How waterproof are your Gore-Tex boots/shoes?

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    Will Rietveld
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southwest Colorado

    Hi all. I am doing a project on “Lightweight Footwear Systems for Snow Travel”, to be published here at BPL in early 2007.

    My question for you is: are so-called WP/B hiking boots/shoes (eg Gore-Tex XCR)really waterproof for you when you hike in wet snow or water all day?

    The ones I have used are waterproof for shorter exposures, but wet through after a few hours of hiking in wet snow or wet vegetation, even with gaiters on. So, I’m wondering, have I not found the right boots, or are you all having the same experience?

    Thanks all, I enjoy all your good commentary.

    Will Rietveld
    Packing Systems Editor

    Richard Nisley
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    Before a long trip fill up your hiking boots or shoes with water and let them sit for an hour. If water seeps out, the GTX liner has lost its integrity. If the boots or shoes pass this test, they will not leak (wet out) in the field.

    I have had owned two pair of Vasque Sky Walk nylon and leather hiking boots in which the GTX liner lost its integrity in less than 30 days of easy trail use.

    I have used Cabela’s Kangaroo leather boots with a GTX membrane for one month of cross country walking each year of the last 10. Frequently this involves walking in wet snow all day. The boots leather wear out from brush abrasion in two to three years but the GTX liners have never failed to keep the boots dry.

    The design of the shoe or boot has to insure that the GTX liner is protected from structural stress and punctures or it will leak.


    Most GTX shoes have liners which do indeed seem to degrade ( develop pinprick holes, separation, etc.) after a few weeks to months use. Perhaps a correlation to how stout the outer material is.
    Some GTX shoes like the Montrail Susitna, do not have a liner but use GTX as the exterior shell material–using the tougher XCR GTX. This approach may outlast the liner method as the material responds to stresses in a more homongeous way.

    Drowned Lemming
    BPL Member


    I have always thought that waterproof liners in boots were a solution rather desperately looking for a problem…

    My feet get wet from water coming from above the boot, not through the boot outer. Waterproof liners just make the boot hotter and take far longer to dry.

    In addition, the life span of membranes in boots is very short.

    A better solution, if you really need a waterproof barrier, is a seperate wterproof sock. Only worn when needed and a lot cheaper to replace when it fails.

    Douglas Frick
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wyoming

    >are so-called WP/B hiking boots/shoes (eg Gore-Tex XCR)really waterproof for you when you hike in wet snow or water all day?

    Montrail Torre GTX: no. They soaked through after a few hours of rain and sleet and didn’t dry out. The boots have about 400 miles on them, so maybe this isn’t unexpected. My (new) Montrail Susitna shoes stayed dry while snowshoeing in dry snow, but I haven’t used them in wet conditions yet.

    Frank Ramos


    I don’t walk much in deep winter snow, but I often am forced to walk through spring slush. I have tried several lightweight solutions.

    1. Sealskinz socks with a waterproof membrane and fleece lining. These work well with running shoes or boots, but will eventually spring a leak due to the big toe wearing a hole in the membrane or the seams pulling apart. Once there is a leak, these socks provide little warmth, because fleece is not warm when wet. Theses socks aare fairly inexpensive and lightweight, so the obvious solution is to just carry two or more pairs on a long journey.

    2. Non-breathable neoprene socks. These socks are very warm and remain warm even after springing a leak. However, they are generally too warm in conditions where slush alternates with dry ground, so that the foot gets soaked in its own perspiration.

    3. Breathable neoprene socks. These socks are made by and used to be sold by campmor, but no longer, apparently. There are two layers of nylon jersy, with neoprene sandwiched in between, and with tiny holes in the neoprene. Perspiration wicks along the inner nylon jersey shell, then evaporates through the holes. Of course, exterior moisture can also get in through these holes. However, neoprene is warm when wet, so this is not usually a major problem. These breathable neoprene socks can be worn with either shoes or sandals. With sandals, the neoprene will soon develop tears. But again, since neoprene is warm when wet, this is not that big a problem. This is my current slush solution for use with sandals.

    4. Neoprene booties. These can be worn alone, since they have a fairly durable sole. So you could carry both neoprene booties for slush plus some lightweight running shoes or sandals for dry ground. I haven’t yet tried this solution, so I don’t how durable these booties are in practice. But they aren’t that expensive, and neoprene is warm when wet, so you could just bring these along for the first few weeks of a long journey, then throw them away after all the slush had melted.

