For the "GoreTex Dubious..."

Based on my past experience with GoreTex (less than ideal performance) in high intensity, winter paddling, gave up up on GoreTex in favor of my wetsuits for almost 20 years. This video explains well how I experienced GoreTex "dry"suits.

Of course, YMMV with the type of paddling you do. Just my contribution to the perennial PCom “winter” debate. :slight_smile:


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That has been my experience over the last 40 or so years too. Back in the 80’s, I ran two outdoor stores and my very first experience with Gore Tex was in hunting boots. I sold Timberland, Danner and Rocky at the time and they all had the same problem. When it was cold and you got up early in the AM and walked to your duck blind or deer stand, then stopped moving, your feet were freezing. If you took your sock off , it was soaking wet. The outside of the boot was usually leather and heavily waterproofed, so all perspiration on your feet from walking in heavy socks in an insulated boot, could not escape. So once you stopped walking you froze.
I have never had any Gore Tex outerwear that did much better over the years either.

When I was test paddling a boat I was considering I asked about dry suits. The owner is a very experienced paddler who helps instructors get their certs. I asked if Gore-Tex was worth the expense over something like Kokatat’s Hydrus and was told “none of the breathable fabrics really work well at all”. Then I saw Fort Nine’s video and that helped explain why.

Bizarre. That photo shows what looks like an Early Winters jacket, the exact same model of jacket that I bought in 1978 and still own. EW was the first company to introduce Goretex garments.

The outer fabric was Taslan, an abrasion-resistant kind of nylon; the membrane laminated to it was then laminated to a thin layer of gauzy-sheer but slippery fabric. It had a high collar with a zip-off hood. I had to seal the seams with the little tube of sealant they included, just as older tents required in those days.

EW stopped making that jacket decades ago! But mine still is waterproof and breathable, and in good condition; the seam sealant yellowed and cracked but the laminate, seams, and hardware are all intact. I used it many times while cycling, hiking, and x-c skiing. The only time that sweat did not pass out quickly enough was after I had warmed up x-c skiing. (I learned to start out feeling a bit chilly when cycling or skiing, no matter what jacket or sweater I wore.)

That was the first generation of Goretex, followed by gens that were more breathable. But even that first gen was eons better than any other waterproof fabric I had ever worn. NO other waterproof garment had done anything but leave me soaked in my own sweat even in low exertion.

My Goretex drysuits only had one sweaty area: the body parts that sprayskirt tunnels and PFDS covered. No fabric can breathe out moisture if it is covered by nonbreathable things such as PFDs or neoprene. Period. That sweat doesn’t vanish if it is trapped inside.

Goretex drysuits work beautifully for many paddlers. Just because you don’t get the same results doesn’t negate the fact that they work extremely well for the uses intended. For your uses, neoprene wetsuits probably ARE better.

Gotta wonder why the very first version of Goretex was used in that video still. Note also the sweater, which dates itself also to the late 1970s! Note also the Paid Promotion disclaimer.


Hey Sing, does water temp in Boston get down to 32 F or colder ( it’s salt water) when you are surfing?

What thickness of wetsuit are you wearing for really cold water? I’m getting my plans together for freshwater winter paddling and I’ve never been a fan of drysuits when I paddled on trips, but maybe they were just bad because of rental gear issues.

Water on Long Island can get to 36° F. I love my Gortex drysuit and jackets I have. I had my drysuit 7-8 years and a seam lifted. They send me a new suit which I didn’t even ask for. I just ask for a repair not a replacement. Wetsuits to me are uncomfortable and not good in real cold water unless very thick. When I paddle it’s at a decent pace. Yes my underlayers get slightly damp in a few places but I’m always comfortable.


If you live in FLA, you can’t leave Gore-Tex in the trunk or it turns to powder.

Years ago I bought a very expensive Helly Hansen rain jacket with a Gore-Tex lining. It turned to powder three years ago. Even though it had a limited lifetime warranty Helly won’t answer e-mails and seem to always lose my call when I tried to contact them.

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I was working in store management and staff training back in the 1970s when GoreTex came out and therefor was sent to numerous training sessions given by the Gore reps sponsored by the manufacturers of gear that were beginning to use the material. I had also worked, prior to that, as a lab tech in Carnegie Mellon U’s polymer chemistry research department where we did studies on Teflon (which is the microporous film medium used in GoreTex materials) as it was being developed for medical uses. So I knew a bit about the stuff to begin with which helped to understand how it worked.

The reason that the film is supposed to work is that the pores in the film are too small for liquid water to penetrate (due to surface tension). But moisture VAPOR can pass through the micropores, but ONLY if there is an air gap on both sides of the material to allow pressure for transpiration. Therefore, lining footwear with Goretex is a waste of material because it is trapped tightly between the sweaty sock and the shoe leather. Rain won’t migrate through, but sweat vapor won’t either. It took a while for most manufacturers to figure out that it worked best for garments that would be loosely worn and also for tents and sleeping bags, both of which have air space for transpiration on both sides while in use.

