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How To Choose The Right Waterproof Jacket For Your Hiking Trips

Are there any things more painful than having your clothes wet? Being a child within Cornwall, UK, which is home to an average of about 156 rainy days per year, with a tendency to give you the four seasons all in one day, I’ve done my fair share of dog walks in the rain, thru-hikes, and bike rides. If I kept indoors every occasion that the weather was unpleasant, I’d probably never venture out so the right waterproof jacket has become one of my essentials.

There aren’t all waterproof jackets created equally, and while an open-back poncho could be ideal for a rainy festival but it’s unlikely to help in a mountain storm. Here’s what to be thinking about.

What’s the distinction between waterproof and water-repellent?

If you’re looking for protection against the elements, purchase outerwear that is waterproof and not just water-resistant. Waterproof clothing can offer protection against showers of light, but let water in quickly.

A waterproof jacket is able to stand against much more severe circumstances, but if don’t buy one that’s breathable, you’ll get water build-up inside of the jacket instead. If you exercise hard, it’s still going to leave you soaking and uncomfortable. A coat that has waterproof membranes can help ensure that it will be breathable and allow moisture to go away. You’ve probably heard about Gore-Tex, the most well-known waterproof membrane available. It is used in the production of the Arcteryx beta lt jacket. It works through small pores that are tiny enough to stop drops of rain from entering your jacket, yet large enough to allow sweat to wick out. It’s not the only waterproof fabric on the market and several outdoor brands now offer the option of making their own.

If your jacket isn’t as durable as it was in the past but the good news is that you don’t have to purchase a new jacket. A durable water-repellent coating (DWR) applies to the exterior of a water-resistant jacket. If your jacket loses its impermeability, it’s simple to reapply the DWR yourself. To determine if your garment requires a DWR top-up, splash it with water to see whether the water evaporates and is able to slide off. If it does, then you’re good. If it’s causing dark, wet patches of fabric instead, it’s the right time to get a DWR replenishment product and then recoat your coat.

What can I do to determine the degree of protection a waterproof jacket offers me?

There’s a good scale for this, and many retailers will include the waterproof rating on their jackets. The minimum is 5,000mm of waterproofing required for a jacket for it to count as water-proof, not just water-resistant but it won’t stand against much less than light sprinkles or drizzle. 10,000mm-15,000mm should be able to withstand the most severe downpours. 20,000mm and upwards is recommended for extremely heavy deluges and extreme conditions however, the jackets will generally be heavier.

What fit should I go for?

Since you’re unlikely to be moving around in only a bikini and a waterproof jacket, choose a coat that gives you enough room to layer. For hiking in three seasons, a waterproof jacket that lets you wear a base layer with a down jacket underneath should be sufficient, but for winter mountaineering you’ll want something roomier to allow you to layer up.

What other features are helpful?

Look for jackets with taped seams. This indicates that the seams inside are sealed, preventing water from getting in through the tiny gaps. Storm flaps are another practical additional feature: flaps outside that cover jacket zips which is another area that’s porous where rain could get in. Personally, for the majority of adventures, I like the rain jacket with an elevated hood. The hood keeps rain from your eyes. Jackets with only a drawstring hood allow rain to drip down your face.

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