Not all rain jackets are made equal. To help anglers differentiate between waterproof, water-repellent, and water-resistant fishing rain gear, we developed this guide to cut through the confusion. Find the optimal fishing rain suits for a light sprinkle or a heavy downpour so you can focus on fishing.
What Makes Clothing Waterproof?
AFTCO and the fishing clothing industry have yet to develop 100% waterproof fishing rain suits because making clothing fully waterproof removes its breathability. The Seafarer Jacket and Bib are AFTCO's closest products to being 100% waterproof. The Seafarer slickers collection is made with a PU-coated waterproof material. PU is a welded material with a super high waterproof rating of nearly 100% compared to sewn fabrics. However, these fishing slickers have little to no breathability. Finding a way to make apparel 100% waterproof and breathable is challenging because there must be airflow to prevent anglers from overheating. For now, the Hydronaut and Barricade Elite collections have 30K water resistance and breathability to keep anglers dry and warm on the water.
Water-repellent fabrics provide a medium level of protection for anglers. For example, water-repellent fabrics have hydrophobic coatings that repel water from absorbing into the material. With water-repellent clothing, you will see raindrops bead on the clothing’s surface. Finally, the lowest level of water protection is water-resistant. Water-resistant clothing keeps anglers dry through a quick rain shower but will not hold up in a downpour, long rain shower, or snow.
The higher the waterproof rating, the longer clothing can keep you dry from the rain and snow. For example, a 5K-rated fishing rain jacket can fight 5,000 mm of water before it starts absorbing moisture. A 30K-rated fishing rain jacket can take on 30,000+ mm of water before anglers get wet underneath their outer layer piece. Before hitting the water or purchasing your next rain suit, check the table below to find the best rain gear for fishing in every weather condition.
Waterproof Ratings Table
Level of Water Resistance
(0- 5,000 mm)
None to little resistance
Light rain or dry snow
Light rain or snow, and light pressure
Mariner Jacket, Transformer Shell Jacket, and Transformer Shell Pant
Average rain or snow, and light pressure
Heavy rain, wet snow, and some pressure
Barricade Jacket and Barricade Bib
Heavy rain, wet snow, and high pressure
Hydronaut Insulated, Hydronaut Heavy Duty, and Barricade Elite Collections
Highest resistance, closest to 100% waterproof
Heavy rain, wet snow, and high pressure
Sea Farer Jacket and Sea Farer Bib
*AFTCO does not currently make 5K or 15K waterproof-rated gear. However, there are several outwear options available here.
How is the Waterproof Rating Determined?
As the table outlines above, apparel waterproof ratings are determined by how many milliliters of water the item can withstand before water starts to absorb into the material. From there, it’s rated from 5K to 30K+. For example, a 15K-rated rain jacket can withstand up to 15,000 mm of water before it starts to soak through. Ideal conditions for a 15K-rated rain jacket would be average rain and snow, not a downpour or a blizzard.
Waterproof ratings may vary across different industries. For the fishing industry, there is a standard Hydrostatic Head test. During this test, the fabric is pulled tight underneath a 1” x 1” sealed square tube of water. Then water is gradually pumped while pressure is increased over 24 hours to determine how many milliliters of water it can repel. Since this is a standardized test across all manufacturers, each clothing item with a 10K waterproof rating in the fishing industry can withstand 6,000-10,000 mm of water before it starts soaking through. Overall, fishing rain gear undergoes standardized testing to ensure anglers can depend on their gear and stay dry despite the elements.
Do Rainsuits Need to be Breathable?
Breathability is what allows air to flow through apparel. It’s crucial for comfort and helps prevent sweating from physical activity or layering. Breathable clothing is designed for activities like hiking, skiing, and running. In cold weather, breathability is more important, too, because it keeps sweat off your body, so your body temperature does not drop. AFTCO fishing rain suits have breathability to keep moisture off anglers’ bodies and make sure they stay dry. Anglers typically don’t sweat that much because fishing is not an aerobic, high-intensity activity. However, having breathability in a rain suit helps repel moisture from sweat to keep anglers comfortable and warm through rain and snow.
Insulated vs Non-Insulated Rain Gear
Insulation is something else to consider before selecting a fishing rain jacket or suit. Insulated fishing rain gear is made for cold-weather fishing as it locks in body heat to keep anglers warm. It also requires fewer layers than non-insulated rain gear. Choose non-insulated rain gear when the temperature changes throughout the day. For example, if it’s supposed to be cold in the morning and warm up in the afternoon. Non-insulated rain gear is also ideal for layering. It’s tough to layer underneath insulated jackets without overheating. The purpose of insulation is to minimize layering and keep the angler warm. If the weather fluctuates, layer up and grab a non-insulated jacket. Wear an insulated jacket if it is cold or stormy all day.
How to Take Care of Your Outerwear
Even the best fishing rain gear needs to be maintained. Outerwear is an investment and should be protected. Outerwear has a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish, and it should not be washed like a regular jacket. Otherwise, you can ruin its waterproof abilities. To clean, start with Nikwax products. Add 150ml of Nikwax Tech Wash into your washing machine, run it on a regular cycle with warm water, and ensure it's zipped up. Do not put more than two jackets in per load, and use a low tumble dry or let your gear airdry.
If your outerwear is not holding up as well as it did, re-waterproof it with Nikwax Spray. This spray refreshes and restores your gear's waterproof abilities and keeps you dry season after season. How often you wash your outerwear depends on how much you use it, but make sure before re-waterproofing that your gear is clean. To learn more about how to care for your AFTCO outerwear, click here.
AFTCO has outwear built with 5K to 30K+ waterproof ratings to keep anglers dry through light rain to heavy snow on the water. In the winter, gear up with insulated jackets like the Hydronaut, and for summer showers, grab the Barricade or Barricade Elite. If the temps are low, don’t forgetto look into what to wear fishing in cold weather. Now it’s time to gear up and hit the water!