Which is Better: Weatherproof Or Weather-Resistant?

Woman on beach, closing zipper of hooded jacket.
Hannah Bichay / Getty Images

In the market for rainwear, outerwear, or tech gear, but don't know whether to browse for weatherproof or weather-resistant options?  

Although the two may sound alike, knowing the difference could save you money in the long run. 

Weather-Resistant Definition

Weather resistance offers the lowest level of protection against Mother Nature. If a product is labeled weather resistant, it means it's designed to withstand light exposure to the elements—sun, rain, and wind.

If a product resists the penetration of water to some degree (but not entirely) it's said to be water- or rain-resistant. If this resistance is achieved through a treatment or coating, it is said to be water- or rain-repellent.

Weatherproof Definition

On the other hand, if something is weatherproof (rainproof, windproof, etc.) it means it's able to withstand routine exposure to the elements yet still remain in "like new" condition.

Weatherproof items are considered longer-lasting. Of course, this rugged durability also comes at a steeper price.  

How Weatherproof is Weatherproof? 

So you've found the perfect product and it's got the "weatherproof" stamp of approval. That's all you need to know, right?

Well, not exactly.

Contrary to what you may think, weatherproofing isn't a one-size-fits-all kind of spec. As persnickety as it sounds, there are actually degrees of weatherproofness.  

For example, if you want to know how wind resistant a garment is, you'll want to pay close attention to something called its CFM rating.

This rating expresses how easily air (typically at a speed of 30 mph) can pass through a fabric. The lower the rating number, the more wind-resistant the fabric is, with 0 being the most wind-resistant (100% windproof). In general, the more "hard shelled" the garment, the less able winds are to cut through it.

 

To measure a material's rainproof performance, companies test to see that no water leaks through it when subjected to a water pressure test. While there isn't an industry standard, you'll want a material tested under a pressure of at least 3 psi. (The force of wind-driven rain is about 2 psi, so anything in the 3 psi range is sure to keep you dry during spring and summer downpours.) However, if you're planning on hunting hurricanes, you'll want a jacket that exceeds 10 psi. (Source: "Rainwear: How it Works" REI, July 2016.)   

Similar to how SPF ratings tell how well sunscreen protects your skin from the sun's UV, textiles, too, are rated for their level of UV protection. A fabric's Ultraviolet Protection Factor or UPF informs you how many sunburn-causing or color-fading UV rays will pass through. The lower the rating, the less UV resistant the product. A rating of UPF ~30 is typical of sunproof fabrics and blocks nearly 97% of UV radiation. (It means that if 30 units of UV fall on the fabric, only 1 unit will pass through.) A rating of 50+ provides the maximum level of UV protection. If you can't find a mention of UPF rating, look for fabrics having a tight or heavy weave and dark color—these will typically offer the most sun protection.

 And don't forget about moisture-wicking features—these will offer cooling and breathability.   

These ratings don't just apply to apparel. To check durability for tech gear and electronics, you'll want to check its outdoor durability by looking at what's called an IP code. 

And the Winner Is...

While which spec you need—weather-resistance or weatherproofness—largely depends on what kind of product you're buying and how much you're willing to pay for it, weather-resistant is all most of us need. Unless of course, you're a meteorologist

One final word of advice when considering weather-resistant vs. weatherproof: No matter how weather resistant something claims to be, remember nothing is 100% weatherproof forever. Eventually, Mother Nature will have her way.