How durable is the material?
Does it withstand abrasion well? Not bouncing off sharp objects, but the type of contact you’d have when doing a scramble and sliding over rigging, cockpit coaming.
Is it a fabric you have to consciously be careful with?
Thanks for any input/experience.
How durable is the material?
Goretex is a membrane under the wearing surface, which protects the goretex. I don’t think goretex is used as a wearing surface. If you’re thinking of dry suits, I believe they use ripstop nylon which is pretty rugged.
I have done lots of scrambles
It comes with often being the smallest person in a group, it is less daunting for a newer paddler to have me climbing around on their boat than a 250 pound guy. I don't feel as unstable. I have also lost more than one clip light to the bottom of a local lake for that reason.
Straight Goretex under a too nylon layer can rub and wear, like around the waist if you rotate well. But most Goretex garments come with a layer of codura or similar over the biggest wear points, so the Goretex is protected.
GoreTex is a laminate that is affixed to the outer fabric. It should also have a porous inner face made of some other material, to protect the actual membrane. Some products also add another liner that is not bonded to the GoreTex at all.
Durability depends a lot on what the outer fabric is. If abrasion is likely, Taslan, Supplex, and other nonsmooth fabrics hold up better than taffeta.
adding to what has been said
Goretex and other breathable materials come with a coating of DWR (Durable Water Repellent). This stuff makes water bead up on your suit, rather than spreading out. By keeping the water from spreading out, it allows the material to breath better.
The DWR coating can (and will) rub off. The material then will appear wet on the outside (called wetting out), though it is actually still waterproof (unless you have another problem). I do find when my suit wets out, I feel evaporative cooling of this water from breeze a lot more, so I continuously (and without as much benefit as I would have hoped) re-apply DWR, like NikWax TX.Direct.
That all said, I do send my Kokatat dry suit back to Kokatat every few years for them to test, and it comes back with a lot of patches where they found small pinhole leaks. None of these were major leaks - I couldn’t tell the difference between leak water and sweat. But it appears the material can be breached.
Thanks very much for the replies; they gave me enough to refine my search. I did find the following site which appears to give pretty detailed construction info:
At least I now understand how it works in clothing. Still unsure about durability in the long run as it appears the outer face fabric is what gets the most exposure and not all GoreTex waterproof garments are the same, given the price differences between brands.
Diff is mostly in the warranty
Kokatat enforces it very aggressively, some others not as much. Produces a diff in the price.
hey thanks for that!
I did not know about that but somehow I know about nikwax. And my drysuit is probably overdue.
tip on cleaning Goretex garments
I did something dumb to a Goretex parka, and I should have known better, since I used to manage a wilderness sports outfitter store back in the 1970’s when Goretex first came on the scene and we all received quite a bit of training in the product and its care. I ruined my best biking jacket and hope it did not die for naught if I can educate others not to mimic my mistake. No matter how grungy your parka, drysuit, drytop, hat, or other Goretex item gets, NEVER use a pre-wash spray on it before washing it or spot clean it with any solvent.
My dayglo orange bike parka (Goretex backed ripstop with a mesh lining) had the usual black chain grease smears on it in various areas so I sprayed it thoroughly with solvent based prewash. When I went to remove it from the washer at the end of the cycle, my first thought was that I must have left some tissue or paper towel in the pockets because there were shreds of white material covering it. When I lifted it out of the machine I realized to my horror that the pre-wash had apparently dissolved whatever adhesive had bonded the Goretex membrane to the nylon shell. The entire jacket was peeling from the inside like a bad sunburn. What a mess. Not salvageable. Still miss that jacket. But I learned a valuable lesson.
If you don’t mind my asking, Peter,
how long did it take for the DWR to wear off?
The patchwork repairs - are they noticeable?
Your mention of pinhole leaks makes me wonder if they’re caused by abrasion.
Rookie, with anything that costs over $1000 for, essentially, clothing, I would take extra care.
For me, one of the most frequent vulnerable times is in arranging the drysuit while rinsing and drying. This is because the grabby part of the Velcro zipper overflap can grab the interior fabric. Definitely something to avoid. I have damaged many clothing items, especially Lycra ones, by inadvertently letting a bit of Velcro snag them.
