When you’re out hiking or backpacking, one of the most crucial factors that you have to consider is waterproof gear. From dark, expansive skies that could open up any minute to unseemingly deep puddles of water on the ground, you’re bound to get totally wet at one point or another.
This is why you need to have the best water resistant equipment from head to toe. Of course, the waterproof capabilities of your footwear all depend on the kind of technology used. Most recently, one incredibly innovative piece of waterproof technology has been making rounds back and forth in the outdoor footwear industry. You guessed it; it’s Gore-Tex. Unfortunately, there are as many misconceptions as there are believers when it comes to the stuff. That’s why we’ve drawn up this comprehensive guide to Gore-Tex waterproofing in hiking boots.
A registered trademark of W.L. Gore and Associates, Gore-Tex is a breathable, but waterproof fabric membrane developed back in 1969. The membrane is able to repel liquid water while still allowing vapor to pass through. The key component in Gore-Tex is the polytetrafluoroethylene which is also a chemical component of Teflon
Why Gore-Tex? – Strengths and Capabilities
Basically, GTX works by making use of pores that are 20,000 times smaller than a single drop of water. This is what makes it utterly impervious (at least to some extent). However, these pores still allow water vapor whose size is much smaller than water droplets. So while you are well protected from oil, water, and other liquids from outside, your feet won’t have to bake inside or get swamped by your own sweat.
For those of you who are fond of hiking, backpacking or basically any outdoor activity, you can see why this is a very significant discovery. Aside from the above waterproof and breathable capabilities, Gore-Tex is also highly popular because it is lighter than most other options out there and is able to insulate your feet against low temperatures. But then again, nothing’s perfect. Going by all the different complaints from hikers, Gore-Tex also leaves plenty to be desired. To help clear out all the common misconceptions about GTX, we’ve also included several shortcomings.
Limitations of Gore-Tex Waterproofing in Hiking Boots
Gore-Tex may be the greatest gift to all mankind, but even it has it’s ugly sides every once in a while. For starters, the smaller pores on your uppers make it that much harder for air to circulate and for sweat to evaporate. So as opposed to having a fresh environment in your shoes, the linings will absorb the vapor and condense it to water.
The final result is a buildup of warm moisture in your boots that makes temperatures uncomfortable for the wearer. This is also the ideal surroundings for harmful bacteria, fungus and bad odors to breed. Similarly, the wet environment in the footwear leads to incredibly painful blisters after long periods of wear. As if that wasn’t enough, Gore-Tex is also famous for snaring moisture when submerged. This means that once you get your Gore-Tex hiking boots wet, it’s going to be next to impossible to dry them out. Get some of these boots wet during winter and they’ll turn into blocks of ice long before they dry up.
While Gore-Tex may be touted as 100 percent waterproof, evidence shows that this is actually not the case. Your Gore-Tex boots may be able to handle a couple splashes here and there, but it’s only a matter of time until some water makes it through. As such, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to apply your own waterproofing before the day of the hike. Gore-Tex still remains one of the most preferred waterproofing materials, that’s why you’ll find all sorts of products designed to make your boots friendlier. So get some well-padded, moisture-wicking socks to keep sweat, odors, and blisters at bay and enjoy your hike to the fullest.