We know how much of a pain shopping for a waterproof jacket can be. You go in store and immediately get overwhelmed by all of the options, there’s different waterproof and breathability ratings but no explanations, so many different price points for jackets that all look quite similar and an array of styles that you would never normally choose to wear, let alone spend your hard earned money on.
It’s impossible to find a jacket that does what it says it will (namely keep you warm and dry from the rain and wind) without turning you into a soggy mess the minute there’s a bit of humidity or if you break into a run whilst it’s raining. It’s a confusing and highly unenjoyable experience, that’s up in there in the things we like to avoid, along with shopping for swimwear and jeans. But it’s not mission impossible, we’re here to decode some of the technical jargon, helping to keep you warm and dry in all seasons, without compromising on style or sustainability.
We’ve all had a rain jacket or raincoat that’s let us down. You thought it was waterproof and then five minutes into a shower, you find out it is most certainly not. There’s a big difference between showerproof and waterproof, a huge difference actually. For a fabric to be showerproof all it needs is an external coating (that can wash off) to be applied, meaning at best it might deflect a tiny bit of rain, but it does not have your back after a few minutes of a light drizzle. Being classified as waterproof on the other hand is kind of a big deal, it means the fabric has a backing on it to repel the water, meaning it can rain for hours and nothing will get through.
Think back to when you’d laminate your books at school, the same thing kind of happens to laminate fabric to make it waterproof. Slightly more complex and totally different materials, but you get the gist. This backing or laminate will make all the difference for breathability, as with everything there’s cheap and luxe versions, with huge impact for wearability.
The minimum rating for waterproofing is about 2,000mm, but it won’t hold up all day, which is why 5,000mm is better, and 10,000mm (or 10k) is where the good stuff really happens. This measurement means that the fabric can withstand 10,000mm of water pressure. In other words, you could stack a 10,000mm column of water on the jacket before any drops seep through to the other side of the fabric. Technical stuff, but essentially the higher rating it is, the better. DWR is also a goodie to look out for, it stands for Durable Water Repellent finish, which results in water and precipitation literally beads up and rolls off the fabric (rather than sinking in and wetting the fabric).
The breathability of a jacket will make it or break it. Especially in Australian and New Zealand climates, where there’s multiple seasons in a day and just because it’s raining, it doesn’t mean it’s 5 degrees outside. The breathability of the fabric means that rain won't get in but precipitation and perspiration can get out. There's nothing worse than feeling sticky and humid when wearing a rain jacket. The best fabrics won’t make you sweat and can handle both the breathability and waterproofing all at once. This does come at a price though, which is why cheaper jackets typically do make you sweat.
Breathability ratings are measured similarly to waterproofing, they’re calculated in terms of how many grams of water vapour can pass through a square metre of fabric from the inside to the outside in a 24 hour period. Essentially, this means that a 10,000mm or 10k rated fabric transfers 10,000 grams of moisture from inside the jacket, to the outside world, eg it’s very breathable.
Yes. Pockets. Those handy little internal squares that will make your life 10000x better. They’re not trivial and they’re a real game changer for your keys, phone, snacks, hat, water bottle and kitchen sink, or ideally as much as you can cram in as possible. Ideally you’re looking for some zippered pockets for the valuables as there’s nothing worse than losing your keys in the middle of nowhere and having no idea where to begin looking for them, the pre-panic of the thought of losing them is also pretty real. But our rule of thumb is the more pockets the better. Two is great, four is unstoppable.
YKK is king here. Yes, there are other zipper suppliers in the world, but nothing holds up like YKK. And there’s nothing worse than a perfectly good jacket being let down by a split or broken zipper. Which really only leaves you with one choice, make sure your zips don’t let you down.
Natural fibres are best for sustainability, but we’re yet to discover a rain jacket made from silk or hemp, which is why synthetic (man made rather than naturally grown) fibres are best to create performance fabrics. Traditionally synthetic fibres are derived from crude oil, which as we know is a big no no, which is why recycled fibres take the cake for sustainability here.
Rather than using non renewables that negatively impact the natural environment, you should be looking for recycled fabrics (preferably 100% recycled) such as a recycled polyester or recycled nylon to help you keep warm and dry. Ideally these fabrics would be Global Recycle Standard (GRS) certified, to ensure they are in fact post consumer waste that has been recycled.
Ethical Manufacturing 🤝
Beyond fabric performance and features, you really want to be supporting fairly and ethically made products. It’s a pretty intensive and costly process to create technical product such as waterproof, windproof, breathable rain jackets, so it’s important to check that no one is cutting corners, by people or planet. Ask the sales staff, or dig around on the website to find out who made their product, what country was it made in and if they’re ethically certified or have credentials, such as SA8000, WRAP, BSCI.
These third party certifications state that the factories are all above board, workers are treated fairly and are working under conditions that are safe and abide by rules that we’d expect as standard laws: paid above minimum wage, no forced labour, no forced overtime, maximum working hours and other basic rights. And if a brand isn’t openly talking about who made their clothes, where they’re made or what from, chances are they don’t have an ethical, sustainable supply chain.
In summary, the good things in life aren’t cheap (or free), but a waterproof jacket is an investment worth making, you’ll have it for years to come, and as with all things, it’s better purchasing the best quality one to start with, rather than the cheaper alternative that’ll leak, break and create a sweat. If you’re wondering where you could possibly secure one of these all the bells and whistles jacket, then you’re luckily in the right spot.
We’ve done the hard work for you, so you don’t have to sweat the small stuff (literally).