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Make a Hooded Tyvek Rain Jacket and Chaps for Under $10

By Will Rietveld, Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador

A high-end air permeable Gore-Tex or eVent waterproof-breathable jacket costs $350 or more; it’s not ultralight, and it requires maintenance.  The lightest one is the Montane Spektr at 8 ounces. A polyurethane laminate rain jacket costs $150-$200 and is lightweight (down to about 6 ounces), and its durable, but not very breathable. Propore jackets are cheap but not very durable. In this article I will describe how to make a hooded Tyvek jacket plus chaps for under ten dollars, in a few minutes using a pair of scissors.

The finished Tyvek hooded rain jacket is extra long and weighs just 5.25 ounces. The chaps weigh 2.6 ounces. You may get some comments about the white color (like “where did you park your space ship?”), but it is actually quite functional because it stays cooler compared to a dark color.

Tyvek is a spunbonded  nonwoven olefin fabric that is made up of millions of polyethylene fibers. “Disposable” Tyvek clothing”, made of type 1443R soft Tyvek is cheap, highly water-resistant, somewhat breathable, lightweight, and very durable so its highly resistant to tears and punctures. The fabric weight is about the same as silnylon (1.3 ounces per square yard).

You can use an available Tyvek lab coat as a rain jacket or windshirt, but it has snaps on the front closure and no hood, which make it less than ideal. So, the only way to get a hooded jacket with a front zipper is to purchase Tyvek coveralls and cut them off below the zipper.

The ideal Tyvek coveralls are DuPont “white disposable coveralls with hood”, style number TY127SWH. These are made of soft 1443R Tyvek without extra coatings, so it’s lighter weight and more breathable. Disposable ProShield Tyvek (and similar Tyvek from other companies) coveralls have a smooth coating on the outside, which makes it look like DriDucks fabric, and it weighs a little more. The challenge is purchasing a single coverall or two; most cleaning supply stores sell them by the case of 25. The easiest way to purchase a single coverall is from Home Depot, but they are the slightly heavier ones with a smooth outside coating.

Sizing is important; to get a jacket and chaps with long enough sleeves and legs, and enough room to layer over other clothing, you need to use coveralls that are two sizes larger than your normal size. I normally wear a size Large, so I get a 2XL Tyvek coverall. The larger size also provides extra length so the jacket and chaps overlap. If you only want to make a jacket you can go with your normal size or one size larger; note that the sleeves run a little short for a taller person.

The tailoring is so simple that anyone (including me!) can do it. Here’s the stepwise process:

  1. Lay the coveralls out flat on a table, front side up.
  2. Make a mark about 2 inches below the bottom of the zipper.
  3. Use a pin or other sharp object to puncture the coveralls all the way through to the backside.
  4. Carefully turn the coverall over and mark the exit point on the backside seam.
  5. Put the coveralls on and make a mark on one side about 4-5 inches below your waist.
  6. Take the coveralls off, fold them over, and mark the other side so the two sides are even.
  7. Draw a smooth concave curve from the center point to side marks on both sides of the coveralls (see photo below, four places total). This will give you a dropped front and tail for the jacket, and raised sides for the chaps.
  8. Use a sharp scissors to cut on the line all the way around. No hemming is needed since Tyvek does not unravel.
  9. To make the chaps, cut two pieces of lightweight flat braided cord 30 inches long, then sew the middle of each cord under the folded top edge of each leg of the chaps.

After making marks on the coverall for the bottom and sides as described above, draw a smooth line and cut on the line with scissors. This yields a tall jacket and a pair of chaps. My wife added tie cords at the top of the chaps to tie them to belt loops, and a couple of pleats on the backside to make them fit better.

Note that since the front zipper does not separate at the bottom, the rain jacket needs to be put on as a pullover. To make the garments completely waterproof, coat the seams with Roo Glue or diluted silicone. If you wish, you can add a storm flap over the front zipper.

My Tyvek rain jacket made from the Home Depot Tyvek coveralls weighs 4.25 ounces, and the chaps weigh 2.6 ounces. A rain jacket made from the lightest soft Tyvek (style number TY127SWH) in size XL weighs 3.15 ounces. Although you get a pair of chaps from this project, my personal preference is to purchase a pair of Tyvek pants, which I will discuss in a future blog article. You can also wear very lightweight nylon rain pants, like the new Montbell Versalite Pant which weighs only 4 ounces.

