How Waterproof Ratings Work
Protection from the elements while you ride is essential. They key to comfort while riding in any weather condition is waterproof-breathable outerwear. Jackets and pants with waterproof fabrics are the first step to staying dry so that you can focus on having fun outside, no matter what the weather has to say about it. There are many different types of water resistant fabrics and materials that we use to make our garments, keep reading and we'll help you understand everything you need to know to pick out the right jacket or pants for you.
What do Waterproof Rating Numbers Mean?
Manufacturers typically describe the waterproof and breathability ratings of fabrics using two numbers, often separated by a backslash. The first number is waterproof, the second is breathability. The bottom line is simple - the higher the rating, the more waterproof, and the more breathable the jacket or garment is.
How are Waterproof Ratings Determined?
Waterproof ratings are determined with testing done. It involves the equivalent of placing a 1” x 1” square tube over the fabric and determining how high (in millimeters) a column of water you can suspend over it before it starts to leak.
How Breathable a Garment do I Need?
You can get away with a low breathability garment if you aren’t going to work up much body heat or maybe you won’t be out and about for too long. Higher breathability helps for active uses like running, and the ski touring & splitboard crowd to avoid quick wetout inside their layers caused by their own physical exertion. So, you'll want to look out for breathability in your jacket, but it might not be important if you're just wearing it around town.
If all you're looking for a snowboard jacket, and your lift-served, you don’t hike to out-of-the-way lines, and you take regular breaks in the lodge where you remove your coat, a breathability rating of 5,000 to 8,000 grams will probably be fine. This goes for more casual uses, too.
If you do a lot of “high energy” riding, hiking, or running where you often break a sweat, look for breathability in the 10,000 to 15,000 gram range. Backcountry skiers & snowboarders, runners, and mountain bikers should look for garments with breathability in the 20,000 plus range for the best results.