Waterproof Jackets and Liners – and my problem with them
Just to be clear this post is not meant to be a thrashing of any product. It is just an opinion on dealing with wet conditions that I have formed based on my own travel experiences (riding through multiple 8 hour+ storms). It is also an explanation for why we don’t have a waterproof liner as standard on the new Power Shell and Navigator suits.
For the most part, there are three common implementations of waterproofing:
- A removable waterproof liner that zips inside the jacket
- A built-in non removable liner (usually sandwiched between the outer shell and inner mesh lining)
- A waterproof membrane fused to the protective shell fabric
All three implementations are inherently flawed.
A suit with a removable liner means that you have to take off your suit on the roadside, spend a few minutes inserting the liner and then put the suit on again. Hopefully you were wearing something presentable inside.
Then when it stops raining take off the suit again, unzip and unbutton the liner and put the suit on again. In most cases this is going to be a much harder process as all the fabrics are now wet and sticky.
After a few iterations of this, you will consider leaving the liner either permanently on or off.
Keeping the liner permanently zipped in means cutting off all airflow. This is essentially what it means to have a built in non-removable waterproofing layer. Just cut off all airflow. So those vents are just for show, making this sort of gear worthless for even moderately warm temperatures.
Additionally, in all these implementations, the outer shell will undoubtedly get wet and absorb water – even if it has some sort of DWR treatment. Though you may be dry inside, the outer layer of your gear will not be which means it will get heavier, sloshy, drippy and even stinky! So even though the storm may be over, your suit will still be wet and you need to dry it, a process that may take hours. Wet gear will eventually lead to a colder climate inside the suit! Regular generous use of water repellent can help alleviate this issue to some extent – but only to some extent.
For gear with fused fabrics, venting is always going to be a major issue. Any vent is a step towards compromising the waterproofing of the suit – hence most examples have extremely limited venting again making them very uncomfortable in even moderately warm temperatures. Again, the outermost fabric will still absorb water and become wet and heavy.
Drying all this gear is not very easy either. In a hotel room you definitely have to turn the heater on at high temperatures – not a very comfortable sleeping environment in most cases. A simply hang dry (without turning on the heat) would leave the stuff soggy by next morning – leading to an unpleasant smell.
When I travel, I like to be comfortable and find it convenient to simply slide on/off the rain suit in a few seconds and be on my way. This way I don’t mind adapting to changing weather instead or being uncomfortable the remainder of the day. I don’t have to take off my suit and spend the time inserting a liner. I don’t have to deal with wet gear when I reach my destination. I have airflow when I am warm. I can seal out the wind/water when required.
I apologize for this but I simply had to “bold” the entire paragraph above to stress on comfort. I ride to enjoy – not to suffer.
Times have changed
Gone are the days when a getting a cheap rain suit meant a piece of vinyl/plastics. Now you can get a good quality breathable rain suit at your local outdoor/camping store for less than $40.
The breathability myth:
One point where a lot of people get thrown off is “breathability”. Do not be fooled by the way manufacturers market breathability. Breathability means that water vapor may escape from the micro pores (does not mean that you get incoming airflow – these membranes are windproof).
Even though your very expensive liner may claim to be breathable, the implementation is greatly hampered in most cases. Many of these breathable fabrics (such as most Gore-Tex products) have a PU coating to avoid contamination. This coating has a pretty big adverse effect on the breathability performance of the membrane.
Two articles explaining this in detail can be found here:
Breathability is important – most definitely. But you don’t want to overpay for a liner that is first of all not very convenient and secondly not even as breathable as promised.
Be true to yourself
In a previous post, I wrote:
“Be honest with yourself and determine what percentage of your riding is done in the rain. 10%? 20%? Even if is more than 50% percent, would you rather not be a little more comfortable for the rest of the time you are on your motorcycle. Compare the inconvenience of slipping on a rain suit to the inconvenience of not having any airflow!………….While it is tempting to grab a jacket that has a built-in waterproof membrane, there are severe trade-offs that you should consider seriously and do an honest evaluation of the how, where and when you intend to ride.”
