One of the many good customer questions we get is whether our outerwear is waterproof. People usually just want a yes or no answer, but the way we see it, it's not that simple. Our customers live all over the world, and everyone has a different situation when it comes to weather and how much they have to be out in it.
Sound like baloney? Ok, then the answer, purely speaking, is NO. We do not use fabrics with heavy waterproof coating. And we do not use taped seams (the extra strip of waterproofed fabric at the seams so that water cannot seep through where the needle sewed holes). Both of these elements are required if a jacket is going to be 100% waterproof, meaning that you can stand in a downpour and the jacket will keep your upper portions from getting even remotely wet. We don't make that kind of jacket for a variety of reasons (more on that below).
What we do make is great all around, multi-purpose jackets. Jackets to keep us dry but more importantly to be all-day comfortable, to breathe and move well, and to age gracefully. Jackets-of-all-trades, in other words. Of course we want to stay dry on hikes when it is spitting rain, and our jackets will accomplish that, but when it comes to downpours, we have more of a teamwork approach with our jackets--we look for shelter and the jacket keeps us dry until we get there.
But why don't we just go the extra steps and turn our jackets into impenetrable shields against all weather? For us, the trade off is not worth it.
For example, we tend to have an old school mentality when it comes to fabrics. We prefer non-treated or lightly-treated fabrics, such as those used in what we consider the heyday of American outdoor: the 1960's-1980's. The great mountain parka makers during this time experimented a lot with different water resistant weaves, like 60/40 which depends on the warp/weft composition of cotton/nylon. When water hits the fabric, the nylon prevents the cotton from becoming saturated, leading to the water bead up and roll off.
Similarly, the OG outdoor guys played with how nylon is spun. We love Taslan Nylon, for example, which has a high saturation resistance (water rolls off it) but more importantly is spun with air pockets, so it doesn't feel heavy and slick like most nylons, but rather light and airy like cotton.
To us, these are some of the best "waterproof" fabrics, meaning they'll keep us dry up to a point and not at the expense of comfort or style. In addition, both 60/40 and Taslan check another important box for us: if they do get wet, they dry quickly.
Since we've long been outdoor-gear collectors, we've had a front seat to how fabrics age. We've sadly pulled enough flaking/peeling jackets out of storage to know that a layer of weatherproofing might protect you now but can also make the item totally useless several years down the line. We want our jackets to be passed down to your kids if you so wish.
As for not using taped seams? That's partly because we make most of our outerwear in the United States where manufacturing is already expensive without this costly extra step, but also because we don't think a taped seam is necessary or beneficial for most types of jackets.
So, that's our approach to the great "will I get wet" question. Of course, the next time someone reaches out to us about whether this anorak or that parka is waterproof, we could just hedge our bets and say that our items are water resistant rather than waterproof. But that's just semantics. All in all, "waterproof" is in the eye of the beholder.