Raincoats first came into being after Charles Mackintosh invented the method of combining rubber with fabric, creating a waterproof fabric. The idea of a raincoat thus, is a garment that will keep the wearer dry in the torrential rain, without being overbearingly heavy or clumsy.
However, there are numerous other types of raincoat materials that are in use today, depending on the type of use and the design.
A good material for raincoat combines two factors; absorption and penetration. Absorption basically is about how much water the fabric can soak in, and as for penetration, it’s about how much water can pass through the material and access the inner garments. Thus, an excellent material should basically safeguard against both; the material shouldn’t absorb water, neither should it allow water to penetrate through it.
There are different types of raincoats today, depending on the designs and use. For example, all-weather raincoats have removable lining thus can be worn in all weather.
Waterproof and breathable
It is possible for your raincoat to be waterproof and breathable at the same time. The waterproof quality ensures that the rainwater doesn’t get to your undergarments. Breathability means that the material allows sweat to move through it to the outside atmosphere. Breathable materials are best if you are planning an outdoor activity that will cause sweating (like hiking) since it protects you from the precipitation without soaking you with sweat.
Water resistant materials are a bit different in that they provide some form of waterproofing. However, if the rain persists or gets heavier, it won’t be able to resist soaking in some of it. This material is best for light precipitation or for a short-term activity in the rain.
The non-breathable material is the cheapest and simplest of materials. It simply keeps the rain away but also cannot allow sweat to penetrate through it into the atmosphere. It’s mostly found in the emergency rain ponchos that are meant for just handling the rain without extra movements; thus it isn’t suitable for outdoor activities in precipitation.
Durable Water Repellent (DWR)
A durable water repellent finish is found in most waterproof raincoats. The outer fabric repels water, making precipitation bead up and roll off instead of being absorbed by the fabric. This finishing thus guarantees that the raincoat effectively keeps the wearer dry from extreme precipitation as none of it stays on the fabric long enough to be absorbed.
Durable water repellent raincoats require maintenance if the raincoat is to keep you dry. While the underlying materials can still keep the water out when the DWR wears out, the jacket may still become soaked since its capacity to repel water is somewhat limited. This can really mess with breathable raincoats as the soaked fabric slows down sweat vapor from moving through it.
The waterproof membranes are usually in multiple layers. Outer layers weather against abrasion while repelling rain, while the inner layers protect against wear and tear from inside as well as body oils. Thus, it’s important to reapply the DWR treatment regularly, especially when you notice that rain no longer beads up on your raincoat.