What’s the Difference Between Water Proof and Water Resistant?

Back to FAQs 

When shopping around for durable and functional outerwear, it’s important to consider the environment in which you live, and the essential elements that you desire from your clothing. So, what’s the difference between waterproof and water-resistant materials? The difference between waterproof and water-resistant clothing is small but crucial. We’re here to help you understand the two, as well as when each option is most appropriate and fitted to your personal adventures.

Waterproof

Fundamentally, a waterproof item of clothing will keep water from getting beneath it – for example, when wearing a waterproof jacket, no water should be able to seep through your outer layer, therefore keeping your lower layers dry and you comfortable and warm. If you’re out in the rain for a long period of time, waterproof fabrics are always a better choice than water-repellent and water-resistant fabrics.

Water Resistant

Ever seen an item labeled “water resistant” and wondered to yourself, “What does water resistant mean?” Well, it’s not just a marketing gimmick. It’s not as protective as waterproof material, but it’s not pretending to be either. 

Water resistant offers a slightly less complete barricade from rain and other forms of water. If an item of clothing is labeled as water resistant, it’s important to understand that this means the product has the ability to ward off water only to a certain extent. Light rain and other similar amounts of water will affect the product’s comfort and mobility quite little, but in heavier rainfall, water sports or similarly wet environments, it is safer to opt for a waterproof alternative.

There are a few key things to consider beyond the label of waterproof vs. water-resistant when shopping around. In order for a product to be waterproof, both the fabric and the engineered pieces of the product must offer this maximum protection. For example, if a jacket is comprised of tested waterproof material, but the seams and/or zippers are bound, not binded, then the overall jacket is not a guaranteed waterproof product. This is because, when all the elements of a product are not properly sealed during the design and manufacture process, water is able to seep into the jacket via the seams, even if the majority of the fabric is waterproof.

What About Water Repellent?

The question rarely tends to be phrased in terms of waterproof vs. water repellent. With waterproof and water resistant being more common knowledge, water repellent can get forgotten easily. In short, water repellent provides better protection than water resistent, but is still less protective than waterproof. In a downpour, it’s going to do fairly well, but waterproof will always be best.

Water repellent is a bit misunderstood. There isn’t a perfectly clear industry standard on any of these terms, which is why it’s important to buy from quality brands with good reputations for protection from heavy rain. 

What’s the difference between bound and binded seams?

Essentially, a binded seam is a sealed seam, meaning that water cannot get through the exterior of your clothing. Bound seams, however, are attached to the fabric in alternate ways that allow for some amount of water access, whether it is through the pores of the seam or through small needle holes that go right through to the inside of your jacket/pants.

Are There Any Downsides to Waterproof Materials?

While waterproof materials are the best option to keep you dry, they aren’t flawless. The more waterproof a material is, the less breathable it is. Now, modern materials are much more breathable than they used to be. Still, breathability is worth considering. For this reason, water-repellent and water-resistant materials have their place. 

If you live in drier climates with less rainfall, the protection of waterproof materials may not be worth the breathability tradeoff. If you live in climates that are wet year-round, you’ll be happy you made that trade though! Regardless, even the most waterproof modern materials still offer good comfort and breathability.

So how can you be sure that the product you’re buying is waterproof?

The safest and most reliable way to be sure is to do your research. This is a great starting point. Now that you understand the difference between water-resistant and waterproof clothing items and activewear, you’re already at an advantage. We also suggest looking into the details of outerwear products when you shop online to ensure that both the fabric and seams are designed for the results you’re after.

There isn’t a “right” answer when making the choice of waterproof vs. water-resistant fabric. Both waterproof and water-resistant products have their assets. It simply depends on your lifestyle and active goals. If you’re looking for a comfortable jacket with light to medium protection from rainy weather for your everyday, busy lifestyle, water-resistant jackets can offer varying amounts of protection, perfect for layering and throwing on as you run out the door to morning drizzle. 

If you live in an area with temperamental weather, or you participate in more water-based sports, waterproof jackets will offer greater protection from the elements, subsequently ensuring your warmth and endurance throughout the day. In certain instances though, you may not want to commit just to waterproof or water-resistant jackets. Having one of each in your closet is a good idea for avid adventurers in cold, rainy climates.