What Makes a Hardshell Waterproof?
May 12, 2023
When it comes to outdoor gear, having a waterproof hardshell is essential for staying dry in wet conditions. But what makes a hardshell waterproof? In this article, we'll explore key components of a waterproof hardshell & how they work.
Seam taping is the process of sealing the seams on a hardshell to prevent water from seeping through. The seams on a hardshell are the areas where two pieces of fabric are sewn and joined together, and they are typically the weakest point when it comes to waterproofing.
To seam tape a hardshell, a thin strip of waterproof tape is applied over the seam. The tape is then heated and pressure is applied to create a watertight seal. This process is often referred to as "heat sealing" or "welding."
It's important to note that not all hardshells are seam taped. Some lower-end models may have unsealed seams, which can lead to water seeping through. If you're planning to use your hardshell in wet conditions, it's important to look for a model with fully seam-taped construction.
The other key component of a waterproof hardshell is the fabric itself. High-quality hardshells are typically made with 3-layer fabric, which consists of three layers:
1. A protective shell layer: This layer provides durability and protects the waterproof membrane from damage.
3. A waterproof/breathable membrane: This layer is the heart of the hardshell's waterproofing. It prevents water from penetrating the fabric while also allowing sweat and moisture to escape.
3. A liner: Often this layer is overlooked. It sits against your skin and helps wick moisture away from your body and should also have a quality handfeel.
The 3-layer construction of a hardshell fabric provides both waterproofing and breathability. The membrane prevents water from entering the jacket, while the lining helps wick away sweat and moisture to keep you dry from the inside out.
When shopping for a hardshell, look for models with high-quality 3-layer fabric. Cheaper hardshells may be made with 2-layer fabric.