How To Choose A Good Waterproof Jacket

Are there any things more painful than wearing wet clothes? Growing up in Cornwall, the UK, which has an average of about 156 wet days per year, and a propensity to give you the four seasons all in the same day, I’ve completed my fair share of dog walks in the rain or thru-hikes as well as bike rides. If I kept indoors every time the weather turned awful, then I’d never go out and that’s why an appropriate waterproof jacket has become one of my staples.

Not all waterproof jackets are created equally, and while an open-front poncho may be perfect for a rainy day but it’s not going to help in a mountain storm. Here’s what you need to take into consideration.

What is the difference between water-repellent and waterproof?

If you’re looking for proper defense against the elements, purchase outerwear that is waterproof and not just water-resistant. Water-resistant clothing will provide some protection against showers of light, but allows water in quickly.

A waterproof jacket is able to stand against more extreme environments, but if don’t purchase one that’s ventilated, you’ll see moisture build-up on the inside of the coat instead. While exercising vigorously, the jacket will be soaking and uncomfortable. A coat that has a waterproof membrane is a great method to ensure that the coat is breathable and allows moisture to go away. You’ve probably heard of Gore-Tex one of the most renowned waterproof membranes available. It is made up of tiny pores that are small enough to stop drops of rain from getting inside your jacket, but big enough to allow sweat to wick out. Gore-Tex isn’t the only waterproof membrane on the market today and a variety of outdoor brands are now making their own version.

If your jacket’s not as water-resistant as it was in the past, however, the good thing is that you don’t necessarily have to purchase a new jacket. A durable water-repellent coating (DWR) can be applied on the exterior of a waterproof or water-resistant jacket. If the jacket loses its impermeability, it’s easy to reapply a DWR yourself. To determine whether your jacket requires a DWR replenishment, simply splash the jacket with water, and then check whether the water beads up and is able to slide off. If it does, then you’re in good shape. If it’s causing areas of wet, dark fabric instead, it’s time to buy a DWR replenishment product, and recoat your coat.

What can I do to determine the level of protection a waterproof jacket will give me?

There’s a useful scale for this, and most outlets will list the waterproof rating on their jackets. The minimum is 5,000mm of waterproofing required that is considered to be waterproof not just water-resistant, however, this isn’t enough to stand against more than light showers and drizzle. 10,000mm-15,000mm can withstand the majority of rains, while 20,000mm and up is the best for intense deluges and extreme weather, but the jackets tend to be much heavier.

Which one should I go for?

As you’re likely to be wandering around in just an unprotected bikini and an arcteryx alpha sv jacket, buy a jacket that allows you to layer. For hiking in three seasons and mountaineering, a jacket with a waterproof design that allows you to wear a base coat and an under-layer of a down jacket should be sufficient, but for winter mountaineering, it’s best to have something that is roomier, allowing you to layer up.

What other features are useful?

Look for jackets with taped seams. This means that the inside seams have been sealed to stop rain from entering through the small holes. Storm flaps are a great option: flaps with an outer layer that cover zippers on jackets which is another area that’s porous where rain can get in. Personally, for all my outdoor activities, I would prefer an outfit with an open hood. It keeps the rain from your eyes. Jackets that have only a hood that is drawn up let the rain drip down your face.