The New Diaper Primer

Chapter 8: Waterproof Pants

While not really needed for disposable diapers, waterproof pants are an absolute necessity for wear over cloth diapers. Cloth diapers, unlike disposable diapers, are not waterproof. They need a waterproof covering that may be called a diaper cover, overpants or waterproof pants - commonly called "rubber pants" or "plastic pants". For this segment "diapers" means cloth diapers; we will take care to say "disposable diapers" when we refer to disposables.


Disposable diapers were not invented until the mid 1940's and the commercially successful Pampers did not hit the scene until 1961. While diapers of cloth or other absorbent materials have been used for thousands of years, a modern waterproof diaper cover was not invented until the mid-1940's. Homestead pioneers didn't wash wet diapers but merely hung them up to dry and then reuse...oh brother, it hurts just thinking about the diaper rash! Whenever a baby would wet, the diapers would catch the majority of the flow, but some wetness could get through to the mother's lap or onto the bed or wherever the baby was situated. You can imagine diaper care wasn't easy in those times!

We imagine that changes came with the end of World War II and the attendant prosperity, along with the automobile. People moved to the suburbs and North America became a mobile society. The need to take baby(-ies) along on outings and trips required better waterproof diaper covers; and lo and behold, rubber pants came on the scene! Rubber was the universal waterproofing material of the day, and Sears Roebuck catalogs of the 40's and 50's provided an assortment of rubber pants described as "handy and practical". With rubber pants effectively preventing diaper leakage and spread of wetness, it became easy to dress up baby and take him or her along.

We cannot determine exactly when plastic pants came along. Personal recollections from the 50's are of wearing rubber pants from Bittner and others selected from the Sears Roebuck catalog. We recall plastic baby pants in stores such as the Five-and-Ten and Woolworths, so they shared the scene in the fifties, along with rubber wear, such as the Playtex latex pants. Some of our older readers may recall the Playtex jingle from early television advertising that featured a bunch of babies singing "How dry I am, how dry I am". That, of course emphasized the selling point - that these rubber pants will keep your baby dry. Your life became easier by being able to take the baby any place, free from the worry of wet clothing and furniture.

We can't help noticing a parallel with today's incontinent person who is in the early stages of dealing with that incontinence. Just as it was easier for the mother to stay home with the diapered children, rather than deal with the hassle of wet clothing, a newly incontinent person today often opts to stay home, not wanting to deal with the hassle of finding a rest room or risking the embarrassment and aggravation of dealing with a wetting accident. As the advent of rubber pants in the old days liberated the mother to get out into the world with the diapered kids, today we have good diapers and excellent waterproof pants to afford all incontinent persons the liberty to get out of the house and enjoy being out in the community - free of the worry of leaks, wet clothes and all the inconvenience that goes along with wetting accidents.

It will be helpful if you have read the section "How Diapers Work" before proceeding with the following:

What are waterproof pants for?

Two things! First: Waterproof pants must be worn over cloth diapers to provide the waterproof barrier that will turn back wetness when it reaches the outer surface of the diaper. The leaks we've discussed in the preceding chapters are caused by free liquid in our diapers if there is inadequate absorbency. Free liquid causes the catastrophic leaks and pants and furniture wetting incidents that cause us to want to climb into a hole and disappear. Free liquid should last for only a short time, during a wetting episode. It's the diaper's job to absorb that liquid quickly. It's the waterproof pants' job to keep that free liquid confined to the diaper so that the diaper in turn can do its job. Virtually any waterproof pant will do an adequate job of containing this free liquid for the brief time between a wetting episode and the diaper absorbing it.

Second: Because cloth diapers have super wicking ability, your waterproof pants are all you have to separate your diapers, which will be getting wetter as time goes on, from the rest of your clothing, which you want to keep dry no matter how much time goes on! So, waterproof pants have a second, very important role. They must be well cut; that means a wide crotch with forward-facing leg holes and depth enough to cover all of the cloth diaper. There are many examples of waterproof pants with narrow crotch and lack of depth to reach high enough in the back. As your diaper gets wet, wicking is taking that wetness to all other parts of the diaper (a unique feature of cloth not found in disposables). If your diaper is sticking out any place, even a little bit at a leg band or waist band, then wetness will proceed onto your undershirt, onto your shirt, the waistband of your outer pants and so on, getting your outer clothes wet.

