How does a waterproof jacket work?

How does a waterproof jacket work?

February 03, 2016

It's got decades worth of technology packed into every inch, it's resistant to one of Earth’s most terrifying elements, and—here’s the kicker—you’re wearing it. Most people don't think twice about the raincoat hanging in their closet, but if you step back and really analyze it, you’ll be amazed at just how much knowledge it takes to create one of these things (and keep it from feeling like a sauna on the inside). We're going to give you the inside scoop on how a waterproof jacket can be just that...waterproof!

How do you make a jacket waterproof?

There are several ways to make a jacket waterproof. One is by constructing it out of PVC, like a traditional yellow raincoat. Since PVC is not breathable, these jackets perform poorly in situations where you are active and generating sweat. The second technology is a waterproof/breathable membrane built into the jacket. Membranes made from polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) have microscopic pores that are large enough to allow water vapor from your body to escape, yet small enough to prevent water droplets from getting inside.  Polyurethane (PU) membranes absorb moisture from inside the jacket, later releasing it as water vapor on the outside. These membranes are far superior to PVC, and great for activities like hiking and skiing. waterprooffabric_img2

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

Simple explanation: What is typically referred to as waterproof incorporates some sort of membrane (PTFE or polyurethane) built into the jacket. Water-resistant is typically a treatment applied to the exterior of the jacket to keep water from soaking in. Waterproof jackets will stay drier longer, while the water that hits water-resistant jackets will eventually soak through.

Can the efficacy of a waterproof jacket fade over time? If so, is there a way to get it back to "like-new" status? 

Yes and yes. Most jackets are made with a durable water repellant (DWR) treatment that is applied to the exterior of the jacket to help water bead up and roll off.  DWR treatments will wear off over time, but there are different washes and treatments on the market that can help restore DWR performance. For example, we carry Nikwax Spray on and Wash in waterproofing. And it is extremely important to keep your jacket clean so it can breath and maintain its waterproofing. We sell cleaners for your waterproof fabrics as well! 041713Nikwax-3-960x600.jpg  

What is Gore-Tex and how is it different?

GORE-TEX® products are well known for providing long-lasting, comfortable weather protection you can trust from your head down to your toes. But what exactly is the GORE-TEX® fabric? Is it a coating or an impregnation? An outer fabric or an inner textile lining? It's none of those but all of the following:

1. It's a membrane

The GORE-TEX® membrane is at the heart of all GORE-TEX® products. Due to its microporous structure it has some amazing characteristics. Learn more

2. It's a laminate

A GORE-TEX® laminate is created by bonding the GORE-TEX® membrane between high-performance lining and outer textiles. Learn more

3. It's a product technology

GORE-TEX® product technologies offer unique solutions for specific activities and climate conditions to fit your individual needs. Outerwear Technologies Footwear Technologies Gloves Technologies tech_what_technology_small_690.jpg

4. It's a promise

All products engineered with GORE-TEX® product technology carry the GUARANTEED TO KEEP YOU DRY® promise. Learn more

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.