I have frequently heard the term "Life-time" used in regard to Gore's warranty, but it is a bit of a misnomer. You will not find "Life-time" in any of Gore's official literature, nor on their website. I will also note that in my recent discussions (phone/email) with Gore they never used that phrase. With that in mind, what follows are my experiences in regard to Gore's warranty and “Guaranteed to Keep You Dry” promise.
I've recently had both positive and negative Gore-tex warranty claims. Positive when dealing directly with the manufacturer of the garment, but not quite as satisfying when dealing with W. L. Gore Associates, maker of Gore-tex membrane.
In August I returned two Gore-tex garments (parka and pants) manufactured in 1979 to Marmot Mountain Works. That date is not a misprint. Both garments were 30 years-old! Marmot actually notified me of the manufacturing date. I couldn't remember. Marmot actually cited Gore's 'Life-time warranty', and replaced both these pieces with items of comparable value. Two thumbs-up to Marmot.
'Inspired' by Marmot's actions and comments here, I also attempted to file a warranty claim directly with Gore on a 1980's Yak Works Gore-tex cycling jacket, but there were some details of Gore's “Guaranteed to Keep You Dry” promise" that I was unaware of. As most of you know, the devil can be in the small print and that's if you can find said small print.
I was told by Gore Customer Service that the “Guaranteed to Keep You Dry” promise does not apply to garments made before 1990. Why? Gore explained that they had no guarantee in place prior to 1990, hence the claim on my Yak Works cycling jacket was denied.
FWIW, Yak Works is no longer in business, which is why I contacted Gore directly. The jacket in question still looks relatively new, is not damaged, and has been well cared for, per the instructions on the Gore-tex tag. However the jacket no longer retains any waterproof properties. Note: Gore does not dispute the condition of this garment, the fact that it is no longer waterproof or how I have cared for it. At issue was the garment's date of manufacturer (i.e. prior to 1990).
The Gore rep also stated that for Gore-tex garments manufactured from 1990 - Present their guarantee does not cover garments that are 'worn-out' or past their 'useful life'. Damaged, ripped or torn, garments are also not covered by the guarantee, which makes obvious sense. You will not find 'worn-out' or 'useful life' mentioned in Gore's “Guaranteed to Keep You Dry” promise". Furthermore these phrases do not appear in any official Gore's literature or on their warranty page, so I asked Gore Customer Service to please provide documentation that explains these phrases (see below). Based on my understanding the terms being 'worn-out' or 'past useful life' are subject to Gore's interpretation.
My hat is off to Marmot for their customer service. Based on comments made by Gore, Marmot apparently went above and beyond what is required of them.
In Gore's case I can't complain too stridently, but I also could not find the niggling details behind their warranty coverage even with my best efforts.
When I asked the Gore Customer Service rep for written documentation stating their position on pre-verus-post 1990 Gore-tex garments, or explaining the terms 'worn-out' and 'useful life' the discussion became a bit more lively. I actually had to requested the written details of Gore's official guarantee policy three times. One would expect they had this information on hand, if for nothing more than guidance.
The rep's response to my initial inquiry was: "I just explained that" (i.e. our policy).
I replied: "Well what you have told me is not documented in any of Gore's literature nor on your website. I would like to see it in writing."
Rep repeated: "I just told you our policy, why do you need it in writing?"
My reply:: "I believe I just answered your question. I also I frequent several on-line boards that discuss gear and clothing. Gore's 'Life-time' warranty has been repeatedly cited as a benefit of the fabric, but I believe participants will be interested in some of the specifics of Gore's warranty."
There was a very long pregnant pause, and then the rep replied curtly: "We will get that out to you."
About 5 minutes later I received this via email from the same Gore rep: "I pulled your email to front and center and have forwarded it to our Team for review."
Huh? I had to ask for clarification, because my requests for written information in regard to Gore's guarantee had been to him over the phone, not via email, so I wasn't quite
sure what he was forwarding to the Team for review.
Rep's response: "Yes, You will receive a response tomorrow" (i.e. 11/10/09).
Well yesterday (11/10/09) came and went without the promised information from W.L. Gore Associates. I will not bother to ask for this information a fourth time. Perhaps someone else can dig it up?
