How Waterproof is a Waterproof Jacket?
A waterproof jacket is an essential piece of gear for anyone who enjoys outdoor adventures. Whether you're hiking through the countryside or climbing up a mountain, these rain jackets will keep you protected from the elements.
But have you ever wondered just how waterproof these jackets really are? Is "waterproof" just a marketing term, or do these jackets truly live up to their claims?
In this blog post, we will explore the concept of waterproofness in jackets and reveal what you need to know before investing in one. Whether you're a hiker, farmer, or simply someone who likes to be prepared for any weather, understanding the true waterproofness of a jacket is crucial.
So, let's dive in and find out just how well these jackets can protect you from the rain.
What Exactly is a Waterproof Jacket?
At its core, a waterproof jacket is a piece of clothing designed to keep you dry in wet conditions.
It is made from a variety of materials, including waterproof and water-resistant fabrics, with the aim of preventing water from penetrating to your skin. These jackets come in different types, with varying levels of protection and breathability, depending on the intended activity and weather conditions.
Whether you're looking for a lightweight waterproof jacket, a hiking or everyday jacket, a trusted jacket is an essential part of your outdoor adventure gear.
With the right type of jacket, you can enjoy complete rain protection and freedom of movement, no matter what weather conditions you encounter.
What are Key Features of a Waterproof Jacket?
With so many waterproof options on the market, it can be hard to decide what you're looking for in the jacket.
Typically, you'd expect to see the following features within a decent quality jacket that's going to keep you dry in the rain:
- Waterproof Membrane - of course, this is the biggie as the coat needs to have this in order to offer that protection across your body. Put simply, the waterproof membrane is a material that is designed to prevent water from passing through it
- Adjustable hood - protects head and face from rain and wind, and can be tightened or loosened to fit the head comfortably and provide complete weather protection
- Taped Seams - by sealing the stitch holes with waterproof tape, you ensure that the water does not seep through the jacket's seam
- Waterproof Zippers - these add to the complete protection of the jacket, as they are specifically designed to prevent water from seeping through the teeth of the zip. You'll often also see them on tents!
- Adjustable Cuffs & Hems - by allowing the jacket to be adjusted around the cuffs and hems, you can essentially tuck in the jacket to your body; helping to stop the rain from getting in
- Breathability - being waterproof doesn't necessarily equal being breathable, so this is often an "added" feature, but it's an important one as it allows moisture vapour to escape so avoids that clammy feeling you can get inside the jacket
- Choice of Fabric - there are various fabric options available, each with its own unique characteristics and functions. A couple of the main ones are Gore-Tex, which uses a waterproof membrane that prevents water from penetrating the jacket while allowing sweat and moisture to escape, and 2-layer fabrics, where the outer fabric is combined with a waterproof coating or membrane.
The Difference Between Waterproof and Water-Resistant Jackets
One of the top questions asked is what's the difference between something being waterproof and something being water-resistant?
The answer lies within the key features we've talked about above. It's all about the level of protection that each garment is able to offer, through the features they incorporate.
A waterproof jacket uses advanced technology, such as taping and waterproof membranes, to prevent liquid water from passing through the fabric. The materials offer complete weather protection against even heavy rainfall and water pressure.
On the other hand, water-resistant jackets can repel water to a certain extent, but they might not provide complete protection in wet conditions.
Which one you need depends on how much protection you'd like it to offer.
Why Do Waterproof Jackets Have Different Waterproof Ratings?
Several factors affect the waterproof rating of a jacket, including the type of waterproof fabric membrane, breathability rating, and outer layers. Gore-Tex is a popular waterproof fabric that is known for its durability and breathability. Additionally, jacket waterproof coatings and durable water repellent can help to repel water droplets before they penetrate the fabric.
Different outdoor activities require varying levels of protection from the elements. Jackets designed for hiking, for example, have a higher level of water protection than everyday jackets used for nipping into town. Adjustable hoods, storm flaps, and packable features can enhance a jacket’s waterproofness and complete weather protection.
Understanding waterproof ratings is crucial when choosing a jacket to ensure that it offers the necessary level of protection required for any given outdoor activity.
How is Waterproofness Measured?
Waterproof jackets have varying waterproof ratings.
These ratings indicate the level of water resistance and the conditions the jackets can handle.
Hydrostatic Head Test
Waterproofness of a jacket can be measured by conducting a hydrostatic head test.
This test involves placing a sample of the jacket fabric under a cylindrical tube filled with water. As water pressure is applied to the fabric, the point at which water starts to penetrate through the fabric is measured in millimetres of water.
The measurement at which this point occurs is the hydrostatic head rating of the fabric, which indicates the level of water pressure the fabric can withstand before leaking.
Fabrics with a higher Hydrostatic Head rating offer better water resistance than those with a lower rating. It's important to note that the fabric must have a minimum rating of 1,500mm to be considered waterproof.
