rain hikeConvenient that we dive further into our series on raingear as it’s currently raining steadily outside the window next to me. In Part One, we took a look at some of the major factors you should take into consideration when choosing rainwear for your outdoor activities. Today, we’ll explore the different types of rainwear available, in terms of their level of protection against precipitation.

Waterproof/Breathable 

This tends to be the most popular rainwear for active individuals, due to its versatility. WP/BR fabrics repel steady precipitation, but also allow sweat breathability. There are some potential drawbacks, though, such as a lack of a universal standard for breathability, which makes it hard for a consumer to measure the feature. This reality is augmented further by the fact breathability can differ drastically from garment to garment, or brand to brand. WP/BR apparel also tends to cost more than other rainwear types.

Water-resistant/Breathable

WR/BR is designed for strenuous activities in cooler conditions, as well as light showers, mist, or dry snow. WR garments delay water penetration but do not prevent it completely. Look for fabrics consisting of tightly woven, stretchy yarns, abrasion-resistance, and high breathability. This type is great for backpackers who value breathability and can tolerate dampness, or day hikers expecting a light drizzle at the most. WR/BR offer excellent breathability, lighter weight that WP/BR apparel, and lower costs. They don’t, however, offer sealed seams, decent insulation, or protection against steady or hard rain.

Soft Shell

Soft shells typically come with a WP/BR laminate. Their breathability is no different than traditional rainwear, but their advantage lies with their increased stretchability, which makes them appealing to climbers, trail runners, and others who value flexibility. Jackets that mixed areas of hard- and soft-shell fabrics have mostly vanished. Soft shells will keep you dry in a downpour, but offer little to no gain in breathability.

Waterproof/Nonbreathable

WP/NB fabrics are usually coated to prevent any sort of precipitation from getting in and are really intended for minimal activity or emergency use. Birders, photographers, and anglers will want to check into soft shells for their activities. While soft shells tend to be inexpensive, they’re often stiff and, since sweat can’t escape, they can feel hot or clammy if temperatures rise or your activity level increases.

Considering your activity level, as well as the climate of your region, will help you make a more educated purchase when choosing a piece of rainwear for the outdoors. Keep the tips outlined today in mind and you’ll be well on your way to staying dry outdoors this Spring.