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Comparison between Gore-Tex and HDry

We all know Gore-Tex: it is the leading brand of waterproof membrane, used successfully in both footwear and mountain clothing. In recent years, however, competitors have emerged and we have tested their products to our satisfaction. In particular, our reviews of the Scarpa Marmolada Pro (italian) and Ribelle 3, both of which have HDry membranes, raised questions among our readers as to which membrane is best for use in this type of boot.

So we decided to carry out a test between two walking boots, one with a Gore-Tex membrane and the other with an HDry membrane.

Please note: our test was a field test, not a laboratory test and therefore not certified. But that does not make it any less reliable. The aim was simple: to compare the strengths of the two membranes.

How the membrane is applied to the boot

The parts that make up a boot

A boot is made up of an outer part, the upper, which is responsible for creating the load-bearing structure of the boot and protecting it from the elements. The lining is then placed inside the upper to provide the thermal comfort and softness needed to wrap and accommodate the foot.

The upper, lining, insole and sole are then assembled with the waterproof membrane to create the boot.

The construction differences between Gore-Tex and HDry

Gore-Tex and HDry have similar membranes: both block water from the outside but are able to allow water vapor to escape. In this way, as with our shells, you are protected from the wet without going to the sauna. Both membranes are therefore waterproof and breathable.

The main difference is in the way they are constructed: how the membranes are used in the boot and bonded to the lining and upper.

differences between Gore-Tex and HDry

In the Gore-Tex system, the membrane is already attached to the lining. The footwear manufacturer receives it in rolls, then cuts, sews and applies heat-seal tapes to the seams according to a precise protocol laid down by Gore-Tex itself. The result is a kind of waterproof “sock” (technically called a “bootie”) that becomes the very lining that wraps around the foot and protects it from water.

This system has the advantage of being easy to apply to all footwear and, together with intensive marketing, is the reason for the huge commercial success that makes Gore-Tex available on so many models of footwear.

In the HDry system, the membrane is not bonded to the lining, but is applied to the inside of the upper using a 3D “lamination” process, where it’s bonded with micro-glue dots using a patented machine. This application takes place when the upper is already fully assembled (e.g. with the hooks already applied), so that everything is sealed in one step, without the use of heat-sealing tapes.

A disadvantage of the HDry system is that it requires rather complex machinery to carry out the lamination process (more on this technique here). For this reason, the HDry membrane has mainly been chosen for high-end outdoor and mountaineering footwear, where the higher application costs can be justified.

The comparison between Gore-Tex and HDry

We have seen that the main difference is that, unlike Gore-Tex, HDry promises to stop water directly on the upper. But what does this mean in practice? To answer this question, we compared two similar boots, but with different membranes.

The criteria used

The formula was: 2 pairs of boots x 2 testers!

We actually bought two pairs of Scarpa Marmolada Trek HD with HDry membrane and two pairs of Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite Mid Gtx with Gore-Tex membrane. Two boots made by quality companies, similar in weight, quality of construction and terrain of use: even intensive trekking in the 3 seasons. The testers were myself and my namesake, Andrea, and each of us used two pairs of boots, one with Gore-Tex and the other with HDry. We put them through the same tests over a period of about a month.

comparison between Hdry and Gore-Tex
The boots used in the test

We deliberately did not rely on laboratories. Instead, we wanted to feel the differences directly on our trails and in our homes, using a digital scale if necessary. To create a test that anyone with a little goodwill could easily replicate.

Description of the tests

The waterproof test

We have carried out two different tests: a static test and a dynamic test.

The static test is very simple: the shoe (new) is weighed dry and then submerged in water until the toe is covered, with a weight inside to hold it in place, and you wait for 6 hours. It is important to check from time to time that the water does not rise (by capillary action) up the upper material or seams, as it could reach the collar or tongue and from there enter the shoe by ‘jumping’ over the upper. At the end of the 6 hours, check that the inside is dry and compare the weight of the shoe before and after soaking.

Test on Hdry and Gore-Tex

At the end of this test, the ease of drying was also assessed.

The dynamic waterproofness test, on the other hand, involves a lot of walking on wet ground, over grass and through puddles. For four hours we walked around with a bootie shoe (Gore-Tex) on one foot and a laminated shoe (HDry) on the other, to the amazement of more than one hiker!

In both cases (static and dynamic tests), the indicator we use is the percentage increase in the weight of the shoe: the higher it is, the more water has been absorbed by the shoe.

The breathability test

During the dynamic test, we try to qualitatively assess the difference in breathability between the two systems: with a Gore-tex shoe on one foot and an HDry shoe on the other, we can see if there is a difference and how marked it is.

To make a similar comparison, both Andrea and I used the same socks: the Oxyburn Ultra Trekking 1531.

The durability and endurance test

Finally, we are committed to repeating the static waterproofing test in about three months’ time to assess the reliability of the two systems over time. This will allow us to understand if there are any differences from what was measured on new shoes.

In fact, both technologies are subject to wear and tear for different reasons:

  • In the case of Gore-Tex, the boot can be damaged by abrasion, particularly by the toe nail on the boot itself;
  • In the case of HDry, the foot does not rub directly on the membrane, but the membrane can be more exposed to external damage because it is closer to the upper.