This kind of leak, aptly called a "wicking leak", is usually not catastrophic because it occurs slowly. It can be disconcerting when you notice it, but it usually occurs when your diaper is "past due" for a change. Your waterproof pants have failed to cover all of your diaper, or you failed to tuck some piece of diaper into your waterproof pants. Remember that diaper wetness advances from the crotch area to the front waist first, then to the seat of the diaper, followed by the sides over the hip bones and, lastly to the rear waist. If you are overdue for a change but cannot at that moment, feel the back waist of your diaper by slipping a finger under the waterproof pants waistband. If it feels dry, you are reasonably safe to continue without a change. When that area gets wet, you have NO DIAPER PARTICLES LEFT. While you are at risk for a wicking leak, you are also very close to a "serious" leak, caused by free liquid with your next wetting episode because your diaper is saturated!

And, yes, there are some adult cloth diapers to be found with waterproof "barriers" sewn in, but we've found them very "institutional" and not practical for an active incontinent person. We advise you to avoid such "waterproof" diapers and to put your faith in conventional diapers and separate waterproof pants.

What, then, are rubber pants? We have been careful to say "waterproof" pants when talking about what you will be wearing over your diapers. The first waterproof pants for wear over diapers were made of rubber and appropriately called rubber pants. Rubber pants covered diapers through the 40's and well into the 50's when plastic pants came on the scene. "Rubber pants" is a term or expression carried over from the 40s and 50s and often misused these days by people who have no idea what rubber pants are. In some cases one may think that rubber and vinyl are the same thing, rather than two totally different materials. Such people are usually referring to plastic pants and, in some cases to waterproofed nylon pants but almost never are they actually referring to rubber pants. Vendors who do offer rubber pants now use terms such as "real rubber pants" or perhaps "old-fashioned rubber pants" to differentiate.

Don't I need the waterproof pants to hold the diapers on? Waterproof pants are NOT intended to hold your diapers up. Forgive us for stating the obvious, but there are some people who think that diapers can be held up by waterproof pants. Sorry, no, diapers are held up by diaper pins. The diaper wraps that some might be thinking of work reasonably well for the baby who is not yet walking or just starting limited walking. That idea is not at all successful for walking adult incontinents. Cloth diapers get heavy as they get wetter, and gravity will cause the diapers to slide down as we walk.

Fit, Comfort & Utility

A number of people who find they have leakage problems and resort to diapers will suffer to some degree from denial - denial that they really need diapers or need to wear plastic underpants. A lot of plastic pants do not appear not much different from cotton underpants - briefs in the way they are cut and fit. (Such pants can be found in mail order catalogs.) We could never understand the utility of plastic pants with a three-inch wide crotch. You need a lot of absorbency in the crotch area; that's what gets wet first and rewet with every subsequent wetting episode. Narrow-crotch plastic pants are essentially useless in our opinion. The makers of such pants defend their products saying they are suitable for light incontinence where one may be wearing only a pad stuffed in the underwear. Another suggested use would be wear over a disposable diaper since most all disposables are quite trim compared to cloth and a narrow-crotch brief cut plastic pants might actually cover a disposable. Again, back to real utility; a disposable diaper comes with a waterproof backing sheet and generally doesn't hold much, so changing often is necessary. That means you really don't need the plastic pants with disposables!

But we digress! Back to cloth diapers. When we wear enough cloth to do the dependable job for which cloth diapers are famous, we need waterproof pants to fit completely over those diapers! The first essential requirement is crotch width which should be a minimum of 10 inches for a pair of medium-size pants, and 11to 12 inches would be even better for large-size pants.

The next requirement is depth, and that is the measurement from your front waist down and through your crotch and up to your back waist, measured over a cloth diaper! Many waterproof pants lack depth; so while the front waist band of the pants will cover the diapers, the rear waist band will not, leaving a half-inch to an inch, or more, of diaper uncovered. You might put up with this by day if you don't go to the saturation point of the diapers. The rear waist of your diapers is the last area that your diapers get wet when you are up and about. Night-time is different. If you sleep on your back you must find waterproof pants with enough depth to cover your diapers at the back, or you are going to have wet spots on the sheets!

