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How to choose a membrane jacket for hiking


Membrane jackets have long been an integral part of the outfit when engaged in active sports and not only. But not everyone knows the differences, features, characteristics and even purpose. This is especially true for those who have not previously engaged in active sports.

In this article we will analyze in detail all the points: what membrane to choose, the number of layers, cutting features, and what to focus on.

The first question you will be asked in any store: for what purposes you need a membrane jacket. And this question may lead you to confusion. Universal jacket is almost impossible to pick up for all purposes. Somewhere you can find a compromise, but no more.

The main parameters of a membrane jacket


The main function of a membrane jacket is to keep out moisture from the outside and still "breathe". The membrane itself is very thin, about 0.01 mm. But it is very durable for its thickness. In order to make it durable, reliable and resistant to external influences, it is glued to the fabric base.

To ensure that water does not soak into the front fabric, compromising its vapor permeability and creating the risk of leakage - the fabric is coated with impregnators with the common name of DWR - Durable Water Repellent.

When water hits the fabric, the impregnation causes the water to collect into balls and roll off its surface. A membrane jacket can consist of 2L, 2.5L and 3L layers. Where the letter L (layer) stands for layer:

  • 2L is the simplest membrane design. The membrane is glued over a layer of fabric. It is mostly light gray and easy to identify on initial inspection. Sometimes the membrane may be hidden under a lining in the form of mesh or insulation.
  • 5L - The design of this membrane is the same as the previous one except that a thin layer of polymer is used instead of a lining to protect against wear and tear. Thus there is freedom of movement, there is no stiffness. The garment becomes lighter and more compact.
  • 3L - membrane is glued together with front and lining part of the fabric to form a laminate. This design is wear-resistant, lightweight, compact, durable, and has excellent vapor permeability.


One of the important parameters of the membrane is water resistance. The main function is to protect against wet snow and rain. This parameter in kurs is measured in millimeters of water column and determines how much pressure the material can withstand without leaking. The higher the value, the higher the water resistance of the fabric. Jacket water resistance can be divided into three categories:

  • 5000 to10000 mm - such jackets will have relatively weak rain protection. It will be protection from short rains or snow. Basically, such a membrane (two-layer) will be in budget, ski/board jackets, or SoftShell clothing.
  • 10000 to 20000 mm - a large range of membrane fabrics in different classes and levels. These can be two-ply or 2.5-ply membranes used in both storm and urban clothing. This class of water resistance is designed for heavy rain and wet snow.
  • from 20000 mm and more - have excellent water resistance to any amount of precipitation, even with prolonged use and laundering. Such a jacket can generally be used in mountaineering, mountain hiking.


Another very important parameter of a membrane jacket. It is the ability of the garment to breathe, which means the removal of moisture from the body to the outside during active loads. With insufficient vapor permeability, a person will first overheat, which will lead to less activity, and later he will start to get damp and, consequently, freeze.


This parameter is measured in g/m²/24 h. In other words, it determines how much water vapor passes through a square meter of fabric sample in one day. As in the case of water resistance, the higher the number, the higher the water vapor permeability.

  • Fabrics with a parameter up to 10000 g/m²/24h are low vapor permeability. Suitable for relatively static movement.
  • Fabrics with a value of 10000-20000 g/m²/24h - can be classified as medium activity.
  • Fabrics higher than 20,000 g/m²/24h are used for very active activities: running, cycling, etc.

Additional ventilation of the jacket can be provided by the zipper under the armpit. When you open the ventilation, the excess heat will quickly evaporate and thus provide comfort during active movement. This feature is very common in jackets. In some models, the lack of a ventilation zipper is due to the fact that the manufacturer wishes to provide a lightweight model where every gram counts.

Design features of a membrane jacket



All of the membrane used in the garment is adhered to the fabric. It can be nylon or polyester. The abbreviation on the fabric tag contains numbers with the value of D. This unit of measure Denier (or den for short) is the index of the thread, which is equal to the ratio of the thickness of the fiber to the length of the thread. The higher the index of the thread, the heavier and denser it is. At 1 denier per 1 gram of yarn is 9 km. I.e. at 30D the weight of 9 kilometers of thread is equal to 30 grams.


The jacket may contain from one to four pockets. The optimal number is three: two pockets for hands, the third for phone / GPS.When choosing a jacket carefully consider the location of pockets, think about where you will use it, will access to the pockets if you fasten the waistband backpack or put on a system, will fit in your pocket phone / GPS?


