Choosing the Right Waterproof Jacket: 2-Layer, 2.5-Layer, or 3-Layer?

Three-layer fabrics feature a third layer that’s fused to the waterproof membrane to protect the skin from body’s oils and grit. They offer higher moisture management and durability over two-layer fabrics however, they come with more expensive prices.

Patagonia’s new Torrentshell 3L (PS160) is an example of a tough 3 layer jacket featuring a sturdy 50D ripstop face fabric and Gore-Tex Paclite Plus technology. It is devoid of the lining found in most 2.5-layer jackets, which reduces the weight.

Waterproof and Breathable

Waterproof-breathable fabrics like Gore-Tex and eVent create jackets that are very protective in stormy weather. They let sweat escape however they also keep out water depending on the variation in pressure between body heat and cool air in the jacket. The top breathable waterproof options come with an interior layer which absorbs sweat while providing a smooth skin-like feel. The layers inside protect the membrane’s breathable from dirt as well as body oils and wear, so they require more frequent washing to stay at a level of breathable.

Aristino jacket

Historically 2-layer jackets used to have an exterior face fabric bonded to a waterproof-breathable membrane and a loose (typically mesh) liner hanging on the inside. Those types of jackets have been largely discarded because more cost-effective 2.5 layer jackets have taken the market by uproar. Each of them should have a durable water repellent (DWR) finish in order to keep rain off the exterior. Over time, however, these finishes will deteriorate and require retreatment.


There are many jackets that have two-layer membranes. A few have gone one step beyond. Co-op’s budget-friendly XeroDry GTX ($169) is made with a two-layer GORE-TEX PACLITE membrane that provides a strong shield against moderate and windy rain while letting sweat vapor go away. Mesh liner made of polyester protects the membrane as well as helping to reduce the clammy sensation the wearer may experience while wearing a cheap waterproof jacket in continuous rain. In order to keep the jacket running at peak performance, it’ll need to be treated with a DWR treatment (either spray-on or wash-in) after enough use.

Three-layer jackets include a third waterproof layer of wicking that dramatically improves water- and sweat-management. Jackets constructed using this method like Patagonia’s Torrentshell 3L jacket ($179) can be able to stand up to the most severe rainstorms.

The top three-layer membranes for performance are polyurethane as well as ePTFE. Polartec’s NeoShell is a popular choice for its high-elevation, trail-running-friendly balance of water resistance and breathability at 20,000 g/m2. The Gore-TEX Pro membrane is made up of multiple ePTFE membranes that are joined for exceptional water resistance (RET 13) as well as breathability (24,000 G/m2). Depending on your level of activity and the weather outside such as a jacket with pit vents will likely be required for the person you are.


Most jackets can endure mild rain, however only jackets that are waterproof and breathable technology can keep you dry when it rains heavily. Jacket brands use a wide variety of outward-facing fabrics and high-tech laminates in layered constructions however there is no consensus-based industry standard for water resistance, so making comparisons of water resistance claims among different brands isn’t always easy.

The most popular waterproof materials comprise coated fabrics as well as membranes that are slipped in between woven fabric layers and click to read more Coated fabrics are commonly found in affordable jackets and they’re less breathable than those with layers, yet have decent protection against water.

In the event of extreme wetness think about a coat with 3-layer construction or a hybrid 2.5-layer style. The inside layer of many 3-layer garments does a superior job in protecting the second layer membrane from dirt, oil and abrasion, as opposed to the outermost layer of the 2.5-layer jacket. But they’re usually a bit heavier and bulkier than 2-layer designs.

Lightweight and Packable

Contrary to the old oil and wax-coated jackets which needed to be applied regularly and were extremely bulky, membranes in the modern two-, 2.5-, and 3-layer models keep out water without being heavy or stiff. They’re also light enough that they can be packed in a tiny pouch or pack that makes them suitable for backcountry travel.

Many 2-layer jackets use a bonded membrane with an outer face fabric to guard against abrasion as well as wear. Certain jackets, such as Columbia’s $75 Watertight II and women’s Arcadia II are equipped with hanging lines that increase mass and weight, while helping to shield the membrane from scratches, skin oils, and itchyness.

This jacket from REI uses Gore-Tex Paclite or Paclite Plus and is an excellent choice for front-country and casual use. We love that it’s dry and machine washable to restore DWR (durable water-repellent) and breathability. Just follow the manufacturer’s washing instructions. It’s also fair-trade certified and is made from sustainable materials.