When you hear the term waterproof, what do you initially think of? We think it means that whatever it is will protect you from water that comes pouring in. However, depending on the industry, and the product that is being discussed, this has a different meaning. We dig into what makes a waterproof jacket waterproof, and the differences between waterproof, water resistant, and water repelling, because yes, they all mean something else.

Alright, so you need something that will protect you from the elements. However, depending on what you have planned for the day, will help to determine your level of need when it comes to waterproof versus water resistant.

To a degree, all jackets are water resistant, unless it’s a cotton material that is going to soak up the rainwater like a sponge. But to be considered water resistant, that means that your jacket will resist water or protect you from it to a degree, but that degree is very slight. Many jackets may boast as water resistant, even if they in fact, are not at all water resistant, except in the fact that you won’t get soaked immediately in a light drizzle. However, these are certainly not recommended for missions or adventures where you are going to be out in the rain for a long amount of time, as you will likely not stay dry for long.

Waterproof jackets on the other hand, are tested to have a certain level of water resistance. However, there is a catch to this. There isn’t an industry standard for what that level is, so you will have to be a little cautious with certain products on this one. They may boast waterproof but you still find that in a heavy rainstorm, you wind up soaked. This isn’t to say they aren’t waterproof, they just aren’t to the extent you wanted or expected. These types of jackets are made from a variety of fabrics, and generally feature laminate or a coating that keeps the water from getting in. Keep in mind, this term also varies depending on what product is being discussed. For cameras, waterproof means something different than it does for jackets. If you choose to go swimming in your waterproof jacket, you are likely going to get wet.

Water repellant is also in its own category. Water repellency generally refers to a coating that is used on both water-resistant and waterproof jackets. What this coating does is allow the water to bead up on the jacket and then roll down or be able to be wiped off, without it beginning to soak into the material and get down to your skin. While this coating won’t make a jacket waterproof if you use enough, it definitely does help with the water resistance, and anything that has a coating of DWR (Durable Water Repellant) is going to hold up in bad weather better than other options that don’t feature this coating. This coating can also be used to update older jackets that may have been more water resistant and are beginning to lose that. As with all coatings, it is possible for it to wear off, which is why it’s important to wash these items according to the product’s specifications. However, you can also add the coating to the jacket again to give it a second chance at water resistance.

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