Waterproof Jackets and Overtrousers
What do you need from your waterproof jacket?
All of the Up and Under range have been selected for the performance of the materials, attention to seam sealing and zips and the fit and comfort of the piece.
Firstly the garment needs to be waterproof, and the first thing to know is nothing is completely waterproof. Confused? With enough pressure water will penetrate any fabric. The way 'waterproofness' is measured is by determining the amount of water pressure required to pass through a fabric. This is known as hydrostatic head. In practical terms a hydrostatic head of around 10000mm is enough to call a jacket waterproof. However most garments including GoreTex and eVent aim to be north of 20000mm. Whilst the pressure of rain alone will not reach this level, heavy packs, sitting down and strong winds will increase the pressure on the jacket and a high waterproofness rating is comforting when you're out in the hills for hours on end in torrential rain.
Secondly they need to be comfortable in their selected use. This means that they need to be well tailored for non-restricted movement (articulated at the elbows, for example). Walkers tend to be suited to longer jackets for good bum coverage, where mountaineers require shorter cut options with chest pockets so that there is no bulk to restrict access to harnesses and gear. A good level of breathability is also important to keep your body dry and comfortable in humid conditions when you are carrying out a high-energy level activity- it's no good keeping the rain out but getting wet with sweat instead!
Thirdly they need to be durable, and capable of dealing with the rigours of wear in highly abrasive activities. The most durable jackets will be of a '3 layer' construction. This involves the membrane being bonded to an outer face fabric and an inner scrim. This gives maximum protection to the delicate membrane and increases the life of the jacket. Removing the scrim and replacing it with a print or coating saves weight and bulk but sacrifices the durability of the jacket. The actual face fabric used also has a huge bearing on durability. The toughest face fabrics use nylon thread which is stronger than polyester. As well as a good thread the way it is woven is important. A tight weave with few loose threads means it is harder for dirt and debris to work its way into the fabric and damage the membrane. Many of the garments have higher denier fabrics on the shoulders and sleeves to add extra toughness to high wear areas. The final factor in the longevity of a jacket is you! Lots of people ask us how long a jacket will last and it is nigh on impossible to answer, as there are so many variables. However one thing that is sure to extend the life of your jacket immeasurably is taking good care of it. Regular washing of the jacket it important as it clears the fabric of contaminates such as dirt and sweat, which can damage the membrane. Also reproofing it will help water to bead off the jacket like it is new again! How often to wash the jacket requires common sense rather than a strict routine. Basically if it look dirty or the inside is looking discoloured: Wash it. If the outer fabric is becoming saturated and not beading: Reproof it... Simple!
A further consideration is the weight of the garment. This is tied in with durability as generally speaking the lighter weight the less durable, however, in certain circumstances lightness of weight and therefore low bulk and speedier movement is more important.
Breathability (materials, coatings and technologies)
Whilst breathability is not always the most important issue the majority of people tend to gauge the suitability of a jacket by it. Essentially, more breathability means a less sweaty, drier and more comfortable jacket. It is especially important for high intensity activities like hill walking, running and climbing.
The leader in terms of breathability (whilst still being durable and having high waterproofness) is eVent. However, with Rab moving away from eVent, it only appears in our Crux sleeping bag range.
GoreTex is the other major player in waterproof fabric technology and is probably the most recognised brand. GoreTex is generally less breathable than eVent but in its top end ‘Pro’ guise as featured in many of our premier mountaineering jackets, offers greater durability whilst still being highly breathable and lightweight. Standard GoreTex 3 Layer is a good all-round option for waterproofs giving good levels of breathability and durability with a good value price.
At the other end of the weight scale, we have the ultra-light jackets. Lightweight backpacking and Alpinism are examples of where such jackets excel, but models made of these materials are also very useful as travel garments and summer walking jackets as they weigh so little and pack up small. There are two sacrifices that come with light weight; breathability and durability. These are often less important, as you may be buying lightweight mainly to sit in your rucksack (in case of a sudden unexpected downpour) and the benefits of the weight saving outweighs the downsides. The leading fabric in our range for lightweight fabrics is GoreTex Paclite Plus Shell.
Another option is the Kinetic range from Rab, whose own Proflex membrane boasts high breathability, flexibility and packability, though at a cost of having a lower hydrostatic head than other membranes.
In many cases the amount of time spent in your waterproofs is becoming less and less as the use of softshell or Pertex shelled microfibre or pile garments increases (See our waterproof vs softshell blog for more info). These garments provide great breathability and comfort combined with good levels of water resistance and quick drying. This means that you only need to take out the waterproof when it gets really bad and then it may only be for a short period of time, so more and more people (especially those doing single day adventures) are looking towards lower cost, lighter materials. One example of this is the Rab Downpour, using a 2.5 rather than 3-LayerPertex Shield construction These jackets are just as waterproof as the top end shells but will not be as durable or breathable.
The explosion of mountain marathons and trail running has also led to the development of the some super-light, breathable and stretchy jackets. You can find them in our Fell Running section.
Whilst breathability is still important in a pair of waterproof over-trousers, most users feel that the quality of trousers is less important than a good waterproof jacket, because the trousers usually only come out when it rains heavily and you tend to produce less heat from your legs than torso. If the shower is only light and quick and you can rely on the quick drying nature of your non-cotton walking trousers. As a result of we offer a range of lower level breathability and lower cost garments, which still perform well, as well as some of the most advanced technical waterproof trousers and salopettes available.
For general walking purposes a pair of trousers with features such as an elasticated and drawcorded waist, knee length storm flapped zips and ankle adjustment is important. A lightweight and packable option is the Marmot Precip Eco Pant, which comes in a full and half zip options and a men’s and ladies’ cut. We can also get these in long and short leg lengths- just ask us!
Another feature that makes wearing waterproof trousers a little more pleasurable is articulated knees. Not only does this feature increase the life of your trouser around the knee, it also gives you more freedom of movement and generally stops the trouser working its way down as you walk. Trousers with braces or higher waists are also useful, as getting the waistband tight above your hips will stop your trousers falling down when they are wet.
For winter walkers and climbers, a full-length zip might prove useful when crampons come into the equation. These zips should again be fully covered by a sealable storm flap. Other useful features are a scuff guard on the lower inner leg to protect the trouser when worn with abrasive winter boots and crampons. These are all fully featured, breathable choices for use in all seasons. For the most part the same information given for jackets can be applied to trousers.
Arc'teryx Zeta SL Pant Women's | womens waterproof trouser for lightweight hillwalking
3 layer Gore-tex Pro waterproof jacket. Designed to withstand the harshest mountain conditions featuring a snow skirt, helmet hood and rugged fabrics.587g GORE-TEX® Pro Fabric - New Generation (3 layer, 100% Nylon 3.9 oz/yd) 100% Seam Taped Helmet Compatible Gale-Force Hood with Laminated Wire Brim ERG Hood Adjustment System Pit-zips with Water Resistant Zippers Water-resistant Zipped Pockets Napoleon Chest Pockets with Water Resistant Zips Zip-off Powder Skirt Interior Mesh Storage Pocket Interior Zipped Pocket DriClime® Lined Chin Guard Elastic Drawcord Hem Angel-Wing Movement™ Athletic Fit Back length 29.75in