Outdoor jackets are increasingly more often selected according to functional parameters – the water column and breathability. Leaving aside the popular advertising spell "higher values = better values", what is the practical significance of these values for outdoor clothing? Let's take a look together.
Before we begin, we'll explain the very meaning of the functional parameters – the water column and breathability. We will also mention another very important parameter that is often forgotten – taped seams.
What is this water column and breathability?
Let's see a specific example – a softshell jacket. In case of a softshell jacket the water column value tells us, how much the jacket is waterproof, i.e. rainproof. In other words, how much water can it withstand before the water penetrates the jacket. Higher values therefore logically mean more protection during wet weather.
Note: Beware of the difference between the words water-resistant and water-repellent. If the jacket is water-repellent, it means that the water tends to trickle down on the surface of the jacket. But it may not be rainproof.
Outdoor jackets with a high water column are fine, BUT...
To be 100% waterproof, it is imperative that your jacket also has a good breathability. The breathability value of outdoor clothing reveals how well the clothing allows for drainage or evaporation of the body moisture to the surface. Breathability is usually ensured by a membrane that works only, if the person is sufficiently warmed up by a physical activity.
High or low breathability? It depends on what activities you intend to do while wearing the jacket.
When you exercise and sweat, but you want to stay warm and dry, you need to lead the sweat away from the skin. Breathability serves exactly this purpose. The more you sweat, the more you will appreciate breathability. And conversely. When you do not sweat too much while moving and you need the jacket mainly for casual wear, light hiking or walking, a high breathability will cause you to be cold.
LOAP TIP: Details about the proper way of dressing called the "Onion System" can be found in our article How does the principle of 3 layers of clothing work.
The water column is not complete without taped seams
You will not hear taped seams mentioned in conjunction with functional parameters too often. However, if a softshell jacket does not have taped seams, high parameters of the water column are practically useless – the water will penetrate in the places of stitching. It is definitely better to choose softshell jackets with lower parameters and taped seams than softshell jackets with higher parameters without taped seams.
Note: You can also come across outdoor jackets with partly taped seams. In this case, the seams are taped only in the most exposed areas, such as shoulders.
Is a jacket with parameters 5000-5000 mm better than with 8000-3000 mm?
Watch out for the difference between the water column and breathability. If you have a significantly higher water column and low breathability, you will sweat very easily during active movement, because the jacket will not be able to divert the sweat away from the body fast enough. In this case the jacket works more like a raincoat, in which you will not get wet by rain, but you will be cold due to the sweat.
A specific example: If you want to go to mountains or hiking and you hesitate between a jacket with the water column 5000 mm and breathability 5000 g/m2/24h (i.e. jacket "Five on Five") and a jacket with the water column 8000 mm and breathability 3000 g/m2/24h (Jacket "Three on Eight"), then the jacket with the parameters 5000-5000 is the better choice for you.
Frankly: how many times a year do you climb Everest?
Properly selected parameter values are in fact derived from the planned physical activity and locality in which you will perform it.
Jackets with parameters 10000 mm and 10 000 g/m2/24h are more suited to skiing in the Alps and high mountains, i.e. for areas with a greater incidence of rainfall and higher humidity, when you sweat more during a physical activity. These jackets are usually without insulation precisely because of increased sweating.
Once and for all: It is a myth that higher levels of functional parameters are always better.
The water column of 5000 mm and breathability 5000 g/m2/24h is sufficient for the Central European mild climate zone, i.e. the Czech climate and our mountains. In other words, you will not be able to appreciate higher parameters in our country. No extreme conditions of high rainfall or humidity will threaten you in the Czech Republic.
If you perform light hiking and you travel most frequently in Europe, softshell jackets with the water column 5000 mm and breathability 5000 g/m2/24 h are perfect for you.
You really do not need the water column of 8000 mm for the city
Urban jackets are a completely different category. It is not expected that you will play sports wearing them (trying to catch the bus does not count). This is why they are manufactured without functional parameters or with low functional parameters. These parameters are often a water-repellent coating in combination with insulation. The purpose is to provide you with adequate warmth and protection from rain. Urban clothing is not suitable for more demanding activities.
And what about LOAP? We manufacture mostly jackets for Czech mountains.
As a manufacturer of outdoor clothing, we are well aware of the above-mentioned facts, and therefore we specialize in the production of functional jackets and pants suitable for our
climate conditions. Most of our outdoor jackets have the value of the water column and breathability between 3000-3000 and 5000-5000, which are values ideal for our climate.
Softshell jackets with the DryTech coating include a high-quality polyurethane layer with a microporous structure applied directly on the fabric. It prevents penetration of water and at the same time allows for evaporation of body moisture.
Clothing with the membrane Aqua Pro is also rainproof and breathable, but differs in the method of application. The membrane is a special layer that is either freely inserted between the upper material and lining, or is connected with the outer material by lamination. In the case of three-layer lamination the membrane is connected with the lining.
We sell jackets with taped seams, either partially or completely. This supports waterproofness both of the material from which the clothing is made, and waterproofness in the places of stitching. We use this technique especially for winter clothing, where the probability of contact with water (snow) is much higher.
We thoroughly test the water column: 3 drops are enough!
The test of final waterproofness of the fabric is carried out using a special measuring instrument. In simple words, it is a cylinder that is attached to the surface of the tested fabric. Gradually, water is poured into it, until the time when the first 3 drops penetrate the fabric. At this point, the water column is measured. And this is the figure that is indicated on the tag of each jacket and pants.
3 tips in conclusion:
1. Select the water column according to the activities that you perform most often during the year.
2. Do not be lured by super advantageous promotions for jackets with the parameters 10,000 to 10,000 and more. Stick to the Tip no. 1.
When you fail to comply with the advice No. 1 and 2...
3. When you are cold and you sweat excessively, an image of a person wearing a jacket with professional parameters will be useless. Stick to the Tips no. 1 and 2. :)