Another requirement is forward-facing leg holes. Really cheap plastic pants have no real front and back distinction, and as you can imagine, the fit is terrible. While most pants have somewhat forward-facing leg holes, the degree matters in providing what I call "seat coverage". That is, waterproof protection for the sitting position. If the leg band of the waterproof pants tends to pull back over the diaper at the rear of the leg when you are sitting down, that means you will have a wicking leak on your outer pants and the chair! When you pull the back of the pants leg bands down to take care of that, you will notice you just pulled the rear waist band down, and now diaper is sticking out at the rear waist band. You will have to accept this compromise as the lesser of two evils. You must protect against the sitting leak; the wicking leak that might occur at the rear waist can be prevented by changing sooner, and is easy to monitor during the time you are wearing these inadequate waterproof pants.

There are plenty of pants available with a proper cut, really forward-facing leg holes and good depth that will provide full coverage of cloth diapers and freedom from worry for the wearer. We'll be mentioning some to get you started in the right direction.

Vinyl Plastic Pants

Plastic pants, vinyl pants and "pvc" pants (chiefly a European term) all mean the same thing. The most correct term is vinyl plastic pants, but some will shorten that to plastic pants and others (including ourselves) will shorten it to vinyl pants. (There are also urethane plastic pants, a totally different material from vinyl). Vinyl plastic pants are, by far, the most common waterproof pants and generally are the least expensive. All are 100% waterproof and will provide you with a "dry feel" all over, and especially between the legs. Vinyl pants also have a natural "slippery feel" that helps reduce or eliminate rubbing and chafing between the legs as we walk. Many vinyls have a smooth/shinny side and a dull side with a bit of texture. I suggest wearing the shinny side out for maximum slip and comfort. This could mean turning your vinyl pants inside out before pulling them on.

There is nothing as comfortable as a new pair of vinyl pants that are soft and gentle on the skin while providing the waterproof protection we require. Unfortunately, that comfort doesn't last! Vinyl plastic pants do not stand up well to use, wear and laundering. After so many wearings and wash cycles, most of the nice soft comfortable pants begin to stiffen and become less comfortable. We used to think that urine affected the vinyl, and the pH of one's urine, which could vary with the diet, had an adverse affect on the life of the vinyl. That theory has been debunked; it is oil primarily that causes the loss of softness. Your natural skin oil will slowly age your vinyl pants and any use of oils (lotions and rash creams) will rapidly age your vinyl pants. Sunlight is also injurious to vinyl, so pants should be hung to dry in a dark spot such as a basement.

Thinner plastic pants, generally perceived as softer and more comfortable as starters, age more rapidly than heavier-gauge (thicker) plastics. The heavier-gauge plastics stand up longer but eventually suffer the same stiffening and loss of comfort long before they become unserviceable. The technical explanation, we understand, involves chemical additives to the vinyl film called plasticizers that keep the material soft and flexible. These compounds disappear over time, and the vinyl material loses its softness and flexibility. Restoration treatments have been available on and off, but we've no experience with how well they work or whether they are worth the cost.

Urethane plastic pants are much like vinyl plastic pants; there are no obvious visual differences. The urethane feels different and seems noisier than vinyl. Some say the urethane feel reminds them of rubber pants. We feel that the noise issue is not too important, but that topic surfaces repeatedly in discussion forums, and much depends on personal perception. We feel urethane's major attraction is long life. Urethane is a tougher plastic film than vinyl and resists tears, punctures and the effects of wearing and laundering much better than vinyl.

Plastic pants are available at countless sites that sell incontinence products. However, there are relatively few manufacturers, and we'd like to introduce you to some major ones and tell you a bit about their pants and offer a source for you to start with.

Gary Pants

Gary is a major manufacturer, possibly the largest in the US, but it does not sell directly to consumers; so the "Gary" label is never found on any of their huge variety of vinyl pants. We think it's safe to say most of the vinyl pants being sold on various sites are Gary pants. Gary pants meet our requirements for wide crotch, deep cut and forward-facing leg holes. The elastics are folded over the edges of the waist, and leg openings and sewn. A plain white tag in the center back simply states: "100% Vinyl - Hand Wash in warm water-no bleach-air dry-Made in U.S.A.-Large". Often a second label is sewn in for the retailer selling the Gary pants. Side seams are welded. Gary pants are available in thin to medium weights and a variety of whites including frosted, clear, semi transparent and a wide variety of solid colors and even prints for those so inclined.

