Dedicated outdoorsmen and women usually don’t plan their trips according to the time of year or even the weather for that matter. As long as the snow isn’t a metre high, there’s really nothing keeping them from going, not even adverse weather conditions. Of course, in conditions such as these, the proper clothing is absolutely essential.
In other words, you need waterproof clothing. But, what makes a garment waterproof and how would you make those weak spots on jackets like zips and seams waterproof, anyway?
It may come as a surprise, but the answer to this question isn’t as complicated as it may seem. To make the seams, which are basically a bunch of holes in the fabric, on both hardshell and softshell jackets and trousers waterproof, manufacturers either weld or tape them. This along with the garment’s waterproof fabric forces water droplets to roll off the face fabric, stopping it from penetrating the interior.
Another advantage of welded seams is that they make the clothing windproof as well. If a windproof material is used in the manufacture of the garment, it can then prevent wind from getting in through the previously open seams as well, resulting in a garment that keeps you nice and warm whilst simultaneously keeping the bitter cold out.
How welding works
Basically, welding seams works much in the same way as any method used by a welding apparatus, namely by applying heat and pressure in order to fuse two materials together, in our case waterproof material over the edges of a seam. This results in a seamless connection between both bits of material, resulting in a solid surface. Afterward, the seams look like little strips.
Clothing with welded seams should still be breathable
By welding the seams, you basically make them hermetically sealed. Normal seams would still allow air to seep through, resulting in the circulation of air and breathability we outdoorsy folk crave! Since this is prevented by welding the seams, the fabric itself needs to have breathable properties. Only then can overheating and excessive sweating be prevented. As you can imagine, this is absolutely crucial for high-intensity physical activities because it helps to maintain a high level of comfort.
Another way to increase the breathability is to use ventilation zips. Since these are waterproof as well, they won’t allow any water to penetrate when closed. But, when you open them, you feel the wonderful cool air against your body, giving you the relief you need when the going gets tough. This is an excellent feature because it basically gives you a manual ventilation system you can adjust to your liking.
Where welded seams are used
Welded seams are so effective that they are now used for other outdoor gear as well, such as tents. How could it be any other way? After all, you don’t want to sleep in a tent that isn’t up to par with your jacket in terms of waterproof protection, right?
In addition to clothing and tents, you’ll also find welded seams in shoes, which is necessary for obvious reasons. Without that waterproof protection, your feet are bound to get wet, even in lighter rain. Welded seams are also of particular importance in autumn and winter, as trails and forest paths are often wet, muddy and/or ridden with puddles, all of which can soak your feet as you trudge through them. If you’ve ever had to walk a good distance with wet feet, you know how fun it is! For this reason, waterproof walking boots come complete with welded seams to keep your feet dry and protected in wet conditions.
How to repair sealed seams properly and effectively
High-quality functional apparel comes with incredibly durable sealed seams, and that for good reason. The bits of a garment considered to be high-stress areas, such as the shoulders, benefit significantly from said durability. For whenever you wear a backpack, the shoulder straps will rub up against the material used to seal the seams and can, with time, end up damaging them, if they’re not tough enough. Though inconvenient, it’s not that big of a deal if the welded seams do happen to get damaged. Fortunately, you won’t have to buy yet another expensive jacket. You can simply repair them yourself!
To reseal the seams, you need special seam tape. These are sometimes self-adhesive or come with an adhesive coating that reacts to heat. By ironing the seam tape onto the area in question on the inside of the garment, the tape adheres to the material as a result of the heat and reseals it. You should iron it on without putting on a steam setting. And, this method should only be used on heat-resistant fabrics. To prevent more major damage, try it out in a small or less obvious area beforehand.
You can also use seam tape to patch smaller tears and holes in your garment. All you have to do is iron them on, thereby sealing the defective area.
Rely on quality and you’ll stay dry
As with all products, there are individual garments that differ significantly when it comes to quality. The same goes for sealed seams. Cheaper garments tend to have taped seams as opposed to welded seams. The downside to the former is that they come off fairly easily and don’t really seal up the area very well. So, you can get pretty soaked pretty fast. For better waterproof protection, it’s worth investing a bit more to get something with welded seams. That way, you won’t have to worry about bad weather the next time you head out!