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I have a Paradox Rain Jacket from Costco that's served me well over the years. It's basically a single layer hardshell that I wear over everything in the rain and snow. I know that it says that the finish will wear out and to simply throw it the dryer to refresh it.

Right now my lady friend is borrowing it, but she says it's not working anymore, and that she's "uniformly wet underneath." I didn't think rain jackets wore out like this (my last rain jacket came apart and leaked at the seams), and since it has low breath-ability, I wondered if she had just sweat a bunch, since she bicycles over 30 miles a day for her work.

She also mentioned that she had fallen and that the jacket could have road rash on the elbows or body, though I didn't see any holes last time.

If I could get the jacket back from her and test it, I would, but I can't, so I'm wondering if someone with more experience in this knows anything about it.

When rain jackets wear out, do they soak through, or is this more likely caused by low breath-ability?

  • Washing the jacket might help because the sweat and dirt clog the membrane and breath-ability is reduced therefore. – Wills Aug 30 '15 at 8:40
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I would imagine it's a breath-ability issue.

"Breathable" waterproof fabrics, in my experience, are basically "pretty waterproof and allow some/most moisture out in most conditions."

Especially in high humidity or in absolutely soaking weather, the math isn't right for the membrane to allow moisture out. But even in dry conditions if you put a GoreTex jacket on and went for a 5 mile run, the interior will be wet with sweat. Not as wet as non-breathable, and less so if it's not humid or otherwise wet outside, but it's not going to be a bone-dry experience.

Especially if she's uniformly wet, that really points to sweat build up.

One thing to consider (maybe) is a wind jacket (one that I use: a Sierra Designs Microlight 2). People often ignore them because they don't have the serious GoreTex or (or GoreTex-ish) fabric, but they really do a decent job of keeping you dry in all but the wettest of weather, are really light, pretty cheap, and much more breathable.

I'd also consider the sizing (maybe you're a lot bigger than her, so she's swimming in the jacket). And, ask what her layer was underneath. If she had a cotton shirt on it won't matter what else is above that, a hygroscopic fabric will keep her nice and wet.

  • I'll bet she was wearing cotton. I know it was raining hard, but it was one of the first warm days, so she was probably wearing a tank or such. When I can bring it up, I'll talk to her about better wicking fabrics. – JFA Apr 19 '15 at 3:53
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    Those would be the worst of all scenarios then. Hard rain, warm (warm air carries more moisture so it was more humid), she was sweating in the jacket riding, and she had cotton on. But heck, if it even barely worked in those conditions that's still pretty good, relatively speaking. – Eric Apr 19 '15 at 3:56
  • I have a GoreTex jacket that's so old it leaks through the seams. I suppose if one were out long enough they would get the impression of getting uniformly wet underneath. – Joshua Apr 27 '18 at 19:20
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A long time ago (when I was teenager) I had one of the early GoreTex jackets. I had this Jacket for years and years and used it constantly. Over time the fabric wore out and it started to leak. This actually got to the point where you could see though it in places (imagine a thin cotton t-shirt, that kind of thiness).


So to answer your question:

When rain jackets wear out, do they soak through

Yes, rain jackets can wear out. I've seen it happen.

Couple of caveats:

  • I had this jacket for a very long time (possibly 10 years Goretex was very expensive then)
  • It was a very long time ago (15 years ago maybe) so you'd imagine materials, etc. will of improved.
  • That's a good point. I did look at the jacket, and I think it's still in the shape I gave it to her in. Also, this jacket is barely a couple years old, and not very used. I'll see how thick the material is when I see her next time. – JFA Apr 20 '15 at 14:19

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