Customer Complaint: “My waterproof jacket leaks”

(Spoiler Alert: check out the Notes below if you want to get to the meat of this article)

This week I got the below mail. I get them every year around this time and they always go along the same lines:

Hi

I bought an expensive waterproof jacket. I was told by x sales person that this was the best money could buy… I was convinced and spent a lot of money. Recently I tried the jacket in the rain and I got very wet…….

It is very hard for me to comment on these kind of issues especially if I have not seen the jacket concerned. However my response is something like this:

“Hi

 Thanks for the mail.

As I am sure you are aware it is incredibly difficult to assess these kinds of issues wrt waterproofing of garments irrespective of the model and materials used.

The issues (among others) that need to be considered is what treatment was used on the jacket, if it was ever washed, what garment was worn underneath the waterproof layer, if a pack was worn and what level of activity the wearer was taking part in.

The only real way to empirically test whether the jacket is in fact waterproof is to do a hydrostatic test which in itself will destroy the membrane.

However as a start I would suggest that you wash and treat the jacket with the appropriate Nikwax products to 1) remove any residual contaminants, 2) ensure that the DWR is adequate. 

Then you stand in a shower wearing the jacket. It helps to wear darker colour long sleeve cotton t shirt. This should pretty quickly show up if any moisture comes through.

If it does not then my assumption would be that one of the above factors are involved to create the sensation that the jacket leaks.

Please let me know what you find with the above and we can hopefully find a solution to this issue.

 Leo”

Notes:

  • Just because you spend heaps of cash on a Bugatti Veron does not mean you don’t have to check the oil regularly. Same with outdoor gear. Regular service and care will go a long way!
  • Never wash waterproof jackets in normal detergent. Only use approved detergents products as described here. I wash my waterproof jackets once a year (mostly before winter or before a big trip)
  • When wearing a waterproof decide first if it is actually necessary. Often when taking part in highly aerobic activities you will be more comfortable in a more breathable but only water repellent layer. Check out my thoughts here and here.
  • Always wear a wicking layer under your waterproof. A cotton t-shirt will not transport moisture away from your skin and allow the waterproofBREATHABLE garment to do its job.
  • Wearing a pack greatly reduces the air flow under your jacket and thus greatly reduces the effective breathability of the jacket.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes is credited with saying “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing but I prefer this reference.

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