13 Best Types Of Waterproof Fabrics For Outdoor Clothing

Last Updated on 04/05/2023

different types of waterproof fabric

For many years now, I have been meaning to create a list of the different types of waterproof fabrics for outdoor clothing. In this guide, I share what information I could find on the many types of waterproof materials used for things like shell jackets and rain pants. You will learn the estimated waterproof and breathability ratings for waterproof fabric types such as Gore-Tex, eVent, and H2No.

While I have based as much of the data on the information given on the manufacturer’s websites, I have also used specifications taken from products that are made from different types of waterproof fabrics. Some data points, such as the HH rating and the breathability rating, were hard to find on the many variants of Gore-Tex, and some companies have never published their data,

All this is to say that while the information I gathered is accurate enough for me, I would be very happy to be corrected if it is wrong. I hope you enjoy all the different waterproof fabric types in one place.

How are Breathability and Waterproofing Measured?

The two most important features of a waterproof jacket or waterproof pants are their level of waterproofing and breathability. Here is how each one is measured:

Breathability: Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate (MVTR)

Breathability ratings, often measured in grams per square meter per day (g/m²/day) or Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate (MVTR), indicate the ability of a fabric to allow moisture vapor to pass through it. Higher breathability ratings signify that fabric can effectively wick away moisture and sweat, providing better comfort during high-intensity activities or warmer conditions.

In general, a rating of 5,000 to 10,000 g/m²/day is considered adequate for moderate activities, while ratings above 15,000 g/m²/day are suitable for more strenuous pursuits or extreme weather conditions.

Waterproofing: Hydrostatic Head Rating (HH)

Hydrostatic head (HH) ratings measure the waterproofness of fabric and are expressed in millimeters (mm). This rating indicates the amount of water pressure a fabric can withstand before water begins to penetrate through it. A higher HH rating signifies greater waterproof capabilities.

For outdoor gear, a rating of 1,500mm is considered the minimum for water resistance, while ratings between 5,000mm and 10,000mm provide adequate protection for most outdoor activities. Ratings above 20,000mm are suitable for extreme conditions and prolonged exposure to heavy rain, offering superior waterproof performance.

13 Best Types of Waterproof Fabrics for Outdoor Clothing


gore-tex pro

  • HH RATING: 28,000+ mm
  • BREATHABILITY: 25,000 g/m²/24h

In my opinion, GORE-TEX Pro is the most waterproof, breathable, durable, and high-performance type of waterproof fabric in the world. It is used in all of the best waterproof jackets by many of the top brands, and for good reason. Designed to be 100% waterproof with an emphasis on breathability and durability – outdoor clothing made from GORE-TEX Pro fabrics is the best of the best. The creme de la creme.

Available in a 2.5-layer and the more common 3-layer option, the membrane is made up of ePTFE, the same material used in other GORE-TEX fabrics, but GORE-TEX Pro has a higher density of this material, making it more durable and able to withstand harsher conditions. It also features a Micro Grid Backer, which is exclusive to GORE-TEX Pro and provides added durability, comfort, and breathability.

GORE-TEX Performance

GORE-TEX Performance

  • HH RATING: 28,000 mm
  • BREATHABILITY: 25,000 g/m²/24h

GORE-TEX Performance is designed for a wide range of outdoor activities and weather conditions and is what I would consider their base model. It is a versatile fabric that provides both waterproof and breathable protection at a fair price (often on the lower end). It has an estimated waterproof rating (HH rating) of 25,000mm and a breathability rating of 25,000g/m²/24h, making it highly waterproof and breathable.

GORE-TEX Performance features a three-layer construction with a membrane made of ePTFE, the same material used in other GORE-TEX fabrics, but with a lower density than GORE-TEX Pro. This makes it more affordable, and to the untrained eye, the difference wouldn’t even be noticeable.


Gore-tex active

  • HH RATING: 10,000+ mm
  • BREATHABILITY: 25,000 g/m²/24h

GORE-TEX Active is a 3-layer fabric designed for high-intensity activities. It offers excellent breathability and lightweight protection, making it a popular choice for aerobic sports like trail running and cycling. If you have ever seen a jogger wearing a super thin and lightweight jacket while running in the rain, there is a good chance it is Gore-Tex Active.

The fabric is made by laminating a GORE-TEX membrane to a lightweight face fabric and a moisture-wicking inner lining. This construction ensures a comfortable and dry experience, even during intense activities.

