6 Disadvantages of Gore-Tex

Last Updated on 26/01/2022

what are the disadvantages of gore-tex

Gore-Tex is the best known waterproof membrane on the market, but what are the disadvantages of Gore-Tex? Gore-Tex is expensive, commanding a higher price point than most other waterproof fabrics. Most notably, many Gore-Tex garments usually have a DWR coating which contains potentially dangerous and environmentally unsound chemicals.

While Gore-Tex is widely considered to be the best waterproof membrane on the market, Gore-Tex does not come without its critics. Although if you compare Gore-Tex to eVent and other well-known alternatives you will find that they all suffer from most of the same issues. Let’s have a look at some of the reasons Gore-Tex might not be the right option for you.

What are the Disadvantages of Gore-Tex?

Here are our top six disadvantages to Gore-Tex.

1. Gore-Tex is Expensive

With publicity and prestige comes a price tag to match. Gore-Tex garments tend to be among the most expensive waterproof choices available. When balancing price against performance, you may find that you don’t need to spend the big bucks to get a jacket that keeps you dry. Find out whether Gore-Tex is worth the extra money in this article.

2. Performance Tapers Slowly Over Time

The durable water repellent (DWR) treatment on the outside of the garment fades with time and water can soak into the outer layer. Equally, a build-up of sweat and grime from the inside can clog the pores of the membrane.

While neither of these issues should affect how waterproof Gore-Tex is, they inhibit the breathability of a garment. This means that you’re liable to end up just as wet from the inside as you would be from the outside without a jacket.

3. Seams are Always a Weakness

When attaching waterproof materials, taped seams are essential. These taped seams mean that the holes pierced by a needle aren’t going to allow water to pass through them. These seams are a point that can rub against internal clothing and eventually may work themselves loose.

Even the best seams are often seen as a potential weak point of a jacket. So much so, in fact, that replacement seams are big business. If your seams start to fail, you need to replace them straight away, otherwise, you’re leaving big gaps that the water can just pour through.

In fairness to Gore-Tex, this isn’t a problem that is unique to products that use it. But it is a problem.

4. Difficult to Care for

Nikwax Hardshell Cleaning & Waterproofing DUO-Pack

Gore-Tex products need some care and attention, but it’s not quite as easy as it can be with other products. Because the membrane is sewn between fabrics, you can’t exactly remove it and give it a clean.

Washing garments that include Gore-Tex requires the use of specific cleaning products. These will clean the membrane without compromising the material or clogging the pores. The good news is that these cleaners often include re-waterproofing agents which can replenish that DWR coating we mentioned earlier.

5. Made from Chemicals

This is a big one for any outdoor brand that prides itself on promoting environmental awareness. Gore-Tex uses chemicals as part of its waterproofing, such as per and poly-fluorinated chemicals. Find out more about what Gore-Tex is made from here.

Gore, the company that owns and makes Gore-Tex, claims that the material used in the membrane itself, PTFE, does not contain any PFCs of environmental concern. They also, as we will look at shortly, committed to stopping using any DWR treatment containing PFCs of environmental concerns.

Despite this, they cannot be responsible for other companies that use Gore-Tex as a membrane but generate their own DWR coating. Whether your new jacket contains environmental and potentially bioavailable chemicals is down to the company that makes it.

6. Some Gore-Tex Products can be Hit or Miss

Gore-Tex is just one part of a product’s design. Just because a product has a Gore-Tex tag on it doesn’t mean it’s the perfect product. Different products are designed to be used in different ways and other factors may inhibit the quality of a product as well as its durability and waterproofness.

I have owned Gore-Tex hiking boots that have leaked after a month and a had a Gore-Tex Jacket that let in water all the way down the zip. In general, the Gore-Tex label does carry some clout and is seen as a sign of quality but every now and again it has the chance to let you down.

It’s also worth noting here that while Gore-Tex is waterproof and breathable, every person and situation is different. Breathability is subjective and relies in part on an imbalance between internal and external jacket temperature. If you’re hiking in eighty-degree heat and high humidity, your jacket is likely to keep that sweat exactly where it is.

Equally, if you sweat a lot, you will eventually reach a point where your jacket simply cannot keep up with production. An ultra-runner wearing a Gore-Tex jacket is still likely to end up soaking wet on the inside, but the jacket may offer reasonable protection and warmth against the outside elements.

microplastics from clothing

What is Gore-Tex Doing to Reduce Their Environmental Impact?

One of the key disadvantages of Gore-Tex was its use of chemicals. But is Gore-Tex bad for the environment? Like all synthetic fabrics, Gore-tex clothing may release microplastics when washed which is hurting our oceans and having a big impact on wildlife.

Poly-Fluorinated Chemicals

The first thing to note is that Gore claims that their PTFE membrane does not contain and is not a source of environmentally concerning per or poly-fluorinated chemicals (PFCs). This is because it is an inert fluoropolymer that does not biodegrade. This increases durability and the lifespan of the products, but comes with its own challenges when it comes to disposal.

The DWR coating on the outer layer of a Gore-Tex jacket is essential to prevent it from soaking up water and clogging the breathable pores of the PTFE membrane. However, until recently, all of these DWR coatings contained PFCs of environmental concern.

PCFs are known to be highly fluorinated and small enough to be bioavailable. This means they may be potentially hazardous and are able to enter the human body. They are also likely to become widespread in water, where they will remain for generations.

What Changes Have Been Made?

In 2020, Gore, the company that owns and makes Gore-Tex, committed to stopping their use of PCFs in their DWR treatment. This means that all of their garments made after 2020 should contain no PCFs of environmental concern.

Gore generates an enormous amount of the fabric used in waterproof garments worldwide. By the end of 2020, they committed to an 85% reduction in their worldwide production of fabrics and chemicals containing PCFs of environmental concern. Between 2021 and 2023, they aim to phase out the remainder.

Is Gore-Tex Bad for You?

Are the chemicals in Gore-Tex bad for you? What if you own a garment from pre-2020? There doesn’t seem to be any evidence to suggest that you are at any kind of risk by wearing older Gore-Tex products but it is better for the environment if we don’t continue to use them.

PCFs and Gore-Tex

Potential by-products of per and poly-fluorinated chemicals (PFCs) include both perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Both PFOS and PFOA are known to have potential health concerns associated with them. PFOA falls into the category of likely-carcinogenic.

Until recently, PCFs were commonly used as part of the DWR treatment on the outer of Gore-Tex jackets. Most companies have now stopped using treatments with environmentally concerning PCFs.

Despite this regular use, at present, there seems to be no direct link between regular skin contact with waterproof garments and an uptake in these chemicals in the human body. Gore, the makers of Gore-Tex, commit themselves to both environmental and user-health standards to ensure their use of safe chemicals.

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This article has been written and/or edited by Andrew N. 20+ years of hiking, mountaineering, and camping experience, with access to all the latest outdoor gear.

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