jacket weather ratings

What’s It Rated?

It’s that time of year again: Time to start thinking about a winter jacket and preparing for Michigan’s snow soon to be here! These days there are a host of choices to select from, so shopping can seem overwhelming. There’re so many jacket weather ratings. What’s the difference between 20 below versus 30 below in terms of your needs? Is it worth the money or superfluous? How does wind factor in? What’s the process for how jackets are rated anyway?

Let’s unpack this.

You’re one-of-a-kind!

These answers will all depend on you. Not all jackets are equal or meant for the same purpose. Some are better windbreakers, while others excel at keeping you dry.

Functionality

Before delving into the nuances of different jacket weather ratings, consider what your needs are.

Will you mostly be wearing winter gear from your car to the office? Or, do you deliver pizzas or work in sales travelling door-to-door rather than sitting in a temperature-controlled cubicle daily?

Consider weekends too. Do you usually stay indoors, attending concerts or going out to dinner with friends and family? Or, are you an avid skier, snow-shoer, or snowmobiler? Is winter camping what you look forward to each year?

Avid traveller? What’s the climate of your destination?

Do you generally get cold or overheat?

 

Your Helpful Guide

How Meaningful or Accurate are Temperature Ratings?

First, let’s discuss what the ratings can and cannot do and how you can use them to answer your questions.

When it comes to jackets, a common question concerns what temperatures a particular jacket is rated for.

Take these numbers with a grain of salt. Some experts argue that jacket weather ratings are arbitrary. The reason is that there are many variables that aren’t controlled for that influence how warm – or cold – you will feel.

A jacket rated to be warm at a certain temperature when the wind isn’t blowing snow or the rain isn’t pouring down might not be warm under specific weather conditions.

In addition to temperature, variables for rating can include:

  • Wind
  • Rain
  • Humidity
  • Your exertion level
  • Your metabolism

Wind

Add wind chill and you can go from comfortable to … well … chilly very quickly.

Humidity

In winter, dry can feel pleasant while humidity can feel cold (generally the opposite of summer humidity), despite it being the same temperature.

Activity level

What are you going to be doing? All things equal, running in a jacket versus sitting in a ski lift makes a difference. You’ve probably had the experience of sticking your hand out the window to gauge how cold it is and then taking a heavier jacket than you needed. Once you start “moving,” the layers come off.

Additional layers augmenting your jacket

If you’re wearing warm layers, a hat, and mittens, you’re going to feel warmer – no matter what jacket you have on. Consider whether you tend to wear layers of clothing or typically just sport a t-shirt.

Body type

People with less body fat typically get colder easier. You’ve probably noticed when you’re among friends and family, people in the same room say they’re cold while others say they’re hot. This phenomenon applies to jackets as well.

Now, combine these variables!

As you can see, temperature is a starting point, but it’s far from the last word. Many variables should go into determining the type of jacket you need for your needs.

 

How Jackets are Rated: Meaningful Numbers

Fabrics are rated by weight, density, and permeability.

Fabric

Weight of the fabric (measured in grams per square meter / GSM / gsm/ gm/2)

Example: 300 gm/2 is heavier than 180 gm/2.

Fleece

For fleece, the higher the number, the heavier the weight

Example: 100 or 200 weight

Fill power

Down jackets’ fill power rating measures thermal efficiency rather than the amount of insulation.

Example: 300 or 900 (i.e. one ounce of down covers 300 or 900 cubic inches)

Water-resistant fabrics and materials

Manufacturers measure waterproof breathability of fabrics in:

  • Millimeters (mm)
  • Grams (g)

Waterproofness

The higher the number, the more waterproof.

Take a 10,000mm fabric. If you put a 1” x 1” square tube over a piece of fabric, you could fill it with water up to 10,000mm (32.8 ft.) before water would leak.

Breathability

The higher the number, the more breathable.

Measured by how many grams of water vapor can pass through a square meter of fabric in 24-hours. Example: 20,000g fabric.

Completely waterproof?

Outerwear has various degrees of water resistance, but fabric will leak if it’s exposed to enough water, time, and pressure. Balance protection with the ability to let water vapor from your body escape. A raincoat is more waterproof and ideal for a storm (although, getting out of the rainstorm would be even more ideal!), but if you skied in it, you’d be drenched in sweat (still becoming wet!).

Note: Waterproof testing is not standardized.

Waterproof and breathable

Waterproof breathable fabrics consist of layers:

  • Outer layer/face fabric
  • Membrane
  • Fine scrim or mesh

The outer layer (“face fabric”) is typically nylon or polyester with a membrane or coating usually made of expanded Polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon®) or Polyurethane treated with Durable Water Repellent.

The membrane keeps water out. Its holes are too small for water to enter but large enough to allow water vapor to exit.

A fine scrim or mesh lines the inner surface of the garment for comfort.

Waterproof jacket weather ratings: How high does it need to be?

Look for a minimum waterproof rating between 5,000mm and 10,000mm for ski and snowboard jackets and pants. If you’re a serious skier or live in a wetter climate, the 10,000mm to 20,000+mm range is a good choice. If you’re a hiker, look for both waterproofing and breathability in the 20,000+ range.

 

WATERPROOF CHART

Skier, 5,000mm to 10,000mm

Serious skier or wetter climate, 10,000mm to 20,000+mm

Hiker, 20,000+mm

 

How are waterproof ratings determined?

