How to choose Camping Jacket?
How to choose Camping Jacket?
When doing outdoor activities like trekking, camping, cycling or skiing for example it is important to have the right clothing. Each activity demands another set of equipment, depending on the temperature and the terrain. But one thing you'll need for almost every outdoor activity is a jacket. Maybe just to keep you warm in higher mountains or in the winter, to prevent you from getting wet in heavy rain or just to keep the wind away. There are so many different types of jackets for all purposes you can imagine.
The right waterproof jacket will keep you protected from the rain, whilst allowing sweat to escape so you stay comfortable. Choosing the right jacket for the conditions and the activity is easy with this guide that explains precisely what you need.
The importance of breathability
As well as getting a jacket that's waterproof, it needs to be breathable. When you're moving with speed, or walking up hills, you will raise your heart rate and cause sweat to be released. For this reason, you need to consider the breathability rating of your waterproof jacket.
Breathable membranes consist of an extremely thin film containing microscopic pores that are large enough for body moisture to pass through, but small enough to keep water droplets out. Most microporous membranes are laminated to a face fabric and are available in two- and three-layer versions.
This is also known as moisture management. Most membranes rely on a pore based construction, so as well as being waterproof, they can also vent out hot air and sweat.
You put on your jacket, and at the first time you seem to stay dry, but after some time you’ll start to sweat because of the non-breathable plastic material of your coat. So the jacket couldn’t hold it’s assurance to keep you dry, because your own sweat cannot diffuse through your cover, and will condense to water. So you’ll get wet from the inside. If you really want to prevent yourself from getting wet, you need a waterproof jacket which is additionally breathable. You have to look after Goretex jackets.
The easiest one is a simple rain coat. They are made of a simple plastic. The more advanced ones come with a Gore Tex membrane which is breathable in addition to its impermeability to water.
Goretex is a fabric made out of porous polytetrafluoroethylene the chemical constituent of Teflon. If you want to read further about how it works, read gore tex membrane.
As Goretex is only the membrane used for the jackets, you have to find a manufacturer who uses this fabric for his clothes. Some brands you can look after are The North Face, REI, Marmot, Jack Wolfskin and many more. But as always quality has its price, you can find Goretex jackets from $150 up to $700.
In the case of GORE-TEX®, a plastic based PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) layer is laminated to the outer fabric, and then the garment is cut to shape. Seams are then sealed for complete protection The seams are then sealed to prevent moisture entering the garment in any way. Hydrophilic coatings rely on the behavior of water molecules so heat generated by the body inside the garment drives body moisture down the polymer chains in the coating to the external face.
One disadvantage of the Gore Tex membrane is that it only works when the difference between the outer and inner temperature is high enough, so that the osmotic pressure is high enough. That means if the outside temperature is above 15-18 °C the gore tex membrane will stop being breathable, which makes you sweat. But that’s not much of a big problem, because at temperatures like these, you won’t need a jacket, if you are not working in wet areas or if it it’s raining in the summer. There are also no other fabrics which perform better then Goretex.
Similar to GORE, e-Vent uses millions of pores in its construction which allow the fabric to release moisture and to breathe. Without a PU layer included, breathability is increased as moisture is moved in one process, known by e-Vent as Direct Venting.
Paramo® is referred to as 'drop-liner', meaning that the waterproof element is actually inside the lining. There are three constituent components: two layers of fabric and a waterproofing agent. The fabric is impregnated with Nikwax® TX Direct treatment that leaves a water-repellent finish on each individual fibre so that the outer layer, as well as being fully windproof, will deflect at least 90% of water that hits it. Paramo® is extremely breathable: no matter how hard the wearer works, or how much they sweat, body moisture will be moved away.
Another sort of jacket loved by outdoor freaks is the fleece jacket. They are made out of microfleece. The main advantage is that they are highly breathable, and they only hold 1% of their weight in water, what makes it dry very quickly. They are very comfortable to wear and you feel very warm in them. The main disadvantage is that they are not wind and waterproof. But the good thing is that there are combinations of fleece and rain jackets. They use a mechanism which lets you zip the fleece jacket into the rain jacket, so you have a double jackets which combines the advantages of both kinds of jackets.
Coated waterproof jackets
The other alternative is a waterproof that's been coated with a Durable Water Repellency (DWR) or a similar layer, with no breathable membrane. These are typically your cheaper waterproofs. DWR is Durable Water Repellency, another way of coating the fabric after a laminate or membrane has been applied to form a protective wall from water droplets on the outer layer.
A chemical treatment, DWR is not waterproof, but does reduce condensation forming; aiding breathability so less moisture reaches your skin. DWR needs to be reapplied, and can be retreated to improve it’s performance. Due to DWR being applied to the face of the fabric, it is easily affected by dirt and oils, which soon coat the DWR layer, hindering the performance. DWR can also be removed by regular cleaners, so DWR should always be treated with a specific product which can refresh it. As well as DWR, many companies have their own water repellent fabrics applied to the face of the garment such as:
- Lowe-Alpine Triple Point
- Triple Point Ceramic
- Mountain Equipment Drilite and many more.
Breathability is severely hindered in these types of waterproofs. Arguably more important than being windproof or waterproof, breathable capabilities in a garment mean it allows body moisture and vapors to be released, so you can use it for active wear without overheating or feeling discomfort.
Type of outer layer
Light weight walking
Ideal for the weight conscious hiker/traveler/runner. They are really used for short trips where prolonged exposure to the elements will not be an issue. They will usually be breathable and have some of the accessories of the heavier weight jackets.
Medium weight walking
Offering more functionality than than the light weight versions, the medium weight walking jacket will be made of tougher and more durable fabric.
Heavy weight mountaineering/winter sports
These coats are the most heavy duty and are highly specialised to the task they are undertaking.
Suited best for the person who is not overly bothered about buying an expensive walking jacket. Cagoules are usually not breathable and are very basic but they fold into very small bags and are effective at stopping you from getting wet in the short term.
Waterproof rain poncho
Essentially a sheet of plastic with a hole in the middle fashioned into a hood. These are not suitable for hiking but are ideal for festivals and travelers especially when combined with a Cagoule. Good in any situation where you need to remain dry in a downpour, don't want to take your nice walking jacket and don't have a lot of space.
The alternative- windproof jackets
If wet weather would prevent you from going out anyway, you could look at a lower weight, more breathable windproof jacket as an alternative.Many runners and cyclist find that these take off the cold edge of the wind, but allow heat to escape more efficiently than a waterproof.