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GUIDE TO RAINWEAR
No matter the season, we in the soggy Pacific Northwest know that a durable, waterproof rain jacket
can make a world of difference on any adventure. But figuring out the different types of jackets and
technical jargon can make the process of buying a new jacket a little overwhelming, so we’ve made this
guide to help you on your way.

TYPES OF JACKETS

HARD SHELLS

We’ll start first with your classic shell jacket. A shell jacket can be combined with a fleece, down or synthetic jacket for extra warmth on colder days, or worn by itself for better mobility and less weight.

Your classic shell jacket is usually waterproof (or at the very least highly water resistant), highly wind resistant and never has any insulation, its main purpose it to keep you dry and sheltered from the weather. Whether you need a lightweight jacket for backpacking, or an easy rain jacket to wear around town, a simple shell is a good place to start. Many shell jackets (like Marmot’s Precip and The North
Face’s Venture Jacket) can even pack down into its own pocket for extra easy carrying in your purse or
backpack.

SOFT SHELLS

Softshell Jackets are all about warmth, mobility and breathability. If you’re looking for an around town
jacket and don’t plan on spending much time in the rain, a softshell can be perfect for your daily commute. For some added versatility, you can throw one of these on under your shell jacket for extra warmth. Most softshell jackets usually feature a DWR (durable water repellent) coating that helps to
protect you from the weather, but it won’t be enough to keep you dry if the rain really starts coming down.

HYBRID SHELLS

Hybrid jackets are the jack of all trades, but a master of none. They usually feature a weatherproof hardshell or extra durable outer fabric in the high wear areas like the shoulders and front, with a more breathable, stretchy fabric in the back and under the arms. This gives you weatherproofing and mobility
where you need it most, but definitely limits the overall waterproofness of the coat. They’re perfect for hiking, backpacking and cross country adventures where breathability and mobility are more important than having a completely waterproof jacket.

CONSTRUCTION

2 LAYER JACKETS

Layer Jackets are one of the more common types of jacket constructions for rainwear on the market. These usually consist of an interior laminate, membrane or coated layer that’s been bonded to a protective outer layer to create a single fabric. More often than not, a 2-layer jacket will also feature a hanging mesh liner to help protect the interior coating for longer lasting performance.

These jackets usually have a pretty reasonable price point and are quieter than most other shell jackets, which make it perfect for traveling or everyday commuting.

2.5 LAYER JACKETS

2.5 layer jackets are basically 2-layer jackets, but without the drop liner. Instead of a drop liner protecting the interior laminate/membrane you usually have a printed interior coating, that make 2.5 layer shells one of the lightest weight choices you can buy. They’re usually a bit more expensive than a 2
layer, but if you’re lugging a bunch of gear through the backcountry, every little bit of cut weight helps make the trip easier.

3 LAYER JACKETS

This monster truck of a jacket is the best of the best when it comes to durability. 3-Layer Jackets are built like a classic grilled cheese sandwich, an outer layer and an inner liner with the performance membrane squished in between for better protection. These jackets are lighter weight than the 2-layer version, have a sleek, minimalist design and are usually more breathable than the other versions. All of these things add up to create a more expensive jacket, but if you spend a lot of time in the elements, this burly jacket is worth every penny.

WATERPROOF & BREATHABILITY RATINGS

WATERPROOF

Waterproof and breathability ratings are an important part of buying a jacket, but are also one of the
most confusing pieces of information that gets thrown your way. So here’s a quick rundown on what
you should be looking for.

Anything less than 5,000mm isn’t going to be waterproof, the closer that number is to 5,000 the more
water resistant it will be. 10,000 mm is a decent rating, perfect for a few hours in the rain. But if you
spend a lot of your time in wet, rainy conditions, 15,000 – 20,000+ is the range that you want to look for.

BREATHABLE

Breathability ratings are a little bit more flexible and how much you need completely depends on your
activity level. Breathability is all about letting your sweat escape, so that you stay dry and comfortable in your gear. Up on the mountain a breathability rating of 5,000 – 10,000 is fine, if you’re doing something more strenuous, then 15,000 – 20,000 is something that you should look at. Most people are fine with the lower breathability ratings, but if you’re going on a particularly strenuous adventure, higher is the way to go.

SEAM SEALING

An easy way to quickly check the waterproof capabilities of your jacket is by checking the seam taping. Seams are obviously essential to the process of making a jacket, but every time that needle goes through, another tiny hole is added to your jacket and every hole gives water a chance to creep in. The solution to this problem is seam taping. A fully seam sealed jacket means that every seam has been taped for optimum waterproofness. A critically seam sealed garment means that the seams are only taped in the most important areas, like hood and shoulders.

LAMINATES VS. COATINGS

Both laminates and coatings are put in place to protect you from the weather, that’s their entire
purpose, but it can be hard to decide on which one to get. So I’ll try to break it down for you. The most obvious difference between the two is the price point. Laminates are usually more expensive, but in this case you get what you pay for. While coatings are cheaper and sometimes lighter weight, laminates and membranes are more durable, waterproof and breathable. Laminates are more similar to wallpaper, the laminate is bonded to the outer fabric, while coatings are more like paint that’s added to the interior of the fabric.

TECHNOLOGIES

GORE-TEX

GORE-TEX® fabric is incredibly durable, waterproof and breathable. Most products that use GORE-TEX® fabric is going to be more expensive, but well worth the price tag in terms of longevity and weatherproofing. GORE-TEX® Pro is the most durable fabric in the GORE-TEX® line, while their Active fabric is the most breathable.

DWR WATER REPELLENT (DWR) COATING

DWR coatings are applied to a wide range of products. Most outerwear has a DWR coating, and the purpose is to help keep your jacket protected by making the water bead up and roll off of it. It’s the DWR coating, not the waterproof membrane or laminate that makes keeps the exterior of your jacket from becoming saturated with water.

Eventually the DWR coating on your jacket will wear off, it’s bound to happen, but you don’t need to buy a whole new jacket. There are plenty of ways that you can reapply a new DWR coating to your outerwear.
WHAT NOW?
No matter the season, we in the soggy Pacific Northwest know that a durable, waterproof rain jacket can make a world of difference on any adventure. But figuring out the different types of jackets and technical jargon can make the process of buying a new jacket a little overwhelming, so we’ve made this guide to help you on your way.

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