But GoreTex achieved a “magical” panache and customers began demanding it in more and more products, so it continues to be used in applications where it can’t really perform its intended function. I like it in shell garments and hats with a spacious crown – but recognize that cheaper and more durable coated waterproof materials are more practical and perform the same as GT in footwear or anything worn close to the skin. I love my Kokatat GFER dry suits, NRS wide brimmed hats, Stohlquist dry top and OR paddling pants, all of which have GT or other branded analogs that keep me comfortable in any conditions. But when I went to add booties to my first Kokatat dry suit I opted for latex instead of GoreTex, since I knew both would trap sweat anyway.

An real issue with GT is that it is a fragile membrane and must be sandwiched between other materials to be used in products. High temps, cleaning products, rough handling and even the various oils and other secretions from the human body can break down the adhesives used to bond the membrane. And the bodily sludges (including sunscreen, bug dope and other dermal applications) can also clog the tiny pores in it so that it no longer breathes.

Years ago I stupidly forgot that the International Orange rain jacket that I wore for years as a construction site manager was GoreTex and doused it with a petroleum-based prewash stain-lifting spray before machine washing it. When the wash cycle ended, all the GT film (which had been only bonded to the exterior nylon shell and was protected inside the jacket by mesh lining) had delaminated from the shell and was nothing but clots of white shreds sagged against the mesh. I nearly cried as it was irreplaceable and a crucial piece of my worksite gear. As CraigF reports, GT doesn’t stand up well to heat and it is often trashed by people putting it in clothes dryers (or leaving it in cars, or boat hatches, in hot weather)

Another reason GT may work better for me than for a lot of other people is that I barely perspire at all even with exertion (other than my face and scalp) and also do not use soap, deodorant or skin moisturizers, so there is very little that seeps off me that would penetrate the GT and mess with its function.

As with many products, YMMV. But if you understand how the stuff works (and how vulnerable it is, so you are willing to treat it well) I still think it’s a revolutionary material for dry wear.


I remember when Goretex first came out. I was doing a fair amount of back packing. What a difference! Even tho the first gen didn’t work as well as the newer version, it was way better that what was on the market otherwise. I too had a drysuit , that seemed just fine, replaced. Sent it in to get a new neck gasket and have the suit checked. Got an email to pick a color and configure a brand new one. Say what you will, but the warranty is hard to beat. The Gore works even tho a person payed to dis it says different. The replacement is payed for by Gore, not by Kokatat.

I can see how Sing likes a wet suit…it pads a person that expects to body slam rocks with force. Big difference in purpose. I used wetsuits years ago. Before I got a drysuit. Everyone did and we paddled some bad weather and broke ice. Drysuits are just way more comfy for most situations. {also more versatile }


Comes down to me to correctly layer to stay comfortable.


I had a Helly Hansen rain top that turned to dust in the wind too. I think it was stored in my garage and when a took it out for a trip to Scotland it had decomposed.

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The expansion and contraction of fibers due to swings in temperature and humidity are very tough on fabrics and particularly on anything that is coated for waterproofness, since the expansion rates of the laminates are often different and will cause the layers to separate. I used to store my packed down folding kayaks in the basement of my old house, but it was not climate controlled (very cold in the winter) and before I had French drains installed, it was quite damp. The coated ripstop Cordura that the sprayskirt and backpack for my Feathercraft Wisper were made of failed terribly due to the conditions. The heavier gauge threads that created the ripstop grid pattern apparently expanded more than the background threads and all the coating delaminated along the grid lines into little squares and peeled off. I have seen this happen in tents as well. I now store anything made of coated fabrics in upstairs closets within the house.

I recognized that light gray right away. Some photos I just took of the old Early Winters Goretex jacket are below.

I have an old waterproof but not breathable splash jacket that I still wear for sentimental reasons - it got passed down to me from my father. It is only bearable to wear because the seams under the arms have let go, which allows some ventilation. Otherwise, it really is like wearing a garbage bag.

Just looked, and both my drysuits (NRS and Kokatat - yes, I have two) use gor-tex fabrics. I was a little surprised because a previous NRS drysuit used one of the knock-off fabrics. Neither was perfect, but both are better than non-breathable.

I am pretty careful about wearing that other miracle fabric in base and insulating layers under the drysuit - polypropylene. I have taken my drysuit off and found water droplets beaded up on the outside of the fleece liner. Obviously water collected in the suit and didn’t pass through the breathable fabric, but at least it wasn’t on me making me cold.

