Waterproof jackets aren’t good multitaskers. Sure, vinyl or PVC slickers are impenetrable, but while they keep rain out, they lock sweat in–making you feel clammy. One fix is the waterproof breathable jacket. The key to its success is a delicate membrane sandwiched between two layers of fabric. Unfortunately, during downpours, the outer layer soaks through, making you feel damp. And adding to the discomfort, the glue that holds the fabric layers together ends up trapping perspiration inside.
The Columbia OutDry EX Diamond Shell ($400) puts its waterproof breathable membrane on the outside. A grid pattern of abrasion-resistant polymer protects it from the elements. Because the membrane is heat-fused with the polymer and the inner fabric layer, it does away with sweat-trapping glue. If you do work up a sweat, the inner layer wicks it away through the outer membrane. It works so well that Columbia plans to use this same construction on its down jackets, which were previously hard to protect.
This article was originally published in the September 2015 issue of Popular Science, under the title “The Raincoat That Actually Keeps Your Dry.”