When is waterproof not waterproof?

When is waterproof not waterproof? The answer to this should, of course, be “never”, but in terms of manufacturer claims that is sadly not the case. When choosing your waterproof items, you need to be sure that you’re getting the real deal. You must also be sure that it is the most suitable choice for your needs and budget. BCH Camping supply a wide range of waterproofs to suit all requirements.
What is “waterproof”?
The definition of waterproof is that the item must be impervious to water. Waterproof fabrics are inherently resistant to penetration by water and wetting, or they have been treated to become as such. They are usually natural or synthetic fabrics that have been laminated or coated with a waterproofing material such as rubberpolyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane (PU) or wax. If it is claimed that an item is waterproof, by law it must be 100% waterproof.
The waterproof poor relations
There are other product descriptions that can be confused with waterproof:
  • Water resistant – the item can withstand wet weather, but cannot withstand being totally submerged in water.
  • Water repellent – the item is probably more durable than water resistant items but less durable than waterproof items. They are sewn more tightly and coated better than water resistant fabrics. Water beads up when it touches the fabric (creates small bubbles) but the coating may wear down over time.
  • Weatherproof – the item is considered to be windproof with a higher than average resistance to water. When routinely exposed to the harsh elements it remains in good condition.
Different types of waterproofing
  • GOR-TEX® - the membrane, with its microporous structure, is an extremely thin layer of expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE). There are over 9 billion pores per square inch which give the GORE-TEX® fabric its characteristics. To make a GORE-TEX® product the membrane must be bonded between a high-performance lining and the outer fabric which is referred to as the GORE-TEX® laminate.
BCH Camping supply many GOR-TEX® waterproof products such as the Berghaus Men’s Long Cornice II Jacket.
  • eVent - whereas GORE-TEX® uses a polyurethane layer in their fabrics to absorb sweat, the eVent application is made to the inner layers of the garment, removing the need for a PU layer. eVent refer to this as Direct Venting Technology which makes the fabric more breathable but not as warm as GORE-TEX®, therefore ideal for more physical activities that build up a sweat like the Rab Mens Mountain Dru Jacket.
  • AquaDry – developed by Craghoppers, AquaDry products have a waterproof membrane alongside technical outer fabrics. Products are treated with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) to ensure the outer fabric stays dry, offering guaranteed waterproof and breathable fabric. BCH Camping are a proud supplier of many Craghoppers AquaDry products such as the Men’s Travelite Overtrouser.
  • Pertex – a tightly woven synthetic fabric, structured to repel water. Its lightweight properties or “soft shell” make it comfortable and easy to move in, for activities such as walking, hiking, camping and cycling. It is a popular choice for manufactures such as Berghaus and Rab. BCH Camping supply a range of Pertex products such as the Rab Men’s Charge Jacket.
  • Texapore – used for hard shell products, consisting of a shell material with a water-repellent coating and a waterproof PU membrane or PU coating on the inside. The material used inside is complemented with a smooth inner material or an inserted lining.
    All Texapore products such as the Jack Wolfksin Cloudburst Jacket are waterproof, windproof and breathable.
How should I care for a waterproof jacket?
The build-up of dirt and residue on a waterproof jacket will affect its waterproof properties and breathability so it should be kept fairly clean. The most simple rule of thumb is to never wash your waterproof jacket in household detergents because the detergent can break down the composition of the fibres. Here is a quick guide to washing your waterproofs:
  • Before you start, you should brush off any excess dirt and close all zips and flaps
  • Make sure that the detergent drawer of your washing machine contains no detergent or softener residue
  • Use waterproof cleaner such as Nikwax TechWash Wash In in place of a detergent. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines as to how much should be used
  • Don’t wash your waterproof with other clothing, and with no more than one other waterproof item
  • Put the item(s) through a standard 30° wash – check labels for full wash instructions
  • Leave to air dry, or use a tumble dryer on a low heat unless the instructions state otherwise
If you observe that the garment is starting to absorb water rather than repelling water, it may need to be reproofed. This can be done with a spray or wash such as the Nikwax Tx Direct Spray-On.
What kind of waterproof jacket do I need?
Waterproof jackets are available as packable, lightweight jackets, or as heavier, winter jackets which are obviously warmer. BCH Camping stock a range of waterproof jackets of different weights for all weather and hike requirements.
Lightweight, packable jackets are ideal for backpacking and days in the mountains when weight is a major consideration. The Berghaus Men’s Fastpacking Shell Jacket weighs just 250g  but is still strong enough to offer the necessary protection if bad weather sets in. It is a perfect solution for high energy walking.
At the other end of the scale, the Mountain Equipment Mens Rupal Jacket weighs 585g. This Alpine fit jacket with Mountain HC hood has GOR-TEX® 75D fabric throughout. It will handle anything that the mountains throw at it so it is ideal for backpackers and mountaineers heading out in all weathers. It is equally well suited to more technical climbs.
What will a waterproof jacket cost me?
The waterproof jackets available from BCH Camping range from £70 - £360. As with most things in life you pay for what you get, and with the higher range of jackets you are getting better breathability with longer lasting waterproofing. You need to take into account how often you would wear your jacket, the kind of activity you need it for and the conditions you are likely to be walking in.
Our staff are highly experienced in offering product advice so please either visit our stores where they’ll be happy to help you, or contact us for additional information on which is the best jacket for you, and the budget you therefore need to be working to.