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What is New for Outdoor Enthusiasts, or Buyer Beware

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Each year in the month of January the outdoor industry has a trade show for the retailers from basically all over the world to attend. For the most part they are US based retailers. There are companies from all over the world that exhibit at the show but again most are from the US. There is a publication SNEWS that has been around for maybe 40 years that writes about the new products that are shown at the show. Sometimes they may actually write about these products with their own slant versus from an objective position. They do this because they are friends of the wholesalers.

This year they have an article about Dynafit and Scott company debuting the very first Gore-Tex Ski Mountaineering Boots. These are the first Gore-Tex thermomoldable (is there such a word? The answer is no, as I checked…) ski mountaineering boots they will be available in three different models that will and I quote: "keep feet dry and comfortably warm due to the waterproof and breathable construction. These boots are engineered systems and specifically target mountain guides and ambitious winter sports enthusiasts undertaking longer ski touring trips".

The article goes on to say the following: "Ski mountaineers who spend all day out in the mountains know the problem: there often comes the point at which feet feel cold (because they are) and clammy because they are soaked with sweat that has become trapped inside the inner boot". If these boot manufacturers ever did their homework and learned about the amount of moisture that comes out of feet, about one pint a day when at rest. We have 500,000 sweat glands in our feet. I do not know if that is per foot or combined, but regardless it is a lot. If you are active I am sure the amount of moisture coming out of these sweat glands increases.

The article further states: "In recent years, damp feet have become even more of a problem due to the fact that more and more inner boots are being made with thermos-moldable, non-breathable foams. These liners allow for custom molding and therefore offer a more precise fit. However, they are neither breathable nor waterproof, meaning climate comfort is sacrificed for performance." Is it possible that one day these folks will accept that materials are either waterproof or VAPOR PERMEABLE versus thinking they are alive and can breathe? Probably not! If the boot is not waterproof, why is it retaining the water i.e. sweat from feet? BLANK!

Gore-Tex to the rescue. That is right with the Gore-Tex liner the moisture vapor will go through the inner boot and cannot return due to the Gore-Tex membrane that is of course if it did get through the membrane in the first place. The outer boot happens to be a plastic shell boot which definitely holds the moisture inside the boot. But fear not feet remain protected. They then say and I quote: "This means that feet will remain dryer and there is less risk of blisters". To this I say wonderful no blisters but the potential for frost bite is very great. The article does not state any temperature but since these are ski mountaineering boots it is safe to assume that the temperature will be below 32 degrees since you are on snow. When you stop the activity and rest the plastic outer boot which will be the same temperature as the outside or ambient air will be below the freezing point and the moisture trapped within the boot will potentially freeze and of course you would be building an ice box around your feet.

We already know that boots lined with Gore-Tex and as much as 1000 gram Thinsulate does not keep feet warm so how can a ski boot that has foam as its insulation keep feet warm. Foam has shown in the past that it is not a viable insulation medium, so it will not do much of anything in these boots.

Experience is the greatest of teachers, and sometimes regardless of the experience many have they still chose to repeat what has not worked. In this particular instance the same thing is being repeated with the thought that they will have a different result. Might I remind you of the comment by Albert Einstein "repeating a failure and expecting a different result is insanity!"

I did contact the Gore representative and asked at what pressure it took to cause the vapor to vacate the inside liner. She had to contact their colleague in Germany with my question. His response is as follows:

"There is no single value to answer the question as I understand it" The question is: how much pressure is required to push the moisture while still a vapor through the film or materials? I am sure he can’t answer the question as posed because he has absolutely no idea how much pressure is required. He further states: "as long as there is a driving force the mechanism will occur". Then the mechanism must be known to him or is it? Then he says: "In use the inner of the boot will be warmer than the ambient (he does not say the ambient of what?) and therefore the driving force in principle will go from inside to the outside to drive the vapor created on the feet to pass the GORE-TEX ® membrane to go from the inside towards the outside of the inner boot". In the event that you happen NOT to be wearing socks, and most wear wool socks, then there is a chance some of the moisture coming out of your foot as a vapor may get through the microscopic holes. But wearing socks that absorb moisture as wool socks do negates that happening. He does admit as is also stated in the advertising that the water will stay within the boot only in "some other area". That water is going to get cold from the outside air and guess what it will most certainly draw heat from the source your feet and they in turn will get cold unless of course you are mountain climbing during the month of july when the temperature is above 60° F.

It is my opinion based upon all of the research that I have done on footwear that these ski boots will not change anything with regards to being warmer than what is currently available and from what is said in the article there is nothing available that will keep a climbers feet warm.


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