A membrane jacket protects against rain and wind and does not get damp from the inside, like a regular raincoat, because it can remove the evaporated moisture outside.
The range of such jackets is enormous, and visually they are very similar, especially for someone who is not interested in modern sports equipment. However, depending on the application, the models differ significantly in materials, quality membrane, cut, and details. Therefore, when choosing a membrane jacket, it is desirable to understand what you need it for initially and understand what you can expect from it to not complain to the manufacturer and not to regret the money thrown away.
This article will look at what membrane jackets are, how they differ, how to read descriptions and labels for membrane jackets properly, and what to look for when trying them on.
All the parameters of the jacket: weight, durability, fit, fabric used in sewing, membrane, and accessories – are determined by its purpose. If you clearly understand the tasks you are wearing a membrane jacket, you should not spend much time studying its technical details. We offer recommendations from the company manufacturer contained in its catalog and expert advice from our store. The main thing is to outline the scope of your future membrane jacket clearly. What do you need it for?
And these are just a few examples, named on the fly. If you wonder why you need a membrane jacket, it is essential because modern models are specialized. Choose the absolute universal, equally suitable for everything, will not work. For example, a jacket for mountain climbing is easy to climb and technical, but it’s similarly uncomfortable to run or ride a bike. Only sometimes can you find a compromise. For example, a lightweight ski touring jacket with good ventilation, a detachable skirt, and a hood adapted to the helmet can be used with little tourism and mountaineering costs, and even worn in the city, if you are not embarrassed by the bright sporty style. But for running and ultralight tourism, such a jacket is not suitable at all.
We could say briefly: Take it with Gore-Tex, and make no mistake, today it is the leading manufacturer of membrane laminates. Jackets with Dermizax membrane in the base will also be a good choice. But there are considerably more membranes today, and many of them are not inferior to the industry leaders, so it makes sense to know at least a bit of them.
The membrane is responsible for the water resistance of the jacket and its breathability. And although it is a critical detail in the modern waterproof jacket, manufacturers are not inclined to share in particular with the buyer its properties and characteristics. From the descriptions in the catalog and on the accompanying labels, you can learn only about three parameters of membrane material: its construction, water resistance, and water vapor permeability.
Often the description of membrane clothing can be found abbreviated as 2L, 2.5L, and 3L. They are used to denote how many layers of material are included in the membrane fabric:
2L/2-layer is the most straightforward design, where the front fabric and membrane are glued together. On the inside, such material is usually covered either by a loose mesh or jersey lining or by a layer of insulation. Such membrane fabrics are cheaper to produce, but the lining hanging from the back may cling to the garment’s inner layers and poorly protect the membrane from mechanical wear. Therefore, 2L laminates are generally only used in the most budget-friendly membrane jackets.
2.5L/2.5-layer – the membrane is coated on the back with a very thin polymer layer to protect it from wear and tear. This layer keeps the weight of the material down and allows the jacket to glide freely through the inner layers of clothing without hindering the wearer’s movement.
3L/3-layer laminates are the most durable and unpretentious. Three-layer laminates also glide well onto the inner layers of clothing so they do not hinder movement. The membrane here is glued together with the front and lining fabrics. Due to this, it is best protected from mechanical wear from the displacement of layers and skin secretions. Three-layer membrane laminates are used in most professional clothing, where it is vital to combine durability, reliability, and lightness. For example, in jackets for mountain climbing or freeride.
Waterproof in membrane jackets measured in millimeters of the water column and determines how much water pressure the material can withstand without leaking. Membrane fabrics with water resistance equal to or greater than 10,000 mm are impervious to the rain of any strength. However, most modern high-end membranes have a water resistance of 15,000-20,000 mm to eliminate the risk of leakage even with heavy, multi-year use of the jacket.
Keep in mind that water pressure on the jacket increases under the backpack’s belt and straps and the harness belt. It is why if you intend to use a waterproof jacket in harsh conditions, it is worth considering a membrane with a reserve of water resistance, i.e., from a 15 000-20 000 mm water column. For everyday use in the city or the countryside membrane with 10 000 mm is more than enough.