What’s the difference between waterproof, water-resistant, and water-repellent? What is laminate construction? What do pressure ratings mean? This is a how-to guide for buying rain garments, specifically rain suits, jackets and pants. Below you’ll find easy to understand descriptions of commonly used but often misunderstood terms. The information is meant to help you decide which garment to buy based on the possible and/or likely conditions you’ll encounter while outside.
Not all outerwear is created equal. In fact, there are several different levels of protection. Each level is designed for a particular range of conditions, such as a water-repellent garment to shed a light mist or a spilled drink, to 3-layer laminates (similar to Gore-tex®) that keep hard driving rain and wind out while allowing perspiration to vent.
- Maximum protection: waterproof, windproof, breathable
- 3 layers: outer shell and waterproof substrate laminated together with fabric liner for comfort and enhanced moisture wicking
- Taped seams ensure a completely waterproof garment
- The high-quality materials and bonded construction create a sturdy, reliable garment that is flexible enough for a full round of golf but tough enough to keep out the heaviest downpours
- Usual pressure rating of 20,000mm
- Laminate construction consists of outer shell bonded to a waterproof membrane with an adhesive, resulting in a lightweight one-piece fabric
- The laminate construction reduces “wet-out” (soaking) of external surface, meaning the outermost fabric resists becoming water logged and heavy
- Minimum protection of 5,000mm
- Not completely waterproof
- Offers adequate protection from normal weather, such as passing rain showers
- Lacks taped seams, and pressure points may soak through faster than others
- Extended exposure to large volumes of high velocity fluids will likely cause a failure of the fabric’s ability to resist water, as will high pressure (eg: sitting on a wet seat cushion, continually rubbing against something wet)
- Usual protection rating of 1,000mm
- Fabric repels initial moisture through tightly woven fabric or DWR (durable water repellant) coating, such as silicone or fluoropolymer
- Decent protection from light rain, spilled drinks, and other short-duration, low pressure events
- Like a water resistant fabric, increased pressure and/or wear decreases the fabric’s ability to repel liquids
- Surface may quickly become saturated, reducing repellency and breathability
- 1,000mm = approx. 3.3 feet
- 5,000mm = approx. 16 feet
- 20,000mm = approx 65.5 feet
The numbers above refer to the amount of liquid that can be suspended above a fabric before water seeps through. Ratings are put into perspective when considering some records for rain: a 1.5in./min. (90in./hour) downpour in the tropics and a 12in./42min. (~17in./hour) downpour in Missouri. Of course other factors such as temperature, humidity, activity level, type of materials used, area of contact (eg: water from a downspout in one spot vs. falling rain over entire surface), design features (eg: taped seams, storm flaps, rubberized zippers), and care of garment all affect performance.
That is why it’s recommended to consider the possible conditions you’ll be exposed to. Golfing in the desert would likely require the water repellent option to maximize breathability, reduce weight, but offer protection from a passing shower. But golfing in Florida and other stormy places may require a more robust garment. And investing in a quality garment that meets or exceeds suspected conditions will offer greater peace of mind and a longer service life.