- Editorial on:
I am a 30+ year user of Gore-tex fabric in several dozen items including clothing, sleeping bags and tents. Obviously I have used some of the first Gore-tex fabrics brought to market.
By and large I have been pleased with the performance of items made from Gore-tex, but as stated above nothing lasts forever or a "Life-time" for that matter. Warranties/guarantees are only as good as those who stand behind them and in this case specifics documenting the warranty/guarantee were not easily obtained.
As others have pointed out items made from Gore-tex are not inexpensive and I believe it can be assumed that the price of Gore-tex is reflected in their warranty coverage. Is the extra cost worth it? I guess it depends on your usage, actual performance of the garment, and what one might expect out of the warranty. It is the only material I would currently use in a drysuit, but then I have seen how well Kokatat backs it's products. Potential buyers should be aware that Gore-tex is not a miracle fabric or is it 'bulletproof'.
I should note that I have one eVent garment, a jacket, but I have not used it long enough to comment on it's durability. I can state that the manufacturer of that jacket, Pearl Izumi is no longer using eVent, so draw your own conclusions.
In closing I am perturbed that W.L Gore Associates is not more forthcoming in regard to the details behind their stated "Guaranteed to Keep You Dry promise", because obviously those details are important.
Of course, ymmv.
- Editorial off
re: Gore-tex "Life-time" Warranty
It has been years since any manufacturer has given unconditional guarantees.Usefull life span is common ow and to be honest i dont blame them.Being a past REI employee i can not recount how many times i have seen people misuse their return policy.If a product is completely worn thru how could they warrenty this?Everything wears out in time.Also product design,materials and production tech change over the years,they are getting better.If an item has a very obvious defect due to manufactureing or materials i have never had a problem returning it.But i would never consider returning a garment that is 30 years old and the original manufacturer was no longer in buisness.To me this just does not conpute.Besides in that 30 years these items have improved vastly,on a whole.ymmv
I have some of Gore's original hang tags and other literature from the 1970s, in other words generations 1 and 2 (there were big differences between the first 3 or 4 generations of gtx). It clearly states "Lifetime Limited Warranty". Hmmm ... what means "Limited"??? The limitations that are stated are mostly "abuse" things, like tears due to branches, burns due to getting it too close to the fire, fairly reasonable limitations.
Barb's first gtx jacket, a lovely canary yellow shell generation 1 gtx, delaminated after 3 or 4 years. It was replaced with no questions asked. That was in the late 1970s.
I also have a few hangtags from later gtx products (we save the hangtags and flyers that come with things because of this very warranty question). It looks like the "lifetime" term disappeared in the early 1990s.
I posted a comment about "customer service" on one of the other threads. It seems to depend mostly on who you talk to at the company or store. Since I generally try to choose very carefully, I have very few problems that would require warranty claims (mostly with computer-related items, and there mostly with software that doesn't do what it is claimed to do). But my success has been very dependent on who I got. On the few occasions I have gotten Mr. Nasty, I have usually gotten success by asking to talk to their supervisor (the term is "escalate"). In the case I mentioned on the other thread, the "customer service" person informed me that the "escalation" was only by mail, with no availability by phone and no supervisor or other higher authority to talk to in person.
Skiman is right about outdoor gear, though. Many of the products have improved greatly over the years. A direct replacement is generally not possible after 3 or 4 years. Marmot's program is an excellent approach to this - they fix things if possible, or allow a substantial trade-in credit toward the nearest equivalent. I replaced my ancient Alpinist 3 parka last year, with the credit being close to the original price (prices have climbed substantially in the past 10 years, if you hadn't noticed, so the replacement still cost a lot). Gore's wpb laminates are much improved, especially over the gen 1 and 2 versions (though they still don't breathe anywhere near as well as eVent).
Bill, I've also read the the early gore tex laminates breathed better than the current versions, although the current versions shed water better and no longer have the delamination problems. What's been your experience with this? I didn't own any gore tex products until the mid 1980's.
My experience has been that the newer ones breathe significantly better than the older ones.
