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Goretex and Salt Water: Final Log; Stardate 2000

Results of the Goretex-Salt Study;

Well, I am so tired of the topic, but I have put together a meagre amt. of info on Goretex and salt water, ie., does salt water interfere with Goretex ability keep you dry?

1. Materials chemists said that salt will scale, crystallize on fabric, if occurs enough will interfere with water repellency. Will not affect membrane chemistry or result in any damage. After it is rinsed, fabric will be effective at water repellancy again.

2. Goretex says you must use regular care cycles to ensure reliability. Rinsing the jacket with regular or salt water will help remove any scaling. Under normal use, and rinsed afterwords, there is no problem. Goretex says that you should do a care cycle (see previous post) and treat with fabric water repellant regularly. Goretex admits on longer trips, care cycles difficult to complete.

3. Everyone on this site and elsewhere who uses goretex for salt water paddling says it works just fine, no problems, breathability maintained, water repellancy maintained. So most consumers seem to find that it works just fine, and many of them rarely, if ever, complete regular care cycles.

4. I have located 3 expert authorities who claim, on a personal basis, to have used goretex in salt water touring, and found that beading stopped, rain penetrated the garment and that they felt that breathability was compromised. They observed that salt damaged the material, or made it appear more susceptible to damage.

5. I submitted requests for scientific quality control data, including electron micrographs (which show scaling), fabric chemistry analysis (tensile strength, water repellancy, breatability), and none has been provided by Gore. I wrote their technical rep again, thanking them for their earlier help, and requesting some QC data on the fabric under continuous salt water exposure. Again, no data.

6. I conclude nobody knows anything about this, and it should be studied. Any master's students looking for a thesis? What I do know now is;

a. Some say goretex works great in salt, some say it doesn't. The only people interested in the subject have goretex, so someone not using a goretex paddling jacket wouldn't have responded anyhow. I conclude that under reasonable conditions of use, ie., day paddles, rinsing the garment afterwords is all you need to do.

b. Care cycles are important. I never do them and my jacket works great for skiing and mountaineering/hiking. I will start doing care cycles.

c. Salt will build up in the fabric somewhere. Maybe not on the membrane itself, but somewhere on either side of it, so its just a moot point. If there is salt in the water, pores are plugged. Rinsing it in more salt water will free up salt residues, and replace them with new residues as the garment dries. The ocean is isotonic, the concentration of sodium is uniform. In a fresh water rinse, you not only have the turbulence of rinsing to free up salt crystals, but also a hypotonic solution (tap water), which invites salt to leave the garment (diffusion).

d. Paddlers who use a polypro top, regular nylon paddle jacket with good ventilation claim comfort in a wide range of conditions. So one does not need goretex to be happy at sea. By contrast one needs goretex to be happy back-country skiing, climbing, being rained on during exertion. Paddling is a minimal exertion activity for the most part, once a good forward stroke is mastered. During brief periods of exertion or in headwind crossings the nylon garmet can be opened to increase breathability. Without a polypro liner, hypothermia is a distinct risk. In goretex, the breathability would help prevent hypothermia, as sweat forms it will not condense as much on the garment. So it can be argued that goretex could be of great help preventing hypothermia, in the absence of a polypropylene or similar wicking garment to prevent conductive heat loss from the torso.

e. Conclusion: If you are going to use Goretex for ocean paddling, do so free of guilt, but rinse the thing after every use, like you would any other gear aboard the kayak, like your PFD, tow ropes, etc... just hose the jacket down along with the rest. I went into this research thinking it was taboo, now I think it makes good sense, respecting the limitations above...that you can maintain a garment which is being doused with salt water day after day, on extended trips.

So that's what I know now. If this helps anyone with a purchase decision; great, that's why I did it. Not much of a conclusion, but like the UBC research tank tests on the best kayak design, common sense won out.

Thanks for everyone who contributed to the discussion.

David; Captains Log 08/2000; Goretex file closed. Non-classified status.