Some of the best fishing days can go down in the rain, which can be very uncomfortable. You have a “waterproof” jacket to help with that. So why are you still wet after fishing in the rain? All clothing has different grades of water resistance. Here is a quick explanation of some common terms and waterproof ratings for AFTCO outerwear.
What Makes Clothing Waterproof?
No fabric used to make comfortable fishing clothing is fully waterproof. Waterproof is a term used in outdoor clothing to describe the next level past water resistance. Resistance means light rain and splash proof, whereas “waterproof” means it can withstand heavy rain and keep you comfortable. BUT these are not submergible.
Unfortunately, there is no breathable/comfortable fabric that is completely waterproof in the fishing clothing industry YET. If a rain suit says that it is breathable at any rating, then it cannot be 100% waterproof. There is always a chance that the clothing you wear to fish in the rain can “spring a leak” and start letting water in, but being familiar with the types of fabric and terms for waterproof ratings can help when purchasing your next set of rain gear to ensure you get the best set possible.
Do Rainsuits Need to be Breathable?
You may ask yourself “why do I want my suit to be breathable if it makes it not 100% waterproof?”. Well think about those rubber slickers you see on Deadliest Catch. These are 100% waterproof, but they are 0% breathable. So, when it is warm out and you start to sweat, there is nowhere for moisture to go if the suit is not breathable as well. The 100% waterproof ability of these slickers, although extremely useful for their purposes, is also their downfall as fishing rain suits. They don’t end up keeping you dry because your sweat will soak you before the rain does. That is why fishing rain jackets are designed the way they are. How, you may ask?
The main strategy behind keeping water out while maintaining breathability is the layering of materials.
Many rain jackets and bibs are made of nylon shells, treated with a waterproof coating called Durable Water Repellent or DWR. This helps water bead and then roll off the fabric. That is the first line of defense.
Inside that outer shell, there is at least one other layer. This layer is a waterproof breathable membrane. Lets break down this membrane. The outer side of this membrane is hydrophobic. That means it repels water if any gets in. The inner side is hydrophilic which means it attracts water. What you get is a piece of clothing that repels water droplets from the outside, but allows for air and water vapor from sweat to escape from the inside. Amazing, right?! Most waterproof clothing has at least these two layers and some premium jackets will have 3 layers. The third layer is a protective inner layer to the membrane. Added protection means longevity and durability of the jacket.
All of this does not mean that clothing companies are wrong about calling their clothing waterproof just because they cannot be submerged in water and stay dry. Please do not go into a typhoon hoping to stay dry in your rain jackets. Also, there are different levels of these waterproof jackets. This is usually reflected by the price of the suit. Lets dive into these levels and ratings of waterproof rain suits.
Waterproof Ratings / Breathability Ratings and How We Rate AFTCO Outerwear
Waterproof fishing clothing measures waterproof and breathability in millimeters as a K rating. These ratings refer to how much water pressure the fabric can withstand before water penetrates. For example, a 20K rating means that the fabric, when placed over a 1-inch diameter tube filled with water, can withstand 20,000 mm of pressure before letting the water in.
Breathability is also measured in K ratings. However, this measurement refers to the amount of water that escapes the clothing over a 24-hour period. Therefore, a 10K breathability rating means that 10,000 grams of water vapor will escape in 24 hours. You may notice some rainsuit have lower breathability ratings when they advertise cold weather use. This is because the insulated layer that cold weather fishing jackets have takes away the jackets ability to expel moisture. This is perfectly fine when you are in an envronment that will stay cold because you want to keep the warmth from your body heat inside the jacket. If you know it will be very cold all day, an insulated rain suit is a perfect choice. If, however, the day may start cold and get warm, or it wont be that cold to start with, you may want a different option with higher breathability that will be more versatile for you. A few options are at the end of this page and you can read our fishing rain suits review blog to see AFTCO's many options compare them.
Why is my jacket not waterproof when its says it is?
You may think you have one of the best rainsuits for fishing, but wearing a 30K jacket in light rain is a little overkill, although not as much of an issue as wearing a 5K rain jacket in a torrential downpour. Wearing a jacket that is not quite rated to handle the weather you are in would be a reason your jacket does not seem as waterproof as you would like it.
Another reason a jacket may not be keeping water out is because the DWR coating has worn off allowing too much water passed the outer shell. A telltale sign this is what happened is if water is no longer beading on your jacket and it is soaking in immediately. This will then require you to retreat the outerwear with DWR coating which can be found here with our Nikwax Outerwear Care. You can buy any brand's "best fishing rainsuits" but eventually they will lose the ability to keep you dry and you will need to retreat them.
Once your jacket has been re-treated, though, it should be beading water droplets again and keep you dry for another period of time before needing it again. If you are still getting wet, consider making sure the jacket has a waterproof rating that matches the weather you are dealing with on the water.
AFTCO rain suits start at 10K and go to 30K waterproof rating. At 30K you can ensure that rain or snow, you will stay dry out on the water. Starting with the Transformer suit for light rain applications, all the way to the Barricade Elite system, built to withstand wet channel crossings and heavy rain. In winter, make sure to look at the AFTCO insulated jackets like the Hydronaut, and in the summer reach for the other options like Barricade and Barricade Elite. If you are interested in one rain suit, look at the shell style suits, and make sure to look into what to wear fishing in cold weather. Whether you go with one suit or layering, this page will help you narrow down what you need to accomplish that.