I should have asked the OP about how he cared for the garments. I have found significant differences in the waterproofness between brands (compare my Marmot Alpinist 3 and my North Face Kichatna - the Kichatna does not hold the dwr as well after cleaning and renewing per directions as the Alpinist 3, though both were bought within a couple months of each other and are nominally the same Gore fabric). And I have found that how closely you follow the dwr renewal instructions makes a big difference.
One interesting puzzle is that there was a period of about 5 or 6 years that the recommendation of Gore was to use powdered detergents, while at other times their recommendation was strongly to not use powdered detergents. I have generally used the purpose made cleaning products and dwr renewals, finding McNett and NikWax versions to be about equal in effectiveness and duration. But most important was to clean the parkas (which get the most wear, due mostly to carrying packs) fairly regularly per instructions. I, like many others, do have a tendency to put off the cleaning until the garment seriously wets out. Which usually means doing the cleaning and renewal twice to get it back to the beading up state while standing in the shower to test it. Renewing the dwr does include the warm drier or iron treatment to be fully effective, I have found.
And yes, the newer Gore does seem better at resisting delamination.
The care tag on my Yak Works jacket says use powdered detergent and tumble dry medium. I have a front loading machine and washed the jacket as indicated. I usually line dried the jacket, but I did try tumble drying to revive the waterproofness. It didn't make a difference. I also have tried Revive-X, but again to no avail. The Gore rep told me the my jacket will never retain it's waterproof properties. Apparently because it is a gen 1 product?
As I indicated above Gore never questioned my care of the garment. That was not an issue, but its pre-1990 manufacturing date was, which I thought was interesting.
The rep tried to suggest that the seam tape on my jacket was a contributing factor, but the tape is intact. Ironically the seam tape on both my Marmot garments did fall apart.
(Warning - another long append)
I received a personal phone call on 11/12/09 from W.L Gore Associates. It was the head of Gore's Consumer Outreach/Warranty Resolution for North America.
Our phone conversation was a long one, well over an hour, so I will try to net our discussion down as best I can.
An overview of the topics covered in the phone call:
- The history of W.L Gore Associates and Gore-tex itself (Gore makes many products, but only garments carry the Gore-tex brand).
- The history of the Gore-tex warranty and guarantee.
- The term "Life-time" when applied to a warranty.
- Clothing manufacturer's versus Gore's warranty.
- One of Gore's main concerns when it comes to customer satisfaction with Gore-tex.
- My personal experiences and expectations when I called into Gore Customer Service.
- Details of the Gore-tex Waterproof guarantee or warranty, and supporting documentation.
Now for the details.
- History of Gore-tex:
Why did the rep go into the history of Gore-tex? Because without it as a context one would not understand how they developed their warranty/guarantee.
- Warranty History:
Gore did not institute a warranty or waterproof guarantee on Gore-tex until late 1989. Why? When they brought Gore-tex to market in 1976 they had a product that worked (waterproof and breathable), but they still had not solved all the technical issues with making a fabric/laminate system that would last. These issues included: bonding the Gore-tex laminate to the fabric without delamination or failure; seam sealing; the durability of seam tape; and lastly, obtaining DOUs from their customers to manufacture Gore-tex garments to specific standards. Standards that would meet or exceed customer expectations for the fabric. Bottom line: Gore will not sell their product to a customer who will not agree to Gore's manufacturing standards and yes, they have lost some customers (garment manufacturers) over the years. The Waterproof guarantee went into effect in late 1989 is still enforce at Gore over 20 years later. The rep confirmed that Gore-tex garments make prior to 1990 (fall of 1989 to be exact) are not covered by Gore's guarantee.
- "Life-time" term:
Gore does not use the term "Life-time in regard to their warranty. The rep told me that initially he had believed that Gore had never used "Life-time". However, he did note a response to my posting on another board. One poster above indicated that they were in possession of several old Gore-tex garment hang tags marked with "Lifetime Limited Warranty". The rep said that he would like to spent some time researching the previous usage of "Life-time" in the Gore warranty even if only to improve his understanding of the warranty's history.
