What do layers mean when talking about foul weather gear?
The most basic gear has two layers–the woven textile and then the coating or laminate finish. This is light-weight and inexpensive to produce, but requires a lining because the coating is on the inside of the fabric and might feel clammy next to your skin. The lining is not considered a layer.
Three layer fabrics start with the two layers described above, then add a tricot scrim on the inside to protect the coating (or laminate) and for comfort. Why are three-layers better than the two-layers with a lining? Linings inhibit breathability, are heavier than scrims, and are more prone to get caught or snagged.
Recently, some manufacturers like Gill have been making their top of the line garments with a four layer fabric.
Four layers have the outer textile layer, then a new layer of hydrophobic coating that enhances moving water vapor out of the fabric increasing breathability, then the waterproof laminate, then the scrim. Obviously more expensive, but well worth it for high aerobic offshore sailing.
Which is right for you? As always it depends on your kind of sailing, boating, or fishing. For casual, inshore, the two layer fabric is fine. Going farther out, getting more physical, get the three layer fabric. Serious offshore demanding the best–get 4 layer. As with everything else in life, you get what you pay for.
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We’d like to thank Gill, www.Gillna.com for their knowledge and advice.