Although it might seem that buying a rain coat should be as straightforward as walking into a shop and buying the first thing you see, in fact, there are a lot of considerations to take into account. For starters the term waterproof is not absolute, there is no set standard as to what breathability as waterproof – only general guidelines – so although two coats may be water resistant to what extent could vary quite considerably between the two.
Factors to consider when buying raincoats
It is a good starting point to consider the fabric that is used on a coat, as there are some waterproof fabrics out there each with different advantages and disadvantages. Recently there have been three new coats released with different materials, including the launch of many rain coat making companies. Each of these has had big claims made regarding their breathability and water resistance. However, the test of time will prove these claims to be right or wrong. For now, many membranes which have been tried and tested are known to be effective, and furthermore, you will not be paying extra for the novelty of cutting edge fabric.
Breathability is another important factor. While you want a coat to keep the rain out; you also want something that will let your sweat escape. There are some ways that this is achieved, the most common of which is known as the membrane principle; this is used by Gore-Tex and others. Droplets of liquid water (rain drops) are far larger than molecules of water vapor that are produced by your body, so with small enough holes in the membrane, it acts as an unidirectional barrier, where moisture can permeate from the inside but not from the outside. This venting process is driven by the difference in humidity between the inside and the outside of the coat.
Identify whether you need a lined or unlined model
When choosing a coat, you will probably come across the option of having a lined or unlined design. The lining refers to the mesh on the inside of some coats. The mesh is there to hold the fabric away from your skin and reduce the feeling of clamminess. However, it is arguable that this lining just adds excess weight to the coat. Because the materials used to make modern shells is so breathable, there is little point in buying a coat with a mesh lining.
It is fair to say that you get what you pay for to a certain extent; a larger price tag should mean you are getting an effective breathable membrane, face fabrics and the best balance between durability and lightness.