Restoring the DWR on a Gore-tex Jacket

Revivex DWR Treatment

When I went backpacking last weekend, I experienced ideal conditions for developing hypothermia. I was hiking through heavy mist and light rain, which grew heavier as the day wore on. Temperatures were in the low 40’s F and the wind was blowing at about 20 miles an hour. After a few hours of this, I got soaked and cold. The durable water repellent (DWR) coating on my Gore-tex shell had stopped shedding rain.

Gore-tex clothing is made by sandwiching a Gore-tex layer between two moderately porous fabrics. A DWR coating is applied to the external layer to prevent it from absorbing water. The DWR penetrates the fibers and lowers the surface tension of the external fabric, causing water to bead up and roll off of it when it gets wet.

Over time, the DWR coating wears off from normal wear and tear. When this happens, rain will saturate the external layer and the garment will stop being breathable. Sweat will build up inside the jacket, soaking everything you are wearing underneath.

When the temperature outside is cool and your jacket wets out, you are likely to feel chilled, even if you’re carrying a backpack and generating a lot of heat. That’s exactly what happened to me. I was wearing a single layer under my coat, a Patagonia Capilene Two long sleeve jersey, which became soaked as the sweat built up on the inside of my jacket. This caused my entire layering system to break down because there wasn’t a dry layer next to my skin to transport sweat away from it. My body reacted by trying to evaporate the water in my jersey, burning more calories in the process, which left me feeling cold.

I was very aware of the hypothermia danger when all this was happening. My hands were cold because my liner gloves had become soaked and my back was cold underneath my pack. I decided that I would stop and camp if I started to shiver. I added a polarguard vest to my layering system to preserve my core heat and then ate a big snack with cookies, crystallized ginger, nuts, and a packet of Justin’s Nut Butter, washed down with a lot of water. That warmed me up pretty good and I made it to my destination a few hours later, still wet and cold, but out of danger.

After I got home from that trip, I applied Revivex, a water-based DWR treatment, to my Gore-tex Jacket to prevent another episode of wet out. This process is easy and has 3 simple steps:

  1. Wash your jacket to remove any dirt or salt build-up. Read the care instructions on your jacket before doing this. Some manufacturers recommend only using powdered detergent instead of a liquid. I don’t use any, and just wash the garment in a washing machine in cold water. I’m paranoid about using soap because it might block up the Gore-tex layer: my Paclite Celestial JacketĀ  is not manufactured by Outdoor Research anymore and I consider it irreplaceable.
  2. When the coat is still wet, spray on the Revivex solution, applying an extra amount to the shoulders, hood, and at the ends of the sleeves. The external material should be wet but not be dripping.
  3. Let the coat air dry. Then put it into a dryer by itself and dry it for 60 minutes on medium heat.

The entire process takes under 3 hours and works like a charm. Water just rolls of my Gore-tex jacket now. The Revivex really does the trick. A 5 oz bottle will treat 1-2 garments and only costs $8.00.

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11 Responses to Restoring the DWR on a Gore-tex Jacket

  1. midlakewinter November 19, 2009 at 7:42 am #

    This is a tangential question, BUT:

    do you prefer the Patagonia Capilene base layer to a much cheaper Under Armour option?

    Does it wick that much better? I am really thinking about winter hiking when moving sweat away is increasingly important.

  2. Earlylite November 19, 2009 at 8:04 am #

    Unless it's insanely cold, I won't wear the long capilene pants under my softshell pants or my full zips. They're just too hot if I'm climbing or snowshoeing. Instead, I'll wear an under armour compression short, primarily to prevent thigh chafing from moisture. At the same time, I'm wearing heavy cloth gaiters which go up to my knees and provide a lot of lower leg insulation.

    On top, I wear at least one capilene 1 long sleeve jersey, and sometimes even two at once, if it's very cold, to move the moisture away from my body. Above that, I'll wear some kind of insulation layer and then a breathable shell. The insulation layer varies depending on terrain and conditions – sometimes a marmot driclime jacket, sometimes a montbell jacket, sometimes a montbell down vest, sometimes a cocoon polarguard pullover.

    I mainly wear the capilene 1 pants at night in my sleeping bag, and as an emergency layer.

    Hope that helps.

  3. AndyM November 19, 2009 at 2:12 pm #

    A hot pepper product may be a good item to add in case there is the threat of hypothermia. Don't have any personal experience in using it for such a situation. The ginger probably worked almost as well.

  4. Earlylite November 19, 2009 at 6:46 pm #

    I'm partial to the chili spiced mango from Trader Joes and often carry it in addition to their crystallized ginger. Do you know if there is a distinct physiological benefit to hot pepper in hypothermia prevention and what it is?

  5. Guthook November 20, 2009 at 1:25 pm #

    Been a while since I've read your articles, but I'm back…

    I haven't used the spray-on DWR because I generally hear the wash-in variety is best for jackets and pants. Either way, I found that it restored the DWR like a dream, but it wore off much, much faster than the factory-applied coating.

    I may have to try this again sometime soon with my Gore-Tex jacket or with my Precip jacket soon, since I have some of the DWR stuff left, and it's getting to be wintertime!

  6. Mike Hazeltine November 20, 2009 at 2:49 pm #

    I hiked last weekend in the white mountains under the same conditions. I found my REI superwool top did a much better job of wicking away my sweat then the Patagonia tops, it was also much warmer when damp, and seemed to dry quicker when wet.

  7. Earlylite November 22, 2009 at 5:52 am #

    Wool makes me itch. Not sure it it's a physical thing or psychological. Not a bad observation though.

  8. Steve November 22, 2009 at 5:54 am #

    Hi Philip,

    I'm a little bit confused. You say the diminished DWR coating was the cause of your wetting out under the jacket due to it no longer shedding rain. But I thought the waterproof capabilities of Gore-tex were permanent, but rather the breathability that diminished over time due to the clogging of the Gore-tex porous layer from dirt, sweat salts, etc… Which is cured by washing it as you did. I'm wondering if the DWR spray was simply the icing on the cake, rather than the solution to the problem. Is that true?

  9. Earlylite November 22, 2009 at 5:59 am #

    Excellent question. The gore-tex layer on all garments is sandwiched between two other layers of fabric. You've probably seen labels that claim 3 layer Gore-tex. That's what they mean. So if you have standing cold water on the outer layer and wet sweat drenching your inner layer, it's easy to understand how the cold would be conducted through the coat. The DWR keeps the outer layer from getting saturated. Make sense?

  10. Mary August 31, 2010 at 7:08 am #

    Thank you for this — I, too, have an irreplaceable jacket that I love, which no longer sheds water. I'm glad to find that I can restore it.

  11. UltraLight January 2, 2011 at 12:27 am #

    Thank you for your tips. I was specifically looking for a good DWR that was NOT the wash-in type. I will follow your advice, and appreciate you sharing this info.

    Guthook- I have no experience personally with wash in vs. spray on DWR's, but I found the following on the Gore-Tex site. The how to resore section may be of interest to you, as they do not recommend the wash in DWR.

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