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August 1997- The Lie Keeps Going

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Since entering the sleeping bag business in 1975, I have had to deal with responding to the subject of waterproof breathable materials. I have written extensively about the fact that no such entity can possibly be made from man-made inanimate matter. But I still read new articles in various publications stating that such an entity exists, and I get questions from individuals new-to the world of camping-asking if I use such a fabric.

I expect that the questioning will continue unless the Federal Trade Commission stops companies like Gore and Toray, a Japanese company whose product is trade named Entrant G11-XT, from making false claims about their products. I personally filed a complaint several years ago with the FTC to have Gore stop such false advertising, but the FTC is a very secretive agency of the government and will not tell what steps, if any, they are taking to investigate my accusation.

Therefore, I will continue to point out the ongoing lie that is being perpetrated on the buying public, with respect to so-called water-proof-breathable fabrics.

The July 1997 issue of Outdoor Retailer contains the article, "W.L.Gore Group Tours Leading Textile Institute". The Institute visited was the Hohenstein Institute in Stuttgart, Germany. Otto Mecheels, who established clothing physiology as a science, founded the Hohenstein Institute in 1946. It is a textile research center and test facility for fabrics.

The Institute has a mannequin apparently similar to the copperman located at Kansas State University. They think their mannequin is capable of giving information that is as accurate as if they were using a human. This is the same mistake that KSU has made for years. The Hohenstein Institute is older, so, if their mannequin is older than the KSU mannequin is, they have been making the mistake longer.

The people who were invited by Gore to visit the Institute and then go on to visit two Gore facilities. The guests were from the U.S. and several European countries, all were press representatives. The emphasis was on testing methods demonstrating moisture transport, thermal insulation, breathability and wicking.

As far as I'm concerned, it was a promotional tour paid for by the Gore Co. The purpose was for the media representatives to describe all of the testing they do to prove that their product works.


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 bivis. 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 bivis 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?

I am a tax paying citizen of the U.S. as are you, and I would like to see the government that I support use those taxes wisely. Purchasing this product will be a waste of taxpayer dollars. It will make the soldier-at minimum-uncomfortable, and, possibly, endanger his life if the weather conditions drop below 32 degrees.

If you have access to the Internet, go into the BACKPACKER magazine's Gear Talk Web site and click on "rain gear". I was not surprised to see 40 or 50 postings about rain gear made with one brand of water-proof-breathable or another that didn't work.

Those mentioned were Gortex, Triple Point, Sympatex, XPD and so on. I'm sure Gore will be happy to know they were not singled out as having the only bogus product. About 90% of the comments were that the rain gear did not allow the moisture, which the wearer was producing out of the garment. Some of the comments tended to be hostile, because the people spent $150 or more on a garment that didn't work as advertised.

I wonder what the equipment editors at BACKPACKER think when they read these comments, as I am sure they read them. You will note that their experience with garments made with these materials is just the opposite. Do you think that the producers of these materials or garment manufacturers would advertise in BACKPACKER if the editor's comments were consistent with the buying public?

One final note about how Gore processes their film before laminating. I explained in the July newsletter how the film-Gore or any of its competitors-is laminated and how the adhesive clogs the holes. Because Gore had limited knowledge of lamination when they started, they had problems getting a smooth finish, so they put a minimal coating of urethane on their film. This minimal layer of urethane was the first step in reducing the vapor permeability of the film. It is also the reason it is firmer of hand than all the other brands.

Back to the Marine Corps. During the course of writing this newsletter, I wrote a letter of protest to the Marine Corps contracting office. The substance of my protest was the fact that a bivi could not be made as required since the fabric did not exist with which to make it i.e.: a material that has both a waterproof and vapor-permeable characteristics.

The contracting officer, of course, told me, something different. I interpreted the material description incorrectly. It states "The material of the cover, bivi shall meet all of the requirements of the Purchase Description, Cloth, Waterproof and Vapor Permeable, according to a test identified as FNS/PD 96-19. I think someone at Gore probably dreamt it up-it is unintelligible.

I was further told that they had purchased 130,000 of these bivis in 1995, and therefore the Command is confident that the product they require can be manufactured.

I guess water-proof-breathable material exists because a civil servant of the U.S. government says so- how foolish of me to think they are wrong!


For years the term breathable has been used to identify materials that allow vapor to pass through the spaces between the yarns. It has been used so long in the camping industry that people in this industry believe that fabric, an inanimate object, can actually breathe. Unfortunately, their use of the term is erroneous. Coated or laminated film on fabric, even if there are microscopic holes in it, is not necessarily vapor permeable. It certainly isn't going to breathe.

Breathable is when you have lungs, and breath. Fabric does not have lungs. Vapor: matter in the form of a steamy or imperceptible exhalation, the form into which liquids are naturally converted by the action of sufficient heat. The definition goes on further to state that vapor rises. Fabric can be vapor permeable only it cannot breathe.

If you are wearing a garment that is made from a fabric that some company has deemed breathable, one of those laminated or coated jobs-all of the vapor you are generating will rise to the shoulder area of the garment. It does not move sideways. As millions have found out, the vapor, i.e., their sweat, does not escape to the outside atmosphere in the way they have been led to believe by either the fabric manufacturer or the garment manufacturer.

Anyone who takes the time to review the comments in BACKPACKER'S Web site, Gear Talk, rain gear category, will read that 95% of the posting are negative towards the so, called waterproof breathable. Most consumers think they have been misled by claims of the manufacturers advertising.

Many of my readers ask what will work. My recommendation is to wear a fishnet top during warm weather and add the bottoms during cold weather. Over the top wear a loose fitting, 100% cotton shirt, and then a waterproof nylon shell. As you perspire, the moisture will move through the fishnet and be absorbed by the cotton. Your skin will be dry and you will be comfortable. If it is raining, the waterproof shell will keep the rainwater out. Further, I do not recommend shirts that fit tight around the neck, like turtlenecks. You want to help the vapor to get out of the garment, and an open neckline will act like a chimney. Your movements will act like a bellows pushing the vapor on its upward journey and, ultimate, escaping through the neckline.

Since vapor always rises, the addition of pit zips is useless, unless of course you hike with your arms raised above your head.


Why do you want to wear wicking-capable fabric against your skin? In my June newsletter, I explained about wicking. In response to a question regarding how moisture is wicked by close-knit fabrics, I stated that indeed it was, but that it left a lot to be desired.

If you are wearing cotton, wool or silk long underwear, you will note that they absorb your perspiration. As the moisture leaves your pores, the fabric that is against your skin absorbs it. This is essentially like the wick in an oil lantern. The moisture moves through the fabric, away from your skin surface. This is wicking action. When you stop your activity, in a short time you will get a chill. The reason you become chilled is because the moisture that has yet to wick away from you is touching your skin. Add to that the fact that the materials are also absorbing your heat. None of the fabrics mentioned-even when dry-gets to body temperature, so they are continually absorbing heat.

If you wear long underwear made of polyester, nylon or polypropylene that is knitted with the same knit pattern as the aforementioned materials, the moisture is trapped on your skin surface. The fabrics do not absorb the moisture, so wicking action does not occur. The fact is that the fabric doesn't allow the moisture to move away from the skin easily, thus ensuring wet skin, which causes you to chill.

The only way to eliminate the problem of chilling is to wear fishnet long underwear, which will allow the moisture to escape as a vapor.

KNOWLEDGE: "Knowledge" is a mental grasp of a fact(s) of reality, reached either by perceptual observation or by a process of reason based on perceptual observation.
Ayn Rand, "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology" (1979)

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