    Jason Shaffer


    Locale: on the move....

    I used to prefer Goretex shoes when shorter trips were the norm… then I started regularly doing 15-25 miles a day, on trips longer than 3 days (more akin to others here).

    Now I think that Goretex in a shoe is a specialist product for a narrow range of circumstances — even in the rainy East US, certainly in temps down to 20F. I am surprised others seem to get more use out of them. My montrail and asolo gtx shoes leaked after 150 miles, and were always sweaty inside (often indistinguishable from leakage). They rarely dried until I got home. Either way I had to change out socks 2-4 times daily, so eventually I ditched membranes for general use. Keeping feet warm and occasionally aired out has been my best solution.

    For those colder temps, I’d be interested in a pair of neoprene gaiters to periodically throw on OVER my eVent gaiters. Kind of a belay layer for the feet. Or simply to replace them, but then the breathability issue returns in wet weather. Either way, down booties for camp.

    However w/ snowshoes I often still do opt for boots, depending. But even then I like Montrail all-leather Torre’s, non-gtx. They are a bit heavier than the fabric-upper Torre’s, which only come in gtx). But with good wax they remain reasonably waterproof longer, and are noticably more breathable. I’m definitely open to a better setup for snowshoeing, that would give me the confidence to go ‘light and flexible’ more consistently.

    Good luck with this project, Will. I’ll definitely look forward to your article.

    james schardt


    I was surprised to find my Asolo gore-tex boots leaking one hike. I was just walking through wet grass and found that water was getting in through the fold/crease area near the toe of the boot. A pretty common leakage spot for leather boots, but this boot was supposed to have a goretex liner. Must have been compromised.

    With these boots, I found that wearing merino socks and switching them frequently throughout the day kept my feet/boots dry. So I was bummed when just a modest amount of moisture (from the wet grass) found it’s way in from the outside.

    Now my pack is light enough that I’m going with shoes, not boots. I don’t think I understand the utility of GTX shoes, I have to admit. Seems like you would lose the quick drying benefit of wearing shoes in the first place.

    Hope this story helps,


    Dondo .
    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado Rockies


    I haven’t had much luck with w/b membranes in boots. They’ve been fine for occasional rain or stream crossings but when it’s been wet all day, the boots get wet inside and out and take forever to dry out. So for warmer weather, I’ve reverted to trail runners without a membrane. They do get wet but also dry much quicker. In colder wet weather I forget about breathable and just go for waterproof. One combo I use is Performance neoprene booties over trail runners. The fleece lining keeps my feet warm and the weight is reasonable at 15.9 oz. a pair. These are paired with a traction device such as Yaktrax Pros or my Northern Lites snowshoes. I also use NEOS Villagers or Explorers in a similar manner.

    Brett Balmer
    BPL Member


    Locale: Northeast US

    I have been using a pair of Montrail Hurricane Ridge shoes with the outer GTX shell/liner with good sucess for about 150-200 total miles of fairly rocky terrain (I do a lot of hikes on the Pennsylvania AT – which has a well deserved reputation as being extremely rocky).

    They are still waterproof, or at least waterproof enough to pass the “stand in the stream for 30 seconds” test. I usally couple them with gaiters for a fairly weatherproof system.

    The downside I have found is that they do not dry out very fast. I fact after a day of hiking they are usually quite damp. I usually remove the soles at night so they can air out more effectively.

    I may go back to a non-waterproof shoe for summer use, but when hiking in the spring/fall/winter my feet are warmer in my own moisture than when cold slush/rain seeps in. I forgot them on a spring trip in Virginia and severely regretted it while tromping through slush for two days in Nikes after we got a high-mountain snowstorm.

    Matthew L.
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pittsburgh, PA

    I have really liked my Asolo FSN 90 boots. They have been comfortable and have done all that I could ask them to for the most part. While I wear trail runners for most of my hikes in the Allegheny National Forest here in PA, I do wear the boots when I travel to other places that are rougher. The waterproofness of these boots does disappoint somewhat.

    The boots were waterproof for the first 100 miles or so, but they have not been nearly as good afterward (even after a couple of retreatments). High wet grass or much rain will wet them out. They then take a long time to dry out. This really started to annoy me so that is a big reason for my switch to non-waterproof trail runners. I wear these for most conditions.