If you are just starting with cloth diapers and are about to buy your first pair of vinyl pants, you won't go wrong with Gary pants. We advise Adult Cloth Diaper Company only because we suggested you start there for your basic cloth prefolds; they have basic Gary pants which they call their "Leakmaster" pants, which fit all our criteria for decent vinyl pants.

After you feel you have some vinyl-pant experience and wish to look at a large variety in materials and colors, we recommend We are not sending you there first, since the large variety can be confusing. Buying what you think you want can become expensive when you receive the pants and find you don't like the material, for example.

If you have some sensitivity to elastic tension, you will find that many vinyl pants have waist elastics that are too tight for comfort. We want to caution you to examine the Gary pants-size chart carefully and select a size toward the large end of the range. The size ranges overlap considerably. We strongly suggest that you buy larger than what you think you need. As an example, I can wear Medium Gary pants. However, from a comfort standpoint I wear Large most of the time and Extra Large for overnight for a really relaxed fit. has helpful sizing information on its site, and the owner even offers custom elastic tension at nominal cost. (I use that service, buying Large Gary pants with a 3XL waist band. Sewing in a waist elastic normally used in the 3 XL pants gives my Large pants a gentle-waist elastic.)

Vinyl Incontinent Products, Inc.

This company is also known as VI Products makes vinyl pants with one basic white-vinyl material. Elastics are sewn onto one side of the leg and waist openings and then a taffeta covering is added to provide a bit of cushioning and relief from the scratchiness of the elastic band itself. Elastic tension is gentle and comfortable. Side seams are welded. The tag reads: Wash Warm-No Bleach-Dry Low Heat-Soft & Silent TM-Made in U.S.A. One unusual feature of VI Products is their sizing. They have an acceptable crotch width for their night medium size and their "new" size called medium-large. The crotch width for the XL is excellent. But the "Large" size pants, a size that will fit many of us, is not available with a decent crotch width, it has a narrow crotch! Despite repeated requests in writing, we have not received a satisfactory explanation for this sizing irregularity. We still endorse them as providing good quality vinyl pants at about the lowest price of any. Those who need the Large size, should order the XL to get the decent crotch width and live with the "tent like" fit in general. If you are slightly smaller than average, you will like the VIP night medium or medium-large pants.


Comco makes and sells a heavy vinyl pant. Many sites, including Loving Comfort Diaper, sell Comco pants but remove the label or block out the name on the label. Comco makes a distinctive heavy semi transparent vinyl that seems heavy but is not uncomfortable and will soften quickly with body heat to become very comfortable. Side seams are welded. The elastics are nice, wide and padded or "cushioned", as they call them ... unique to Comco. Yet the leg openings do not face forward enough, and both depth and crotch width are marginal. These pants are inexpensive and can be purchased directly from Comco. The heavier vinyl stands up longer to wear and wash cycles than do the lighter vinyls found in most vinyl pants. Colors are white and blue. The label wraps around the waist elastic and has the Comco name on the outside. If removed or blocked, the inside portion of Comco's label reads "Machine Wash Warm-Gentle Cycle-Mild Detergent-Line Dry-Do Not Bleach-Do Not Iron".

By the way, we are providing label information to help you identify the pants, not to repeat the information on care of the pant. Different manufacturers have unique labels, even if it is the care label and provides a clue as to who manufactured the pants.

KINS (Babykins)

Kins is a great Canadian manufacturer that makes the best lightweight pants available. Very light and comfortable, the pants feel more like a soft silk or nylon fabric than vinyl. Side seams are welded. Crotch width and depth are adequate. Elastics are extraordinarily gentle and cushioned, unique to Kins. Label is only a tiny swatch with size letter in English/French; i.e. my large size Kins pants have a label that says only "L/G" meaning large/grande. One problem with Kins pants is the very short "comfort" life. The incredible softness will start to disappear after just a few wear and wash cycles.

