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Waterproof Breathable Material Does Not Exist!

Physics tells us that getting the sweat while in a vapor state out of a rain garment cannot be done, at least not in the manner that has been advertised for years.

Every person reading this article and every person who does not read the article has experienced the same thing when it rains and that is the drop in ambient air temperature. When it rains the ambient are temperature will drop because the rain water is descending from an altitude where the ambient air temperature is lower than on the surface of the earth. Therefore, the water temperature will be whatever the ambient air temperature is at altitude. I became very aware of this action when I started sailing. I was sailing in Long Island Sound during the summer when temperatures were in the 80s and 90s. When a squall happened the temperature would drop very quickly 20° or more in a matter of minutes.

Air at a higher temperature will hold moisture. Hurricanes are formed over the equator and require warm water which evaporates and this moist air now joins the wind. At some point the moist air will cool and then we have rain. The cool air does not retain the moisture as a vapor.

The human body has a core temperature of 98.6° and as that temperature increases the human body via involuntary action starts sending the excess heat to the skin surface. Also out of the pores of the human- body flows moisture known as sweat which is also in the 90° category. Initially the moisture comes out as a vapor but it quickly cools and turns to a liquid.

If the moist vapor could stay in the vapor state once it reaches the inside surface of a rain garment which is cooler than the vapor the vapor will condense and the inside of the rain garment will become wet. In reality the moist vapor will condense on the skin surface without ever reaching the inside of the rain garment.

In order for the moisture as a vapor to actually move through the fabric that has been laminated to a film there would need to be air pressure that is warm enough to keep the vapor in a vapor state.

Now that we understand why moisture as a vapor cannot ever get out of a rain garment we must examine what can be done to minimize the unpleasantness of the clamminess. The answer is a certain level of insulation. But if you add insulation to the garment, won’t that make you hot, no! Remember when it starts to rain the temperature drops, so some insulation is necessary. But what about when it is not raining, the level of insulation that I believe necessary would not be for arctic purposes but for 40° and warmer. The reason for the thin layer of insulation is to allow the moist vapor to move from your skin surface through the insulation so it will condense between the insulation and the inner side of the exterior of the shell material. If the fabric is vapor permeable when the rain stops and the temperature increases you will experience some of the moisture on the inside evaporating through the fabric so long as it is not coated or laminated to any film.

For the most efficient rain coat see the Wiggy’s DUCKSBACK Zippered Jacket.

My history or writing about goretex since 1997
(this does not include every article or customer comment)

The history of the Gortex bivi bag is interesting. It was developed in about 1980 by The North Face Company. According to Gore, they delivered a quantity to Fort Drum, New York. The quantity could have been 10 or 100, I do not know. They all demonstrated seepage through the bottom of the bag. These were 100 percent Gortex. The bottom of the bivi was changed to 100 percent waterproof, 200 denier oxford nylon. This product has been used for the past 17 years. While it does not allow seepage, it does have a serious condensation problem. Moisture from the person sleeping in it never gets out. If it is warm, you get water. If it is cold, you get ice.

In July 1997, the Marine Corps sent out a bid package for a minimum of 60,000-and a potential maximum of 900,000-bivi bags. The fabric is to be laminated to Gortex. I called the mill and inquired about the guarantee that the fabric would be both waterproof and vapor permeable, so it can comply with the specifications of the solicitation. I was told that I would have to contact Gore Co.

I called Gore and asked the same question, and I was told the only guarantee at this time was against delaminating. Further discussion revealed an interesting fact. In the early 1980s Ft. Drum, N.Y., was supplied with 100% Gortex bivi. It was discovered that they allowed deleterious water action. Water seeped through the bottom of the bivi. This caused the Natick Laboratory employees to change the construction from a Gortex bottom to a 200-denier waterproof oxford nylon bottom. Why the reversal 15 years later? What has Gore done to change their product, to make it waterproof?