I paddle all winter long in New England adjusting the insulating layers for the air temps as it gets colder. It is pretty unusual for me to get cold while paddling. Stop and take a break - that’s different. Not perfect, but for me it definitely beats a wetsuit. I am not in the water all the time, and it is so nice to have warm, dry feet. :wink:

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As originally posted, I found that "dry"suit did not perform for me because I didn’t use in the “ideal” way. I remember distinctly when I consciously decided, “No more of this!” I was out for a winter session with several of the NE surf kayakers (I was still using a surf kayak then) at Horseneck Beach, a south facing beach break. Beautiful waves – long period, head high getting stacked by an offshore (north wind). Every paddle out was a sprint to get through the impact zone. In an hour, I was essentially soaked in my drysuit with layers of polypro underwear and 200 fleece pullover and pants. As I sat on the outside, I felt myself getting chilled by the north wind. I tried to warm several times by hiding behind the dunes several times, but I dont’ think I ever fully recover. As the old hiking adage goes, hike in layers and peel on and off as needed to avoid sweating too much. Can’t do that with a drysuit out on the water. If I just wore poly underwear under the drysuit, I would likely not sweat as much, but would not have much of a time window on a swim and immersion. If I wore more fleece to try to combat the chill on my wet body while sitting on the outside, I would probably sweat even more on the padde/sprints out. Also, at a certain point, there is too much layering to paddle comfortably.

The video explains quite well why a “drysuit” would not work ideally in a surf paddling. In addition to the “air barriers” of the skirt and snug PFD (basically leaving only the arms and very upper torso area unobstructed), the outer layer of my drysuit is constantly wet and covered by sheen of water (despite DWR) from breaking waves, side surfing and leaning into foam piles, and rolling as a results of the inevitable capsizes that are part of the paddle surf game.

With wetsuits (if I pick the appropriate thickness), I have never felt “chilled.” Rather, the tendency is to feel a bit overheated from the constant sprinting. But, this is easily addressed by a roll or two. The “weak” link in the chain for wetsuit wear, for me, has always been with the hands. Too thick of neoprene mitts, I can’t feel my paddle and eventually my hands cramp from trying to grip through the thick neoprene. The NRS mitts (3.5 mm tops and 2.5 mm palms) has been the best compromise found for me. I have to remember to keep flexing my fingers and circulating the blood when I have a chance while sitting on the outside with my waveski. When surfing with the longboat, I keep a thermos of hot water in my day hatch that I can use when my hands get really cold.

I tend to sweat pretty profusely when I exercise. I have to think for those like me would have to be careful to not overexert on a winter paddle. Even if there is minimal splashing (like in the surf zone), the “beatheability” of the drysuit has got to be impacted by the sprayskirt and the PFD.



I’ve been out a couple of times surfing “slushy” waves. It’s been well over a decade since that happened. It may never happen again, given the unprecedented warming of the Gulf of Maine. Anyway, in water under 40 degrees, I’ve been fine in a 6/5/4. These days, I am in a hooded 5/4 for winter surfing. It’s easier to get in and out of then the 6/5/4. If I am just paddling around, I am in hooded 4/3.


I didn’t know this. Thank you for this information. Gore-Tex-lined hiking boots are the bane of my existence. My feet get so hot and sweaty that even in the winter I have to stop and take my boots off to cool my feet. There is a lot of agreement among hikers that once your Gore-Tex-lined boots get moisture in them, they don’t dry out. There are almost no nonwaterproof hiking boots on the market.

A side note on storage: never, never, never, NEVER store any coated-fabric garment until it is bone dry! Looking at YOU, polyurethane coated nylon! Betcha everyone over the age of 40 has reeled back at the unexpectedly foul, pukelike odor of damp-stored coated nylon jackets, tents, or rain pants!

UGH to the max.

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Play It Again, Sam.

You must remember this,
(if not “hydrolosis”),
to store wet is remiss.
Your gear will smell like piss (Oh, sigh!),
as time goes by.

Not to mention that tape to seal will start to peel!


Try contacting Gore directly. I did when my drysuit started to delaminate and the company I bought it from no longer made Goretex garments. They set me up with a different brand suit at no charge.

My experience with GoreTex is that while it’s not magic - no fabric is - it does work well enough and it’s much more comfortable than non-breathable fabrics. It definitely IS waterproof, which is the main consideration in a drysuit. But the biggest differences between GoreTex and it’s competitors are in durability and their warranty. I haven’t heard of a single competitor’s fabric that is as durable and if GoreTex ever fails - leaks or delaminates - they replace the garment, period. Nobody else does that to my knowledge. I’ve had three GoreTex garments replaced and there was never any question or hassle. So, it’s more or less a “buy it once, own it for life” type of proposition. You pay more up front, but save money in the long run.