Selecting waterproof garments made easier with these tips. Photo credit: Anthony Smith

The world of waterproof shells can be very confusing, especially because of the unique technology and terminology that, without a certain level of knowledge, seem like another language.

Patagonia is no exception to this; H2NO, 3-Layer, 2.5-Layer, Waterproof/Breathable, are all terms that we use on a regular basis. For most, what really matters when looking for a rain jacket is: Will it keep me dry? Will it be breathable enough? Is it durable?

Here are some important terminology relating to all waterproof garments:

The Patagonia Torrentshell jacket offers 3 layer construction and H2NO waterproofing.
The Patagonia Torrentshell 3L jacket offers 3 layer construction and H2NO waterproofing.

1. Membrane

The part of your jacket or pants that is actively keeping it waterproof. The membrane is also where most of the proprietary technology lives.

2. 3-Layer or 2.5-Layer Construction

Any waterproof garment is made of multiple layers. The first layer is the material on the outside of the garment. It is the layer that holds color and is usually made of Nylon or Polyester. The second layer is the waterproof membrane, which is usually made of a Polyurethane. In 3-Layer garments, the third layer is glued “laminated” to the waterproof second layer. It usually looks like a micro-grid texture on the inside of your jacket.

3. Breathability

A jacket’s ability to allow moisture and air to pass through its’ waterproof membrane, from the inside out, such as in high energy activities where you are sweating and heating up. Fleece, Wool and lightweight wind breaking shells are all significantly more breathable than any waterproof garment (even GORE-TEX). Some companies tout their ultimate breathable/waterproof membrane, but most of that is in relation to other not so breathable waterproof materials. Compared to fleece, the most breathable waterproof material would seem like a brick wall against moisture and air.

4. H2NO

H2NO is a Patagonia specific standard for waterproofness. H2NO is not a membrane or a technology. Anything that Patagonia makes and states as waterproof, including GORE-TEX, has to pass this standardized test. Some materials Patagonia tests, end up not passing, even some GORE-TEX materials.

The Patagonia Calcite jacket offers 2.5 layer construction and GORE-TEX waterproofing.
The Patagonia Calcite jacket offers 2.5 layer construction and GORE-TEX waterproofing.


GORE-TEX s the company that produces high performance waterproof membranes that allow for maximum breathability and durability. Many companies use Gore-tex membranes, including Patagonia. There are many different Gore-tex membranes for various applications. Some focus on breathability and others light weight and packability. Gore-tex is the best breathing, waterproof, fabric construction.

3-layer Vs. 2.5-layer Jackets?

Many 2.5-layer jackets have their waterproof membrane exposed and unprotected. Dirt, oils from your skin and other natural contaminants slowly break down the PU membrane. If not washed and taken care of properly, 2.5-layer jackets have a tendency to break down with time, losing their ability to keep you comfortable. 3-layer jackets add an extra layer of protection to the inside of your jacket, protecting the waterproof membrane. These jackets are more durable and will perform better for a longer period of time before needing to be washed and cleaned.

Is GORE-TEX worth the more expensive price tag if waterproof jackets aren’t actually all that breathable?

If you want the most breathable waterproof garment possible, then yes, it definitely lives up to the name. If you are looking for a jacket to simply keep you dry and warm, then any one of our waterproof jackets will be more than capable.

As you explore waterproof jackets and all the options available, focusing on your end purpose will help guide you towards what you truly need. For most general applications, GORE-TEX isn’t necessary. Any waterproof garment Patagonia makes will be sufficiently waterproof for daily use. GORE-TEX becomes more practical when you need breathability, long-term waterproof durability, and performance in the most extreme conditions; like running, back-country skiing, or any highly aerobic activity.

Staff at Patagonia Burlington are happy to help guide you towards the most effective jacket for your needs. Feel free to call our shop or stop in person!

- Josh Gauthier,
Patagonia Burlington Manager