I’ve always been a little bit of a Gore-Tex skeptic. While I have owned, and do currently own, several garments and shoes incorporating the fabric, I’ve always felt a little bit let-down by it.
“If this is both waterproof and breathable”, I would ask myself as I ascended the hill in a slight drizzle, “then why are my shoulders getting rather wet?”
So I was interested to come across this rather fun video by a Canadian biking gear company, which talks about the history of Gore-Tex, how it works, what it can and can’t do, and why even the manufacturer doesn’t really use traditional Gore-Tex any more.
A quick summary is that it’s waterproof OR breathable, but not both at the same time. Which is fairly predictable… and still gives it an advantage over something that is, say, purely waterproof… but do watch the video.
This ties in with something I was told in a shop recently when buying a new jacket. I was complaining about my previous one not seeming to keep me dry for very long, and wondered if I was affecting the waterproofing by washing it too frequently.
Actually, they said, it might come from not washing it frequently enough. And that would tie in with the assertions in the video; it seems that the key to successful Gore-Tex use is to make sure the water beads up and runs off quickly, so it doesn’t have to be simultaneously waterproof and breathable. To do this, you need to wash it in something that will top up the water-repellent coating.
So if you do decide to pay the Gore-Tex premium, be prepared for the Tech Wash premium in the years to follow.
My favourite jackets, by the way, have been made of Ventile, which is also not cheap, and doesn’t claim to be completely waterproof, so it’s not necessarily ideal if, say, you’re heading for Wales! It’s hardwearing and exceedingly comfortable, though, and popular amongst birdwatchers, because it doesn’t rustle like most other fabrics and give away your location.
It’s probably useful for secret agents too, for the same reason. I couldn’t possibly comment. I pretend that I have mine for dog-walking.