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As stupid as this sounds, if I was to wear Gore-Tex trousers and boots and then place Gore-Tex gaiters over the boots/trousers bridging them together, could I wade into water up to my waist?

What defines 'waterproof' is being able to submerge an apparel into water and on the inside it being dry. Trousers, boots and gaiters all made of Gore-Tex which are labelled as being waterproof should in theory block out all water from the feet to waist if they are interlocked with one another?

If water did drop down under the gaiter, because the cuff of the trouser sits over the boot, the water should roll past over the boot? However, even though gaiters are tightly wrapped around the lace of boots, they aren't 100% completely sealed off. My question is, would water travel underneath the bottom of the gaiters?

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    Sometimes an extra rubber band or two on top of the trousers seals it well enough to the boot. But it will vary, if the trouser leg is too large you get too many wrinkles ruining the seal.
    – jpa
    Jan 27 at 9:08
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    It’s hard enough to completely keep snow out from under gaiters and trousers. Forget about standing in water.
    – Michael
    Jan 27 at 9:38
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    Gore-Tex may be marketed as 100% waterproof, but it absolutely isn't. I have owned several Gore-Tex rain jackets during my life, and after a few hours in heavy rain all of them gave in eventually (not talking about leakage through cuffs/zippers etc, but actual water seeping through the fabric).
    – MaxD
    Jan 27 at 10:39
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    @MaxD when new, my GoreTex drysuit was certainly 100% waterproof for immersion (sadly no longer). Don't forget that even in new breathable stuff, a layer of water on the outside (or much worse, sticky snow) affects breathability. In the worst case you end up with something that might as well not have been made from breathable fabric.
    – Chris H
    Jan 27 at 11:07
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    Nothing beyond one-piece fishing pants will keep you dry after more than a second or so. Can't have seams. Can't be multi-part. Probably can't be "functional fabric" (to avoid the brand name) at all. Also you won't be able to move much, and the water must be fairly still for anything above crotch deep: No waves, no current. Jan 27 at 15:01

2 Answers 2

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Your issue isn't the material (Gore-Tex is fully waterproof for the pressure of standing in water) but rather the interlocking mechanism between your articles of clothing. There are a few ways of interlocking material to be waterproof:

  1. special zippers - you'll see zippers in dry bags, coolers, and, most importantly, dry suits. This is the most expensive but most waterproof connection type. I use this type for my drysuit and my small drybag that holds sensitive items.
  2. rolled connections - you see examples of rolled connections in drybags all the time, but also in mating together some articles of waterproof clothing (such as with bibs). It is cheaper than zippers and fairly waterproof if rolled correctly. I use this for all my other drybags.
  3. surface connections - you'll see pants and tops that are designed to overlap with neoprene waist bands and "double tunnels". This creates a lock and key type connection between the two materials. It relies on the friction of the two waist band materials to be waterproof. In my experience it is splash proof but not submersion proof. I sold my pants that used this type of connection because I deemed them unsafe for my whitewater use cases and bought a zipper based drysuit.

Unless you have an actual connection between your articles you will get wet at the connections between your layers. What will happen is your boots and pants will slowly fill with water until you are submerged to water level. How quickly this will happen will depend on how tight the gaiters are, but I imagine it will be on the order of a few minutes at best.

If you need to stand in water up to your waist look into waders (often sold for fishing) or a drysuit (often sold for more "active" sports such as whitewater and diving) with integrated feet.