You know your needs better than anyone else. Remember that you also need that new aftermarket seat, a better set of auxiliary lights, and some new tires, decent riding socks etc. – all the stuff that you can buy with the money saved.
So what am I trying to say here
In my personal opinion, the best way to deal with wet conditions is to wear an external rain suit. It requires the least effort to put on and off. It is extremely waterproof. It keeps your inner jacket/pants dry so its easy to deal with them at the end of the day. It’s easily replaceable and quite affordable. You don’t end up overpaying for a fancy liner that is far less convenient or effective. You get the best of every riding condition. Dry when it rains. Warms n snug when its cold. Your vents work when its hot.
Reach the same conclusion
This is not just our opinion. A quick search in the forums will give you comments like these:
“Right now I have a jacket with a waterproof removable liner, because I am a sucker for deals. It works okay in shorter rains (30min-1hr), if I expect to be in the rain longer than that, I toss a rain suit over otherwise the shell will get heavy”
“People keep calling it a “stupid” idea(it is), but few really understand what the alternative in the price range tends to be – a Z-liner system(which is even stupider). This means you have a water resistant outer shell with a NON-REMOVABLE waterproof membrane behind that, and a mesh lining on the inside. This means in heavy rain, your outer gets soaked and heavy as hell, and in the heat, your vents don’t work very well because the membrane is in the way.”
“The only way to get venting through the membrane is if it is laminated to the outer shell, and that generally costs big bucks. ….. If you want a new, genuine Gore-tex laminate, it is going to run you $800+ for a jacket alone. “
“I started with waterproof liner. Dumbest idea I’ve ever seen. I tried it once, yes I was dry for the most part, but my pants and jacket were saturated with water, and heavy, when I got where I was going I hung them up and they dripped on the floor for about an hour. Also, the liners are not full coverage, the sleeves are shorter and the collar is lower, so I didn’t stay completely dry. Now its two piece **** rain gear. Lightweight, packs small, cheap, and works well. I stay dry, when I take it off my gear underneath is dry, I shake the water off the rain gear and its dry in ten minutes.”
“Rain gear over top of supposedly-waterproof gear. Seems everything leaks at least a little (and my *** stuff leaks a lot), doubling up works pretty well though.”
“ *** jacket and pants breath well and work OK for an occasional rain. For extended wet riding have to wear a rain suit, I have *** brand, it works OK. Inner liners make no sense to me. Do you really want to take off your pants on a side of a road in a rain and stand in your undies while stuffing the liner in the pants?”
These comments are a very small sample taken from only a few threads. As you research this deeper (or learn from your own travel experiences) – you will arrive at the same solution – a rain suit over the riding gear is the best option.
In all fairness:
Recently a few garments have popped with which feature a waterproof outer layer sourced directly from Gore-Tex. We have not included these in the discussion because the cheapest of suits of this type are at least DOUBLE the price of everything else with the most inexpensive example starting at $1548 for a set of jacket and pants. Additionally these suits are very new with not enough feedback available (apart from the media reviews) to make a conclusive statement. One of the aspects that definitely require you to wait-and-see are the new Gore Lock Out closures (zippers?) that have had negative reports from early adopters.
When you purchase a waterproof jacket which is similar in specifications (in terms of protection) to the Navigator or Power Shell, you also end up over-paying for a flawed waterproofing system. Many of them claim to be 100% waterproof but a quick google search will prove otherwise. I would rather have these manufacturers be a bit more honest and charge me less by leaving out the gimmicky waterproof liners.
This is what we have done at Teiz Motorsports. The Power Shell and Navigator don’t come with a liner. Instead, we have focused on protection with the use of Cordura, Sas-Tec and SuperFabric. The prices are far lower than any of these products with fancy branded liners. Yet, with a rain suit our suits are more protective, more waterproof, and more versatile!