One of the key concerns for a winter walking holiday is being prepared for wet or rainy conditions. If you’re all layered up, the last thing you’ll want is to end up soaked and freezing cold if the heavens decide to open. To keep the rain out, you’ll need some waterproof overlayers to act as an impermeable outer shell, allowing the rest of you to stay warm and dry.
Water resistance vs waterproof
It’s easy for buying waterproof clothing to get confusing when you’re actively on the lookout for a waterproof jacket or trousers. One of the key problems people come across is mistaking “water resistance” for “waterproof”. While both perform a similar job, one radically out performs the other when exposed to more extreme conditions.
Water resistant fabric is designed to repel water. During manufacture, it is coated with a fine plastic which forms its outer layer. When water falls onto the material, it forms beads, which quickly run off the material, rather than soaking through like it would on wool, cotton or similar fabrics. Eventually, this water resistant coating will wear away, and will need to be reapplied using products such as Nikwax or Grangers. Water resistant clothing is great if you are looking for a low-cost way to cover up when weather turns bad, though it can only take a certain amount of water before it will eventually begin to soak through.
Water resistant fabric is most commonly used in lightweight, packable jackets and trousers. While not as reliable as more expensive waterproof clothing, they can be useful for keeping in a rucksack when out walking in case of a sudden shower.
If you’re heading out on a walking holiday where the weather can potentially be poor, it is worthwhile investing in a fully waterproof jacket, and ideally, a pair of trousers too. Fully “waterproof” clothing uses a water resistant coating to allow water to bead and run off the surface, but also includes an extra layer embedded within the fabric. This layer consists of a waterproof membrane which creates an effective seal, helping to keep water out.
If shopping for a waterproof jacket or pair of trousers which uses a high quality waterproof membrane, look out for items using Gore-tex or E-Vent. These membranes are used by leading outdoors manufacturers, and Gore-tex even guarantee their items against leaking for the lifetime of the product, meaning you should be able to find yourself a reliable garment which will last for years.
Choosing a jacket
When choosing a waterproof jacket, make sure it leaves enough room to cover all the layers you may be wearing underneath. Many jackets will come with extra features to make them as durable and comfortable as possible, including ripstop material which prevents small tears from getting bigger, and waterproof zips which keep water from penetrating zipped areas.
Waterproof trousers aren’t always essential, but can be especially useful in very heavy rain. As with a jacket, choose a pair which leave enough room to accommodate layers underneath. Many higher quality waterproof trousers are lightweight enough to be carried in a rucksack in case of poor weather. To ensure a longer life, choose trousers made from rip stop material (look out for the cross-hatched pattern on their surface) as tiny snags and tears can easily spread and become huge rips otherwise.
Re-proofing your waterproof items
Whether you choose to buy water resistant or waterproof clothing, at some point you’ll find you need to “re-proof” them. Through repeated use and wear, the fine, water repellant layer of plastic will wear away, and you’ll start to notice that water stops beading and running off and your clothing becomes saturated. There are a number of products on the market to do this, the most popular being Nikwax, which can easily be washed into your clothing. Re-proofing allows you to greatly extend the lifespan of your waterproof clothing and be safe in the knowledge that it will perform at its very best.
Image sourced: Brocken Inaglorytagswaterproofwet weatherwinter walking holiday