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Waterproof, resistant or repellent?

Waterproof, resistant or repellent?

It is not unusual to see people mix up the words water repellent, water resistant, and waterproof when referring to pieces of clothing.

However, although these words are all used in reference to water, they mean different things. These terms are essential in making most clothing purchases - after all, the primary function of outdoor clothing is protection from the elements - and being unable to tell the differences between these words can result in costly mistakes.

For instance, wouldn’t it be heartbreaking to find out the hard way that your jacket can't keep you dry in a rainstorm?

The truth is that when it comes to their ability to withstand water, all clothes are not equal. It is not uncommon to see clothes with labels describing how much water they can withstand. However, only those who understand these descriptions can make the right choices. To identify the differences between these words, you first need to know what they mean.

What does “water repellent” mean?

Water repellent is a general term used to describe clothes that are specially designed to withstand water. In simple terms, water repellent refers to clothes that have a hard time getting wet. A cloth that is labelled “water repellent” can either be “water resistant” or “waterproof”, depending on how much water pressure it can withstand.

The water repellency of an outfit is determined by the material used in making it or how much durable water repellent (DWR) is applied to it. When a fabric is coated with DWR, it becomes hydrophobic and impermeable to water. However, you should note that DWR doesn't last forever and may need to be reapplied after some time.

What does “water resistant” mean?

An outfit that is water resistant is designed to withstand contact with small amounts of water such as light rain and snow flurries. In heavy weather conditions, water-resistant clothes are not so reliable and will eventually get you wet. 

Water-resistant clothes are often made of tightly woven synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon. And because it takes some time for water to seep through them, they can withstand some level of moisture without being treated with DWR.

Materials like cotton can also be used to make water-resistant outerwears but must be treated with DWR to be resistant to water.

What does waterproof mean?

Waterproof provides a much higher level of water protection than water resistance. Clothes that are waterproof have the ability to withstand intense showers. So if you must stay completely dry in severe weather conditions, waterproof outerwear will be your best choice.

Most waterproof outfits are usually:

  • Treated with DWR or laminate
  • Sewn using sealed or heated seams
  • Layered with polymer to cover pores
  • Made with waterproof zippers and fasteners

Hydrostatic head test ratings

A Hydrostatic Head Test is the process of measuring the level of water repellency of a material. This test is carried out by placing a double open-sided cylinder on top of a DWR-treated material and slowly filling it with water.

The results of this test are measured in millimetres to see how much water a material can be exposed to before it begins to seep. The ratings will vary based on material; the higher the number, the better the water repellency and vice versa. 

According to the Hydrostatic Head Test, water-resistant clothes should be capable of withstanding water pressure of 1,500mm to 5,000mm, while waterproof clothes should have a minimum rating of 5,000mm and above.

Getting yourself familiar with these Hydrostatic Head Test ratings can help you to determine what level of water repellency best meets your outerwear needs.


In a nutshell, water repellent is a general term that describes clothes that can withstand water. However, while water-resistant clothes are designed to resist small amounts of water, waterproof clothes are built to withstand much more water and are thus suitable for heavy rains.

At Fat Moose, we understand that protection and comfort are essential to the urban and outdoor lifestyle. This is why we offer a vast collection of high-quality, breathable, water repellent outerwears to meet your every need. Get in touch with us, and let us be your constant support in all your adventures.

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