Unlike other GORE-TEX fabrics, GORE-TEX Active is designed to be more lightweight and packable, making it ideal for activities where weight and space are important factors. Additionally, GORE-TEX Active has a softer feel and more stretch than other GORE-TEX fabrics, allowing for greater freedom of movement during high-intensity activities.

GORE-TEX Paclite and Paclite Plus

GORE-TEX Paclite and Paclite Plus

  • HH RATING: 28,000 mm
  • BREATHABILITY: 15,000 g/m²/24h

GORE-TEX Paclite is one of my old favorite types of waterproof fabric for backpacking and day hikes, where it may spend most of its life in my backpack. It’s a two-layer fabric that’s lightweight, packable, and ideal for activities where saving space and weight are important factors. It has a waterproof rating (HH rating) of 28,000mm and a breathability rating of 15,000g/m²/24h, which is very waterproof but lags in breathability.

Because of the priority shifting away from breathability and towards packability and lightweightness, a GORE-TEX PacLite jacket can feel kind of clammy when you start to build up a sweat. For this reason, I like my GORE-TEX PacLite jackets and pants to have large ventilation zips under the arms and down the sides of the legs.

Paclite Plus is essentially the same as Paclite, with the subtle difference of a slightly thicker and more durable outer shell and maybe a less glossy inner lining. When you feel both a Paclite and Paclite Plus jacket, the Plus feels a little less glossy, and with more of a matte finish, the membrane is the same. The Paclite Plus does not offer better waterproofing or breathability, to the best of my knowledge.

Patagonia H2No

Patagonia H2No

  • HH RATING: 20,000 mm
  • BREATHABILITY: 12,000 – 15,000 g/m²/24h

H2No is Patagonia’s proprietary waterproof and breathable fabric technology used in most of their rainwear. It is designed to provide reliable protection against wet weather conditions while also allowing for breathability and comfort during outdoor activities. It uses the same technology as Gore-Tex and works pretty much the same. 

Patagonia H2No is a three-layer fabric that features a waterproof and breathable membrane in the middle layer, which is made of ePTFE, the same material used in GORE-TEX and other waterproof fabrics. The outer layer is treated with a durable water-repellent (DWR) finish, which helps to shed water from the surface of the fabric but will need reproof every year or so. I know a few people who swear by their Patagonia raincoats (Torrentshell and the Storm10)

Patagonia H2No has a waterproof rating (HH rating) of 20,000mm and a breathability rating of 20,000g/m²/24h, making it highly waterproof and breathable. It is also bluesign® approved, meaning it meets strict standards for environmental and social responsibility in the production process.

Overall, Patagonia H2No is a reliable and durable fabric technology that provides excellent protection against wet weather conditions while also allowing for breathability and comfort during outdoor activities.

Pertex Sheild and Pertex Sheild+

Pertex Sheild

  • HH RATING: 20,000 mm
  • BREATHABILITY: 20,000 g/m²/24h

Pertex Sheild is a high-performance waterproof fabric known for its breathability, lightweight properties, and durability. Pertex Sheild is typically 2 or 2.5 layers thick, with the membrane welded directly onto the shell. I believe that Pertex Sheild+ is a triple-layer jacket that has improved breathability and durability in the long run.

Constructed with a tightly woven face fabric and a durable water-repellent (DWR) coating, Pertex offers water resistance with hydrostatic head (HH) ratings between 10,000mm and 20,000mm.

Widely used in jackets, pants, and sleeping bags, Pertex fabrics provide a reliable balance between waterproofness, breathability, and weight, making them a popular choice for outdoor enthusiasts. The reason you see it on so many 4-season sleeping bags is that it can be made incredibly thin and still provide all the durability you need to hop about in your sleeping bag.

The enhanced breathability of Pertex Shield+ makes it an ideal choice for high-intensity outdoor activities where moisture management and comfort are crucial.

eVent Waterproof Fabric

eVent Waterproof Fabric

  • HH RATING: 30,000 mm
  • BREATHABILITY: 30,000 g/m²/24h

eVent is a high-performance waterproof fabric known for its exceptional breathability, weather protection, and durability. Designed for a wide range of outdoor activities, it caters to various weather conditions and intensity levels. It can be used for clothing, footwear, camping equipment, dry bags, and much more.

eVent fabric is typically constructed as a 3-layer system, featuring a tightly woven face fabric, a waterproof and highly breathable ePTFE (expanded polytetrafluoroethylene) membrane, and a moisture-wicking inner lining. eVent’s proprietary Direct Venting technology allows air to pass through the fabric while preventing water penetration, resulting in superior breathability and comfort during intense activities.

