What do the waterproof ratings mean for waterproof jackets?

If you’re outdoors a lot or have an outdoor job, you may have come across different levels of waterproofing. At first glance, these might not make sense. After all, isn’t a waterproof jacket waterproof?

Not exactly. For jackets, “waterproof” simply means that water can’t get to the layer beneath the fabric. The waterproof ratings explain how much water they can withstand before the waterproofing becomes ineffective. So while a jacket can be waterproof, it’s only waterproof up to a maximum limit. In this article, we’ll explain different kinds of waterproofing ratings and what the ratings mean for waterproof jackets.

Different kinds of waterproofing

Waterproofing ratings are different depending on what is being protected from water. You may be familiar with IPX like the IP67 Waterproof rating. These are specifically for protection for electronics. You’ll see those kinds of ratings on items like 3M Peltor LiteCom Hard Hat with Attached Bluetooth Earmuffs that have a noise-cancelling microphone with IP68 waterproofing. You can find out more about IP Ratings from this article from The Enclosure Company.

For clothing like jackets, waterproof ratings are different. Nearly all kinds of material will get water to soak through eventually, the difference is in how much water it takes before starting to soak through. This is why with workwear, waterproof ratings come in mm.

Something can be considered “waterproof” once it has a rating of 3000mm. This is the amount of water pressure the fabric can endure before water gets through. However, that level won’t be nearly enough for stormy weather or marine work.

If you’d like to learn more about the science of waterproofing, check out this video on the Hydrostatic Head Test. We’ll be explaining different ranges and what they mean in practical terms for jacket waterproofing.

0 – 3000mm rating

Below 3000mm, clothing is considered water-resistant instead of waterproof. They offer some kind of protection against water, but are only useful for water protection for casual use. An example of this is our Unisex Base Jacket which is made from 100% showerproof Polyester.

3000mm – 5000mm waterproof jackets

At the low end of the waterproofing range, these jackets can protect you against drizzles and light rain. They’re suitable for casual use and short trips through the rain. Typically, these will be lightweight and packable jackets or light hoodies. The FXD WF 1 Bonded Membrane Fleece Hoodie is a good example of this, rated at 5000mm and both windproof and breathable.

5000mm – 10,000mm waterproof jackets

At this range, jackets start to become usable for work. These kinds of jackets tend to be a bit heavier but also quite breathable. You can use these jackets safely in moderate rain conditions without much risk of water getting in. Our Streetworx Stretch Waterproof Jacket ZJ310 is a lightweight seam-sealed jacket rated at 10,000mm.

10,000mm – 15,000mm waterproof jackets

With the 10,000mm – 15,000mm range, waterproof jackets start to handle much higher volumes of rain. Medium to high rain generally won’t be an issue and you can keep dry in wet conditions.

15,000mm – 25,000 mm waterproof jackets

Going above 15,000mm is usually more than a casual user needs. These kinds of jackets are typically suited for working conditions with a high probability of rain. The Atlas SympaTex Rain Jacket has a very high waterproof rating of 20,000mm and is made from 100% recyclable materials.

25,000mm+ waterproof jackets

Most workers and industries don’t need anything above 25,000mm+ except for in cases of extreme rain. To get to 25,000mm wateproofing or higher, the fabric either needs to be very thick or made from a special hi-tech material. At 25,000mm and above, your jacket should keep you dry when working in storms or in the marine or fishing industry. The Bison Exteme D/N Jacket has a 25,000mm waterproof rating and includes a removable sherpa lining and specially designed rain gutter.

Which level of waterproof jacket is right for me?

The right waterproof jacket for you depends on how much rain you expect to deal with on a regular basis. Higher waterproofing isn’t always the best for all jobs; they tend tosacrifice breathability to repel water better so keep an eye on the breathability rating too.

If you aren’t sure, feel free to get in touch with us for help. You can also browse our full jacket range or stop by our store to try some on for yourself. We’re happy to help you choose the best option based on your industry, workplace, and budget.