In addition, I have heard from numerous members of the military in the area of testing personal equipment-as well as several thousand civilians-that they all experience condensation problems in their bivi and rain gear. Is it any wonder that Gore will not guarantee in writing their product to do what they have told the military it is supposed to do? What they advertise all over the world?


Sporting Goods Business, December 15, 1997, issue has an article about W.L. Gore introducing a water-repellent treatment. A similar article came out in the January 1998 issue of Outfitter magazine, both industry publications. The article from SGB starts as follows: "Attempting to combat the `wetting out' that plagues DWR (Durable Water Repellency) garments from both Gore-Tex and its competitors--W.L. Gore is introducing Revivex this month, a DWR patent-pending water and stain repellent."

The term "wetting out" means that a fabric which has lost its water repellency will then be able to absorb water. Once a fabric absorbs water it is impenetrable by vapor. However, the water now absorbed by the shell fabric migrates through the microscopic holes to the inside. This is deleterious water action. The end result is, sweat stays inside the garment and rain- water gets inside the garment.

If what W.L. Gore company has been advertising for the past 20 years has been true, as well as for the other companies who market the same or similar products, why do these products suddenly need to be water-repellent treated?

Is it a statement of admission that the film does not keep water out? If so, why purchase a garment that has a film laminated to the shell fabric. If you are going to water-repel treat it after the initial water repellent has broken down, why pay the high price for what obviously does not work?

If you purchase a jacket that is made from non-laminated fabric, which has been water-repellent treated, you will have the best of both worlds: a vapor permeable garment that is water repellent. Now all you have to do is get a water repellent that works. However, do not expect it to last forever. Treating the garment every third wash would keep it water repellent.

As for the articles, "Gore is going to make efforts to educate and train how to best care for and maintain the performance features of Gore apparel products." It is a spray-on product? I doubt that it would work any better than the other spray own is presently available.

My final thought on this subject has to do with the many complaints Gore has received over the years. Instead of replacing the non-breathable, non-waterproof garment or refunding the money, which could be as much as $350.00, they will simply send you a water- repellent treatment to put on the garment yourself.

At least that is a scenario that could happen.

Now, is not this really a roundabout way of admitting that the stuff does not work, without really saying it? YES!

I have been observing the Gore Company promoting Gore-Tex material since its inception about 1976. As I have stated many times that it does not work as advertised. In recent years I have made known, through my newsletters, evidence why it does not work. I have received numerous responses supporting my statements. Now I am pleased to present further information from one of the largest users of Gore-Tex, showing that it is not what it seems: the U.S. Military, although they continue to use it.

One of my customers, having read in my last two newsletters about the fact that waterproof/breathable materials do not allow for a transfer of O2 and CO2, wrote to the U.S. Army Natick Labs. My customer is retired from the Army and worked at or with Natick at one time. His concern was that several of the members of his Boy Scout troop had been given military bivi bags by their parents who are military, and he observed that these kids simply stayed uncovered, whereas he rigged a coat hanger to keep the hood of his bivi propped up. The kids had learned quickly to not close the hoods. He wrote to Natick referencing his observations and the information I published. The response he received was as follows: "I can tell you that Gore-Tex is not as breathable as one might assume. It is better than a non-breathable fabric but overall, I would not suggest you attempt to breathe through it. It is only intended to add comfort to waterproof items like jackets, pants, etc."

EDITORS NOTE: I suspect the meaning of the last sentence is that it is waterproof, and therefore if worn over a jacket or pants they are protected. A second individual working for Natick made the following comment: "The Gore-Tex fabric, or any other waterproof or so-called breathable fabric, is not really 'breathable' the way consumers may like it to be, i.e., fabric that an individual can actually breath through. 