Results

Static waterproof test

comparison between Hdry and Gore-Tex
Static waterproof test results (average values)
HDRy bootGore-Tex boot
initial dry weight (g)650621
final wet weight (g)671718
Weight gain (g)2197
Weight gain (%)3,2%15,6%

This is the first test we did: unfortunately one of Andrea’s Gore-Tex boots turned out to be defective. The boot let some water through (perhaps from the taping) and by the end of the test he had water inside the boot.

I was luckier and found no water in my Gore-Tex boots after 6 hours. But as you can see, the weight gain of the Gore-Tex boot was greater than that of the HDry boot.
Although the foot remained dry in both cases, this suggests that more water accumulated in the Gore-Tex boot, probably between the upper and lining. On the other hand, the lower weight gain of the HDry boot (only 3.2%) suggests that only the outer shell got wet.

Drying test

After soaking the boots, we left them to dry.

  • Indoors, in the shade
  • At an average temperature of 25°C

After 13 hours of drying, the results were as follows.

Drying test results (averages)
HDRy bootGore-Tex boot
final wet weight (g)671718
final weight after 13 h (g)661678
residual % wet1,7%9,2%

The HDry shoes were practically dry, while the Gore-Tex shoes were still quite wet to the touch.

Dynamic waterproofing test

A test between the Gore-Tex membrane and the HDry membrane.

waterproofness test on hiking shoes

Now for the queen test! I put on my boots, the Gore-Tex on my left foot and the HDry on my right, and walked through the tall, wet grass of the fields, not avoiding the puddles that came my way.

Dynamic Gore-Tex and HDry testing on wet grass
Dynamic Gore-Tex test and HDry in puddles
Results of dynamic waterproof test
HDRy bootGore-Tex boot
Dry starting weight (g)640626
Final wet weight (g)664708
Weight gain (g)2482
Weight gain (%)3,8%13,1%

As we can see, the result in terms of % weight gain is first of all very similar in order of magnitude to that obtained in-house. This confirms the goodness of the static method, which is indeed realistic in reproducing the field behavior of a boot.

Again, both feet were dry, but the water absorption was different. In the video below, you can clearly see the water absorbed by the Gore-Tex boot dripping out of the boot after accumulating between the upper and the waterproof lining.

The water retained by the boot with Gore-Tex membrane

On the contrary, the boot with HDry absorbed much less water and therefore no dripping is noticeable.

Water retained by the boot with HDry membrane

Breathability test

This test is based on subjective assessments, as it is impossible to measure breathability without laboratory equipment. We therefore report our experience, with all the limitations of the case.

Let’s start by saying that we didn’t notice any significant differences in breathability between the Gore-Tex and HDry boots when they were dry (as we said, these are boots with textile uppers and similar construction characteristics).

What Andrea and I did notice, however, was that when the boots got wet, the Gore-Tex boots were less breathable at the back. This is probably due to the water film that forms between the upper and lining, which prevents sweat from being wicked away: in fact, you can quickly feel moisture on the back of your foot, even though there is no water ingress inside the boot. On the other hand, with the HDry system, where water is blocked at the level of the upper, the feeling of dryness inside the boot remains the same. An indication that the breathability remains effective even when the shoe gets wet.

Durability and strength tests

We used the two boots throughout the summer on our treks and approaches to crags and mountains, with the aim of “wearing them out” and testing their functionality after several months. Here are the weight gain data.

HDRy bootGore-Tex boot
Weight gain % after 3 months7,0%19,7%

There was no water penetration in either boot and the feet stayed dry. But the outer materials lost the waterproofing that helped keep absorption down on the uppers, so the weight gain was greater for both boots. The membranes had to do their best, as they remained the only really effective barrier against water.

There were no surprises, however, as the boot with the HDry membrane again had a smaller weight gain.

Final comments

We can now say that both membranes passed the waterproofing test – we did not get our feet wet during the various tests. The fact that one of the Gore-Tex boots failed the waterproofing test is something that can happen and is part of the normal manufacturing process.

Instead, the interesting thing that our test highlighted was the difference in water absorption. Here, HDry performed better than Gore-Tex.

In practical terms, less water absorption means:

  • Less weight in the boot;
  • Better thermal protection, as accumulated water can cause heat loss;
  • Effective breathability, even when the boot is wet.

In addition, our experience tells us that the HDry laminated boot dries faster: it is dry the next day. This is an important factor for multi-day trekkers.

Which membrane to choose?

Experience in this test has shown us that both membranes deliver on the promise of waterproofness, but HDry has an advantage in its ability to absorb less water. This can be particularly important for those who undertake long treks in uncertain weather (and want to have dry boots the next day), or those who find themselves in conditions where it is essential to maintain good thermal insulation and breathability after rain.

However, the choice of boot is not only determined by the membrane, which is an important aspect, but certainly not the only one. Apart from the fact that HDry has a much smaller footprint, Gore-Tex can count on a wider range of membranes, suitable for both warmer and colder climates. Gore-Tex also has the advantage, as mentioned above, of a simpler construction process, which allows it to be used on a wide range of models.

So our aim here is not to award any medals. It is simply to show how it is possible – even with simple tools that everyone has at home – to highlight the differences between the two waterproofing technologies. Then everyone will know how to judge which is the best choice, based mainly on how they use the product.

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