Today, there are probably no jackets without a hood. It can be detachable or folding into a collar, but its presence is mandatory. In a good jacket it will be molded.

A well-cut hood sits perfectly, made deeper, which makes it possible to put on a helmet, and at the same time does not restrict the movement of the head. And the resulting rim protects against rain and snow in side winds. In the upper part of the jacket provides a flexible visor, thanks to it the water will not run down on his face. The elastic bands fix the hood on the sides and on the back of the neck. This way, only the eyes are left open.

Budget models also have hoods, but most of the features described above, they are not endowed.

The cut

As with the hood, the cut may be regular, or may be fitted or close-fitting. The jacket under which you need to wear a thermal layer or other down jacket, it is worth taking with a straight cut and perhaps a size larger.

Basically, the seams are arranged so that the jacket follows the natural curves of the body at rest. This promotes freedom of movement.

At the bottom of the jacket is located kuliska, which serves as a tightening the bottom of the jacket to keep the wind out. It is rare to find a jacket with an elastic band instead of a gusset.

Cuffs prevent moisture in the form of snow and rain, as well as wind from getting inside the sleeves of the jacket. Almost all cuffs adjust the volume and length of the sleeve by velcro fixing it to the wrist. This makes it possible to put gloves under the cuffs and fix it with Velcro.

In ski jackets you may additionally find a half glove and the presence of a snow skirt is an additional protection against snow entering inside the jacket.

Stitching leaves quite a few needle holes in the jacket, which can make the jacket far from a membrane. To avoid getting wet, these holes are taped on the inside with waterproof tapes.

Purpose of membrane jackets

The use of membrane jackets can be divided into five areas: city, tourism, biking/running, mountaineering and skiing/snowboarding.

Membrane jacket for city

By and large, any membrane jacket will do. It may not be light enough, the hood may be unadjustable, water resistance may meet the characteristics of less than 10000 mm, and water vapor permeability in this case - not very important parameter.

The colors of such jackets are quite diverse. And unlike outdoor things, the colors may be more austere.

Membrane jacket for jogging/biking

These jackets are designed specifically for heavy, intense, bad-weather activity. These jackets will be as lightweight as possible, without additional ventilation, with a thin fabric(7-15D).

The water resistance will be close to 20000 mm and the vapor permeability not less than 20000 g/m²/24h. The jacket may not have a full zipper. Such jackets on average weigh 200g.

A membrane jacket for tourism

This is a wide range of jackets. Hikes come in all kinds of complexity: from day hikes to multi-day hiking programs. Sometimes you have to walk for days in the long rains.

For short or day hikes, a less dense fabric is used. It is not designed for heavy backpacks. But will have an adjustable hood, cuffs, and sleeves. The characteristics of such a jacket will be 20000/20000, where the first figure - water resistance, and the second - water vapor permeability (usually these indicators are written so). The jacket will be quite light for its parameters in the range of 300-350 grams.

For multi-day hikes, the weight of the jacket will be roughly doubled. The fabric will be more durable, designed for heavy backpacking and prolonged wear and tear. The membrane will most likely be from the Gore-Tex and eVent series with a rating above 20000/20000.

Membrane jacket for mountaineering

The most technologically advanced jackets are used in mountaineering and have the highest requirements. Such jackets are made of durable 40D fabric, as they are at risk of coming into contact with sharp objects: rocks, crampons, ice axe.

As in hiking jackets for multi-day hiking uses a membrane with a rating above 20000/20000. Ventilation zippers are also placed - if you climb heavily, they will help cope with the heat dissipation. The hood can easily be put on top of the helmet and does not cramp the movement. The pockets are overstretched and the waistband system of the backpack and the system itself, worn over the jacket, do not overlap.

Memphrase jacket for alpine skiing and snowboarding

The membrane jackets used in freeride and snowboarding are very similar to mountaineering jackets (without insulation), but the cut may be different. Obligatory attribute is a snow-protective skirt. It can be detached to make the jacket more versatile.

Summing up: the algorithm for choosing a membrane jacket

First we determine the purpose for which you will use it. Then we move on to its main parameters: water resistance, vapor permeability, membrane, weight.

Once you have decided on several models, it is necessary to try it on.

If you will use a jacket for mountain climbing, wear a helmet and system, if for tourism - backpack. Make sure you are happy with everything: the fit, comfort, location of pockets, etc.

Hike safely and comfortably in the mountains. And Kuluar - your life-changing mountain experience!


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