How to tell if a jacket is waterproof (preferably before you buy it)

I had been running for 8 years before I learned how to tell if a jacket is waterproof or not (while it is still in the store and before I bought it). Until that time I seemed to learn the hard way…….half way up a mountain in the pouring rain after I had spent a hundred plus $.......

This is at best disappointing and at worst dangerous. If you are wet and cold, hypothermia can set in very quickly.

Tip: The Emelee Essentials Kit and the Emelee Bare Minimum kit both contain a plastic poncho just in case the jacket isn’t waterproof enough and/or I'm getting too cold. Wearing a poncho isn’t glamourous but it could be life saving in an emergency.

Things to look for in a waterproof garment:

  1. Has the sewing in the seams been sealed with tape? Sewing causes holes in the fabric, if the manufacturer hasn’t bothered to seal these holes with tape its because they know its not waterproof fabric so there’s no point.
Seams not sealed - material probably not waterproof either
Seam sealed - material probably waterproof
  1. Does the inside of the jacket have this black & white pattern? Don’t ask my why I haven’t a clue!! but it seems that when jackets/pants/etc have this pattern on the inside (no matter what colour the outside) it will be waterproof.
Black & white pattern that seems to indicate the jacket is waterproof
  1. Does the label say its Goretex? If so it’s waterproof (and breathable)
  1. Does the label have a waterproof rating Ie 20,000mm or 20K? if so that’s how much water pressure the fabric can withstand before it will let water through.

Note: not all water ratings are created equal (see table below).

0-5,000 mm

No resistance to some resistance to moisture.

Light rain, dry snow, no pressure

6,000-10,000 mm

Rainproof and waterproof under medium pressure.

Moderate rain, average snow, medium pressure.

11,000-15,000 mm

Rainproof and waterproof  under medium to high pressure.

Moderate rain, average snow, medium pressure.

16,000-20,000 mm

Rainproof and waterproof under high pressure.

Heavy rain, wet snow, high pressure.

20,000 mm+

Rainproof and waterproof under very high pressure.

Heavy rain, wet snow, high pressure.


If a jacket is waterproof the rain will "bead" on the outside and run off.


If you already own a waterproof jacket and it’s not waterproof any more (ie its wetted out and the water is starting to soak through) you may need to clean it with a non detergent cleaner (ie Techwash from Nikwax), do not wash with regular detergent as this will decrease the waterproof ability of the jacket. 

This jacket has wetted out and the water is soaking in rather than beading


After washing treat the jacket with DWR (waterproofing spray/treatment). There are many good brands of DWR and they are sold at most outdoor clothing stores (that sell waterproof clothing). Depending on usage I usually treat my gear once per year to keep it waterproof.

Do you know why many waterproof jackets have the black and white pattern inside? if you do please let us know in the comments below or 


To view the EMELEE packs click HERE


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