You are probably wondering how waterproof and how breathable a Tyvek rainsuit is. I wore the jacket in the shower at home with 30 pounds of water pressure and it only leaked a little through the front zipper. However, a hiking companion (non other than Gossamer Gear founder Glen Van Peski) wore his Tyvek rain jacket in a prolonged rain and it soaked through. So a Tyvek rain jacket should be considered showerproof but not waterproof. Perhaps a DWR treatment, such as Nikwax TX Direct would make it more waterproof in a prolonged rain.

As far as breathability, check out the following graph; I just happen to have that data from a previous project on waterproof-breathable jackets.

Comparative jacket breathability in terms of accumulated humidity inside the jacket during a sustained 2.25 mile steady uphill hike and reverse downhill hike. Jackets were completely zipped up throughout the hike. Note that the Tyvek jacket and DriDucks jacket perform about the same; they both reach 100% humidity inside after about 35 minutes and stay steamed up. The lightweight Marmot Essence Jacket (polyurethane laminate) performed slightly better, about the same as a traditional Gore-Tex jacket (Montbell Thunderhead Jacket). The more breathable eVent Montane Spektr Smock (lowest curve) was clearly more breathable than all of the other jackets.

Overall, a Tyvek rain jacket is very easy to make, very inexpensive, and very durable. Its breathability is about the same as DriDucks, and not that different from Gore-Tex, which is actually not very breathable. Its very water-repellent and will withstand a brief shower, but its not waterproof to keep you dry in prolonged rain. The white color actually makes a lot of sense since it will be cooler to wear in the summertime. Happy hiking!

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21 Responses to Make a Hooded Tyvek Rain Jacket and Chaps for Under $10

  1. Barb Mühl February 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    You are a genius! I love the idea of a rainsuit out of Tyvek coveralls. I’m headed over to Home Depot in the morning. I’ve been saving Tyvek mailing envelopes… not sure for what yet, something that has seams. Any ideas?

  2. John February 17, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    Amazing. I’ve been putting off buying a rain suit, but I’m all for this!

  3. Call Me Ishmael March 1, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    If you would like to make a “Deluxe” model for a little more ($16), you can add a separating zipper with storm flap, and even pockets. Using donor coveralls from Lowe’s, mine came in at 4.0 ounces before seam sealing. These particular coveralls are very thin, with some irregularities, so the second iteration of seam sealing (after a shower test) brought the finished weight up to 4.6 ounces.

  4. Call Me Ishmael March 14, 2012 at 6:00 am #

    For about $20 ($25 with tax and shipping) you can use a #3 waterproof zipper (no storm flap required) and omit the pockets, to make an SUL model. Mine came in at 3.6 ounces before seam sealing, 3.8 ounces after careful, judicious application of SilNet.

  5. Greg March 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    Great project, Will! I found some TY122 hooded coveralls, which are the TY127 lighter fabric (I confirmed this with DuPont) plus booties, on Amazon for about $12 including shipping. I plan to make the booties into rain/ wind mitts. Call Me Ishmael, I was debating ordering a waterproof zipper since it doubles the cost of the project, but it may be the best way to go, and if I ever retire the jacket I can always reuse the zipper.
    Anybody have any rainy day field reports on their tyvek jacket yet?

  6. michael April 17, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    Just finished making my jacket and chaps. Great idea and great DIY walkthrough, can’t wait to test it out! Mine came in at a total weight of 6.1 ounces (before seam-seal).

  7. Step May 3, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

    Hey there, Great project. I made some last week and tested them in a spring storm last week. It took about 2 hours of heavy rain to wet them out. I was not sweating – it was cold. I would not say they are fully waterproof but they are good. The fabric is very delicate IMO. I suggest buying the pants a bit small. Once they got wet they started sliding down my but and I looked like a 90’s rapper. Maybe a belt or something could be designed for them.

    I purchased mine at usplastics.com – you can buy singles and they are cheep. Can you confirm these are the same Tyvek style/material you made your from? It was very soft, not loud and crinkly like my yvek ground cloth.

    I am not yet convinced these will be good for the CDT this year – I am assuming it will see lots of rain. But I think they are perfect for Summer/Fall Sierra storms.

    Thanks,

    Step

  8. Rick Bauer May 4, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    I made one of these, and used it on several campouts (with a little rain). Worked great. The acid test was wearing it during a BSA Eagle Project (heavy labor) where it rained all day. Worked great for the first 4 hours. Thereafter, leaks developed; I was soaked after 6 hours. Nice experiment. My conclusion: OK for light use. For a serious backpack (3 days or more), I’m taking my Marmot.

  9. Will Rietveld May 6, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    I really appreciate the extended testing in the rain, which I was unable to do. It looks like these lightweight Tyvek rainsuits are best suited for showers or shorter term rain. That’s also true for many nylon so-called waterproof/breathable rainwear — over time they end up getting wet on the inside, and much of that moisture is perspiration. Also, water comes through the seams if they aren’t seam sealed. There are some differences between Tyvek too, the basic Type 1443R Tyvek is very light and soft, and probably the best for this purpose. The Kimberly Clark Tyvek is a lot like DriDucks fabric, it has a smooth outer surface,and I believe it will be more water resistant, but its a bit heavier. There are also families of specialized Tyveks used for chemical cleanup and other purposes, which I have not tried at all. The Tyvek used for mailing envelopes is Type 10, and it is probably too stiff and crinkly.

    I’m glad to see lots of folks trying this out and advancing the state of the art of Tyvek rainwear, thanks for your contributions! Best wishes, Will

  10. Meng Koh July 25, 2012 at 9:14 pm #

    Absolutely genius!! I was thinking of making a tyvek rain jacket out of home-wrap. Little did I know, there are coveralls out there. I’m extremely excited to make mine!

    ~Meng

  11. Wild Bill,nc September 21, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    Thanx for tha tips.
    Tweny years ago a company catered to tha “biker” community and came out with a two piece tyvek rain suit, spray painted in several camo colors, I belive they ran about fourty bucks a set…but they were for “emergency” use….light and disposible…they were called “Frog-Toggs”….my concern is, how well will tyvek keep out CHIGGERS here on tha Blue Ridge ?

  12. Call Me Ishmael September 22, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    Bill,
    Frogg Toggs will keep out chiggers as well as any untreated rain suit; you will have to tuck in your pants legs and/or apply insect repellent around your ankles. And now, there is even better news from the Frog Toggs people: DriDucks. These are the lighter version of the original Frogg Toggs. They list for $40, but you can usually find them much cheaper online.

  13. Diane November 2, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    I actually made a pair of these for my PCT hike. I did not need to use them more than once, and the rain turned to snow, so they didn’t get that great of a test as far as waterproof-ness. But they did work and they are cheap. There was some pilling around the inside of my calves after hiking in them for a few hours.

  14. Heather Darnell November 3, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    (To Diane) re: pilling – is that something easily corrects my by a strategically applied strip of duct tape?

  15. Paul April 30, 2013 at 7:34 am #

    I took some Tyvek gear on a trip up a Norwegian mountain last Autumn.

    1. A groundcloth/tent footprint I use under the tent. It’s a piece of Tyvek Housewrap (called Homewrap in USA) Very useful to protect tent groundsheet from sharp rocks, etc. Also, my tent groundsheet is rather thin and not completely waterproof so having the Tyvek underneath works very well. I also used the brilliant white surface to write my hitch-hiking destination with a large black marker pen. Drivers could not miss my signs! So now I have some souvenir place names on my groundsheet.

    2. Disposable trousers. I was wearing fairly wind-resistant and water-resistant trousers anyway (Montane Terra Pants) but we had some serious and prolonged, wind-driven rain up there and the Terra Pants became soaked. I pulled on the Tyvek trousers over the top of my saturated Terra Pants, and carried on walking into the horizontal rain. As I walked, I found my trousers actually began to dry! No, the Tyvek tousers are not totally waterproof, but they breathe so well that in practice they keep you dry. Earlier in the trip I had used the trousers inside my sleeping bag to add a bit of warmth. Unlike sil-nylon, Tyvek has a bit of fibrous bulk so it does contribute to warmth. Once I had used them in the rain however, I would not have used them in the sleeping bag again. Too mucky. I got a size WAY too big, cut the bottom of the legs to the right length and rolled the waist over the elastic to bring thecrotch up to a comfortable level. That’s so I can slip them on without taking my boots off. Tyvek clothing will last for a week-long trip or even longer, but it is not a very robust fabric. Definitely the best rain trousers I’ve ever had so I shall continue to use them. For £4/pair I don’t mind that they are not so robust.

    3. Tyvek hooded, zipped jacket. This item is great and got a lot of use. Very windproof, lightweight, quite warm, and showerproof. I used it as a windshirt, putting my rainjacket on over the top when the rain started in earnest. I also wore it in my sleeping bag for extra warmth.

    The jacket and trousers are made of a lighter, more flexible fabric than Homewrap/Housewrap, and the garment fabric is softer and is micro-perforated for greater breathability. The jacket lasts better than the trousers, as you drag trousers legs through underbrush/mud and sit down on rocks in the rain and so on. Then again, on many trips the trousers won’t get serious use.

    The trousers work extremely well as overtrousers for serous rain, whereas the jacket is more a showerproof windshirt and I would not in a million years rely on it out in the mountains. I had wondered what would happen if you had two jackets made of Tyvek – whether the rain would still be able to force its way through two layers – and maybe I will experiment, but then again I’m not sure how useful that would be really as you have no pockets.

  16. John July 7, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    Thanks Will. Just ordered the Montane Spektr based on your data. I love quantitative analysis!

  17. Stuart Longland July 5, 2014 at 2:26 am #

    Hi,

    I stumbled across this whilst looking around for ideas for clothing to wear whilst cycling. I hate the idea of lycra, if for no other reason than Brisbane (Australia) traffic probably does not wish or need to see my flabby backside wobbling its way between home and the workplace.

    I wanted some clothing that would:
    – not make me sweat profusely
    – was ideally class DN high-visibility
    – was loose, not tight like lycra

    Bonus points if it could be wind proof/waterproof.

    I have some Breathalon coveralls that I bought off eBay some time back. I’ve worn these a few times on the bicycle, however they’re as rare as hens teeth to purchase in these parts. One shop sells them for AU$150 a pair, another wants to charge >$500! If they ever fall to pieces on me I’ll have hell replacing them. That said, with those, and a lycra stinger suit underneath, I sweat less in those than I would in regular clothing. Previously I had just worn them in wet weather, last night I tried them in dry weather, and found I was much more comfortable as the suit provided a very good wind-break.

    Having seen this page, I’ve bought some disposable coveralls. Not sure if these are Tyvek or one of the similar fabrics out there, they’re described as “MP4″ type. I tried pouring water on them, and the water pooled on the surface. Stuck a hand under the pool and it did not leak. The seems are already taped on this pair: bright orange tape, so it seems the no. 1 weakness of this clothing has been addressed in this particular variety.

    I’ve put them on and been wearing them for a little while now and I’m not sweating, so things look good. They’re white rather than the traditional daytime high-vis colours. I note you can get some that are a Tychem material in a yellow colour: not sure how Tychem differs in breathability/waterproofness, and there are some that have reflective bands on them too.

    I can live with white however, and I’ve got some aluminium tape that will probably adhere well (and is cheaper than the ScotchLite material) should I want reflective bands.

    I’ll leave them as a single-piece suit, with the view I can wear these instead on the bicycle, thus prolonging the life of my trousers which otherwise quickly malfunction in the crutch. These are AU$10 a piece from RSEA (https://www.rsea.com.au/products/brcov65g), so I can afford to replace a pair if they do malfunction and they’re light enough to carry a spare set on the bike should I have problems.

    I’ve got 3 pairs: and cycling is about as rough on the crutch of trousers/overalls as one can get. I’ll see how they fare in this scenario, I shall report back.

  18. Stuart Longland July 5, 2014 at 3:02 am #

    Gah, typo:

    Previously I had just worn them in wet weather, last night I tried them in dry weather, and found I was much more comfortable as the suit provided a very good wind-break.

    Last week, not last night. Mind you it’s mid winter right now, the real test for breathability will be in summer.

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