Watersport Clothing Glossary
Modern waterproof garments are so soft and breathable, you can even use them as sleepwear, especially those made from Pertex which provide balanced wind and water protection, plus excellent durability and low weight.
The values for breathability that you sometimes read on labels are an indication of the technology and largely dependent on the construction and fabrics used.
Thin breathable fabrics often dry faster than those that trap moisture under a waterproof layer. This makes the a better choice for sports where you often get wet or when you go swimming.
While a waterproof garment will keep you dry from the outside, without breathability, perspiration vapours can't escape and you'll end up as drenched from your own sweat as you would be from the rain. Fortunately, a number of fabrics meet waterproof minimum standard and are also breathable.
Breathability depends not only on the technical details but also on the climatic conditions.
In warm, moist air, Gore-Tex and such does not transport moisture to the outside.
We're not keen on those expensive fabrics.
Thin, breathable nylon is lighter and can be layered much better.
Think about how you will enjoy your waterwear. Clothes designed with a soft inner liner feel comfortable as you move, but water and air pockets can form inside the liner and make them awkward when wet.
Unlined clothes dry faster, weigh less and can be better combined with soft shell jackets worn as a mid-layer when temperatures turn cold. Built-in venting systems provide much-needed breathability. This works best for activities that involve frequent dunkings or swimming.
A well fitting hood is an essential part of any rainwear or waterproof clothes. It keeps your head dry, warm, and safe from wind or sunburn. Without a hood waterproof clothes are not waterproof at all. Rain and spray will run off your head, into the collar and soak your clothes.
Given the choice we prefer hooded clothes every time. It's like having a warm hat ready at all times. Since it is attached to your garment, it gives better protection and won't be lost.
A hood should fit well, not to loose or too tight, and turn with your head. It must not interfere with your visibility.
Get used to wearing a hood way before you go on your adventures.
Wear it up as often as is convenient, even if you only wear a hoodie.
Then you'll be ready when you need it.
Dress in a way that keeps you warm and comfortable when you go into the water, not what the air temparture is like. You'll probably get soaking wet and then want to stay warm.
Since you'll get wet after a while, prepare to stay comfortable anyway. The key is to wear clothing that feels good both wet or dry, so you can cope with any situation.
Whether it's a multi-day hike along the coast or a short canoeing trip, nothing can ruin an outdoor adventure more than poorly performing watersports clothes. If you get too cold you will be uncomfortable. Choose several layers of clothes so you can adapt to changing weather.
Choose watersports clothes that look good and are so comfy that you can wear them for other activities too. Think about how this will save you weight when travelling.
Manufacturers don't consider it leakage when
moisture intrusion is in the range of edge seams, zippers and pocket parts,
or pressing through moisture under mechanical stress, like from a backpack or bike saddle.
A quick drying tracksuit is great for wet adventures and many watersports, or outdoor activities where you get wet repeatedly like, running, boating, on poolside, even for swimming.
A full body swimsuit avoids sunburn and stingers in the sea, but can also double up as sleepwear to keep off mosquitos.
A breathable anorak can double up as a lightweight summer hoodie. It keeps the windchill away and protects against sunburn.
Meditating in water is a most pleasant experience. Anoraks or other waterwear can help you relax and meditate by keeping you warm while you bliss out. It is important you feel comfortable during meditation, without distractions.
A quick drying nylon meditation suit is all you need to relax in the pool.
The soft sensual touch on your skin helps to relax and move towards a meditative state.
When a garment is sewn, needle holes create punctures, which are vulnerable to water seepage. Specialized seam-taping is used to close these punctures.
Seam-taping adds warmth and water protection, but creates additional weight and limits breathability. If you plan on spending long hours outdoors in extreme conditions benefit most from seam-sealed garments.
For immersion watersports this is not so important as you spend some or most of your time in the water or get splashed a lot.
You might as well save the expense and go for simple but robust windbreakers.
Waterwear is meant to be waterproof, but some water clothes are only windproof or showerproof. There is also a fine balance between waterproof and breathable. The more waterproof a garment is, the less it can let condesation out. Some expensive fabrics try to do both, with mixed results.
