The following article was written in response to the many comments and thoughts I had received while selling and using breathable waterproof garments. Most of the article seems to still apply even twenty years later, and the principles do because they are based on things that don’t change. “Ways, Means, Methods, and Techniques Change, Principles never do.” That is why when I teach, I try to focus on principles as well as techniques. If you have a group interested in a presentation, please feel free to contact me: D.Hansen@HansenSpecialities.com
Gore-Tex membrane is a water proof, but NOT vapor proof membrane.
Once you understand the principle(s) associated with Gore-Tex gear, you will be in a position to maintain it so it will last, be able to do effective repairs when needed, and thus get the most out of using it. Also you will be able to improvise other items to accomplish various tasks, and much more.
This is a saying I put together, to help focus on the goal of using equipment, when climbing, etc. While involved in an activity, Strive for
“Maximum efficiency and simplicity, with a minimum effort and equipment, while allowing for the appropriate safety margin(s).”
Note: Originally, there was just Gore-Tex, but as we have used it in various situations, we determined the fabric needed to perform differently depending on where it was being used. Now-a-days, there is a Gore-Tex membrane that is specially designed for use in shoes/boots, sleeping bags, tents, and so on.
For example: At first, Gore-tex used in down sleeping bags didn’t allow the vapor to pass through quickly enough, so it would condense “hit the dew point” before it exited the bag, ultimately the moisture would build up to the point the bag was almost useless. To avoid this you can work with the various principles, or a Gore-Tex bivy shell would make it easy to separate and dry things out.
Of course, with even the more breathable version a person needs to handle it well. When storing it either lay it on top of your ground pad, then on a shelf in a cool, dark location. Since thickness is warmth, you will want to fluff it to its maximum loft and store it that way. When it is time to go roll it into a tight shape and slip in in a water proof stuff bag or compression bag.
Avoid stuffing or pulling it excessively because that with tear the baffles loose and allow your down to shift to just a few areas, rather the stay distributed. Soon as you arrive to your camp or bivouac spot, take it out of the bag and fluff it up and reach it maximum loft. If it is winter, a good ground pad does more than give you a place to lay your bag.
Basically speaking you will not have much insulation underneath you because when you lay on it it compresses the down, collapsing the tiny dead air spaces that insulate you from the cold. About 1/2″ to 1″ thick close cell for to provide insulation and some comfort. Self inflating pads that use open cell form I good night’s sleep will offset the extra weight you carry to provide it.
Avoid submarining during the night, because you exhale a tremendous amount of moisture which will likely condense inside of the Gore-tex. If you find you are sweating, open the bottom of the bag and let the convection currents carry the vapor out.
Avoid sleeping with your boots (vapor barriers will give you dry cold boots in the morning, but not frozen ones, which is the serious problem.) It doesn’t take much to warm up a properly fit dry boot, but wet frozen boots are a different story. Vapor barriers work great for keeping your feet warm and your boots and outer sock dry, if used properly). But if you sleep with them you pay a price that is dumping the moisture from them, into the sleeping bags insulation.
Cold weather camping is an art within itself. Tents get a layer of ice on the inside, so when the sun comes up, it melts. Before the frost starts to drip, pull your bags, and gear to one side, and carefully scrape the tent walls collecting the frost and ice crystals, then shift you bags to the other side and finish the job, throwing out the ice. We often have a pile of frost from cooking and breathing etc, which is about a foot high and eighteen inches in diameter.
Also, turn you bag inside out and let it dry inside the tent or outside in a dry breeze and sunlight. You will have to determine how much time it needs to dry. Also, tie it to an anchor so it does not blow away! You can put silicone or wax your zippers to keep them sliding well.
Down is a good choice and even in high humidity areas it can work well, if used properly. One time, I did not think about it, and I accidentally packed my favorite down bag on a ten day kayak trip off the west coast of Vancouver Island. I thought I was going to end up having a real challenge, but not so. During the day on the ocean I stored it in a waterproof bag, and at night we had a good tent which had the seams sealed, and a well designed rain fly. And when we had dry weather I would dry my bag even more.
May I suggest you or your group sponsoring an article on clothing systems, or talk a magazine editor into publishing one. The following is a copy of an article wrote about Gore-Tex, when it was first placed on the market.