Lang - Edley Enterprises

This manufacturer provided good basic vinyl pants, patterned after decent baby pants (as are VI Products pants), but the company was sold during the 1990's. LANG pants (yes, we know most of you never heard of them) were in the forefront of providing decent plastic pants for adult incontinents back in the "dark ages" when little if anything was available for adult incontinence. Making plastic pants that looked like baby pants was thought to be suicidal from a marketing standpoint - that diaper stigma again. Any other plastic pants available were patterned after jockey shorts and, as you can imagine, were pretty much useless. Edley Enterprises bought the rights from LANG to produce that pattern and made diapers and vinyl pants for many years in New Hampshire before the owner's retiring and selling the company.

At some point, the Lang name was dropped and Edley Enterprises, Inc. appeared on the label and still does, even though the new company that purchased Edley moved the operation to the southwest. The vinyl pants are made from the standard, baby-pants vinyl, have welded side seams and light elastics wrapped around the edge of the vinyl and sewn. There appears to be a light covering over the elastics that provides a softer touch. In our opinion the elastic tension is both excessive and inconsistent. The same size pants seem to have variable elastic lengths sewn in. The overall cut is suitable for lightweight daytime diapering but inadequate for heavier diapering.


Suprima is a German manufacturer that makes superb vinyl pants. Up until recently, we would not have recommended them for covering cloth diapers because all the pants were trim cut with narrow crotches, the common style for Europe where pads are the rule for incontinence protection. Suprima recognized the large US market for wide-crotch, deep-cut pants and began manufacturing these roomier pants in recent years.

The US-market Suprima pants have excellent crotch width, adequate depth and good leg holes for seat coverage. Elastics are fully encased in the vinyl and sewn in. I've found no "weeping" due to stitching through the vinyl. The material is unique to Suprima, unlike most other vinyl films. You can find the huge array of Suprima pants at Best 4 Nursing Supplies ( You will pay a premium for these pants, but most agree they are well worth it. We've included a separate "Suprima Primer" in the reference section at the end of this Primer.

We cannot generally recommend colors or prints in pants without a serious caution! Vinyl films that will take color (or prints) generally are harder (stiffer) than the usual soft vinyl associated with most plastic pants. Some solid-color plastic pants may be as soft or supple as the white, but it is a trick to select them. We recommend that you stay with white for the most part and order colors carefully and in small quantities until you get to see and feel what you are purchasing. Some "colored" vinyl pants appear to be white standard-vinyl pants dunked in a dye wash!

Suprima vinyl pants, however, are offered in a lot of vibrant colors which we can recommend. The vinyl film is manufactured in the color and is incredibly soft and supple. We find colors useful to conceal diapers when wearing shorts in summer, matching vinyl pants color to the shorts color. Their yellow color is specially treated to withstand effects of creams and oil-base remedies for diaper rash and gives prolonged life to the garment.

Rubber Pants

We are both old-fashioned and experienced with rubber pants from the days when plastic pants were new to the scene and quite unreliable. So it is understandable that rubber pants are something we have long endorsed for overnight wear to bed, especially if you really hate a wet bed or sleep with a spouse who absolutely does not want to sleep in a bed that is wet, or even damp, anyplace! For night wear, it is even more important to have waterproof pants deep enough to cover all the diaper. Overnight, wicking will inevitably take place, and any little piece of diaper not covered by waterproof material will continue wicking onto the bed sheets! Rubber pants in earlier days were always cut far more generously than the newer plastic pants and had rubber bands for leg and waist bands.

In some cases, rubber pants were molded latex with undersize leg and waist openings that clung to the skin and were tucked under the cloth diaper. There was absolutely no "fabric" such as that found in plastic pants elastics to cause a wicking leak. Some also thought the wide rubber bands around the legs were beneficial in stopping free liquid leaks, the kind that are caused by a lack of absorbency in the diaper. We prefer to depend on the diaper to have adequate absorbency to tie up and contain free liquid and count on rubber pants just to be non-wicking at the leg and and waist bands to protect against damp (or wet) lines on the sheets.

The manufacture of rubber sheeting is difficult and producing a rubber sheet that is uniform and free from defects (thin spots, contamination and holes) requires a lot of quality control. For sources, forget the rubber pants imported from Malaysia! They've been around for ever and remain for sale on different sites as "real rubber pants". But they are of terrible quality and so poorly cut that they are useless as waterproof pants.

