The choice of fabric for your shooting jacket is, in many ways, very simple: you will either be looking for a traditional tweed, or a technical fabric, generally in green. It sort of is that simple, but there is much more to it when you start looking at the details. Here we first look at the three main options, and then explore the technical features that now lie beneath the surface of many jackets.
Tweed is about the most traditional shooting jacket fabric and is still considered the smartest. Historically, quality tweed was made from pure lambswool, which has excellent natural thermal properties, woven tightly to keep water out. As it gets wet, the lambswool will expand and lock the fibres more tightly together, making it impossible for water to penetrate further in, but also meaning the jacket gets very heavy. Other drawbacks with traditional tweed shooting jackets are that they can’t be machine washed and tend to be heavy.
Modern tweeds have evolved enormously. It is now possible to get tweeds that have been treated so they can be machined and washed. They are also sometimes woven with a small amount of nylon that gives extra strength so the garment holds its shape with a lighter weave.
Many tweed shooting jackets also have a DWR coating, so they don’t get heavy when wet. It is also now common for the waterproofing to be provided from an inner liner, rather than the tweed itself. A great example of a modern shooting jacket packed full of features is the Schoffel Ptarmigan Shooting Jacket collection.
30 years ago, wax shooting jackets were very common as they were fully waterproof, and the fabric was very tough (often referred to as thornproof). However, wax jackets don’t breathe, and so can quickly get uncomfortable when used for higher levels of activity. Technical breathable fabrics have very much superseded wax in the shooting field, and whilst you may still see the occasional Barbour Wax Jacket out in the field, it is now unusual.
The majority of shooting jackets are now made from technical fabrics that are waterproof and breathable. Generally, the base material in these is a combination of polyester, nylon and sometimes cotton or wool.
When considering a technical fabric, the main things to look for are its waterproof and breathability ratings, as well as its weight and durability. In the next few paragraphs, we explore these features in a bit more detail. An example of a top technical fabric jacket that has all the features you need is the Harkila Pro Hunter Shooting Jacket.
The manufacturer of the jackets should provide a waterproof rating for the fabric. Waterproofing is measured in millimetres as part of a timed pressure test. Don’t worry too much about the units, just look for a value high enough to meet your needs.
1,500mm – This is the British standard for waterproofing, but in reality, it is not that waterproof, and a shooting jacket really needs to be higher than this for a full day of rain.
5,000mm – Represents a decent level of waterproofing which should get you through a wet day in the field.
10,000mm – Top-end waterproof jackets will be rated 10K or above. If you are often out in extreme wet conditions, look for something of this quality (such as Gore-Tex).
When looking for a waterproof jacket, check that the seams are also taped so water can’t sneak through. A jacket should not be labelled as waterproof unless the seams are taped.
As with waterproofing, it is worth checking that the breathable rating of your shooting coat meets your needs. The breathability rating is a measure of how many water vapour particles (sweat) can move through a m2 of the fabric in a set time. Again, don’t worry too much about how this is calculated, just select the appropriate rating.
5,000-10,000g/m2 - This is the lower end of breathability but may still be suitable if the type of shooting you are doing is not too active.
10,000-15,000g/m2 - This will be suitable for most types of game shooting activity, where there is a mix of moderate to medium levels of activity.
15,000-20,000g/m2+ - If you are very active, covering a lot of ground, or wearing a jacket on warmer days, you may need to go up to 15K or even 20K. Fabrics of 20K+ are the pinnacle of breathability, and you may want to look for these if you are a highly active stalker, but for most types of game shooting it isn’t necessary to go this level of fabric.
Durable Water Repellent (DWR) Coatings
This isn’t a fabric type but a treatment that can be applied to many types of fabric. It helps enhance the waterproofness of a jacket, but most importantly, it prevents rain from absorbing into the outer fabric. A jacket without a DWR outer layer will weigh substantially more as a result of the water absorbed by the end of a wet day than it did at the start.
Shooting jackets can be constructed from up to four layers:
- Outer fabric – often constructed for durability
- Membrane – the waterproof breathable layer
- Insulation – to hold heat in
- Inner lining – to protect the membrane and move easily over the garment worn underneath.
It is now possible to reduce the weight of garments by having two or even three of these layers laminated together:
- 2-layer laminates will be a durable outer shell and waterproof breathable membrane, brought together to reduce weight and enhance breathability
- 3-layer laminates will also have an inner lining as part of the construction, which is there to help protect the membrane.