heard about people having good experience with Sealskinz socks. While they surely will wear out, they are easier to replace. Personally I just replace the wet socks, which has worked so far.
Some things speak for themselves. If Gore-Tex boots really were “next to useless”, they would have stopped making them years ago. People wouldn’t buy them. However, the fact that Gore-Tex has not only been around for decades, they are the most sought after and popular waterproof/breathable material on the market. There is a reason why the material is so successful. It works.
I have to laugh at the idea that sitting virtually motionless on a motorcycle is “tough” on garments! I don’t think so!
130kmh Off wind and rain on the garments, sometimes extreme heat from engine in your thighs and all the rubbing on metal parts for pants… Do I really need to explain this is more extreme than a sunny ski day in winter ?
I don’t buy it. I’ve ridden plenty of miles in shorts with no ill effect on my fragile skin. (Btw, you shouldn’t be putting your thighs on a hot engine!)
Well tell that to my pants Mr know it all, you realize all motorcycle aren’t the same, my pants with friction on tank, saddle or frame wear a lot, so think whatever you want.
I won’t comment on riding in shorts, speaks well of someone’s logic…
Conversely, I have gone down while skiing in shorts and that really hurts the skin!
Griff, go back in real world. feel free to join next time, even to begin, some adv light travels
Please stop this childish back and forth. Some websites host this type of “discussion.” Thankfully the readers here tend not to engage in it, but sometimes I will cull the threads that do.
I’ve had several breathable/waterproof jackets, pants and waders over the years. I am an avid fisherman and hunter as well as hiker in the PNW.
Currently own Arcteryx 2019 proshell (Theta AR) with improved Goretex (up to 30% more breathable and durable). In the past, i’ve used rubber non-breathable rain gear and cursed its weight and bulkiness but now I see certain areas where breathable and non-breathable shine.
In reality, breathable raingear is not what is cracked up to be. It does leak, maybe not a lot, but over time, degradation of the shell fabric does occur. It will not take an DWR coating when it’s life is over. Also, specialty wash and DWR coatings should be applied at regular intervals, adding cost and time. Arcteryx even recommended to me to wash and dry the jackets to keep the seam tape sealed. Many hikers/hunters will tell you, a pack, not even heavily loaded, force water through the membrane through the shoulders.
I’m not bashing Gore or any other breathable raingear manufacturers. I just think consumers who may be spending up to $1000 on raingear need to understand the limitations and ideal uses for this type of gear.
For activities like skiing or day-hiking, I see breathable raingear to be preferred. The “temporary” water resistance and light weight are desirable. A person has a chance to go home if the raingear becomes compromised.
For activities such as remote backpacking trips or working on a commercial fishing boat, I see rubber raingear being preferred. You don’t have an option to wash/dry or re-apply DWR. Breathable rain gear can only hold up for so long under adverse conditions, which could become life threatening.
I agree that the company is full of hype. But I’d suggest that they are guilty of exaggeration, not lying.
I see no problems with the claims of waterproofness. If a gore tex jacket lets water in, it’s a construction problem, or else you’ve worn holes in the membrane. Intact gore fabric doesn’t leak, even under very high pressure. Nevertheless, in the mountains, I don’t think this is very important. Breathability is important.
And breathability is a thicket. Nothing breathes perfectly, not even a t-shirt. Breathability is dependent on the size and density of pores in a material, and on the difference in vapor pressure (think of this as relative humidity) between the inside and the outside. There are many use cases where the difference in vapor pressure is so low that nothing will breathe well. A warm summer rainstorm is one. Another is when you have your shell on the outside of many layers of insulation, or many inches of down/synthetic. In that case, there’s no vapor pressure differential to drive moisture through the microscopic pores. Sweat vapor will just condense in the outer layers of insulation.
Gore has always exaggerated its breathability. I’ve been using gtx fabrics since the 1970s, and while they’ve been talking about constant improvements, I can’t vouch for them, never having done a side-by-side test. I can say for sure that my gore tex jackets breath much better than urethane-coated fabrics (except in the above circumstances, where nothing breathes). And I can say for sure they breathe much worse than lightweight, uncoated, un-laminated shells.
My four-season gore tex down sleeping bag is a failure, a relic of 1980s utopianism. I’ve never had a non-sweaty night in it. I’ve never been cold in it, either, but that would change if I used it on a multinight trip.