You can obtain excellent rubber pants custom-made by Bear Bottom. The rubber is a light, smooth and soft material called Satin Touch rubber. Elastics are sewn into casings and while one might worry the needle holes created by sewing would leak, we have never found that to be a problem. It is possible to order pants sized properly to allow tucking the leg bands up inside the diaper. That provides 100% leak proof protection.

You can also get good commercial rubber pants made by Kins. The rubber is a heavy material that should be durable for long wear. Elastics are sewn onto the leg and waist openings, making them the same construction as vinyl plastic pants. The elastics are narrow and quite gentle.

For excellent commercial rubber pants we must also recommend Fetware that uses medical-grade rubber that is close to perfection. The elastics are wide and the waist elastic is cushioned. The cut and fit is perfect for wear over cloth diapers.

The most serious down-side to rubber pants are their lack of comfort! Rubber is a "friction" material. That's why tires are made from rubber. That's why the round rubber rings for gripping a jar cap to unscrew it works so well. Rubber grabs things; it produces friction. But, that particular quality of rubber is very undesirable in waterproof pants. Dry rubber pants with talc will feel comfortable as you walk until any degree of perspiration forms. That moisture will negate the talc, and the rubber will rub and chafe the inside of your thighs as you walk. We, for the most part, suggest rubber pants only for wear to bed or the most serious social occasions where walking is minimal, sitting is going to be extensive, and you do not trust vinyl pants completely.

The Fetware rubber pants are the most comfortable rubber pants for walking; the rubber seems to be more skin-friendly, but they still are not as comfortable for long-term walking wear as vinyl pants. We've had fair success with wearing nylon pants over rubber pants. The "dura-tex" from Duraline Medical are light and have gentle elastics so they are perfect for such overpants. They seem to be very hard to find; we have the exact URL in the resource section. Bear Bottom in Canada features nylon pants as their regular line of waterproof pants so if you order rubber pants from them, consider getting a pair or two of the nylon pants, explaining you will use them as overpants. That supplier will adjust the leg tension to ensure that the nylon pants will be comfortable and not "double up" the elastic tension on your waist and legs.

Wearing nylon overpants will keep a slippery layer of nylon between the rubber pants and your skin. The rubber pants don't wick so the nylon pants leg bands stay dry. The only degree of discomfort remaining is irritation right at the leg bands, especially in the back. So we suggest minimal walking when you have to wear the maximum leak protection afforded by rubber pants. A social event that involves 90% sitting would be an ideal situation for the peace of mind and security of rubber pants while the nylon pants would help out the comfort aspect.

"Nylon" Waterproof Pants

These waterproof pants, usually promoted as being "breathable" are made from a fabric, usually synthetic, such as nylon, rayon, or polyester which is not waterproof itself. (We'll take the liberty of calling all of them nylon, for simplicity.) Fabric, as the name implies, is woven from thread and nylon is typically woven in a basic "square weave" with threads running up and down and from side to side. Examining nylon fabric closely against a strong light will reveal this weave to resemble very much the screen in your screen door, but the threads are much closer together than are the wires in the screen. The little square openings between the threads are still there, however. The fabric provides a backing and support for a plastic film to be applied. I have no idea of the actual process involved in waterproofing nylon fabric, but I suspect the thickness of the plastic film determines "breathability".

My theory might be illustrated with this example: Suppose you have a screen in a window that lets air in (breathable) but lets the rain enter as well (so it's not waterproof). You paint the screen. As the paint surrounds the wires of the screen, the screen openings become smaller. Air can come through so it's still breathable but less water comes through when it rains. With another coat of paint the openings would get smaller still. Less rain would enter while air could still come through. When you add still another coat or two, as you can imagine, the openings in the screen would be completely blinded and now the screen is waterproof but is no longer breathable.

I think the waterproofing of nylon cloth is similar with plastic coating doing to the nylon what the paint was doing to the screen.

When you select nylon pants, you'll often be offered a choice of breathable or waterproof. Quality Care is one supplier offering that choice, and the breathable pants are thin and light, while the waterproof pants are significantly heavier. I really don't know whether the breathability factor has any practical significance. From my experience, nylon pants are more comfortable to wear in summer heat when one is sweltering from heat and humidity. In addition, I believe my skin is slightly cooler when I am wearing nylon pants.