As some have suggested above, the rep indicated that "Life-time" is a very hard phrase to define and then wrap a guarantee around. Are you talking the life-time of the individual who made the purchase; the garment; or the fabric itself? The rep and I agreed that my case is just a bit outside of the bell curve. He had never seen usage like mine. For those who are interested, the rep never tried to suggest or define how many years anyone should expect a Gore-tex garment to last. More about usage under 'One of Gore's concerns' below.
- Clothing manufacturer's versus Gore's warranty:
The rep emphasized that there can be important differences between the manufacturer's warranty and Gore's Waterproof guarantee. As already mentioned Gore's guarantee has been in effect for over two decades. Gore is well aware of Marmot's "Life-time" warranty. Gore and Marmot have had a close business relationship over the years. Marmot was one of Gore's first two commercial customers back in 1976. Gore's waterproof guarantee usually works very well for the end user and they receive far more accolades from customers than complaints.
- One of Gore's main concerns when it comes to customer satisfaction with Gore-tex:
Maybe I should title this 'The Main Concern'? The rep did not use that phraseology, but he only singled out one customer service issue when it came to their warranty.
It is not the longevity of a Gore-tex garment or life expectancy. The rep used the formal term "Fitness for Use".
The place where Gore Customer Service sees problems and the potential for problems are at the point-of-sale. Did the retailer sell the right Gore-tex product to the customer?
I believe he used the well known phrase, "You don't take a knife to a gun fight".
Example One: one poster here cited a $100 Cabela's jacket. Gore is aware of that product. It is a nice garment and is great for around town use. It IS NOT intended for alpine ascents or peak bagging in the Adirondacks. It simply will not hold up, however Gore customer service must field calls when a customer complains that their Gore-tex jacket 'fell apart'. The rep said that customers can often be attracted to the Gore-tex brand, but purchase a garment based on style, color and cost, but regrettably not intended use.
Example Two: All Gore-tex drysuit owners can appreciate this one, particular if your suit has those highly desirable Gore-tex socks. One does not go running around the rocky shores of Maine or the approach to the launch site in just your drysuit socks. You need to wear protective over-boots. Yeah, that would seem to be common sense, but I have seen people do it. Then they wonder why their $900+ dry suit leaks.
This matter is important enough to Gore that it has put together a training program to educate their retailers on "Fitness for Use".
In summary the majority of Gore-tex customers are happy with their garments. If Gore sees problems they usually involve "Fitness for Use".
- My Experiences and Expectations:
I have already documented the details of the experience I had in my initial contact with Gore, and the expectation that they would "do something positive" after my Marmot experience.
The head of Gore's Consumer Outreach/Warranty Resolution addressed my concerns as follows:
1) He accepted full responsibility in regard to my customer service experiences. He never made the discussion about me. It was about "How can we at Gore do better?".
2) He apologized for the delay in contacting me.
3) He apologized that my initial call to Gore Customer Service ever went any further that it has. "We should have handled your concerns then. It is my responsibility to make sure our people do that".
4) He agreed that current Gore documentation and their website does not adequately explain the details/limits of their guarantee to the end user or retailer. He will endeavor to correct that.
5) He clearly told me that I was under no obligation to post our discussion here. This gentlemen took more than an hour of his time to spend with me, so at the very least I can do is document the resolution here.
6) The rep generously offered me a replacement Gore-tex cycling jacket of my choice even though it is clearly outside the scope of their normal guarantee (made prior to 1990).
- Details of the Gore-tex Waterproof guarantee or warranty.
See the following post.
(Text copied from the email I received from Gore with their permission)
Thank you for taking the time to chat with me this afternoon. Now that we have an accurate understanding of one another's positions on this issue (shewww), let's go to work and deal with the issue appropriately.
As promised, Here is a copy of the text contained in our Guaranteed To Keep You Dry® Promise, as you have pointed out, there is no mention of the date in which this pledge was implemented on either our site or the product literature, hopefully you will find the GORE-TEX® Fabric Innovation Timeline, also attached, a useful tool in "squaring" this issue away. As Discussed, 1976-1985 basically no warranty expressed or implied, 1985-1989 3 yr. Waterproof, 1990-Present below........