"First, the term 'breathable' refers to microporous, membrane-based fabric because it is air-permeable, and air can be blown or forced through it. The Gore-Tex fabric is not air-permeable because its microporous polytetrafluoroethylene membrane has been coated with a thin layer of 'nonporous' polyurethane urea membrane, making it non-air-permeable. However, Gore-Tex and other nonporous semipermeable membranes are permeable to moisture vapor. This moisture vapor permeability aids the evaporative cooling of the body."

EDITORS NOTE: I believe there is ample evidence to prove that permeability in practical application does not happen. It may have occurred in a laboratory, hence the statement.

"As far as using a waterproof /moisture vapor permeable (WP/MVP) membrane-based sleeping bag, leaving a few inches to breathe while sleeping in a cold, high altitude environment is not such a good idea. As a matter of fact, the manufacturer would say that this is a misuse of their product. In high altitude, the user may consider a breathing device such as the microclimatic conditioning system for warm air and a re-breather for CO2 removal and O2 supply into their WP/MVP sleeping bag. Additionally, to keep warm, adequate insulation must be used. Moisture vapor from the body (sweat) will condense on the inner wall of the sleeping bag if there is no moisture vapor concentration-gradient from inside to outside. Especially if the individual body is in a high, cold altitude (10,500 feet +)."

EDITORS NOTE: Body sweat leaving the body during sleeping activity is so slow that any sleeping bag that has a Gore-Tex shell, regardless of its quality, will retain whatever moisture reaches it.

There is an unconfirmed report that the British military suffered two deaths by suffocation in bivi bags this past summer. I have made several inquiries myself without confirmation. Investigation is still going on and, if confirmed I will let you know. I would not be surprised if it were true. It should also be noted that I have no idea what type of fabrics the British use for their bivi bags. As we know, there are numerous brands today.

EDITORS NOTE: As I see it there are other problems associated with this bivi bag. We know from past evaluations of the "modular sleep system" which is a bastardization of my 'Flexible Temperature Range Sleep System" that it does not function below +15 degrees. When combined with the bivi bag, any person using the combination would most certainly close it as much as possible. Having done so, involuntary suffocation becomes possible. This is the system that is issued to our soldiers in all branches of service.

I read an article in the November 2000 issue of amc outdoors magazine (Appalachian Mountain Club). Three of the editors went on a winter camping trip for the first time. One of them, Jane Roy Brown, made the following comment: "'Yeah,' I murmured. Even at 32 degrees in warm sunlight, perspiration was already dampening the two layers of polypro under my (allegedly breathable) shell." I find the comment particularly interesting since I have read in several past issue’s advice from Annie Getchell, a member of their advisory board, that it is imperative to own Gore-Tex or some other brand of waterproof/breathable garment. Maybe Annie should go out with Jane and advise her as to what she did wrong so the waterproof/breathable jacket did not work.

Then she can learn why these materials do not work. I also appreciated Jane mentioning that her polypro underwear and a second layer of polypro were "dampening," I will bet she thought they would "wick" the moisture away from her skin surface. No such luck! She would have been a much more comfortable if her first layer was fishnets.

The three editors were only out for one night, and I am quite sure they felt that was a sufficient amount of time for winter camping.
The Gore Company is concentrating heavily on the footwear market. In the November 10, 2000, issue of Sporting Goods Business a Gore product specialist made the following comment: "As Gore continues to focus on developing versatile footwear technology, the company will gradually move beyond its winter-oriented 'warm and dry' story. We want to spread the word that Gore-Tex is about protection and comfort, in cold and warm seasons."

EDITORS NOTE: Do the Gore Company employees really believe that the film actually keeps people "warm and dry." It is apparent that Gore-Tex is not only not protection from the elements, but a detriment in those same elements as we are now learning. Don't they, the Gore Company employees, read any of the negative comments that contradict the "hype" they spew? They have made a concerted effort to evade the acquisition of knowledge.