I have used an eVent jacket for years now, and it has kept me dry for many days in its lifetime. I have to say, though, I was sold on the idea that it was so breathable you could put a wet pair of gloves inside the jacket, and it would dry them out. I was wrong. The jacket gets wet on the inside, just like many other types of jackets. I am testing out a Paramo jacket as well as a new Gore-Tex Pro jacket at the moment and have been very impressed so far.

Paramo Nikwax Analogy

Paramo Nikwax Analogy


Paramo Nikwax Analogy is a unique waterproof fabric system designed to provide excellent breathability, weather protection, and comfort during various outdoor activities. Unlike traditional waterproof fabrics, Paramo Nikwax Analogy utilizes a two-layer system called Directional Fabrics that mimics the way animal fur works.

The two layers consist of a moisture-wicking Pump Liner that moves perspiration away from the body and an outer layer treated with Nikwax durable water repellent (DWR) that repels water and protects against wind. This combination effectively manages moisture, reduces condensation, and prevents rain from penetrating the fabric by directing it from the inner to the outer lining. The inner lining weave is directed at a diagonal away from the body while the outer layer zig-zags the other way, which is why it transfers moisture away SO FAST.

Paramo Nikwax Analogy is widely used in jackets, pants, and other outdoor gear, as an alternative to waterproof membranes. Its unique approach to waterproofing makes it a popular choice for outdoor enthusiasts who seek efficient moisture management and comfort in varying weather conditions. It is heavier and warmer (because it’s thicker), which makes it better suited to autumn, winter, and spring, but it also means you don’t need to wear many layers underneath.

Polartec NeoShell

Polartec NeoShell

  • HH RATING: 10,000+ mm
  • BREATHABILITY: 30,000 g/m²/24h

Polartec NeoShell is an innovative waterproof fabric that stands out for its exceptional breathability, weather resistance, and versatility. Like eVent, Polartec Neoshell claims to have more of a focus on breathability than other fabrics; however, in my experience, it suffers from the same issues if you start to sweat on a hike or something. It does have one of the highest MVTRs, though.

The construction of Polartec NeoShell features a 3-layer system comprising a resilient face fabric, a proprietary waterproof and air-permeable membrane, and a soft inner lining. The unique air-permeable membrane allows for efficient moisture and air exchange, ensuring optimal breathability and comfort during intense activities like hiking.

Fjallraven Eco-Shell

Fjallraven Eco-Shell

  • HH RATING: 30,000 mm
  • BREATHABILITY: 26,000 g/m²/24h

Fjallraven Eco-Shell is an environmentally friendly waterproof fabric known for its breathability, durability, and weather protection. It comes in a Eco-Shell Lightweight, Eco-Shell Original, and Eco-Shell Everyday variety which all use the same membrane and liner but just have different types of face fabric. The Eco-Shell Everyday is the toughest, while the Lightweight will pack down the smallest.

The construction of Eco-Shell features a 3-layer system, including a sustainable face fabric, a waterproof membrane, and a soft inner lining. The fabric is made using recycled polyester and is treated with a fluorocarbon-free durable water repellent (DWR) coating, making it a responsible choice for outdoor enthusiasts.

How does Eco-Shell compare to G-1000 treated with Greenland wax? They are completely different; this is a waterproof membrane, while G-1000 is waxed cotton. Eco-Shell is much more waterproof. However, G-1000 will also keep you dry and is much more breathable than any membrane ever could.

Columbia OutDry

Columbia OutDry

  • HH RATING: 20,000 mm
  • BREATHABILITY: 20,000 g/m²/24h

Columbia OutDry uses a unique way of melding the waterproof membrane directly to the outer face material, preventing water absorption and maintaining breathability. What makes OutDry Extreme so unusual is that the seams are sealed externally as well as internally for the double the water protection.

I am a big fan of Columbia’s synthetic insulation technology, but I can’t say I would rate OutDry any higher than other similar membranes. As one of the more popular outdoor sports brands in the US, there are plenty of happy customers out there. But for me, Columbia clothes just don’t fit my figure that well.

Marmot MemBrain

Marmot MemBrain

  • HH RATING: 10,000 mm
  • BREATHABILITY: 10,000 g/m²/24h

Marmot MemBrain is a waterproof and breathable fabric technology designed for various outdoor sports such as hiking, skiing, and mountaineering. It offers a balance of weather protection and breathability to ensure it performs during outdoor activities. It has a relatively low HH and MVT rating of 10k each, which is nothing special, but I heard so many good things about the Marmot Precip jacket that I needed to give it a more thorough testing.