The waterproof rating is determined by a water column test described above. This test measures the amount of water pressure the fabric can handle before it leaks.
The rating is expressed in millimeters (mm) and represents the height of a column of water that the fabric can withstand. For example, a jacket with a 10,000mm rating can handle a column of water 10 meters tall before it starts to leak. The higher the rating, the more waterproof the jacket is considered.
The fabric's water resistance can be categorised into different levels:
- 0-5,000mm: provides basic protection against light rain or drizzle but not for prolonged wet conditions
- 5,000-10,000mm: can handle light to moderate rain for a reasonable duration but may not withstand heavy or prolonged downpours
- 10,000-15,000mm: offers reliable protection against moderate to heavy rain and is suitable for most outdoor activities
- 15,000-20,000mm: has very good water resistance, making it suitable for more demanding conditions
- 20,000mm and above: provides excellent water resistance, even in extreme weather conditions.
However, the level of waterproofness of a jacket can also be affected by external factors such as heavy rain, wind, and humidity. High external pressure can cause water to seep through the jacket at certain pressure points, compromising its level of protection. Additionally, it can also affect the breathability of the jacket, causing the accumulation of sweat and body heat inside the jacket.
Can A Garment Really Be 100% Waterproof?
When it comes to garments, particularly jackets, the term "waterproof" is frequently used. But can a garment genuinely be 100% waterproof?
Several factors influence the waterproofness of a garment, as we've discussed in the key features. The type of fabric used and its coating technology plays a critical role in this aspect. A waterproof membrane or coating is used on some fabrics to prevent water from penetrating the fabric. Seam taping, which uses waterproof tape to seal the seams, and waterproof zippers also contribute to a jacket's waterproofing capability.
However, there are limitations to how much water a garment can resist. The amount and intensity of rainfall, prolonged exposure to moisture, and the pressure where moisture comes into contact with the jacket can all affect a jacket's waterproofness. In these situations, even the most waterproof jacket may not be able to provide adequate protection.
So, whilst the technical answer to the question is no, it's important to consider that, when advertising something as 100% waterproof, it's basically saying that the jacket has everything it possibly could have to get it as close to fully and completely waterproof. It's done everything it's able to - the rest is up to Mother Nature!
Tips to Finding Your Perfect Waterproof Jacket
When looking for the perfect jacket, there are certain considerations to take into account.
- Purpose - what activities will it be used for? Active or casual? Prolonged time spent outdoors? For everyday wear, a lightweight waterproof jacket may be sufficient. For farmers, hikers, adventurers, you might need something a bit more sturdy. Determining this will help you take the next step
- Waterproofness - check the waterproof rating of the garment and make sure it can withstand water pressure that it will likely be exposed to
- Breathability - is the jacket made with breathable fabric? This is particularly necessary if you are going to be active wearing it, or you live in a more naturally warmer climate
- Adjustability - does the jacket have adjustable hoods, cuffs, and hems to help keep the rain out when you're on your outdoor adventures?
- Cost - like with most things, the higher the specifications, the higher the cost. It's important to consider your budget and which features are vital for you, and which are additional
- Brand Reputation - look for a jacket from a brand that has a good standing within the outdoor clothing industry, or is known for its specialist jackets
- Additional Garments - what will you wear the jacket with? Do you need a fleece gilet to pop underneath for extra warmth? A pair of overtrousers to keep your legs dry? Do you have waterproof boots and accessories? Think about the full outfit, and how the jacket will complement this.
Hollands has a fantastic range of mens waterproof jackets and womens waterproof jackets, ranging from lightweight to heavy duty, suitable for a range of different activities. We also have waterproof trousers, waterproof boots, waterproof gloves and more!
If you need any assistance or guidance, our customer services team is on hand to help, so please don't hesitate to send us an email or give us a call.
Understanding waterproof ratings is crucial when choosing your jacket. The rating system helps you to make an informed decision about the level of protection you can expect from your jacket. Remember that the higher the rating, the more waterproof and resistant the jacket will be to water penetration.
While it's important to consider the waterproofness, it's equally essential to factor in other features like breathability, durability, and comfort. These elements will enhance your overall outdoor experience and ensure that you stay dry and comfortable even in challenging weather conditions.
Lastly, always follow the manufacturer's care instructions to maintain the jacket's waterproof capabilities for a longer period. Regularly reapplying DWR coating and proper washing and drying techniques will help prolong the jacket's effectiveness and extend its lifespan.
Ultimately, investing in a high-quality waterproof jacket will not only keep you dry during your outdoor adventures but also provide you with the confidence and peace of mind to embrace any weather conditions that come your way.
So, choose wisely, prioritise your needs, and enjoy the great outdoors without the worry of getting wet!