How to Choose the Right Winter Apparel Part II: Waterproof and Breathability Ratings

How to Choose the Right Winter Apparel Part II: Waterproof and Breathability Ratings

Posted by WinterWomen on Wednesday, March 1, 2017


Last week we explored the different types of insulations and how to choose what’s best for you. This week we’ll dive into the waterproofing and breathability of winter apparel. Both of these characteristics are extremely important when looking for the right outerwear. They help determine whether the garment is appropriate for winter sports. On the apparel tags, you’ll often see something similar to 10K/10K . These are the waterproof and breathability ratings.


The first number in the rating represents the waterproofing. This is done by placing a one-inch tube on top of the garment. The tube is then filled with water in small increments. However much water in millimeters fills the tube when the membrane of the garment is penetrated equals the rating. So, if there was 10,000 mm of water in the tube when water soaked through, the rating is represented as 10K. Winter apparel, on average starts at 5k.

Taped Seams

An additional waterproofing feature that winter apparel may have is taped seams. When seams are sewn together, there is no way around avoiding at least a tiny hole from the needle. Taped seams seal off these holes.

Critically Taped

Some garments only have critical seams taped. These are seams that are more prone to water exposure such as the shoulders and chest of a jacket.

Fully Taped

These garments will have most seams taped throughout its entirety providing increased protection from moisture.


The second number corresponds to the breathability of the garment. It’s important for winter apparel to allow moisture to escape from the body. Without this feature, the inevitable sweat from the body gets trapped, creating a cooling factor. Without getting too technical, this rating is determined by a test that measures how much water vapor passes through a square meter of fabric over the course a set amount of time. The results are read with units of grams/meter squared/day but simplified for us using K as the unit. If the garment tested at 5,000g/m2/d it would read as 5K.

Keep in mind that not all manufacturers will provide these ratings on the tag but when they do, you’ll now be an expert on what they mean.

What other winter apparel tips would you like to learn about? Let us know if the comments below!

Categories: Fashion  |  Ski & Ride

Tagged: outerwear, breathability, garment design, waterproof, winter apparel

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