Shopping for waterproof jackets can be daunting, when you come face to face with all the different names that brands have for their fabrics. In this guide we aim to explain things in a simpler fashion, so you know exactly what you need before you go shopping.
Waterproof jackets (or hard shells as they are also known) are the final protective layer in your layering system. This layer provides a waterproof barrier.
The main difference between these waterproof layers is the fabric they are made from and the level of breathability that this will give you.
The level of breathability you need is dependent on your chosen activity:
With such a large range of waterproof fabrics and at different prices, which is right for you? This simple table should begin to help you find the type of jacket you are looking for, based on the activity it is intended for. For more information on these fabrics, keep reading below.
| Everyday Use
* Please note, this is a rough guide and there are always exceptions to the rule. The advances being made in coated fabrics offer some fantastic options being developed for the future.
Most waterproof jackets can be divided into the following categories, depending on the materials they are made of:
Different brands will have different names for their coated fabrics, however many will follow a similar construction.
Coated fabrics will be available in either two or three layer construction.
|North Ridge Meltwater Jacket||Regatta Fraser Jacket||Craghoppers Rushmore III Jacket|
|Using Dewpoint Technology||Using Isotex Technology||Using Aquadry Technology|
There are many different types of laminates and membranes, but these are by far the most popular:
GORE-TEX® is by far the most well known membrane name on the market, however it can actually be split down into 3 different variations. These variants all offer different levels of protection, dependent on the garment’s use.
GORE-TEX® is a membrane bonded to other protective fabrics to create a laminate. This membrane consists of millions of tiny pores that allow water vapour to evaporate through from inside, but are small enough not to let water through from the outside, which is what makes the fabric waterproof and breathable.
Tip: An ideal jacket for a walker or day to day use, but during high aerobic activity, you may want to look toward GORE-TEX® Active shell for improved breathability.
Tip: Extremely breathable and ideal for trail runners, cyclists or any arduous activity.
Tip: The most rugged of the 3 variants, made to withstand abrasive activity such as rucksack straps, mountaineering etc where the material is put under stress. This is GORE-TEX’s only air-permeable option.
The eVent membrane is made up of millions of tiny pores, which keep the water out, but also allow the vapour to evaporate, making the garment air-permeable.
Unlike GORE-TEX® and eVent, Neoshell has a spun construction, this means that instead of microscopic pores in a membrane, Neoshell is made up of microscopic strands which under a microscope would look a bit like candy floss. This creates an air-permeable, extremely breathable but fully waterproof fabric.
Páramo aren’t just a popular brand of walking clothing, they’ve also created their own entirely unique waterproofing system.
|Paramo Alta 2 Jacket||Paramo Pajaro Jacket||Paramo Velez Adventure Smock||Using Páramo’s Directional Analogy fabric||Using Páramo’s Directional Analogy fabric||Using Páramo’s Directional Analogy fabric|
|Mountaineering||Hill Walking||Lowland Walking/ Everyday use|
Fit is important for any type of clothing, and a waterproof jacket is no different. Some things to look for:
The fit of your hood is important, in poor conditions you lose most of your body heat through your head. The size and fit of the hood can be adjusted on most jackets, to make sure the hood covers your head and moves with it, without restricting your view. Stiffened hoods often offer more protection from bad weather. Mountaineers need to make sure their hoods are helmet compatible.
Zips can be taken for granted, but the last thing you need when you’re caught in bad weather is to have a jacket that you can’t fasten. Zips should be smooth running and, if they’re not waterproof, hidden with storm flaps to prevent water from getting in. Zips are also a great source of ventilation for when the body gets too hot, look for pit zips on higher end jackets, these help regulate your body heat and move moisture more efficiently
The number of pockets you need is dependent on your intended use for the jacket. Jackets that offer a large chest pocket or inside pocket are usually for the purpose and size of an OS Map and compass. Pockets should have storm flaps covering the zips to make sure what goes inside, stays dry.
Everybody is different, and drawcords are a very handy way of making sure that the fit of the jacket can be made to fit you perfectly. These drawcords can be found at the bottom of the jacket, and sometimes on the back of the hood and on the waist of the jacket. Adjust these cords and make sure the jacket fits you as perfectly as possible.
If a waterproof jacket is working properly, water should bead off of the surface. If water starts to settle into the surface and the jacket looks wet or damp then it may be time to clean and perhaps re-proof.
Wash your jacket with a non-detergent based solution.
Products such as: Nikwax Tech Wash and Granger’s 30ºC Clothing Cleaner are ideal.
Re-proofing isn’t necessary each time you wash, if you’re cleaning your jacket regularly you should be able to give it 3-5 washes before the garment needs to be re-proofed.
A good way to test this, is to spray some water on the jacket when dry, if the water beads – you don’t need to re-proof. If it doesn’t, then follow the steps below.
Products such as: Nikwax TX Direct/ Nikwax TX Direct Wash-In and Granger’s 30ºC proofer are ideal.
Always check the label before washing your jacket for information on caring for your specific item.