by Jane Marshall
Have you ever been truly drenched in the great outdoors? The kind of drenched where your hair is dripping and even your underwear’s soaked? It’s no fun. Whether you’re walking your dog or on a multi-day mountain trek, staying dry and comfortable is extremely important. Luckily, gear companies want to help. They’re continually improving waterproof material for optimal comfort, and new technologies keep pushing the boundaries. Campers Village then curates these technologies giving you access to exactly what you need.
Choose Your Activity
First, decide what you’ll be using the rainwear for.
Super Lightweight 2.5 Layer
Good for: Travel, backpacking, emergency shell
These are known as 2.5 layer jackets as they have the outer layer, inner waterproof material, and then the protective print or sheen next to your skin (the 0.5 part of the equation) all melded together. They’re designed to be extremely light — too light to not have stuffed in your pack for emergencies.
Standard 2 Layer
Good for: Day hikes, walking the dog, for those who prefer the softness These have 2 layers separated from each other — the outer layer, which is an exterior fabric melded to a waterproof membrane forming one layer, and then a separate inner fabric that feels good next to your skin. These are a little more bulky, but super comfy and versatile.
Extra Rugged 3 Layer
Good for: Long backpacking trips, backcountry skiing, trekking, climbing, rugged adventures
This is the most durable jacket style. It’s like a sandwich: the waterproof membrane is squished between a rugged outer fabric and an inner liner, all they’re all melded together. This is typically the most breathable jacket, and also the highest end.
These jackets are totally waterproof, but unlike their relatives ‘the hard shells,’ they have a softer feel and are stretchy. These jackets can be either water resistant or truly waterproof. Soft shells often have a light fleecy fabric inside and are great technical jackets for backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and climbing.
Waterproof Membranes and Technology
In the olden days, staying dry was tough. It involved using oil or wax to repel water, and heavy materials like canvas. In 1959 Wilbert and Genevieve Gore started their own basement business and revolutionized waterproofing. They created GORE-TEX (and began selling commercially in 1976). It was the first waterproof breathable fabric membrane, meaning it kept water out while letting body heat pass through the membrane.
You’ll find GORE-TEX or individual companies’ own brands of waterproofing in almost all technical garments.
What is DWR?
DWR stands for durable water repellent. It’s a chemical coating used on the outside fabric. It sheds water and is breathable so it doesn’t compromise the inner membrane. Essentially, it keeps the outside fabric from getting waterlogged and heavy.
Caring for your Waterproof Garments
Read garment care labels and follow instructions to the letter.
- Wash your jacket when it looks soiled or water is no longer beading. This will help the membrane breathe again and will revitalize the DWR. Note: heat is often needed.
- Never, EVER, use fabric softener. This clogs the pores and can ruin your garment.
- Don’t use regular soap — not liquid or powder. Use Nikwax Tech Wash or a similar product.
- Once the garment is clean, if needed, reapply the waterproofing. Wash-in and spray on types are available.
There are basically two ways to make a zipper waterproof. Look for storm flaps, waterproof fabric that covers the zipper, or a true waterproof zipper that forms a seal.
Campers Village clothing buyer Kathy Robertson recommends checking out these cool technologies:
Columbia’s OutDry, which has the membrane on the outside:
or their new environmentally friendly, dye-free rain jacket: