Caribu Horse Rug Waterproof Performance & Breathability Guide.
No rug is ever 100% Waterproof, but our Caribu Synthetic Horse Rugs come very close! This is because rugs contain stitching, webbing & fastenings that can not always be tape seamed or heat sealed to prevent water penetration. Synthetic denier gets its waterproofing from the membrane that lines the underside of the fabric - not from the fabric itself. Waterproof synthetic rugs use a chemically treated membrane, under neath the denier, to prevent water passing through the fibres, while allowing air to pass in between the fibres. Synthetic rugs are the best rug for keeping your horse dry and out perform canvas rugs in this regard.
Caribu Synthetic Denier Horse Rug Waterproof Fabric Rating - exceeds 3000mm for waterproofing - more than twice the minimum rating
Caribu Synthetic Denier Horse Rug Breathability Rating - exceed 3000g/m2/24hrs for maximum comfort.
Horse Rug Waterproof Membranes
A waterproof membrane is applied to the underside of the fabric to provide the waterproof feature of the horse rug. The quality of this membrane is the single biggest differential between cheap and more expensive rugs.
Many manufacturers sacrifice the quality of the membrane with a cheap alternatives - this creates a rug that leaks under heavy rain - or the membrane starts breaking down quickly when in use and the membrane starts to peel away from the fabric. Its also very common to see waterproof deniers that do not have breathability built into the membrane - its simply waterproof. (This is how many manufactures offer cheaper rugs - by sacrificing breathability, see below.)
At Caribu we are one of the few manufactures that still uses high quality deniers/membranes across all our rugs - in 9 years we have never had a single waterproof membrane fail.
Horse Rug Breathable Membranes
The waterproof membrane also needs to be breathable otherwise your horse will over heat quickly. Cheap turnouts often use membranes that have a non breathable membrane. (much cheaper from a manufacturing point of view)
For any turnout rug to keep your horse comfortable on the inside, both the outer fabric and the lining should also be breathable - because even in cold conditions, your horse will perspire and if a garment does not have sufficient breathability, the moisture (from perspiration) and difference in outside/inside air temperature, will build up as condensation on the inside of the rug.
Keep in mind that regardless of the rugs breathability rating - in wet conditions, it will be reduced to almost zero as water covers the rug's fabric pores. This can cause condensation to accumulate on the inside of the rug. This extra moisture on the inside may also give the illusion that the garment is letting water in from the outside, when in reality it is your horses perspiration and condensation from the difference in outer air temperature. This is more common when using rain sheets, especially in open neck rain sheets, where water enters in around the neckline and then condenses from body warmth
Most Synthetic Turnout combos have a fill or lining of up to 300grams and this alleviates this problem, as it assist's the rug to breath and keeps the horses excess perspiration off the horse's coat.
If you are using an unlined rain sheet in humid, extended wet or cold conditions – you may need to use in conjunction with a light cotton under rug or similar with a good moisture wicking properties. The horses perspiration and condensation needs to be transported away from their skin.
It's much like us wearing a raincoat against our bare skin - with your body heat and perspiration, you will soon be very clammy under your raincoat and any moisture that enters via a neckline etc – will condense under the raincoat. You will end up very damp in a short span of time. However if you wear a T-shirt you will help alleviate the problem.
Never underestimate how much condensation will accumulate under rug in a short span of time. A horse can perspire up to 1 litre per hour.
Ratings are expressed in the amount of moisture that will pass thru a fabric in a 24 hour period. Caribu Rugs are rated for breathability of a minimum of 3000gr/m2/per24hrs.
Features of Caribu Turnouts that Improve Waterproofing
- We only use Premium 370gsm weight 1200 Denier fabrics. Be wary of cheaper 1200 Denier rugs using thinner 300gsm fabrics. (more info below)
- We use extra wide fabric for construction - which allows us to deliver generous drops even in the bigger sizes. (as an example size 6'0 has a generous 106cm drop up to a 7’0 with a 115cm drop.)
- We are one of the few manufacturers who uses waterproofing tape, sealing behind all side seams, behind surcingle straps and leg strap mounts.
- You will notice we also use a continuous run of fabric in the neck and body of the combo - no joins or seams in the neck line or back seam to let water in! The continuous neckline also helps to reduce mane rubbing.
How can I check if my denier horse rug is still waterproof or breathable?
To check waterproofing is easy. The best way to check you rug is waterproof is to use a sink or large tub, lay the rug over the top and create a small indent with the denier - insure you choose an area of the rug with no fittings or seams. Then pour a glass or two of water into the indent and allow the water to pool. The denier should hold the water and not allow any seepage to the inside.
Your synthetic denier gets its waterproofing from the membrane that lines the underside of the fabric - not from the fabric itself. Once the membrane is damaged, you cant reseal like you can with canvas.
If you have an unlined rainsheet, you can see the underside of the denier thru the can-can lining. If you hold the rug up to the sun and look up from the underside – you will see the thousands of little pins holes of light – these are the waterproof pores in the fabric that give the rug its breathability. The waterproof membrane insures the holes are smaller than a water molecule – so water cant enter the rug. To cut costs - many cheaper denier fabrics are not breathable.
Denier Fabrics can be made breathable via using ultra tough hi-tech fabrics which are then coated with a micro-porous formula making the fabric completely waterproof and breathable. This means that the outer fabric will protect your horse from the rain and elements while still allowing sweat or condensation produced by your horse's heat to escape through.
To insure you get a long life from your waterproof denier horse rug, take a few precautions.
- Before storing your rug away, insure it is dry and at room temperature. Don't take directly from a warm sunny clothes line and seal away, as this can be detrimental to the waterproofing membrane. Allow the rug to cool down and air at room temperature for a few hours before packing away. The polymer membrane lining, which gives the rug its waterproofing, is similar to a rubber compound. It has an inherent moisture content which varies with environmental conditions like humidity etc. Waterproofing eventually fails in a rug when the lining ages and the polymer dries out and becomes brittle. Storing the rug away for long, extended periods, can accelerate the breakdown of the membrane. The rug needs to be aired from time to time to allow it to 'breath' & insure the polymer lining doesn't dry out excessively. Rugs that get used infrequently are usually the ones that have the shortest membrane life, because they either dry out or grow mould. The best option for storage is a rug rack where the rug will breath, rather than sealing away in a plastic bag.
- Never spray a high pressure hose at your horse rug - you will damage the small pores allowing water to enter immediately.
- UV will eventually effect the lining over a long period of time. When rugs are not being used, avoid leaving them out on rails in direct sun for days or weeks at a time.
- Never use a harsh bristled brush to scrub the outer denier, you can spike the membrane
- Never wash your waterproof rugs in a hot wash - cold water wash only.
- Never use additives like Tea Tree Oil or Eucalyptus oil etc on your rugs or in the wash - they can effect the membrane lining
- Never put a rug away damp or sweaty for long periods of time. Mould and mildew will eat away at the membrane over time.
- Some horses perspiration can be more acidic than others, depending on diet & this will shorten the membranes life.
Canvas Horse Rugs
Not all canvas is created equally and just because a rug its called canvas - don't always expect it to be waterproof. The fabric construction and waterproofing process can vary greatly.
Canvas can range from a 100% cotton blend, which is cool and breathable, to 100% Polyester which is very strong but also can be hot. You will see a huge range of Canvas rugs that fall between the two extremes and their performance will vary significantly. The type of weave and machine the fabric is manufactured on also plays a huge part in the success of the rugs ability to perform well.
Canvas comes in different thickness or weight, often from 11oz up to 22oz. Obviously the heavier the canvas - the longer the potential waterproofing.
Corespun Canvas is gaining popularity as the technology to create the fabric comes down
What are the benefits of Core Spun Canvas? Numerous! A traditional canvas thread
comprises of a blend of numerous fibers grouped and spun together to create a single thread, (At a simple level think of braiding your hair!) which is then woven into a canvas.. Core Spun canvas is made from a much more intensive process. Each thread consists of a strong centre core of polyester, which is then tightly entwined in a 100% Cotton outer layer. This creates a very strong dense fabric that is considerably lighter and stronger, but achieves the same performance as a much heavier traditional canvas otherwise would. The tighter weave also helps to improve waterproofing as the cotton around the core expands and gives better waterproofing while still maintaining excellent breathability.
With Canvas, its important to understand how canvas has been waterproofed. Their are three different processes used to waterproof canvas.
1) Wax Coated (90% of imported Canvas)
2) Immersion Treated (Caribu Canvas)
3) Immersion Forced (Dyna Proofed)
Immersion Forced. The good old fashioned Canvas, that some of us remember from days of old, is treated via an Immersion forced process. In simple terms, the fabric is submerged in a waterproofing agent and the agent is forced deep into the fabric. This is the best process for treating canvas, as if the canvas is scraped or torn, water wont wick through the fabric. It is also very expensive in today's market.
Immersion Treated. Similar to Immersion forced canvas. The fabric is submerged in a waterproofing agent. Both sides of the canvas is treated and it relies on the absorption of agent into the fabric. This process is much better than wax coating as it takes much longer to degrade.
Wax Coated waterproofing process is where the fabric is simply sprayed with a light wax coating. These rugs are at best, only light shower proof, and it's how most of the canvas rugs from overseas have been treated.
We see many marketing wax sprayed rugs as 100% waterproof - you will be disappointed. The wax coating begins degrading extremely quickly when exposed to the elements.
Our canvas is proofed via an immersion treatment. (not wax coated) and delivers improved performance compared to the wax coated canvas which is flooding the market. We quote our canvas rugs as being Showerproof. They will outperform wax coated canvas and provide good protection. In our mind to call a rug waterproof, it has to be able to withstand extended or heavy wet weather and still keep your horses dry. (something our synthetic rugs and combos do very well) We are yet to find a Canvas rug that could be classed as 100% Waterproof. Any Canvas slowly absorbs the water over time, getting heavier, until it breaches the underside of the canvas. We see many retailers advertising their wax coated rugs as 100% waterproof - which is misleading. Likewise a heavier canvas rug will provide better longer tem waterproofing: ie: a 20oz canvas will outperform a 16oz canvas.
No Canvas rug is 100% waterproof. While the fabric may provide good waterproofing, water will initially enter via stitching lines, along seams, necklines and around fittings. Canvas rugs use are sewn using a specially developed cotton covered nylon thread. This is designed to swell when wet, to completely fill the stitch holes.
A high wool blend lining
(not just felt) creates a membrane between the canvas and horses coat to extend water penetration. Canvas will absorb moisture from exposure to rain and from condensation under the rug. If you use canvas in wet conditions, you will need to remove canvas regularly and allow to dry out completely. During heavy rain or longer periods of light rain, canvas will eventually 'wet out' and the fabric will become saturated. This is part of the breathability of canvas. Provided you have a wool layer or wool lining between the canvas and the horse, the horse should remain dry for longer periods (even thou placing your hands between the wool and canvas it may appear wet) The wool will repel the moisture and keep it at bay between the wool and inner canvas. As soon as the rain stops, the horses body heat will start drying the rug.
Lined or Unlined Canvas?
Unlined canvas rugs are great for warmer days and cooler nights, but horses in unlined canvas rugs often have high moisture transfer during very heavy rain or extended hours of rain, due to difference in the horses body heat and the cool canvas. Wool lined Canvas helps reduce this problem and creates a buffer to trap the moisture. Like touching the inside of a tent when its raining, the tent will start to leak at the point you touched it.. A similar process happens where the rug makes contact with the horse, creating moisture transfer onto your horse. Amount of transfer depends on many factors like air temperature, humidity and body heat.
During heavy rain or longer periods of light rain, canvas will eventually 'wet out' and the fabric will become saturated. This is part of the breathability of canvas. Provided you have a wool layer or wool lining between the canvas and the horse, the horse should remain dry for longer periods (even thou placing your hands between the wool and canvas it may appear wet) The wool will repel the moisture and keep it at bay between the wool and inner canvas. As soon as the rain stops, the horses body heat will start drying the rug.
Canvas is ideal in many situations, it provides superior strength to synthetic rugs, is very breathable and is ideal for short bursts of wet weather protection.
We suggest for best performance that you apply a waterproofing treatment to your rug after the first 12mths to increase its life.
To insure the long life and durability of your canvas rug - please follow these instructions:
Prior to using we suggest you thoroughly wet the canvas with a light hose and let the rug dry fully in the sun. This is necessary to allow the fabric to settle and stitching to swell. If you fail to do this you may find your rug absorbs excessive water in the initial exposure to rain. Store away only when completely dry - this will avoid disappointment when you next get your rug out again and find it very moldy! Do not use a high pressure nozzle to wet your rug as the high pressure could compromise the waterproofing.
Never scrub the canvas - to remove dirt use a damp cloth or try brushing the fabric with a soft brush when any dirt has dried. Do not use soaps, detergents or other liquid cleaners.
- Remove any mildew as it appears, and allow the rug plenty of sun exposure afterwards.
- No Canvas rug is 100% waterproof - the waterproofing process is designed to repel showers & light rain & wont stand up to heavy or prolonged weather, as water will slowly seep thru the fabric. The thickness and tight weave helps to slow the seeping process. With exposure to heavy or prolonged periods of rain - you will need to remove canvas regularly and allow to dry out completely.
- Our Canvas is 100% Cotton - please insure before storing your rug away it is 100% dry - as any moisture in the fabric will cause mildew and deteriorate the canvas during storage.
The waterproofing agent used on canvas breaks down with exposure and you may need to apply a waterproof coating every 6-12 months to insure the waterproofness of the canvas. Much depends on the weave and fabric composition.
What is the difference between 1200 Denier and 600 Denier Horse Rugs?
At Caribu we only produce predominantly 1200Denier Rugs. 1200 Denier uses double the thread weave over a 600D fabric.
1200D offers far superior strength and durability and will far outlast a 600D rug. Their is very little difference in Breathability, Insulation, Waterproofing or weight - what you do get is the added strength & life.
Many manufactured have reverted to 600D fabrics because they are cheaper to produce.
Unfortunately to offer cheaper prices, many manufacturers have reverted to dropping the the GSM weight of their denier fabrics - essentially using a thinner fabric, but the same denier rating. Traditionally a 1200denier would have a fabric weight of 310gsm. We are seeing more & more competitors rugs that are using low GSM 1200 & 1680 Deniers. They have dropped the GSM weight down to 260gsm (instead of 310gsm in a 1200denier) . From a consumer point of view, the fabric looks the same, but its strength and durability will be reduced as its 20% thinner. We also only use 1200deniers with a GSM Fabric weight of 310gsm or higher.
How much horse rug filling is enough to generate warmth?
Understanding how a poly-fill lining works can go a long way to insuring your horses comfort this winter. Polyfill is very similar to the poly fibre that you get inside a pillow (much like hobby fill) Polyfill used in horse rugs comes in long flat lengths of a roll. The lining works much like your roofing insulation - it traps heat in the air pockets in the poly fill lining and slows down the radiant heat out of the rug and away from the horse.
We use either 200gram and 300grams of polyfill in our "Alpine' range of winter horse rugs. So a rug advertised with 300grams of polyfill means for every square meter of laid out polyfill lining - it will weigh 300grams.
A good analogy is to think of a cotton ball you may have in your medicine cabinet. When you take it out of the packet - it is relatively compact. (ie actually quite close to what 300grams of polyfill is like inside a horse rug.) It would have good insulation properties as there is lots of tight air spaces to act as insulators in the body of the cotton ball. If you then start pulling it apart and spreading it to make it thinner, you start losing those insulated air pockets as the cotton ball opens up and thins out.
We have done lots of testing with different grades of polyfill and the insulation effects. Some manufacturers offer horse rugs with 100 to 150gram grams of polyfill. This is more for marketing than actual benefit. The rug generates its warmth by capturing the air pockets in the polyfill lining. When you drop below 200grams grams of polyfill, it will have a limited insulation effect, as there just isn't enough body in the filling to trap air and create an insulation layer. It is not until you get near 200grams of polyfill in your horse rug that you get enough body in the poly fill to start make a real difference.
If you pulled open a horse rug with 100gram of poly fill, you would be very surprised how thin the polyfill lining is spread.
There is also huge variation in the quality of polyfill. The majority of polyfill used in horse rugs is produced in India which is inferior in all aspects compared to Chinese produced polyfill. (At Caribu we only use Chinese Polyfill). i.e. a 300gram polyfill from India can often only be as effective as a 200gram polyfill from China. The weight of the polyfill is the same - but its the technology used to created the open weave that varies and its ability to ''bounce back' and not flatten out. Their is also different grades of polyfill within each weight to complicate matters more!
The actual insulation performance between a good 200gr vs a 300gram isn't as dramatic as most people like to think. It does come down to personal choice and your horse, as to how much polyfill you should opt for in your horse rugs. It also depends on how long your horses coat is - or how short you wish to keep it. Also depends how early or late in the season you start and stop rugging. Some horses are 'hotter' than others and some feel the cold more (young and older horses especially)
Many people find 200grams isn't enough in the middle of winter and they need to use multiple under rugs to get the desired level of insulation. Others prefer to use 300gsm and only layer a lighter rug underneath (or use no under rugs at all). its much quicker to use one 300gr rug than a 200gr and multiple under rugs. That's a lot of buckles, surcingles and leg straps to do up/undo everyday!