    I just got my Timberland Delerion Pros yesterday from Zappos, and I look forward to trying them out in a week or so for a nice hike. Since I have never been kept totally dry in Goretex boots for too long, maybe the quick drying ability of these shoes will impress me.

    Will Rietveld
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southwest Colorado

    Thanks everyone for all your input. For a recap, the input I have received from your posts and from other BPL staff is that the new GTX XCR shoes are in fact quite waterproof. The downside is that they are not all that breathable, so you feet sweat in them quite a bit and your feet get damp from the inside.

    We will be trying a few of the new ones this year and will report later on about how waterproof they are, how fast they dry out, and how well they work for hiking in wet snow.

    Happy hiking!

    james schardt


    Make sure you trash em! Every piece of gear tends to work great out of the box. But I’m always amazed at how many features fail after normal use.

    Chris Harvey


    I haven’t tried XCR but have not had a real problem with Gore-Tex being waterproof except for one well worn pair of hiking boots that I think developed a leak somewhere. I’ve had more of a problem with Gore-tex keeping moisture in than out. It’s the breathable aspect rather than the waterproof that has not worked for me.

    Russell Swanson


    Locale: Midatlantic

    It seems the breathability can be an issue with GTX shoes/boots but it looks as if everyone posting so far is male. Maybe some women could chime in and tell us if they have the same issue with GTX footwear steaming up? My wife just bought a pair of GTX lined boots but hasn’t pushed them in any way yet. I know she doesn’t sweat as much as I do so I’m wondering what she can expect.

    John Rogers


    My 2 centavos, I’ve worn a pair of
    Columbia boots for going on 4 years now. No breakin needed. Absolutely love to hike in rain or snow. Just returned from a snow hike, 6hrs. worth of pushing wet snow on the way to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and no wet feet. I wear wicking sock liners for the sweating problem, odor eaters for the foot funk. Although my wife says sometimes alls that’s left of me is my belt buckle. (Bad joke) Just did buy a second pair cuz the originals are looking bad. Forest animals laugh.
    Dave Rogers…Great Minds Think A Hike

    Douglas Frick
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wyoming

    > Columbia boots

    Do you have a specific model? Approximate weight? My brother-in-law wears boots, and needs a better pair.

    John Rogers


    I’ve worn the Columbia Elkridge exclusively for the last 3-4 years and many wet miles. I’ve loved them but they do weigh between 2-3 lbs. Recently bought the lighter Frontier Peak which has a slightly higher ankle support but a bit less weight at a little under 2 lbs. according to my scale. I’ve never been wet in either boot and love to hike in the rain & snow….fewer people to run into. But when you do, they’re usually real backpackers. You gotta love em, the hikers and the boots. Please, strictly my opinion and there are many quality boots out there.
    Dave Rogers…Great Minds Think A Hike

    Andy Dixon


    i take a slightly different approach in autumn/winter…

    days are much shorter and inevitably milage is down dramatically so i don’t worry too much about the weight of my footwear. instead i choose the the shoes which will best protect my feet from hours of cold wet ground.

    the best solution BY FAR is quality combat boot types from the likes of Danner & Matterhorn. yep they are pretty heavy but due to their design the goretex bootie is sandwiched between inner and outer fabrics so is well protected.

    for example, i have used such boots on a trip in the autumn where it poured with rain for a whole week and the ground was awash. at all times my feet were toasty warm and dry!

    heavy yes – but well worth it when you are not bothered about covering too many miles

    paul johnson


    Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest

    websearch the following:

    Altama Combat Boots

    Altama is a supplier to US Military. You can buy both less expensive commercial counterparts from them, or pay a bit more and get the exact mil-spec boots that they supply to the US Military. You can get desert, full leather, or jungle boots (we needed these since there was no way to keep your feet dry in those environments – these dried out faster than the full leather – maybe that’s why I HATE wet feet!!! – bad memories).

    They are all my son wants to hike in. He gets them from Mystic Army-Navy in CT. For my part, I had enough of them during my time in the military.

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    > are so-called WP/B hiking boots/shoes (eg Gore-Tex XCR)really waterproof for you when you hike in wet snow or water all day?

    No, because there is this BIG hole at the top. And you can’t stop water getting in there.

    But adding the XCR does allow the manufacturer and shop to charge a lot more …

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