My Arcteryx jackets are great. For urban use. They look awesome, are comfortable, and keep my city clothes completely dry in a downpour. I don’t take them climbing or hiking anymore. For the mountains, I wear a 20 year-old Patagonia lightweight shell. It’s kinda sorta water resistant, and very very breathable. I don’t care about a little water getting in … everything underneath is synthetic and dries in minutes from body heat. I do care about breathing. And it’s light and compact and I don’t have to worry about it.
So yeah, I think gore overstates its case. I don’t they make a bad product. We just need to evaluate it for what it is, and pick the best fabric for the best use. In many cases, I think the best choice is something cheaper and simpler than gore tex.
Well said. I’ve heard so many differing opinions on Goretex, but I think this is close to the truth. I’ve gotten soaked wearing Goretex Pro ($500 jacket) and it’s tempting to think it leaked. But pro fishermen use Goretex waders. It doesn’t leak. It’s just not the miracle fabric Gore would have us believe. But it’s still useful if you know it’s limitations.
I’ve had loads of “waterproof” jackets over the years that I have gotten soaked in. I bought a goretex jacket about 5 years ago and haven’t got wet since. So I have to say I disagree. I never get sweaty in it and it keeps me dry. I live in the UK where it rains a lot so it’s been drenched a fair few times but still I have been bone dry underneath.
I do become very sweaty while wearing my Patagonia Torrentshell rain jacket, especially when it is raining, or even just humid outside. I am just walking, say 3 to 4 mph. The jacket is waterproof, but in humid or rainy conditions there are thermodynamic reasons why the body’s perspiration does not migrate through the fabric to the outside. This is not to say the fabric is not breathable, but in conditions where one tends to wear such a jacket, the concentration driving force is not in the wearer’s favor. So, the jacket can be said to be waterproof and breathable, just not at the same time in humid or wet weather.
For damp climates, the main article seems to lend support to those who like to use Pile and Pertex garments such as the Buffalo Special 6 Shirt, rather than trying to keep out the moisture with a waterproof-breathable shell.
So far this is the only serious discussion on Gore-tex I found. Most is on jackets and pants. What about Goretex in leather hiking boots. I need a new pair but (in Europe at least) its getting difficult to find good boots without goretex lining. I prefer boots without. What are your experiences?
My experience with my leather nordic/telemark skiboots with goretex lining (Crispi, Garmont) are good, but thats in dry, cold weather. Tried Lowa mountainboots but that was less succesful in a summer multi-day hike in the Alps. Like running in a rain jacket midsummer on the Cote d’ Azur.
@Frank, I agree that gtx works fine in dry winter weather. I really don’t like it for warm weather. Especially in lighter footwear, like trail running shoes. Gtx just makes them hot, and makes them take forever to dry. I prefer the opposite … well-ventilated, well-drained uppers that let water in, let it out, and air dry quickly just from the breeze and the heat from your feet. Most non-gtx shoes these days have some variety of mesh uppers that do the job.
It’s just important to have good socks. Then you can clomp through a stream and not even think about it. 5 minutes later you won’t really notice your feet are wet, and an hour later they won’t be.
My problem with those jackets is not that they do not breathe as much as the marketing may let you believe but rather the extreme price tags that come with them. It just feels that a 500 $ jacket which is probably put together in Vietnam must have a 1000% profit Marge or so while it is just slightly better than a 75 $ solution. If I could buy a three layer jacket for 100 $ or 150 $ the feeling of being ripped off would be much smaller and maybe Andrew’s anger had not be triggered 😉
This is a great point. When a high end rain jacket cost more than high end sleeping bag, you would expect the performance to be as good. But whereas a high performance sleeping bag does exactly what it’s supposed to do, and wonderfully, it’s disappointing for the rain jacket not to work 100% as advertised.
ella, ella, eh, eh, eh
After extensive use of my gore-tex gear, I have come to the conclusion that it is really good at keeping my comfortable in the snow and ice and protecting me from wind, but for rain? mediocre at best, no better than any other cheap waterproof plastic, other than it is lighter and tougher.
In 2017 I was on a canoe trip with a buddy of mine, I had a cheap impermeable poncho the kind that goes over both your pack and yourself, it actually felt nice and somewhat breathable because of all the openings and how lose it was.
Then there was my friend wearing $1600 arc teryx pants and jacked who started noticing wet out after about 10 minutes of wearing his new gear, lol. You accidentally rub a sweaty finger somewhere on the fabric and the DWR comes right off. By the time we got to camp he was drenched (and extremely pissed off), portaging with 60lb bags is tough work, I was quite a bit drier and more comfortable.