I just read in an outdoor industry online magazine that the Gore Company will start an advertising campaign shortly on television promoting their non-existent product that they claim to be “waterproof and breathable”. They have said this claim so often that they actually believe it, I guess. It is now as it was in the past a claim that is false. It always has been and always will be. The only entities that are waterproof and breathe are living organisms, such as humans, as well as all other animals and plant species. Inanimate objects such as material can be made waterproof with various coatings and if not coated with any material, they are naturally VAPOR PERMEABLE! They the manmade materials do not breathe. The materials are not alive and only living entities are capable of BREATHING! Do they get this, probably yes, but they have to ignore reality in order to sell their bogus product?

Since I have been selling my leather boots many of the buyers have asked a great many questions regarding why my product is superior to the Gore-Tex/Thinsulate boots available from every other boot company in the country. Since the greater majority of my customers have shown an interest in getting factual information about my products as well as my opinion of the other products available, so I do not think these inquiries are not unusual. What is constant I have found is that virtually everyone who owns the boots with Gore-Tex/Thinsulate experiences cold feet once the temperature gets into the teens and lower. As I have explained in the October 3rd newsletter COLD FEET it is again the fact that the moisture retained in the boots gets cold, so your feet get cold. The Gore-Tex PTFE film as well as the Thinsulate does not allow the moisture to get out of the boots. Hence wet cold feet.

Now that Gore is embarking on this campaign to present their product in a different light it makes no difference it will not change the fact that it simply does not work as they still claim. What they are doing with this new advertising campaign is offering to a new generation of people their bogus information, working on the premise that a “sucker is born every day”. They go to manufacturers and tell them about the campaign and say they can be included in the ads probably. These large companies are notorious for taking any advertising they can get. I remember when I was selling fiberfill to skiwear manufacturers, they did not just want polyester fiberfill in their jackets they wanted either Dacron from DuPont, Kodel from Eastman Chemical or Fortrel from Celanese, why because they received $0.25 per pound or more in advertising allowance. They had to use something in the way of insulation so why not partner with a company that gave them the most money. Today the manufacturers think they must have a waterproof and breathable component in their garments even though they know it does not work so they go with the highest bidder. Maybe the company that markets Event which as far as I am concerned is the same PTFE film laminated to fabric that Gore-Tex is will via for some of the business with an aggressive advertising campaign as well.

When it gets down to it as I have said for years starting in 1977 when I first encountered Bobby Gore at a trade show and told him then that what he had does not work now and will not work in the future. Those of you who have found out that these so called waterproof breathable materials regardless of brand name do not work should educate your children to these facts, so they do not waste their money on bogus products. This will stop the cycle of a “sucker born every minute.”

Gore has a new to them concept that they are applying to fabric that will cause water to bead on the surface of the fabric when rainwater hits it. Many years ago, when I was selling colorful African printed fabric one customer made rainwear from it. He sent the material to a laminating plant in Peacedale R.I. called Peacedale Processing. They were as far as I am concerned the best laminating plant in the world. What they did for my customer was to laminate a clear film so the print would show trough like looking through a clean window. It was “water-proof”. I bought one for my sister, but I never did ask her if she sweated in it. You see Gore did not exist at that time. But I can assure you if she did sweat it would never have come through the fabric just like sweat not going through any of the Gore fabrics that have a film applied to them.

In the news release that I have read Gore states and I quote; “According to the company, Gore Tex Active with Permanent Beading Surface (yes, that’s the real name) is the lightest, most breathable Gore-Tex material to date and the only version that is permanently waterproof without needing a durable water repellent (DWR) coating”. I agree that when you coat a fabric to make it waterproof there is no need for a water repellent treatment. As you read in the same sentence that I have quoted this material is “most breathable Gore-Tex material to date”. Gore too has one material with a multitude of names. Amazing that they contradict themselves in the same sentence.