Using hydrophilic PU lamination, this two-layer fabric works well as a shell but isn’t the comfiest next to your skin. It just gets a little sweaty and greasy. Also, I find marks tend to stain very easily on the MemBrain fabric. Overall though, it will keep you dry but don’t set your expectations too high on the breathability.

The North Face DryVent

The North Face DryVent

  • HH RATING: 10,000+ mm
  • BREATHABILITY: 6,000+ g/m²/24h

The North Face’s DryVent fabric typically features a hydrostatic head (HH) rating ranging from 10,000mm, offering reliable waterproofness suitable for moderate to heavy rain situations. The membrane is made in three varieties of two, two-and-a-half, and three-layer options, which all offer different levels of breathability and durability.

I have had a number of North Face DryVent jackets over the past decade, and most of them held up remarkably well. I always found the inside of the sleeves soaked through on the cuffs, but the inside of the torso it always stayed dry. I would say that DryVent is at least as waterproof as eVent fabric, although maybe not as breathable without the addition of vents.

Here is a shortcut for when I would choose the different materials:

  • GORE-TEX Pro – Heavy rain, hiking, camping
  • GORE-TEX Performance – Rainy conditions, walking the dog
  • GORE-TEX Active – Jogging, trail running, high-intensity activities
  • GORE-TEX Paclite – Backpacking, day hiking
  • GORE-TEX Paclite Plus – Thru-hiking and waterproof pants
  • Patagonia H2No – To look good in the rain
  • Pertex Shield+ – As the face material on insulated jackets or sleeping bags
  • eVent – Good for drybags
  • Paramo Nikwax Analogy – Alternative to membranes, great in cold weather
  • Polartec NeoShell – Similar to GORE-TEX Active
  • Fjallraven Eco-Shell – Eco-friendly and durable
  • Columbia OutDry – Value for money
  • Marmot MemBrain – Good for winter sports clothes
  • The North Face DryVent – Similar to eVent fabric

types of waterproof material layers

How is Fabric Made Waterproof?

There are several methods to make fabric waterproof, which often involve a combination of treatments and techniques. These methods include using a membrane, applying a durable water-repellent (DWR) coating, and sealing seams.


A membrane is a thin, semi-permeable layer that is either laminated or bonded to the outer face fabric of a waterproof garment. This layer acts as a barrier that prevents water from penetrating while allowing moisture vapor to escape, thus making the fabric waterproof and breathable. This is the kind of waterproof fabric you will find on 99% of waterproof jackets and rain pants.

Durable Water Repellent (DWR)

DWR is a chemical coating applied to the outer fabric layer, which makes water bead up and roll off the surface instead of being absorbed. This treatment helps maintain the fabric’s breathability while providing water resistance. This is not technically waterproof and instead would be described as water resistant.

Waxed cotton is an example of a fabric that is only water-resistant when treated with a DWR. Down jackets will use a DWR as opposed to a membrane to allow the insulation to breathe. DWRs are very effective but need to be maintained to remain as good over the long term.

Sealed Seams

Sealed seams are another crucial component in making fabric waterproof. Manufacturers use special tape or glue to seal the seams of garments, preventing water from seeping through the stitched areas. Otherwise, what happens is that when it rains, you get long wet patches inside your jacket wherever there is a stitched seam.

Every time a needle passes through a type of waterproof fabric, it creates a tiny hole that water can get through. Sealed seams and welded seams provide the necessary protection to block this. To reseal a seam that has broken, you can use silicone adhesives and patches.

Different Types of Waterproof Fabrics for Hiking and Camping Gear

Understanding the various types of waterproof fabric is essential when choosing the right gear for your outdoor adventures.

Double-Layer Waterproof Fabrics

Double-layer fabrics feature a face fabric and a waterproof membrane or coating. They offer improved durability and protection compared to single-layer fabrics and are ideal for moderate outdoor activities.

2.5-Layer and Triple-Layer Waterproof Fabrics

Triple-layer fabrics have a face fabric, a waterproof membrane, and an inner lining. These fabrics provide superior durability, weather protection, and breathability, making them suitable for demanding outdoor pursuits and harsh conditions. A 2.5-Layer waterproof fabric just uses extremely fine micro-backers to improve comfort, weight, and packability.

I hope you found this guide to the different types of waterproof fabrics useful. Let me know if you think it should be formatted any differently, include more info, or if something is wrong. Thanks.

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This article has been written and/or edited by Andrew N. 20+ years of hiking, mountaineering, and camping experience, with access to all the latest outdoor gear.

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