Technical Outerwear Explained

Ever wondered what you should be looking for when purchasing technical outerwear for your ski holiday? Have a read of the most common terms that you will come across when purchasing your waterproof jacket and pants.

mountainsWaterproofing & Breathability

These are two terms that will come up a lot when researching outerwear and they refer to any fabric with a ‘PTFE’ or Polytetrafluroethlene coating or laminate membrane that inside the garment. PTFE treatment repels water, or moisture, and other external elements and allows for the transfer of moisture and vapor created by body heat or sweating from the inside of the fabric to the outside. The most well known PTFE treatment in mountain-wear garments is Gore-tex® in a generic sense (like a Gucci handbag) when referring to waterproof and breathable ski wear. This generalisation is not entirely fair though as many other companies are doing the same thing just in a different way with different brands. There are heaps of fabric coating or laminate brands and processes available to the companies and they all perform similarly depending on the desired waterproofing or breathability for the price point of the garment.

This ‘membrane’ that we are banging on about is applied directly to the inside of the garment and can look like a clear or milky plastic bag when opening up the garment. The process works as water drops are too big to penetrate the membrane and therefore keeps the fabric waterproof and win-resistant, however, sweat vapors are tiny and will be expelled out; sort of like a one-way door situation.

Waterproof Ratings

The waterproof rating is measured in millimeters (mm) and a garment is given a rating according to how waterproof it is. For example, the waterproof rating we recommend for all over the world is 10/10 or 10,000mm which means it can with-stand 10,000mm of water pressure in a 24 hour period before moisture will penetrate the membrane and saturate. So, the higher the waterproof rating, the more water the garment can withstand, but also means the price will increase.

45,000mm is known to be the highest rating available on the market at the moment, any higher than that could compromise the breathability of the garment and may end up wearing like a plastic bag; which is never fun.

Breathability Ratings

Breathability refers to ‘moisture wicking’. It is the extent to which body vapor and perspiration passes through a fabric and the membrane inside the garment. For example, a 10K breathability rating means that during a typical 24hr period, in normal active conditions, 10,000gm of perspiration or vapor will be transferred through the fabric. If you think of it as a plastic poncho in the rain; that feeling of being sweaty underneath that plastic poncho in the rain is dramatically minimised when wearing a garment that has a breathability rating.

DWR Coatings

DWR, or Durable Water Repellent, is a coating that forces the water to bead up and off fabrics and prevents saturation. This coating is not a waterproofing treatment by itself and does not provide protection in extended wet weather. Therefore, you will need to look out for waterproof ratings in conjunction with DWR coatings when considering what jacket is right for you.

Fully Seam Sealed

Fully Seam Sealed refers to the manufacturing process of the garment. Each seam has a thin film of tape applied to the interior of the seam where minute holes are left from the sewing process. By having a fully seam sealed garment, the waterproofing will keep its integrity and ensure moisture is kept away from the body.

Critically or Strategically Seam Sealed

This is exactly the same process as Fully Seam Sealed garments, however only the seams that are coping the brunt of the external elements is considered. Areas such as the shoulder, neckline, and sometimes the hood and biceps in a jacket and the crotch, buttock, and sometimes hips in pants are critically or strategically seam sealed.

When considering purchasing a jacket, these are very important areas to keep in mind. Anything over 10,000 for waterproofing and breathability is suitable for conditions all over the world; Australia to Canada, Canada to Japan. If you need any further assistance with any of these concepts, give our friendly staff a call any time!

Happy Skiing :)