The problems with nylon pants, or should we say the less desirable aspects are as follows: Fragile! The plastic film is usually very thin. Nylon pants that are light-weight and comfortable will have a very thin plastic film. The film is subject to failing in places where it gets the most work-out, along the leg bands, especially at the rear leg bands because the fabric "moves" a lot while you are walking. A failure of the waterproofing in that area means wet spots when sitting. And sitting, as you know, is our most vulnerable position for leaks. I have had lightweight breathable nylon pants leak in that manner after only a few wear and wash cycles.

Heavier nylon pants do not share this problem, but they may not be as desirable from your perspective. You may feel they are too heavy or bulky. They will be truly waterproof, but then so would be vinyl plastic pants and the plastic pants would be much lighter and thinner to wear. This choice then comes down to the feeling of the nylon on your thigh skin vs. plastic. Wicking. This is the most serious problem you will face wearing nylon pants. They have separate elastics stitched on for leg and waist bands. These elastic bands will become wet from wicking. The wetness on the inside of your pants proceeds onto the elastics and then onto the outside surface of the pants. In the case of plastic pants, the wicking cannot continue because plastic won't wick. But in the case of nylon pants, only the inside is waterproofed. The outside is nylon fabric, and it will wick! This is what gives you a damp (clammy) feeling between the legs that you may find disconcerting. When you remove plastic or nylon pants, you will find the leg bands wet. This is normal, especially when we tuck the bands into the diaper. But with nylon pants, you will note the fabric outside of the pants is also wet, from the leg band outwards. That extra wet surface contributes to the disconcerting damp sensation and makes a wicking leak onto the furniture much more likely.

Rarely will there be enough wetness to cause a visible wicking leak onto your outer pants (and furniture), but you can't be certain. I can't recommend nylon pants for serious social situations with a lot of sit-down time. For that, I'd go with plastic pants rather than chance it with the nylon.

Some suggest wearing your nylon pants inside out. You will give up the "dry fabric feel" of nylon against your thigh skin, and they will feel the same as plastic pants because you will be wearing the plastic surface next to your skin. I have tried a compromise with the pants that Bear Bottom makes for me. The material is a light comfortable nylon. These pants are made with encased elastics, so the elastic bands cannot contribute to wicking as they are totally within the waterproofed material. (As an aside, that is what makes this supplier's rubber pants absolutely leak proof!) In the case of nylon pants, I request the supplier reverse the cuff that will encase the elastics so the waterproof side on the inside is brought to the outside around the elastics. It does not look as "neat" or "finished" but I rate performance over appearance.

Back to the inside-out wear: You may find the smooth feel of the plastic coated surface is easier on your skin. Less "rubbing" and more "slipping" means greater comfort and less chafing problems. This is especially true with the heavier-weight nylon pants. I always wear them inside-out. The nylon simply feels too rough and scratchy on my skin. This assumes we are getting some benefit from "breathability"; if you feel you are not getting any benefit from this "breathability", you are better off wearing plastic pants.

Waterproof Pants and Temperature

Well, aren't waterproof pants hot? We hear that all the time. Again, perception is so variable that it is not possible to answer definitely. We consider the heat issue to be over-rated. Probably it is another good topic for the internet discussion forums. Personally, we've found that disposables feel "hot" during warm weather, but we find no such sensation with cloth diapers and vinyl pants. Certainly, sweat accumulates along the thighs (as well as in most other places), but the sweat lubricates the vinyl and results in good slip and no chafing while walking. Inside the diaper, sweating is most prevalent at the small of the back, and that perspiration is taken up by the diaper.

If we had to pick which type of waterproof pants to call "hot" in the summer, it would be rubber pants. If we had to pick "cool" to wear, we'd settle for the light nylon pants from Bear Bottom and Duraline.


In summary, we wish there were an easy/best answer to the question, "What are the best waterproof pants to acquire when I decide to try cloth diapers?" We hope that this very detailed section on waterproof pants has given you information to sort out the incredible variety of waterproof pants now available. We also hope it may save you some frustration and money. You can waste a lot of money buying waterproof pants only to throw them out or have them languish in a drawer, unworn.

The best "quick and easy answer" to the question is to buy the Leakmaster vinyl pants from Adult Cloth Diaper (assuming that you follow our advice to buy your first prefold cloth diapers there). You will obtain basic Gary pants that will fit right and are made from a vinyl that the vast majority find comfortable.

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