Buying a raincoat can be really confusing. Traditionally outdoor brands love packing their product descriptions full of jargon and confusing terms, so it can be really difficult to distinguish the difference between a jacket that will get wet after a slight drizzle, versus one that will properly withstand a downpour. So here's everything you need to know when buying a raincoat, and what the terms waterproof, showerproof and water resistant really mean.
Are all raincoats waterproof?
The short and crazy answer is no. The longer answer is still no, however there are many are different amounts of waterproof, with lots of jackets not being waterproof, to others being waterproof up to a small amount, to others to being super, duper waterproof for hours on end in the pouring rain.
So, what does water resistant mean?
Water resistant doesn't really mean much at all. You can claim anything is water resistant, as there aren't any actual ratings behind this. This means as soon as it starts to rain past a light drizzle you're most likely going to get wet under that 'water resistant' raincoat. Showerproof is also used interchangeably here, and it also doesn't mean anything. Lots of these raincoats will also make you sweat, as they've been made as cheaply as possible, without trying to create the highest quality product.
What does waterproof mean?
When a jacket is rated Waterproof that means it has been rated in a lab to withstand water up to a particular amount. It means that you'll be actually protected from the elements and is what you need to be looking for if you're going on hikes or longer adventures in all types of weather.
What's the difference between water resistant and waterproof?
Water resistant isn't guaranteed to keep you dry at all. The fabric hasn't been constructed to keep the rain out, and is a very low level of protection from the weather, with the fabric absorbing water and soaking through quite quickly. Whereas when a jacket is waterproof it has been made to a higher standard of quality and will protect you from the wet and cold. Waterproof jackets typically have a lamination on the fabric and a DWR spray to maximise protection from the weather.
What is a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating?
DWR stands for Durable Water Repellent coating and it's sprayed onto fabric to help the water bead up and run off the surface, rather than soak into the fabric causing the jacket to wet out. Ideally you should look for a PFC/PFAS free DWR (like Amble's C0 DWR) to be as environmentally friendly as possible.
How do Waterproof and Breathability ratings work?
This one's a bit complex, but waterproofness is determined by the amount of water an item can withstand before it seeps through to the fabric and is scientifically tested. This is measured in millimetres and the higher amount of millimetres it can hold before the water permeates the fabric, the better. Breathability is similarly rated in terms of how many grams of water vapour is able to pass through a square meter of fabric over a 24 hour period, from the inside to the outside. Ratings start at 3,000g and just like waterproof ratings, the higher the better. Amble's jackets are rated at 10,000mm waterproof and 10,000g breathable ensuring you stay protected no matter the conditions.
What is seam sealing?
In short, imagine placing some sticky tape over where two pieces of fabric is sewn together to keep the water out of the seams, as when you sew two pieces of waterproof fabric together the sewing machine will be puncturing the fabric with tiny holes to get the thread through, so they need to be covered for the jacket to be properly waterproof. Of course it's not any old tape, but it's easiest to imagine it this way. Seam seal tape is fancy specialised waterproof tape and has it's own machine to apply it, as it's critical it's applied properly to keep the garment properly waterproof without water seeping through the seams.
What should I look for in a raincoat?
Ultimately you should look for a raincoat which has a high waterproof rating (10,000mm) and breathability rating (10,000g), with all seams sealed, and a C0 DWR to ensure you're fully protected from the wind and rain.
TLDR: If you actually want to stay dry in the pouring rain, your jacket needs to be rated waterproof. Anything else will leave you wet and cold (we're looking at you 'showerproof' raincoats).
Amble's waterproof jackets are rated waterproof, windproof and breathable, so you can enjoy any adventure outdoors, no matter the weather. If it's time to upgrade your jacket to one that actually keeps you protected, check out the collection here.