Waterproof testing is performed by independent laboratories or in-house.

Most testing methods place a 1” x 1” square tube over the fabric to measure how much water the fabric can stand before it leaks. Some manufacturers add pressure to simulate wind. Some manufacturers measure PSI (Pounds per Square Inch). 704mm = 1 PSI.

How breathable does it need to be?

Like a lot of things in life, it depends. Consider the weather and your expected exertion.

How are breathability ratings determined?

Testing methods are numerous, so it’s hard to compare jacket weather ratings between brands. Manufacturers don’t typically report how they test either.

Note: For jacket weather ratings using an RET scale (Resistance to Evaporative Heat Transfer), a lower value is better.

 

BREATHABILITY CHART

Waterproof rating (mm) Water resistance

(provided under …)

Precipitation Conditions it can withstand Pressure Conditions it can withstand
0-5,000 None to minimal moisture Light rain, dry snow None
6,000-10,000 Light pressure Light rain, average snow Light
11,000-15,000 Medium pressure Moderate rain, avg. snow Light
16,000-20,000 High pressure Heavy rain, wet snow Medium
20,000+ Extremely high pressure Heavy rain, wet snow High

 

Good ol’ fashioned customer service

Nothing beats service with a smile and a knowledgeable staff. If you’re debating about what jacket is right for you, talk to our helpful staff at T.R. McTaggart! Call us at {insert number] or contact us [link] via email with any questions you might have.

 

Insulated Outerwear Considerations

Weight and ability to compress/compressability

Especially important when backpacking.

Shell materials

Affects breathability, mobility, durability, and rain and windshield protection.

Insulation type

The type of insulation will affect how well it retains warmth, reacts in wet conditions, and how small you can pack it.

 

Insulation Types

Down

Ducks’ and geese’ plumules are warm and lightweight. Down jackets are good for mild exertion level activity.

In terms of jacket weather ratings, the higher the number, the warmer the down. Fill power ratings range from 300 to 900; fill power is the volume in cubic inches that one ounce of down fills up. A high-quality rating starts at about 550. The other jacket weather ratings associated with down are its down to feather ratio, generally 70/30, 80/20, or 90/10. The more down, the warmer the jacket.

Just don’t get it wet! Rain, snow, humidity, and sweat affect the thermal efficiency of goose down. If down gets wet it stops working and dries slowly. If you’re active consider water-resistant down, synthetics, or a down/synthetic hybrid.

Water-resistant down

Like down, water-resistant down is light, warm, and packable. Polymer treatment helps down fight dampness.

Note: Water-resistant down is just as light as regular down, but it is expensive and doesn’t perform as well as synthetics do in wet weather. Good for moderate exertion.

Synthetic insulation

Synthetics use compressible water-repellent fibers. Synthetics work great when damp, dry fast, and are less expensive than other types of insulation.

Note: Synthetics are heavier, less packable, and less durable than down.

In terms of jacket weather ratings, numbers like 40g or 150g indicate the weight in grams of a square meter of fabric. OK for strenuous exertion.

Combination down/synthetic insulation

Offers the benefits of both down and synthetics. Some jackets blend these insulators together. Other designs use down in the core and synthetics in the arms and sides. Great choice if you want down at a lower cost. OK for strenuous exertion.

Combination wool/synthetic insulation

A blend of wool and synthetic material benefits from wool’s ability to insulate when wet and its resistance to odor. OK for strenuous exertion.

 

Waterproof and Breathable Fabrics

GORE-TEX®

Created by laminating GORE-TEX® membrane to nylon and polyester, GORE-TEX® is waterproof and breathable, even while participating in extreme activities. GORE-TEX® has microscopic pores that allow water vapor to escape.

WINDSTOPPER®

A breathable wind blocker.

eVent®

Breathable and waterproof.

MemBrain®

Waterproof fabric with a PU membrane.

Polartec® NeoShell®

Stretchy, waterproof, and breathable.

Polartec® Power Shield® Pro

Breathable soft shell fabric.

Dry.Q™ Elite

Water vapor will escape as soon as you put it on. No need to wait for vapor to build up.

DryVent® (Hyvent®)

Waterproof and breathable fabric available in several thicknesses.

H2No®

A waterproof and breathable fabric.

PreCip™

A coated technology for lightweight raingear.

Pertex® Shield+ / AP

Waterproof and lightweight for vigorous outdoor activities.

Contact T.R. McTaggart Today

T.R. McTaggart provides a variety of jackets for nearly any use, “weather” it be work, athletics, or everyday wear.

Our staff is happy to discuss jacket weather ratings, how jackets are rated, and your specific needs to determine what’s right for you and your organization.

Our expertise is in providing high-quality apparel that can be customized with corporate and team logos. We make you look stylish, keep you warm in winter, and help promote your brand. Speak to a friendly representative by calling (800) 433-0983 or contact us via email and tell us about all of your winter jacket needs!

 

 

 

Links:

https://www.rockcreek.com/temperature-ratings-jackets-no-just-no

https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/insulated-outerwear.html

https://www.evo.com/guides/outerwear-waterproof-ratings-and-breathability

https://triplefatgoose.com/blogs/down-time/a-guide-to-down-jacket-warmth-down-fill-power-vs-down-weight

https://www.sierratradingpost.com/lp2/down-vs-synthetic-guide/

http://www.customapparelsource.net/?p=516

https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/sleeping-bag-backpacking.html

 

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