September 13, 2017

Is GORE-TEX® Membrane Really Waterproof?

Just how waterproof are GORE-TEX® products? The membrane, which comes with a GUARANTEED TO KEEP YOU DRY® promise, is put to the test in these everyday outdoor scenarios.

GORE-TEX® product technology comes with a GUARANTEED TO KEEP YOU DRY® promise, but how far does that promise go? I took The North Face Ultra GORE-TEX® SURROUND® Mid boots through the San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff, Arizona, to see how they held up in normal wet conditions. As promised, my feet stayed bone-dry even as the boots trudged through mud and water.

But not every adventure calls for trudging through mud or crossing streams. Sometimes GORE-TEX® brand’s waterproof membrane shows its multi-functional benefits in more mundane activities. Shallow creek crossings and heavy rain have been proven 1,000 times over, but life outdoors, and simply life in general, are full of the unexpected. Here are a handful of sometimes obscure moments that truly answer the question, “Is GORE-TEX® brand waterproof?”

Keeping realistic expectations

I’m not sure why you’d want to go swimming in a pair of hiking boots, but don’t expect them to keep you dry underwater. GORE-TEX® boots are great at keeping water out at every angle, but completely dunking your foot in water lets in water from around the ankle—the one place where no waterproof fabric can save you. In other words, total submersion is out of bounds. So, while your boots can stay dry while getting splashed, if you’re going to jump feet-first, keep the boots on the sidelines.

Outside of that, it’s quite amazing how the GORE-TEX® product technology can protect in everyday situations.

Is it waterproof? GORE-TEX® membrane vs. city fountain

GORE-TEX® membrane vs. city fountain

So you’ve had a few drinks with your best mates on a rainy day. Everyone is prepared with an outer layer like the Dakine Mercer GORE-TEX® jacket when all of a sudden… whoops! Where did that fountain come from?

Yes, this is technically an outer ski layer, but the mid-thigh cut offers that much more protection for anyone stumbling into a city fountain. Just try not to walk through one.

Takeaway: Whether it’s this absurd hyperbole or a real-life rainstorm, waterproof GORE-TEX® jackets and boots truly keep you dry.

Is it waterproof? GORE-TEX® boots vs. solar eclipse spillage

GORE-TEX® boots vs. solar eclipse spillage

The next total eclipse isn’t until 2024, but anything could happen as you gaze upon this celestial beauty just seven years from now. That water bottle in your hand? You couldn’t possibly keep your grasp as the awe of a total eclipse hits you in the face (while wearing protective glasses, of course)!

Now it’s spilled all over your boots, but there’s no worry — your feet are still dry while you’re distracted by the totality of the moon covering the sun.

Takeaway: Eclipse or not, unexpected water in any environment beads right off of boots with GORE-TEX® liner.

Is it waterproof? GORE-TEX® boots vs. post-camp car wash

GORE-TEX® boots vs. post-camp car wash

This is a practical but often overlooked scenario following most camping and hiking trips — the car wash. If you’re like me, you don’t wait a moment to hose off the mud your truck or SUV collected while navigating backcountry dirt roads. And if your first stop on the way home is the car wash, rest easy knowing your feet will stay dry no matter how wet the rest of you gets.

Is it waterproof? GORE-TEX® boots vs. a rainy campsite

Ultralight backpackers know all about this one. You find the ideal camping spot and set up what you believe is the perfectly pitched tarp — but the rain has other plans for you. You wake up in the middle of the night to find a miniature Mississippi River flowing through your site. There’s not much you can do to stay totally dry, but there’s no reason for your feet to suffer. Remember that scene in Forrest Gump where Lt. Dan says to Forrest and Bubba, “Always keep your feet dry”?

GORE-TEX® boots help you live up to that advice.

Is it waterproof? GORE-TEX® boots vs. the oversized group coffee order

So we know that boots and jackets with waterproof GORE-TEX® membrane keep water out, but what about other liquids? If there’s one thing I crave after a good hike, it’s a refreshing iced coffee. Unfortunately, I’m usually the one stuck ordering for the whole group.

GORE-TEX® boots vs. the oversized group coffee order

You know those drink carriers that hold four coffees? Can we legally call that cardboard? Too many times, caffeinated goodness has ended up all over my boots. Thankfully, the main ingredient in coffee is water, and it’s all good as far as my boots are concerned. My feet are dry and my friends are now on their own for coffee.

Pro tip: If you do find your boots covered in coffee or any other unintended mess, make sure you give them a good cleaning. Read how to clean hiking boots for tips and advice on caring for your GORE-TEX® footwear.

Is it waterproof? GORE-TEX® boots vs. a full cooler

Even though my Yeti Tundra 65 has a drainage spout on the side, I always impatiently dump the whole cooler on its side and send the icy water onto the pavement. Unfortunately, I’m never careful when I do this, and my feet get soaked instantly.

GORE-TEX® boots vs. a full cooler

But with a waterproof GORE-TEX® membrane, my feet stand a chance. Now spills are nothing more than a “whoops” instead of rushing for a new pair of socks.

Moral of the story

This was an incredibly fun piece to write for the GORE-TEX® blog. Admittedly, creek crossings, rain, snow and mud are likely the normal elements these products keep out, but the GUARANTEED TO KEEP YOU DRY® promise lived up to its namesake no matter what curve balls I threw its way.

I can say with total confidence that the GORE-TEX® membrane and GORE-TEX® liners really are waterproof.

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