When people see the terms water resistant and waterproof, they generally assume that these two terms are interchangeable. However, this is by no means the case, and in fact, water resistant and waterproof contain distinct differences, and are, by definition, different.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, water resistant means that an object can resist penetration of water to some degree, but not entirely. By contrast, waterproof means an item is impenetrable to water.
That’s simple enough, but let’s take a closer look at the differences between water resistant and waterproof.
Of the two, water resistant offers the lower level of water protection. Materials are treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish which helps repel moisture from the surface of the garment. However, water can still pool on the surface and eventually soak through.
The most common fabrics associated with water resistance are polyester and nylon. Water resistant fabrics are generally more affordable than something that’s waterproof, so if you’re on a tight budget, this may be the way to go.
Water resistant’s more expensive counterpart, waterproof, is actually a higher degree of water resistant. These are natural or synthetic fabrics that have been coated with a waterproofing substance like rubber or polyurethane.
In order to be waterproof, a garment must have all seams sealed, as the seams are the major weak point in the construction of waterproof materials. However, the types of materials used as well as sealed seams means that the biggest drawback of waterproof garments is their lack of breathability. To help with this, many feature a waterproof breathable membrane.
How are levels of waterproof measured?
The Static-Column Test is the most widely used method of testing a garment’s degree of waterproofing. Basically, a one-inch diameter tube is placed over a piece of fabric and filled with water. At the point at which leakage begins, the height of the water in millimeters is measured and becomes the material’s waterproof rating.
For example, a piece of material that can withstand 10,000 millimeters of water pressure has a rating of 10,000mm. The greater the number, the more waterproof it is. Material in the 5,000 – 10,000mm range is generally very waterproof, unless under very extreme conditions.
Water resistant or waterproof – Which do you need?
So now the question is, what’s right for you? For most everyday activities in dry conditions – like walking, hiking, riding – water resistant is all we really need. Our collection of Deviate Jackets and Vests are ideal for situations like these. Additionally, our Invert Jacket provides similar protection with a sweater knit out shell.
For times when there’s lots of rain, snow, and ice, whether doing everyday activities, but especially things like skiing and snowboarding, waterproof is the way to go. For items that are waterproof, check out our Interval Jacket and Circulate Pant and Jacket with Storm-Bloc™ fabric, which features our bonded technology with 10,000mm waterproof capability.