When it comes to kid's winter jackets, ski pants, and snowboard pants, one of the features most misunderstood is the waterproofness and breathability of the gear. For SHRED DOG’s Hardshell Jackets and Winter Pants we will be using a 15k/15k waterproof breathable membrane. With this post we will explain what this rating means, decipher some of the lingo, cut through the confusion, and help parents make informed purchase decisions.
It goes without saying that a jacket or pants designed for skiing, snowboarding, or just playing the snow, should do a good job keeping moisture out so your kids stay dry. But, while they may not sweat as much as adults do, kids skiing or snowboarding or just playing hard outside do, in fact, work up a sweat, making breathability important as well. If a garment is not breathable, that sweat turns to condensation trapped inside the clothing and when your kid stops moving (such as on the chair lift), that sweat chills and makes the kid wet and cold inside the jacket and pants.
The primary part of the garment that provides waterproofing and breathability (and the reason they are measured together) is a membrane that is bonded to the inside of the outer (face) fabric of the garment. This membrane is designed to prevent larger molecules (such as water) from penetrating the membrane yet allow smaller molecules (like sweat vapor) to escape through the fabric and away from the body. These membranes are made in varying quality levels and, therefore, there is not one single “fully waterproof” or “completely breathable” option on the market.
The second component of waterproofing a jacket or pant is a durable water repellant (DWR) coating applied to the outer (face) fabric. DWRs are necessary to enable the membrane to do its job, but insufficient alone to make a garment waterproof. For more details, see this related blog post: Why a DWR is Necessary but Not Sufficient for Waterproof Youth Gear.
Finally, to further waterproof a garment, seam tape is applied to seal the tiny holes that occur when fabric is stitched together. Once again, there are “good” and “better” approaches to seam taping. See this post for more details: What is Seam Taping and Why is it Important for Youth Winter Gear.
No. Because the technical fabrics and durable water repellents (DWRs) required add significant cost to the clothing being made, it is important to identify your child’s needs based on what your family does. Designing a jacket to withstand a torrential downpour for eight hours is different than designing a jacket for snow sports. Similarly, the breathability required for most youths skiing, snowboarding, or playing outside, is less than the breathability required for an adult ice climbing or hiking and "skinning" their way up a ridge for 3 hours to get to backcountry ski terrain.
Waterproofness and Breathability are rated according to industry standard tests and measurements. You will typically see these ratings reported such as “10k/10k” or “15k/15k.” The first number refers to waterproofness, the second number refers to breathability, and the higher each number is, the greater the performance. For a more detailed understanding of what these ratings really mean, see our post on Deciphering Waterproof / Breathability Ratings.
So how good is good?
Our goal is to get kids outside, even when the weather doesn’t cooperate, and enable them to stay outside having fun, while giving parents the peace of mind that their children are staying warm and dry. Therefore, all of our winter hardshell jackets and winter snow pants utilize 15k/15k rated membranes. Because of our wholesale-to-consumer pricing, we are able to make this higher investment in high-performance gear, while keeping our prices fair, honest, and frankly lower than competitive brands that utilize lower performing waterproof/breathable membranes.
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