How can I stay dry while working in the rain?
When working in wet conditions, it’s important to keep yourself dry, so your performances are not affected by bad weather.
In order to stay dry, your jacket obviously needs to protect you against water from outside (from rain, snow or even dew and humidity) and prevent it from getting inside the garment and making you wet.
However, if you want to stay comfortably dry even while working up a sweat, it’s essential that water vapour generated through your perspiration inside the garment is also wicked away from your skin. This helps to keep you dry and prevents clamminess or dampness, which is what happens when the vapour gets trapped. So the breathability of your fabric is equally important in this matter.
Is my garment waterproof?
When you’re looking for a garment to protect you while working in the rain, it’s important to understand the difference between a waterproof fabric and a waterproof garment.
In the former, the fabric itself provides protection against water from the outside, for example by means of a membrane.
How do you measure the waterproofness of a fabric?
One of the test methods to determine how waterproof a fabric is, is called the hydrostatic pressure test. It measures how much water the fabric can resist under a certain pressure rate, before moisture starts to penetrate the fabric. The result is expressed in mm. The higher the figure, the longer you can continue working in the rain.
EN 343 certified SYNQ rain jackets have a water column of at least 12.000 mm, which - to give you an indication - will protect you against an average rainfall for a couple of hours. The SYNQ hardshell and three-layered softshell jackets reach water column ratings of 20.000 mm and more, making their fabrics resist water penetration even in more extreme conditions or longer periods of time.
In the latter, not only the fabric is waterproof, but also the seams of the garment are sealed with a waterproof tape, so no water can seep through, making the entire garment waterproof.
Knowing this, the answer to the following question will make perfect sense:
“What is the difference between a softshell jacket and a rain or shell jacket?”
A three-layered softshell jacket has a waterproof fabric, thanks to its membrane. However, a softshell usually doesn’t have taped seams. So the fabric will resist water penetration, but eventually water will seep through the seams if you work in the rain for a longer period of time. As opposed to rain or shell jackets, which do have taped seams, making these waterproof garments.
Three-layered softshell jackets are perfect workwear items if you are looking for a flexible, good-looking outer layer that offers some protection against the rain, but you should definitely choose a certified EN 343 rain or shell jacket, if you plan on working in bad weather for longer periods on end.
The term “waterproof” in itself can be somewhat misleading. We’ve just explained that the waterproofness of a fabric is tested by measuring how much water the fabric can endure before it lets any moisture through. So when talking about waterproof fabrics, this doesn't mean absolutely no water can penetrate the fabric. Otherwise we would be comparing our garments to plastic bags for example, and no one would want to work in that... right? See more about breathability below.
Apart from that, there are various test methods to determine the water column of a fabric, which apply different water pressure rates for example, leading to very different results. It's important to keep that in mind when evaluating different rain jackets and their performance levels.
Waterproof fabric + taped seams = waterpoof garment
If you are looking for a waterproof garment, look for the combination of both symbols:
How do you measure the breathability of a fabric?
As you know, not only the water resistance of a fabric is important, its breathability is equally key to staying dry during long days on the job.
To determine how breathable a fabric is, you need to define its capacity to let the water vapour generated through perspiration (read: sweat) wick away from your skin and pass through the fabric.
Breathability ratings for rain jackets that are EN 343 certified are measured using the unit RET, which refers to how resistant the fabric is to letting water vapour through. So the lower this coefficient, the lower the resistance, hence the more breathable the fabric is.