What is Weatherproof Clothing?

Karyn Maier
Karyn Maier

When the term weatherproof is used to describe something, it indicates that the object is resistant to environmental elements, either by natural design or due to its surface being treated. In the case of weatherproof clothing, the latter applies. Generally, the element of most concern is water, since its passage through the garment can make one physically uncomfortable and inhibit mobility. This is why most outerwear designed for outdoor activity, such as ski clothes and jackets, is enhanced to be waterproof.

Skiers must wear clothing that will keep them warm and dry.
Skiers must wear clothing that will keep them warm and dry.

In order to keep out water, the garment’s material, which may be natural or synthetic, must be sealed. This barrier may be applied during the manufacturing process, or after the point of purchase. For example, coating the finished garment with a specially formulated spray can make it waterproof. However, this treatment is not permanent and must be repeated periodically. To make weatherproof clothing that is permanently resistant to moisture, the fabric surface must be infused with a laminate, such as polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride.

Gore-tex is a brand that specializes in weatherproof clothing.
Gore-tex is a brand that specializes in weatherproof clothing.

Not all types of weatherproof clothing are the same, however. In fact, there are degrees of weatherproofing that depend on the treatment and even fabric structure. For instance, weatherproof garments deemed “breathable” are made of material that can withstand hydrostatic pressures greater than 9.8 kilopascals (kPa) without letting water in. At the same time, the material “breathes” to permit internal water vapor to escape, meaning that it wicks sweat to the surface where it can evaporate.

Some types of weatherproof clothing are directional textiles. That is, they are made of breathable fabrics that also direct water and moisture away from the body without the need for lamination. In fact, these specially designed fabrics spread water more efficiently to the surface without allowing it to pool. This is advantageous since even breathable weatherproof clothing can loose its ability to resist moisture under very cold, wet conditions.

One of the best-known brands of weatherproof outerwear is GORE-TEX®. The secret to the success of this line of outdoor gear lies in the construction of its fabric, which was originally designed to make tents. The material consists of a thin layer of expanded fluoropolymer that is coated with a layer of nylon or polyester-bonded urethane. The result is a porous but dense fabric with a matrix of approximately 9 billion pores per square inch (1.4 billion per square centimeter). Since each pore is roughly 20,000 times smaller than a single drop of water, the material wicks sweat but does not allow water to penetrate.

Traditional outerwear materials held sweat against the skin, soaking undergarments and causing discomfort for the wearer.
Traditional outerwear materials held sweat against the skin, soaking undergarments and causing discomfort for the wearer.
Karyn Maier
Karyn Maier

Contributing articles to wiseGEEK is just one of Karyn’s many professional endeavors. She is also a magazine writer and columnist, mainly for health-related publications, as well as the author of four books. Karyn lives in New York’s Catskill Mountain region and specializes in topics about green living and botanical medicine.

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Discussion Comments


I think the best kind of material for waterproof items is GORE-TEX. You can buy wonderful coats, gloves, ski apparel, and camping tents and other equipment. It's lightweight, but warm. It blocks rain and snow from getting inside. I like it because it's comfortable and it wicks sweat to the outside. The one drawback is that it is quite expensive, but the clothing is well made and lasts a long time.


I live in a climate where it rains the majority of the days of the year. In this climate, you really need a different kind of raincoat for just about all of the seasons.

In the summer when it rains, you need a light weight raincoat that will wick the moisture from the inside and block the water that falls on you.

In the winter, it can get cold and windy, so you need a raincoat with insulation inside.

You need a hood attached to your raincoat since an umbrella doesn't do much good when it's raining and the wind is blowing hard.

Dealing with the rain so often can be a real pain. But if it didn't rain, we wouldn't have the green grass and trees.


For the climate where I live, a good jacket for winter is essential. We have heavy snow storms throughout the season, and if you don't have a weatherproof coat, you will wind up soaked from melting snow once you go inside. Even if you manage to remove your coat before the snow melts, you will have to go back out into the weather with a wet coat later.

I only buy weatherproof outerwear. On the surface, it may not look warm and cozy, but it keeps me that way. While it provides the protection from the snow, the warm layers that I wear underneath it keep me at a comfortable temperature.


That's neat that they make clothing from material used to manufacture tents. I have often wished for clothing that could protect me from rain as well as a tent can on a camping trip.

I have honestly never owned a raincoat. I've always taken an umbrella with me in my car, but umbrellas don't protect your whole body. My pants always wind up damp or spotted with water, and I'm cold for hours because of it.

I am going to shop for some weatherproof clothing. I already have some rain boots, but I need a hooded jacket and pants that are made to resist water. I'm going to look into that brand that uses tent material.


@lonelygod – My favorite weatherproof brand clothing is Polartec clothing. I find that their fleece does an amazing job of blocking out the wind and cold. Plus, as an added bonus it is really lightweight. To be honest you might not even have to change clothes once you get back on shore.

I find having a few different weatherproof jackets in your wardrobe is a good idea because it isn't very much fun having to layer everything. For myself I have a different jacket for each season and some really heavy padded clothing for the dead of winter. I am always warm and toasty, so I would say the weatherproof wardrobe is a good investment.


Does anyone know of a really good weatherproof brand clothing?

I am looking for windproof clothing, and am especially interested in men's coats. I love to travel around the lakes and find myself taking ferries and boats more often than not, and I usually end up quite cold. I would prefer lightweight clothing so I can change into something more comfortable for walking around in.

My next trip is a few weeks away so hopefully I can find a good weatherproof clothing company before I decided to head out again. I am tired of freezing on the open water and get wind burn.

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