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Waterproof Jackets: Buying Guide

Waterproof Jackets: Buying Guide

As much as we love the outdoors, there's one big factor we nearly always need to consider.... it's wet. Whether you are hiking up Hadrian's Wall or The Cotswolds Way, your waterproof jacket will be the most important piece of kit you own, so it's worth getting it right.

What Do I Need My Waterproof for?

Waterproofs are designed for particular activities, so you will need to consider what exactly you will need your waterproof for.  

More hardwearing waterproofs, designed for activities such as skiing and mountaineering, look at balancing breathability and durability. The construction of these jackets mean that fabrics used are more rigid and stiff, in order to be able to fight off these conditions and protect their user for their chosen activity.

Some waterproofs are designed for more high intensity activities. Therefore their main purpose is to remain breathable and aid mobility and comfort. Cycling or running waterproof jackets commonly have these features, ensuring that heat is able to escape the jacket.

However, most people are looking for something which lies between these two different types of waterproofs. This is where the majority of waterproof jackets fall, and there are many different styles, colours, prices and fits to be able to choose from depending on which you prefer. 

How Waterproof Can A Jacket Be?

First things first, you will need to know some new terminology. The HH (Hydrostatic Head) is an industry standard for waterproofing jackets, and you are likely to see this in many product descriptions. Here, the rule is the higher this rating is the more waterproof your jacket will be. 

Some more terminology that is worth noting: 

"Water-resistant" - Many jackets usually made from softshell or windproof fabrics are considered to be water-resistant. They are treated with a water repellent and it means the jacket will be able to cope with very light showers without you feeling a thing. 

"Water-proof" - Any jacket labelled as waterproof will have a specific membrane and taped seams. This means (depending on the HH rating) your jacket will be able to withstand a lot more rain.

Now to the numbers... 

1,500mm - This is the most basic level at which a fabric is then considered waterproof at an industry standard. But we would say this is more of a water-resistant and snow proof jacket 

5,000mm - This is really a good waterproof jacket. The jacket will be able to cope well with average to heavy rain, and this is a good staple feature to have in your jacket.

10,000mm - Highly waterproof, your jacket will be able to withstand heavy rain and keep you dry throughout extended periods of time. The Orkan Waterproof Jacket  and Skjold Waterproof Jacket has a 10,000mm rating. 

Breathability Ratings? 

When you are really exerting yourself outdoors, in order for you to maintain a good body temperature, you will produce moisture. You need to ensure your waterproof is breathable enough to ensure you don't become clammy and uncomfortable. 

5,000 g/m2 - Not very breathable, not much sweat will be able pass through this garment 

10,000 g/m2 - Moderately breathable, good for moderate activity such as walking 

20,000 g/m2 - Very breathable, good for high aerobic activity such as cycling, running and intense hiking 

Different Layers of Waterproof Jackets? 

This is relation to the membrane used in the construction of the jacket, which are referred to as layers. There are 3 types: 2-layer, 2.5-layer and 3-layer. 

2-Layer - This is the most basic construction which has an outer fabric with a waterproof membrane that has been bonded to it. Often another lining is added to the inner layer as it's fairly fragile. Not many technical waterproofs have a 2-layer construction as the additional lining is not bonded to the waterproof itself.

2.5 Layer - Similar to the 2-layer, these jackets have an outer fabric which is bonded to the waterproof membrane. But, instead of a mesh layer there is a coating applied, which offers extra weather protection and is more durable. The main feature of these jackets are that they are lightweight and much more packable than their 3-layer counterparts. These are best for everyday waterproof jackets .

3-Layer - These jackets are suitable for just about all weather conditions, including heavy rain. Here, the face fabric is DWR waterproof fabric with an internal breathable membrane and additional bonded protective lining. These 3 layers are then bonded together to make a very efficient and technical jacket. 

Now we have covered the basics, you should feel confident in the knowledge that you can decipher which waterproof jacket is the best fit for you.

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