For the past 30 years, I have used the Gore-Tex-Thinsulate combination to keep warm in cold weather. One thing that I have always noticed is that if I stay in the weather for more any length of time, I am always clammy and chilled on the inside. I wrote this off as a condition of cold weather gear. Not anymore. I got my Wiggy's Antarctic Parka yesterday and the weather was in the teens. I took off everything except my jeans and my knit shirt. I put on the parka and went outside. All parts of my body that were under that parka were super warm... I never ever got a chill, and I was in weather that hovered around 12ⅹ F PLUS wind. I was "snug as a bug" and it blew me away. I wish I would have known about Wiggy's 30 years ago when I was in the military!

I own multiple sleeping bags, mittens, fish net underwear, booties, multiple Lamilite socks, a jacket liner (which is so comfortable, I just wear it around the house at night before bedtime) and I own his new boots. All of these products are top notch, and I am so sorry for the military soldiers and Marines that do not have these products for the field. I remember freezing my butt off during winter, but I do not freeze anymore. Great job, Jerry! Keep building it in America!!

– Chris Craigie

Jerry, I have been meaning to write. Feel free to use any part of this.

We can tell its winter because the Wiggy's comforter is on the bed.

When I found myself shuffling around the house on cold mornings with Lamilite socks in my slippers, I figured it was time to take your advice and order some booties. My timing was good. My wife had to pretty much live downstairs in a recliner for a while after major surgery. I slipped the booties onto her feet and she loved them. Later, we took a comforter and booties to her mother, who has diabetes, poor circulation, and has difficulty staying warm. She loved the booties instantly. After we got home, she called us twice to say how great the comforter is. But the product that has me excited is the zippered Ducksback jacket.

I am a lifelong resident of the North Cascades, on the wet western side. Where I live, it very seldom gets down to zero, but 80 inches of annual precip results in a lot of weather that ranges from just above freezing to just below, and back again. This is truly the land of Wet & Cold. I have made most of the mistakes. I tried my first down bag in 1970. I was impressed - until I got one wet. When Gore-Tex came along, I bit hook, line, and sinker. I had a North Face Gore-Tex rain parka, and I got wet. I bought an Early Winters Gore-Tex tent and found out it needed as much ventilation as coated nylon or plastic. I bought a Marmot Gore-Tex shell goose down bag and ended up giving it away. I learned that Gore-Tex boots mean wet feet. Fortunately, other foolish friends tried the space blanket sleeping bag experiment and the vinyl sleeping bag cover, ha-ha. I wondered why Gore-Tex never got sued, and then I got to thinking. It is nothing new; we saw semi-permeable membranes in 1960's science class. I finally realized that the claim to pass water vapor and air, but not liquid water is likely actually true on a very, very tiny scale, but in the real world the stuff might as well be overpriced Saran Wrap. Live and learn.

On a recent typical rainy December day, I divided my time between crawling under the house and working in a ditch outside. I never gave a thought to comfort because I stayed comfortable, even when cutting an overhead water line got the half open front of my Ducksback jacket wet. Afterward, I realized I was a mess. I just tossed the jacket into the washer, and it came out clean. A few days later, no rain but temps in the 20's. I was comfortable in the jacket, even used the hood briefly when the wind came up. Jerry, I contrast this light comfortable jacket with the heavy, bulky quilted FR canvas gear I wear at work, topped by my FR raincoat, and it is amazing (that stuff also overheats me the moment I step indoors). I think with the Ducksback zippered jacket you have created the ideal garment for the land of Cold Rain. When I look at how it works, I wonder if, apart from the heavy weight, the old timers were on the right track when they used oil or wax to treat fabric like linen or canvas. Ducksback is much more comfortable than any sort of plastic or membrane.

I will be ordering my wife a Ducksback jacket before long. I have a hunch that the Lamilite jacket liner (one of your lowest priced and most versatile products) under the zippered jacket would make it suitable for seriously cold temperatures, which we see only rarely. I am still learning about the fishnet underwear and am so impressed that I plan to buy more of that, too.

I hope you had a great Christmas and have a really Great 2018!

Lane Dexter

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