Well I used poly pro’s and Gortex for years, sleeping in snowbanks in Alaska, Field exercises in CO and I have ZERO issues with their products. Anyone who thinks they are going to get a waterproof jacket AND not see some perspiration wetness is simply delusional. Watertight is watertight. Who can possibly believe that if water can’t get in from one direction then air must surely be able to pass through the opposite direction? Perhaps some day but don’t hold your breath.
Just throwing this out there.
I work in construction so opportunities to stop and ad or remove layers is not always possible nor is there always a place close by to store extra layers ( leave your rain jacket laying around and it can go missing or get ruined). I wear a Dakota ( marks brand in Canada) water resistant breathable work jacket for rainy or windy weather. Works great in cold weather as a outer shell as well. If it’s really pouring out I switch to my actual waterproof raincoat witch is some kind of rubber. If it’s not raining hard for the whole day the water resistant jacket works fine. It breaths a bit, has pit zips for ventilation, and is very durable for use in construction. If a get sweaty from working hard it will dry eventually. And even when I’ve been in the rain ( not a down pour) for a few hours I’m usually pretty dry. Rubbery raincoat is only for very heavy rain when it’s expected to rain the whole day. Full waterproof jackets are very uncomfortable to wear in anything other than a downpour. Too sweaty for me. I’d rather be wet from the rain.
My point is that one jacket can’t do everything.
I use Gor Tex outside of work. I never expected it to be fully waterproof though when using it for canoeing ( I tend to stay out when rain storms come unless there is lightning) I’ve stayed dry. I have not experienced water soaking in tho I have definitely experienced more sweat build up when the jacket is soaked.
I recently upgraded to a lighter weight 2.5 layer gortex jacket and pants ( mec brand in Canada ). I expect the durability will go down but will use it more when I want to lower my backpack weight. 600 for the pants and jacket is a bit steep but I have an opinions on that.
The idea that gortex is overpriced is in my opinion at least somewhat false. My first gortex rain suit was only about 250 for the pants and jacket. It just wasn’t Patagonia or something like that ( I do like Patagonia, I have two puffy jackets, one down and one synthetic and even bought a down vest for the girlfriend). I bought it from Cabelas ( bass pro). They had ones with cabelas branding on it but when looking for my size on the rack I noticed that they were not all branded the same. So it must be some sort of off brand that cabelas put there branding on.
When you buy a 300 dollar brand name jacket your paying for the brand not just for the fact that it is gortex. Heck the Arc’teryx ones went up to like 800 dollars. My cabelas jacket is just as nice ( appearance wise) just not as much features. The only reason I even upgraded was for the pit vips and figured I’d try out the lighter weight fabric.
I think there is a reason that militaries use gortex and its for similar reasons that I prefer water resistant jackets for work. They can’t always stop what they are doing like a thru hiker can. So even if it’s only a bit breathable it still beats being fully weather proof ( especially when you can’t take it off).
One last thing. When camping I’ll often bring along a light weight poncho. Use as shelter, rain gear on lighter carry trips, or even over gortex if worried about wet through? Idk about the last one. I still like having it around.
Well this ends my rant. I like gortex/ WPB jackets. No I don’t think they are perfect. Waterproof breathable? More like highly water resistant and somewhat breathable. Still useful in my opinion.
I spent Gore-Tex as gortex. Oops.
Gear-heads I know still recommend Gore-Tex. My own experience is varied. Jackets made of GoreTex inevitably soak through and get me wet even in activities where one cannot attribute the phenomenon to internal sweat (I.e. cold weather activities that are not aerobically intense). My experience is true across budget and premium jackets. Thus, waterproof claims are always disappointing. However, in the footwear department, I have found a good pair of GoreTex boots to be waterproof to a much higher degree – wading through a few inches of water and making it through a hike with heavy rain have left my feet dry. This may have to do with materials but my sense is more due to heavy-duty construction. Customer demands for light high performance jackets are much more forgiving when it comes to a few extra ounces on our feet. The expectation is that boots will be heavier and bulkier.
Creeping water intrusion must be due to the seams og lack of three layer technology. As I have written earlier, I have Kokatat drysuit that have remained absolute dry despite swimming and crashing in ocean water.
As to boots: my experience is that this is the first place that breaks down due to heavy wear, and an outdoor store sales rep once told long time ago that you could not expect GoreTex footwear to hold up long term. Even my drysuit started to eventually leak in the feet due to seam wear. Thus I would be interested in a brand name if you have GoreTex boots that hold up to long term wear.
All of my Gore-Tex boots have held up well over many years of use. I have used Asolo, Raichle, Garmont, Salomon, La Sportiva, Lowa, Vasque, and Boreal. My wife’s Danner’s also never leaked.