How to Choose your Waterproof Jacket : The complete guide


May 5, 2023


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Comment choisir un manteau imperméable

There are literally hundreds of rain jackets to choose from, from the good-old yellow waxed jackets to lightweight and high-tech models. So, how do you choose your waterproof jacket? Well, it depends on your needs, as weight, cost and construction are all criteria to consider. Do you need something that will keep you dry even in torrential downpours, or just a light and packable jacket you can quickly whip out of your bag when walking around town? The SAIL team is here to help you narrow down your choice.

In this article, you will learn how to choose your waterproof jacket:

  1. The difference between water-resistant and waterproof
  2. Waterproof coating or membrane: which is best?
  3. Criteria to consider when buying a rain jacket
  4. How to take care of your waterproof jacket
  5. FAQ

The difference between water-resistant and waterproof

Waterproof 2 layer jacket

Water-resistant rain jackets

Most jackets are made from either nylon or polyester (just two of the many options available), and their outer layer has been treated with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR). This is what makes water bead up as it hits the fabric. DWR-treated clothing will withstand light showers, but should you have to stay out in the pouring rain for too long, water will start to seep in eventually.

Waterproof rain jackets

In addition to a DWR treatment, waterproof jackets feature a waterproof coating or membrane as a second line of defence against the rain. This doesn’t mean your rain jacket will get stuffy or hot as you run or hike through the wilderness, though. These days, most waterproof membranes are breathable and let your body heat escape. How? They are designed to let smaller sweat molecules get through, while bigger rain molecules are stopped. This type of rain jacket is much more suited to longer outdoor pursuits.

Waterproof coating or membrane: which is best?

Waterproof 2.5 layer jacket

As mentioned, rain jackets use a waterproof coating or membrane to keep you dry. What is the difference? A coating is applied to the inside of the outer layer. It is a much cheaper process, which makes for budget-friendly rain jacket options. However, the coating is more fragile and can break down in the long run.

A membrane is an extra layer which is glued to the inside of the jacket. Gore-Tex is a classic, of course, but there are others. This waterproofing feature is much more durable and breathable and tends to provide a higher degree of protection against the rain. Rain jacket models featuring a waterproof membrane are usually more expensive as well.


The layers that make up a waterproof jacket

Waterproof 3 layer jacket

Most jackets are made up of three components: the outer layer (which has been treated with a DWR), the breathable membrane or coating, and an inside layer or liner. The type of technology used varies from one jacket to the next, which leads to different jacket construction types. Here’s a quick guide.

2-layer jackets

The waterproof membrane is glued directly onto the outer layer, and an interior lining is added for extra comfort. 2-layer jackets can be a bit bulky as their layers are usually thicker, but they make for durable waterproof gear. Ideal for outings when weight isn’t a limiting factor, these models are generally more budget-friendly.

2.5-layer jackets

The membrane is again glued to the outer layer, but a thin coating is also added to the other side so the skin isn’t directly touching the membrane (some people do find this uncomfortable). These jackets do not have inner linings, which makes them lightweight and compact. However, they are also less durable in the long run. Take them on a short hike, cycle or walk around the city.

3-layer jackets

These are usually found at the more expensive end of the spectrum. An outer layer, membrane and inner lining are still used, but thanks to high-end technology, they feel much lighter and thinner. They make for lightweight, compact, durable and breathable rain jackets and can withstand heavy downpours during those longer outings when running back inside isn’t an option.

To discover the top 5 features of a perfect rain jacket, read this article.

Criteria to consider when buying a rain jacket

No matter how waterproof your jacket is, rain can still seep in through any opening, such as the collar, wrists or any open pockets. Look for features such as taped or sealed seams, adjustable wrist cuffs, zipped and lined pockets and water-resistant zippers. An adjustable hood is obviously a must, but you may want to look for one with a hood brim to keep the rain out of your eyes. Length should also be an important factor to consider.

For more information on how to choose a rain jacket, read the article on our blog.

How to take care of your waterproof jacket

Does water still bead up on the fabric of your jacket? If not, it may be time to re-waterproof it. Before you do so, make sure you read the instructions printed on the label.

Most jackets can be washed in a washing machine on a delicate cycle and in cold water. Avoid fabric softener, and use a gentle or water-based soap. Hang your jacket to dry. Once it is fully dry, re-waterproof using a spray-on Durable Water Repellent (DWR). There are many products available on the market: check our website or come see us in-store for some tips and advice.

Now you have all the information you need to choose a waterproof jacket. You can go out and enjoy the outdoors… even in the rain!


How do you know if your jacket is waterproof?

Which fabric for a waterproof jacket?

What’s the difference between waterproof and water-resistant?


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