Difference between Waterproof and Water-resistant jackets

Updated on August 17, 2017

When purchasing a jacket, one will often come across the terms waterproof and water-resistant. While both jackets have similar qualities, there is a distinct difference between them. This article will help explain that difference.

Definitions

Waterproof

A waterproof jacket is a jacket that is made with a waterproof membrane such as Gore-Tex, pictured above, woven into the jacket itself. Additionally, a waterproof jacket will have all seams taped or covered, to ensure water does not seep through the jacket through the stitching.

Waterproof membranes allow transpiration, as well as water vapour to exit from the wearer’s body, while keeping water droplets from permeating the jacket and contacting the wearer’s body. This quality is known as breathability.

Membranes are tested for quality of waterproofing. One popular standard by which waterproofing is tested is the British Standard. Material is tested by stretching it under a tube of water, and monitoring the material over 24 hours to determine how much water it can withstand before the water seeps through.

  • 0 – 1,500mm of water = water-resistant or snowproof
  • 1,500 – 5,000mm of water = waterproof – light to average rain
  • 5,000 – 10,000mm of water = very waterproof – moderate to heavy rain
  • 10,000 – 20,000mm of water = highly waterproof – heavy rain

DWR (Durable Water Repellent)

A water-resistant jacket is a jacket that has no waterproof membrane, but is treated with a water-repellent material such as DWR (Durable Water Repellent). Water will not seep into the jacket’s exterior when the jacket is treated with a water-repellent material, and water will instead remain a droplet, such as in the above picture.

The British Standard qualifies a water-resistant jacket as a jacket with a resistance rating of 0-1,500mm. A water-resistant jacket will keep out some moisture, but will get wet in heavier downpour or if it is submerged in liquid.

Comparison chart

Waterproof jacketWater-resistant jacket
Waterproof membrane woven into the jacket itself, often with a water-repellent treatment on the exterior.No waterproof membrane, but treated with a water-repellent material on the exterior.
Waterproof standard rating of 5,000-20,000mmWaterproof standard rating of 0-1,500mm.
More expensive than water-resistant jackets.Cheaper than waterproof jackets.
More effective at keeping out water.Less effective at keeping out water.

Waterproof vs Water-resistant jackets

What are the differences between waterproof and water resistant jackets? The main differences are:

  • Whether or not there are waterproof membranes
  • Waterproofing standard ratings
  • Cost of jacket

A waterproof jacket will have a waterproof membrane such as Gore-Tex woven into the jacket itself. This membrane will keep out all water and prevent it from contacting the wearer’s body. A water-resistant jacket, on the other hand, does not have a waterproof membrane, but is treated with water-repellent material, such as DWR (Durable Water Repellent). While water-resistant jackets do not have waterproof membranes, waterproof jackets will often also be sprayed with water-repellent material.

Many outerwear manufacturers test their jackets for waterproofing. There are a few standards by which jackets are tested. One well-known standard is the British Standard of waterproofing. Water-resistant jackets will have a rating of 0-1,500mm, and waterproof jackets will have a rating of 1,500-20,000mm. Most waterproof jackets fall within the range of 1,500-5,000mm.

Waterproof jackets are generally more expensive than water-resistant jackets, additionally. A waterproof jacket will have a waterproof membrane which increases the cost, whereas a water-resistant jacket utilizes a water-repellent treatment on the exterior of the jacket, which is cheaper.

Overall, a waterproof jacket will be more expensive but more effective in keeping out water, whereas a water-resistant jacket will be cheaper but less effective in keeping out water.

Video

Two videos below help further clarify this. The first is an explanation of how waterproofing is tested, and the second is an explanation of the difference between waterproof and water-resistant jacketing.

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