Watch out for that Velcro!
wears out. More movement is more wear. In the usual areas.
Repetitive motions stretching fabric over the body say reaching out n twisting torso as a repeat motion on a sailboat would cause wear on seams, nylon/goretex interface, and inside Gore/body.
is prob best wearing slippery fabrics under the suit.
I asked Koko abt a quick clean of bacteria using a isopropyl wipe out eg under arms/crotch…Koko was aghast saying NO NO NO CHOH
A report by hi use age Kokatat owners is needed.
Gaskets are the weak link
The fabric is pretty durable, as far as fabrics go. Short of getting snagged and compromised on something sharp or jagged, normal wear and tear is just that, unavoidable if you’re using the suit. If you’re a hardcore ww paddler grinding it out on rocks you’re probably wearing pads for extra protection anyways. For us mere mortals using it for long boat paddling, by the time you notice your suit has that not so dry feeling, the latex gaskets have probably deteriorated to the point it’s time to send in for some tlc anyways. It’s just the routine rinsing, drying, and protecting the gaskets with 303 (or DWR products if you’re wired that way) that constitutes the normal care and feeding of a drysuit.
The pinhole patches are just little square patches on the inside, not noticeable from the outside at all. DWR never seems to last more than a season and isn’t really worth worrying about imo, the spray on stuff washes off after a paddle or two.
As others have said it’s really the warranty and service from the manufacturer that’s going to make the difference in the long run.
One can find differences in how drysuits are constructed; some have better coverage in wear areas such as elbows, knees etc.
What are your options if you’ve
miscalculated with your layering? Either wearing not enough so you’re cold, or too much so you’re overheated (and you don’t roll).
As always - thanks.
easier if too much
Easier if too much. Just splash yourself. Or do a cowboy rescue or other rescue of choice to get all wet.
If too little, I do minor adjustments by adding caps. But if really too cold, you got to get off and add clothing or call it a day. You could always buy a cheap poncho or a more expensive cag, and throw that on over your PFD and dry suit and see if that helps.
Best to wear a little too much
What works for me.
You want to wear enough so that when you sweat out the clothes underneath you’re still warm. I might be a bit hot for a few minutes after launching but about 15 -20 minutes in I’m okay. Allows me enough insulation if I swim I’m still warm but I won’t overheat if I don’t get wet. For typical shoulder season temps not extremely cold or hot I wear 1-2 mid weight layers and a mid weight fleece up top and a mid weight bottom. Always synthetic underwear. If it’s earlier in the season and I might be swimming a lot I’ll wear heavier bottoms and a little more up top. Or I drop the midweight fleece if it’s warm. Peripherals such as gloves\pogies and hats
eoprene hoods can boost comfort considerably as well. If you start to get too hot you can shed hats and gloves, and dunk your hands in the water or wet your neck and hat. Your life jacket and spray skirt are going to add insulation as well.
This works for me, takes time to dial it in but better to start off warm than fighting the cold.
Bring a surfer’s hood and a cag
The hood makes an incredible difference in warmth because it protects both your head and neck.
The cag stops wind.
as others say
err on the warm side. If you're on a long paddle you may have to bear it, but I find that splashing my face and the back of my neck does a lot. If you can pop your spray deck to vent that warm air it can help also.
I started wearing a thin lined neo hood from NRS but also use a balaclava folded back to fit as a skullcap when it's not as cold. I noticed that just having that piece of removable clothing on your head can do a lot, so I always have it with me in spring and fall.
caps and other headwarmers
I watched a film recently demonstrating several field tests on cold water immersion using groups of volunteers with various states of dress and undress. Of course the full drysuits were the best option and some of the badly underdressed volunteers quickly reached dangerous states of discomfort and even paralysis and had to be pulled out and treated for severe distress.
But one not too surprising outcome was that people with headgear that trapped a lot of warmth (scuba hoods or neoprene caps) were able to stay functional and even relatively comfortable MUCH longer in 50 degree water than people wearing the same outfits but no headgear. After seeing that I’ve added my neoprene cap (which I had bought anticipating a rolling class but have never used) to my standard kayak “bug-out” bag. I think that and a storm cag could be the best back-up options if you are concerned about being underdressed for changeable conditions.