My expensive waterproof jacket leaks!

This happens all the time to expensive waterproof jackets, but no worries; the jacket is most likely fine. It just needs some love. Let’s begin with a little background regarding waterproof-breathable (W-B) fabrics. These products (such as Gore-tex) are a plastic layer or laminate embedded within the nylon fabric of your shell. Additionally, the outer layer of nylon the shell is treated with a Durable Water Repellant (DWR) coating to shed water off the nylon.

This outer DWR coating is the key to the “leaking” issue. If the DWR wears off the outer nylon, the nylon wets out. The W-B layer still prevents the water from soaking through to you. However, with the outer nylon saturated, the W-B cannot “breathe” properly because the moisture you are creating as you move cannot escape. So, any moisture you create becomes trapped inside your jacket and you become wet. This all gives the appearance that your jacket is leaking. After all, it’s wet on the outside and wet on the inside in the same places!

So, the issue is not that your jacket leaks, but that the DWR has worn off and the jacket cannot function properly. This is not a quality problem with your jacket.  As you use your jacket and stuff it in and out of your pack, the DWR coating is abraded and wears off. This is normal. Periodically, re-treat it with an after market spray such as Revivetech. The spray-on stuff is best (wash-in is the alternative). A simple spray once or twice a season will keep your jacket in good working order, with no more apparent “leaking problems”. Every other season or so, it’s also a good idea to throw your jacket in the dryer on medium heat. This will warm the W-B layer and it will “even out” the surface so that the jacket continues to breathe well.

A rainy day is no excuse to not have fun in the backcountry. So grab your rain-jacket and hit the trail!

Graham Ottley
Born and raised in the Midwest (Iowa & Illinois), I always held a fascination for the outdoors and mountain landscapes as some “distant place” on maps. That fascination continues today but I am fortunate to have now lived and worked in the mountains for 15+ years. My first job as a guide was leading sea-kayak trips in coastal Ketchikan Alaska. After that season, I attended undergrad in the Southeast (Montreat College) studying Outdoor Education and Environmental Studies and went on to pursue my MBA. I first visited the Yosemite area during a spring break climbing trip with some buddies. I can vividly recall driving in and being completely awestruck by the beauty of The Valley, well as all the great climbing : ) After college I worked as a Guide with Summit Adventure in Yosemite as well as internationally in the Ecuadorian Andes and mountains of Mexico. I enjoyed teaching outdoor education in Santa Cruz and Yosemite Valley during my off-seasons. I also worked with Outward Bound California leading youth trips and eventually worked as Program Director at their Midpines and Joshua Tree locations. In 2016, I transitioned to SYMG and appreciated the thoughtful approach to the work of guiding. I enjoy spending time with the great crew of guides that come here to work, live and play. Beyond work in the outdoors, I am a proud father of two children, Owen & Eleanor. I enjoy adventures with them and my wife Sarah not quite as far afield. While we still return regularly to visit family in the midwest, we are happy to call Southern Yosemite home.