What’s the Difference between Water resistant vs. Waterproof?

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Many people don’t know the difference between what “waterproof” and “water resistant” mean. They pull these words straight out of the dictionary, or they ask friends and other people online, but it’s often difficult to answer this question simply because there is no universally accepted definition. In short,

Water Resistant: A water-resistant product is designed to protect against rain or other forms of water. The product will not become wet through ordinary use, but can still be damaged by contact with liquid.

Waterproof: A waterproof product is designed to protect against rain or other forms of liquid – preventing any contact whatsoever with liquids.

Let me explain more what’s the difference between Water resistant vs. Waterproof?

What Does Water-Resistant Mean?

Water-resistant means that an item can withstand some exposure to water without sustaining damage. That is, it’s resistant to water but not impervious: if you put it under a few inches of water and leave it there without removing the item, water will seep into the seams and permeate through the material.

Why is this important? Because if you carry an item that’s water-resistant, no matter how deep the rain or snow falls, it’s still going to be dry inside when you take out your phone, your wallet or your camera. Water-resistant items can be found in handy situations where it would be inconvenient or dangerous to carry something that is totally waterproof.

For example, a water-resistant case for your phone can protect the inner screen from getting scratched by puddles, but it will not protect the phone from severe or prolonged exposure to water.

However, some types of water-resistant materials may not be as durable as their impervious counterparts. So if you’re going to be rough on your gear, it’s best to err on the side of caution and look for a thicker, more durable material.

Examples of things which are often water-resistant include:

Wallets
-Phones
-Gloves
-Rain jackets / coats / ponchos
-Backpacks
(maybe) – if the pack is made of waterproof material, it’s best to just buy one that’s totally waterproof. Otherwise, your electronics could get damaged by water entering the seams. If you want to take this risk, we would suggest checking out a waterproof pack liner.

What Does Water-repellent Mean?

Sometimes manufacturers will advertise a water-repellent coating by stating that the item is “water-repellent”, but what does this mean? Water-repellent means that the material’s surface repels water. This can be achieved in a variety of ways: there are materials that have hydrophobic (water-hating) properties, meaning they’re attracted to water and form a barrier to keep water at bay.

Examples of water repellent products include things like:

  1. Water-resistant fabrics. The fabric is treated with a coating that makes it hydrophobic and keeps water from penetrating;
  2. Water-repellent coatings which can be applied to synthetic fabrics, like nylons and polyesters, which are usually water repellents. Some brands will tell you that the nylon coating is waterproof;
  3. Water-repellent linings (usually on products made of canvas or cotton). They are usually made from a fabric with a hydrophobic coating or treated with wax for waterproofing. The linings are then applied to the item;
  4. Raincoats, which can be relatively waterproof in their own right, or they can be water-repellent;
  5. Water beads: These are sheets of plastic containing millions of tiny holes that draw water particles up through the material’s surface and away from your skin while still allowing you to see through them.
    So why is water-repellent important? Because in a world where we bring our keys and phones into the shower with us, the last thing you want is to be filling up on rainwater.

What Should I Look For?

In general, it’s better to look for water-resistant products than take a chance on non-waterproof ones. However, some things can be very difficult to tell without testing them or talking to someone who has tested them.

What Does Waterproof Mean?

Waterproof means that the item is totally impervious to water. It will keep out water and almost all other liquids, which means it’ll be totally dry if you leave it underwater or get caught in rain or snow.

Why is this important? Because if you’re going to take a swim or a dip, you want to make sure your gear is waterproof. Better yet, waterproof items are especially useful if you’re going to be taking on a bit of water and would like to avoid the hassle of drying up your items after use.

All these said, there’s much more than meets the eye when it comes to water-resistant and waterproof items. So let’s take a deeper look at the science and technology behind each feature.

Therefore, we hope that this infographic has clarified the main differences between Water-resistant vs. Waterproof items.

What’s the Ingress Protection Scale?

The Ingress Protection (or IP) scale is a standard set of testing protocols that manufacturers use to test and validate a material’s resistance to liquid ingress, gas ingress, dust ingress, and their ability to withstand physical damages.

This scale ranges from 0-to 7 where 0 represents no protection and 7 means the highest level of protection. However, when you see this scale being used in conjunction with water-resistant products you should note they are related but are not equal.

To explain this, you should also consider that the IP rating is a different measure than the one used to state a label as water-resistant.

What about Waterproof Tents?

Waterproof tents are a crucial part of many people’s outdoor gear. They can save you the hassle of having to spend time searching for a dry place when you get caught in the rain, they can keep you safe from having to worry about your tent getting wet when it isn’t supposed to, and they can keep you warm and dry while doing so.

While waterproof tents exist, this means that if your tent gets soaked through then it will stay wet until you are ready to take it out of its situation. You can try the following tips though.

Invest in a tent with vents: Don’t be put off by the fact that some waterproof tents don’t have venting options.
Avoid cheap imitation: This can be a good way of reducing the amount of water that gets into your tent by acting as a barrier between the rain and your tent.

Therefore, we would suggest you only invest in a waterproof tent if your main priority is to keep out water and you’re not going to be taking it in or out of the water very often.
Check the zippers: Some zippers are better than others at sealing the openings of their tents.

Check the hydrostatic head: Hydrostatic head is a measure of how waterproof something is. The higher the number, the better it is able to handle exposure to water. Pay special attention here if you’re looking at tents that will be exposed to rain while set up.

Read customer reviews: This can be a great way to figure out how waterproof a tent is before buying it.

Get creative: You could also try making shelters out of materials like branches and leaves that you can use to cover your tent during the rain.

How To Test Waterproofness?

If you’re curious to know how waterproof your item is, there’s no need to run out and buy a new one if you’re not sure. However, you will more than likely need to try it before you buy it. The best way to go about this is to try it out first in a controlled environment.

Firstly, don’t assume that just because something says that it’s water-resistant that it’s waterproof. This is a common misconception and you should therefore always check whether your item is labeled as waterproof or water-resistant before taking a chance on using it outside or going for an extended period of time with your item wet.

Final Word:

So what are the most important tips to remember? Just like any other piece of gear, water-resistant and waterproof items need to be tested before you use them in the field. Only use those items that are able to withstand the amount of water you’re exposed to.

Don’t forget that manufacturers guarantee their items based on a clear definition of the terms in question. Make sure you know what these terms mean before making any purchases. Also remember to keep your item away from heat sources, as this can damage it as well and make it less waterproof.

Regardless of where or when you use waterproof and water-resistant products, it is crucial for you to get familiar with both of these terms and what they stand for.

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