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    Dry separates (like a 2-piece drysuit, used in kayaking) have a third form of seal, comparable to a rolled seal. It's made from overlapping layers of suitable material with a suitable surface. It can handle brief immersion but usually lets some water during a prolonged swim. So do rolled seals that aren't stiff enough to prevent channels forming when the seal is flexed. Ankle seal drysuits are also a possibility in some cases if paired with river shoes - you'll get wet feet but it won;t matter.
    – Chris H
    Jan 27 at 11:11
  • Kinda ironic that I forgot to mention dry separates considering I used to use it for kayaking. I guess I just don't consider them all that dry haha. All it took was one bad swim where the pants filled for me to get rid of them.
    – noah
    Jan 27 at 17:45
  • they might work pretty well for the OP. Some combinations of design, fit, and user/use work better than others but on balance I'm glad I went for the one-piece suit after seriously considering separates. The white-water safety and rescue course alone would have been enough to be worth getting a drysuit
    – Chris H
    Jan 27 at 17:48
  • I'm used to seeing pictures of this problem being solved by an outer garment known as waders.
    – Joshua
    Jan 29 at 4:46
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No. Classically, there are two ways to clothe yourself for partially submersed activities in water: wetsuits or drysuits.

A wetsuit is a tight neoprene layer, usually full-body, used by divers, kayakers, surfers and such, which is designed to be worn right on your skin. It allows water into its pores, but does not allow any circulation of water between the neoprene and your skin. That means, once it is wet, the water that is in close contact with your skin (within the neoprene) stays there. Your body heats the water up, you end up with an equilibrium, and from that time onward it just does not matter whether you're wet or not.

A drysuit is something intended to keep the inside dry. It can be breathable or not depending on usage - for example, a one-piece drysuit used by fishermen is probably not breathable in the pants area since that would just make no sense as long as it's submersed.

For kayakers and similar (where overheating definitely can be a problem) there do exist drysuits (commonly worn over a wetsuit as additional layer, mostly in the upper body, not so much in the legs) which do in fact breathe, but at that point one can argue about whether to call them "dry"suit at all since due to the additional wetsuit underlayer it does not matter whether they are really dry, which they are not. They are nice insofar as they give a bit more flexibility; in hot weather one can peel down the wetsuit and just wear the drysuit - one won't be perfectly dry and might be literally drenched in a second during a roll, but that may not an issue when it's warm enough. And in the very cold, it's just an additional layer of warmth. They have special gaskets at the hands and neck, i.e. very tight rubber which, if sized properly, is quite effective. For kayakers in special, they rely on the skirt of the kayak having a similar gasket in the waist area - i.e., the jackets themselves (at least those I had) had no particularly special mechanism at the waist.

Normal functional trekking/hiking gear is completely open to water at the edges. Water will flow in at the top, and also at the bottom edges (due to how pressure works). You can do what you want to close it up, it won't ever be dry enough to be of any use when submersed. Even good drybags, where the lip is rolled over itself, can let water in when the user is too sloppy about it, and you just cannot construct any rolling system which topologically allows to interface two items with a human body part inside, there will always be a wrinkle somewhere that eventually will allow water in.

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    I don't know where you're based, but in the UK (and paddling in the French Alps when I'm lucky) I've never heard of anyone wearing a drysuit over a wetsuit. I, and those friends I've observed/talked to, typically wear quick-drying, wicking hiking-type gear underneath, which may include thermals and/or fleece. My wetsuit is an alternative to my drysuit.
    – Chris H
    Jan 27 at 17:43
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    You also seem to muddle dry-cags - neck and wrist seals, relying on a spraydeck ("skirt") at the waist, clothing below the waist unspecified with drysuits - coverage down to ankle seals or latex/neoprene socks. I have both, though my cag would need new seals if I was going to rely on it again
    – Chris H
    Jan 27 at 17:46
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    That's not how wetsuits work. They contain lots of closed cells -- air bubbles -- that act as good insulation (and buoyancy) for your body when in the water. They do work better, as you suggest, when tight against the skin because that minimizes the convective heat loss from water directly against the skin.
    – Martin F
    Jan 27 at 18:22
  • @MartinF They don't work at all if not tight.
    – Nobody
    Jan 28 at 14:11
  • @Nobody having swum in a slightly loose wetsuit (and even worse a really ill-fitting one) I agree completely, with the slight exception that under a dry-cag you can get away with a little slack that you couldn't otherwise.
    – Chris H
    Feb 3 at 19:11

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