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Waterproof | Breathability Explained

Shopping for Jackets, Gilets & Backpacks can sometimes be a little confusing and understanding the different names and features such as what is the the difference between waterproof and water-resistent etc, what are the different levels of brethabilty etc. What do they all mean? We have put together some simple info that hopefully helps with this and making a decision on which product to go for.

Waterproof  

This means the product has a waterproof coating on the outer fabric with fully taped seams. A waterproof product will have a hydro-static rating to let you know the best weather conditions for that jacket and this can range from 1,500mm (light rain) up to 10,000mm (heavier rain) .The number is generated during testing when a 1’ by 1’ tube is placed over the fabric and filled with water. Once the material starts leaking water the height is measured and used to calculate how waterproof it is. So, if the number was 5,000mm, then it would mean the water would have to 5 meters high before it started leaking through! Each one of our waterproof products has this rating listed in the features or on the 'compare' tab. A lower rating doesn't mean you are going to get wet, eg 2000mm would mean it would have to get to two metres high before it came through which would have to be a lot of rain!

Water Resistant  

Water-resistant means product have a waterproofing repellent coating applied to the outer fabric to prevent absorption of water letting it just run off but it will not have taped seams and not withstand constand rain. Not having fully taped seams is often not an issue as some fabrics don't allow for this to happen in manufacturing and it certainly doesn't mean that if it rains you will definitely get wet. If the product has the water resistant feature, it just means that water could possibly trickle through the sewing lines which aren't taped, although it would have to be a big downpour for you to notice as sewing lines are very close together.

Breathable  

This means the product will allow moisture vapour generated from your body to pass through the fabric from the inside of your product to the outside environment. These tests show how many grams of water vapour are able to pass through a fabric in a set time period. The results of the tests are then expressed as gm/24hrs. the higher the rating the more breathable the product is, this can go from 1000gm/24hr to 20,000gm/24hr. If the rating is lower is certianly doesn't mean you will get hot, it just depends on the activity you are doing, the duration and outside temperature too. Not all breathable products have an 'official rating' eg cycling shorts and tops are just rated as 'breathable'.

Windproof  

This means the product has windproof garment construction to form a barrier against gales and strong winds. Fabrics are made windproof by weaving them very tightly, so that the gaps between the threads are too small for air to pass through at speed and help keep you warm.

Wicking  

Wicking is a garment’s ability to progress moisture away from the skin via the fibres. A wicking fabric is designed to move moisture away so it dries quickly, rather than absorbing the wetness. Modern mositure wicking fabrics such as polyester have high moisture wicking abilities when cotton and wool, which are porous, become heavier when wet. These are not wicking fabrics and as a result hold mositure and unlike polyester and other wicking fabrics, not good to exercise in.

Insulated  

This means the product has been especially designed to have an insulated latyer to keep you warmer during those colder months or evenings. Insuslation has come a long way and modern manufacturing can allow for warmth and waterproofing.

Should you go for the highest rating?

Not necessarily. The waterproof and breathability ratings you need will depend on the conditions and the activity that you are doing. 

So what should you go for?

Please see these guides here for Jackets and Gilets.

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