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WHAT IS WATERPROOFing and breathability ratings?

Have you been looking for a new snowboard jacket or a fresh pair of pants for skiing, and seen words like “5k/10k” or “15K Waterproofing and breathability” and wondered what that should mean to you? If so, keep reading on.

In the outerwear world, there are different ratings which defines how waterproof a piece of clothing is and how breathable it is when you’re wearing it while being active. The higher the rating, the higher ability it has to keep you dry on the outside and cool on the inside. 


Outerwear has to be a minimum of 5k rating to be considered waterproof. It means that it will be able to withstand 5 thousand millimetres of pressure within a 24 hour period, and the higher the rating, the larger amount of water that the material will be able to withstand. 

20k = 20,000mm of rain/snow. 

The question of what rating is right for you can have a various amounts of answers, and it really comes down to this:

Where are you riding and what conditions you would be going out in?

Plan on being out on the Australian slopes on a very wet and windy day? Bright side is, most likely there won’t be a big lift line for you to be waiting in. Other-bright side, having a higher rating in your jacket and pants will keep you warm and dry so you can enjoy those sweet, sweet laps. 

Riding in dry, soft powder like in Japan, and after an hour your legs are jelly so you call it a day -  a jacket with less waterproofing will get you through in a low moisture climate. 

click image for ski jackets 

Waterproof Rating*Explanation

0 – 5,000mm

For light rain or dry snow

6,000 – 10,000mm

In light rain or light snowfall

11,000 – 15,000mm

Good for steady downpour, and wet snow

16,000 – 20,000mm

 Under heavy rain and wet snow

20000 + mm

Very high pressure rain and wet heavy snow

click image for snowboarding jackets


Breathability rating is measured on the amount of vapour that’s able to be released through the inside of the fabric to the outside. The higher the rating, the larger amount of perspiration would be able to escape.

The rating can mean the difference between you feeling like you're stuck under a summer rainstorm with a plastic poncho or driving on a afternoon with a ocean breeze coming through the afternoon

Again, this is has a customised answer per person. If you’re someone that just enjoys just to cruise lifts, and have really chilled, relaxed laps, which means you're probably not working up a sweat and body heat that needs to be released. Which results in not needing such a high rating.


If you are someone that charges up the back country like no tomorrow, earning those turns up and down the mountains all day - getting a higher breathability rating will definitely pay off. You’ll be more comfortable and will be able to keep your body heat in and the moisture out.

Remember, snowsports gear is an investment. Generally, what you pay for is what you receive. The higher price point often means a longer lifespan, and the better quality of the material.
Better material = higher waterproofing and breathability. 

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