Our Guaranteed To Keep You Dry® Promise
If you are not completely satisfied with the waterproofness, windproofness, or breathability of our GORE-TEX® product then we will repair it, replace it, or refund your purchase price.
As long as your GORE-TEX® product is not at the end of its useful life then it will be considered to be “under warranty”. Useful life means that the garment is not completely worn out or damaged / in need of repair.
*Please note that our current warranty only applies to GORE-TEX® Garments and Footwear manufactured during and after 1990. This was when our Guaranteed To Keep You Dry® promise was conceived and implemented. Products manufactured before this time had limited warranties due to the technologies available.
Consumer Outreach/Warranty Resolution
Link to Gore-tex time line:
My opinion: Kudos to "the team," because that could have gone a completely different way...
And thanks, tvcrider, for following up on that; your first post left a very bad taste in my mouth regarding Gore; it's good to see they clarified the issue.
My most recent experience with the gore-tex, "guaranteed to keep you dry" is with boots, Cabela's and Wolverine. Not sure exactly how long the gore-tex guarantee lasts, 30 days or 30 min whichever comes first! I simply can't seem to own a pair of gore-tex boots that will remain waterproof over a couple years and most well less than that. Cabela's has been super good about replacements but it's a pain returning leaky stuff and most embarassing. What I was told by Cabela's and Wolverine is that gore-tex is guaranteed for 1 year. I couldn't figure out why a boot would leak but not be anywhere near worn out. Well, as it was explained to me, the gore-tex bootie has taped seams and walking in the boot breaks down these taped seams. And that is why an unworn out gore-tex boot would leak. So, the delima is I guess if I don't walk in them the taped seam won't wear out and thus won't leak, however, that's why I bought the boots in the first place, to wear and keep my feet dry. Not being on Cabela's pro staff and receiving free gear every trip out I have to buy my equip. I don't mind, too much, paying more than I think something is worth as long as it lasts for awhile. I simply can't afford to buy a new pair of boots every year. Yes, I do wear them quite a bit but don't even come close to wearing them out. So, the gore-tex may be good but gore-tex doesn't make the product, their product is simply used in alot of finished products. Not sure how gore would warranty a product they don't make. They could always blame faulty workmanship on whatever finished product their product was used in. Hope the rest of you have better lulck with your "guaranteed to keep you dry" boots than I do.
One other thing about Goretex for boots - gtx really does not breathe all that well, especially inside boots. So if your feet get warm and sweat, you will end up with soaking wet socks, although the water did not come through from the outside. Since I do a lot of cold weather travel (as in my avatar image, where I am in Antarctica), I wear plastic double expedition boots. The plastic, as you can imagine, does not breathe at all, so you depend on the wicking capability of the socks. I have warm feet and hands, compared to most people, so I often have socks that I can wring out lots of water at the end of the day. My solution in such conditions is to put on a first layer of wicking socks, a VBL sock, then the thicker wool insulating sock, which goes inside the boot-liner, which goes into the plastic shell. It is easier to change the liner socks, and you still have the dry outer insulation.
Whether your Goretex boots keep your feet dry depends on your personal physiology as much as having the gtx liner (and proper care of the boots). If your feet do not sweat very much, or you have cold feet) your feet will remain fairly dry. For me, they do not work well at all.
Marmot has replaced delaminated gortex for me - no problemo, but my favorite winter coat by Marmot cannot be replaced for love or money because nothing even similar is made now. It has small measles but since its a deep winter coat it don't worry about water being trapped or anything.
I am always amazed that my very finest gear is always obsoleted shortly after I get it. Its like they accidentaly make something too good and have to quickly take it off the market lest it interfere with future sales. Like a car that gets 60mpg and has a million mile warranty, better buy two cause they won't be made for long.
kudos to tvcrider for posting his original experience and also for posting the on-going conversatons with w.l. gore. too often like this end up as a "bitch-fest" and the happy conclusion is never posted. personally i am glad that you took the time to post that as well.
and also kudos to w.l. gore for realizing how many of us read these boards and offering you a complete resolution to the issue. nice to see that they took the time to give you a complete explanation
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