The traditional approach to waterproof the breathable fabric is to take a thin waterproof membrane, cover it with a durable fabric treated with DWR (Durable Water Repellent), and line it with another fabric/print that is next to skin.
Layers of fabric “sandwich” the waterproof membrane for durability and for comfort. This is the method that Gore developed 45 years ago and this multilayered construction remains the de facto standard to this very day. Yet this construction has some flaws, like membranes coming apart over time.
There is a test that the outdoor garment industry conducts to determine the degree to which a fabric is "waterproof." In this test, an open tube is placed atop a piece of fabric and filled with at least 5000 mm of water. If no leakage occurs, the garment is considered waterproof.
However, that's just the minimum standard. Some fabrics can withstand 10,000 mm, or even 20,000 mm. While it would be easier if "waterproof" were an absolute term, it's not. It's more of a spectrum.
Test all your kit under the shower or with a garden hose. Wear some thin clothes underneath so you can detect leaks better. You will probably spend most of the day in your watersports clothes. Make sure they feel good when wet.
You may want to know how waterproof breathable rainwear fabrics work before you can properly care for them. These clothes are made of materials that allow tiny water vapor to pass through, but not large water droplets. These tiny pores make up the breathable membrane that keeps sweat from condensing inside your clothes.
As this material protects you from the rain, a finish known as Durable Water Repellent (DWR) protects the fabric itself from moisture, creating another barrier between you and rain. This finish helps the water bead up quickly outside, forcing it to roll off the garment, rather than slowly soak into the fabric.
However, after heavy use of your jacket, this DWR coating will slowly begin to wear off, leaving the fabric exposed not only to water, but also several impurities like skin oil, sweat, and dirt.
Once these seep into the membrane, the benefits of these clothes quickly fade away. Not only will your gear be stinky, you'll find it no longer keeps you as dry as it once did. This is why you want to take care of it, and keep it fresh.
After a few seasons the membrane begins to flake off the fabric.
Make an effort to remove it all so it doesn't look scruffy.
Your garment is no longer waterproof, but makes a nice, soft windbreaker.
Lend it as a prank to a friend when you go out in the rain.
Remember, not all rain clothes are the same. Rainwear designated as “water-resistant” does not prevent water from penetrating the fabric, but it delays seepage.
Water resistant clothes are breathable and lightweight, but not very waterproof. You will get wet after a while but you stay warmer.
Designed to keep you dry in a drizzle or light rain, water-resistant outerwear is exceptionally breathable and usually less expensive than waterproof, breathable outerwear.
When you go adventure racing or bike racing in the rain you may perspire at a greater rate than a waterproof, breathable jacket can handle. For that reason, you would be better off with something that is less waterproof and more breathable. Soft shells and windbreakers are two examples of water-resistant outerwear.
If you want it just for swimming or other immersion sports, all this doesn't matter as you get wet anyway,
so buy the cheaper outfits.
Make sure you pick the softer fabrics that feel good on your skin.
This is all you need for most watersports.
Windproof garments are either made of fleece to keep you warm, or soft nylon to be lightweight. They are only windproof and breathable, not waterproof. We prefer them with hoods and matching trousers.
Windstopper garments are marketed as "softshells" being suited to high-output aerobic activities such as running, cycling or paddling. Because they are not waterproof, they are more breathable than other watersports clothing.
Like most softshell fabrics, windproof clothes are sometimes coated with DWR (Durable Water Repellent), which provides them with a modest degree of water resistance. They will wet through in heavy rainfall but can be worn comfortably in light drizzle.
Because they are lightweight and quick drying, they are useful as sun protection swimwear.
Lifeguards and other water based professional wear them for work or leisure.
Windproof garments keep you warmer by reducing the airflow or waterflow over your body. The simple unlined fabric is much easier to keep clean and dries so quickly that you can keep it on after a swim or wet activity.
Windproof or showerproof clothes have a dense weave but no waterproof membrane. This allows air to go through the softer fabric making them breathable. The dense weave will keep water out for a while, hence they are sometimes called showerproof.
During prolonged rain they will let water through and you'll get wet. That's no problem for many watersports as you may go into the water anyway.
We recommend windproofs over heavy waterproofs for any active watersports.
You don't sweat as much, they are more lightweight and easier to swim in.