This is the fourth post in a series covering how to layer FR clothing during wetter, colder months. Previously, we covered inner FR layers, outer FR layers and the cold stress hazards workers face in during the winter months.
Extreme outdoor adventurers know that the correct type of rainwear can directly contribute to comfort in wet conditions. Rainwear is FR protection that is frequently overlooked but can be a much needed item of clothing in a wet climate.
What is the best rainwear for you and the conditions you work in? In this final post of the FR layering series, we will look at different types of rainwear and primary benefits to each.
Below are a couple of questions you should ask yourself prior to shopping for FR rainwear:
One of the most obvious and important aspects of rainwear is that it keeps you dry. There is a noticeable difference between waterproof and water-resistant. Waterproof means that the rainwear is water repellent and will keep the water out. Water-resistant means that the garment can withstand light precipitation but not a downpour of rain or heavy, wet snow.
The differences between these two types of rainwear are explored further below under Types of FR Rainwear.
Since rainwear is waterproof to keep moisture out, it can also keep moisture in. When you are working hard and sweating, non-breathable rainwear will trap that moisture against your body making you wet. As discussed in our post on inner layers and moisture management, non-breathable rainwear can result in wet inner layers which may make you cold.
While waterproof/breathable fabric technologies can make rainwear comfortable to wear during vigorous activity, so can a multitude of other factors:
It’s critical to note that there is no universally accepted standard for breathability, which can be hard for workers to measure and often differs between brands. Breathability is looked at more closely below.
Waterproof/Breathable Rainwear is most popular for active workers as this category is suitable for the widest range of uses. Waterproof/breathable fabrics repel nonstop precipitation yet allow perspiration vapor to escape, and because of this, waterproof options keep active workers more comfortable than traditional rainwear. Rainwear using high-tech laminates or membranes have an edge in breathability over rainwear using coatings. With that in mind, waterproof rainwear can cost a bit more than water resistant options.
Water-Resistant/Breathable Rainwear is designed for strenuous activities in cooler conditions or when the biggest precipitation threat is a light shower, mist or dry snow. Water-resistant garments delay water penetration but do not prevent it like their waterproof counterparts. Most water-resistant rainwear offers no sealed seams and modest to minimal insulation for the coldest and wettest of climates.
Water resistant rainwear provides excellent breathability. Soft-shells, consisting of woven fabrics that are abrasion-resistant and highly breathable, fit into this category of rainwear. Polartec Power Shield or wind shirts are great examples of water-resistant rainwear. Soft-shell fabrics that include no laminates offer good air permeability (and thus, superior breathability).
Water-resistant garments are sometimes lighter in weight than waterproof rainwear and can be less expensive.
Wind resistance refers to the maximum wind speed a fabric can block. Certain fabrics are designed to block wind, keeping atmospheric air from reaching the skin. Most waterproof/breathable fabrics are also “windproof.” Wind is a concern to workers that are located in extreme winter climates or caught in particularly strong winter storms. Wind can deprive your body of heat and moisture leaving you feeling chilled. While windproof, most rainwear offers no air permeability.
References for this post were accessed Nov 2013: