What Waterproof Guide
So you’ll have noticed by now it’s the season of showers and recently i'ts been raining pretty damn hard out there. You still need to get things done so it’s time for a waterproof jacket, but which one?
It can be a mine field out there of fabrics, features and technology. Back in the day it was straight forward, there was either waxed cotton, or this new fangled Peter Storm jackets using a revolutionary new breathable nylon fabric, backed with a PU coating. At the time it was cutting edge stuff that by todays standards was in fact about as breathable as a carrier bag and was only waterproof in showers and light rain for about as long as you could say ‘cagoule’.
Luckily with the development of fabrics like Gore-Tex, eVent and now Pertex Shield, things have moved along over the past 40 years with fully waterproof membranes that actually keep you dry inside and out.
Like anything in the outdoors you get what you pay for and there is something for every activity and wallet but fear not, there is hope for the budget conscious.
With staple brands like Regatta upping their game with their Isotex fabrics and with the techy outdoor brands like Rab producing a fully featured jacket for £100 you don’t have to spend out for a full on Gore-Tex Pro shell if you don’t need one.
Of course if your venturing into the mountains then you need something that will stand up to horizontal rain hitting you at 40mph, rocks and rucksacks rubbing on them but if it’s a daily dog walk, occasional hill walk then something a little less techy will do just fine.
So what features do you have to look for on a jacket, well, taped seems are a minimum, the fabric might be waterproof 💧 but if the seems are not taped it will leak 💦 through the needle holes.
What do those numbers and HH or WP and MVTR mean?
HH or HydroStatic Head is the measurement of a coloum of water measured in Millimetres that the fabric will hold before it pushes the water through the fabric, ie 3000HH = 3000mm (3m’s) of water the higher the number the more waterproof it is or will take.
With the membrane of Gore-Tex’s Pro Fabric being on average 28000HH (28m’s - thats an olympic swimming pool length) thus it is far more able to take wind whipped driving Welsh rain on Snowdon hitting you full pelt to keep you dry than a lightweight 5000HH jacket using a coating.
MVTR or Moisture Vapour Transmission Rate is basicly the amount of water vapour, or perspiration, that your jacket will wick out of the jacket before it can’t cope and you get condensation and that cold clammy damp feeling inside. This is measured in cubic metres per day that will transfer through the fabric, again higher the number the more breathable it is. Gore Active Shell, Pertex and eVent being some of the most breathable fabrics on the market being used in the outdoors.
Is it a coating or a membrane?
Coatings are a backing that is coated during manufacturing on to the nylon face fabric and generally are found on the cheaper end of the market products, like Regattas Isotex 3000 or North Face’s Hy-vent using Poly Urethane.
Then there are membranes, these are a separate sheet of ePTFE (expanded Polytetrafluoroethylene for you geeks out there) which is laminated between the nylon face fabric and a protective wicking scrim on the inside, as a rule these are more durable, breathable, more waterproof and hence work far better when your out being active in the outdoors.
These tend to come in either 2.5 (face fabric + membrane + carbon layer or lamintaed mesh scrim) or 3 layer (face fabric + membrane + full scrim layer). Although the new 2 layer Gore-Tex Shake dry fabric is pretty awesome with the ePTFE membrane on the outside acting as the waterproof layer, uber lightweight and breathable.
Look also at the extras, taping using plastic tape is not as durable or as breathable as tape using Gore-Tex or Pertex.
Does the hood have a stiffened peak which actually keeps your face and forehead covered?
Are the zips waterproof or weather proof and do the pockets have a little garage covering the top of the zip when closed to keep the rain out the top of the zip?
Does it have ‘pit’ or under arm zips for extra ventilation on humid days?
Are the cuffs shaped for comfort and can they be cinched up to keep the weather out?
Are the toggles hidden to save you being whipped in the face on windy peaks?
Are the seems reinforced and how many pockets has it got? As a rule more techy jackets will have higher set pockets so you cans till use a rucksack hip belt and put your hands somewhere dry and warm. Map pockets on the chest being waterproof lined and able to fit only mobile phone, GPS device or does it have one that will take your favourite OS map?
All these little features help make you user experience more enjoyable.
We are starting to see the budget jackets using these features at a sub £100 price range such as the Rab DownPour and Kilpi Hurricane jackets and for a few quid more the Montane Atomic Jackets.
So there you go, we hope that has helped with some knowledge on what to look for when the weather turns worse and you need a new waterproof. Of course we are always here to help so feel free to drop us a line.
Here’s a quick idea on some of our range.
£11 Regatta Storm Break - Pu coated non breathable, elastic cuffs. A basic jacket ideal for kids or for use in non active situations. Basic cagoule
£22 Regatta Pack It - Pu coating Isolite 5000HH Light weight, ideal for keeping as emergency pack away jacket, summer use in light rain, windproof, everyday light use.
£60 Regatta Womens Corrine IV - Pu coated Isolite 5000HH / 5000 mvtr, mesh lined, concealed hood, ideal for those dog walks, spring to autumn day hikes and for lightweight trips.
£100 Rab Downpour - Pertex Shield 2.5 layer fabric, 20000HH, pit zips, stiffened hood, adjustable cuffs, storm flaps and hidden pull cords. Lightweight, super breathable and great for everyday use on and off the hills.
£125 Montane Atomic Jacket - Pertex Sheild 2.5 layer dry touch, longer tail, adjustable cuffs, hidden pull cords, reflective features, stowable hood, internal raingutter. Everyday 3 season use for outdoor activities.
£170 Mammut Keiko HS Jacket Womens - 20000HH dry touch 2.5 layer jacket, pit zips, peaked hood, slightly longer arms, adjustable cuffs, medium weight for 3 season outdoor activity use such as walking and climbing.
£280 Montane Ajax Gore Performance shell approx 28000HH 20000MVTR, durable year round mountian use, hill walking, daily dog walking in foul weather. Articulated arms, 3 layer laminate, mountian ready hood, gore tex taped seems, laminated hem, elevated hand warmer pockets, map pocket, extra durable shoulder, inner arm and hip areas. Hard wearing, shell jacket.
£400 (£340 on sale) Haglofs Spitz jacket Gore-Tex Pro 3 layer fabric, helmet / mountian ready hood, articulated arms with ergonomic shaped adjustable cuffs, laminated Gore Pro tape seams, body mapped cut to fabric for improved fit, weatherproof zips, zip garages, weatherpoof pit zips, A Line waterproof elevated pockets, ski pass bicep pocket for winter sport / ski mountaineering, an epic jacket for all year round, a hard wearing mountain shell for any weather and the harshest of conditions!