WeatherWool in the Rain
Rain beading up on our MidWeight CPO Shirt
We named our company WeatherWool because we want each of our garments to deal with a wide variety of weather conditions.
Please note there are related pages:
For people who like video, the following clip shows me talking about wool in the rain, from 2017 or so. I'm wearing a Walker Hat and CPO Shirt (which was then called ShirtJac) with my hands tucked into the sleeves, and I should have explained that instead of looking like Captain Hook. We'll re-do this vid eventually, but this is what happens when Alex stops me unexpectedly in the back yard and asks me to talk:
Everyone expects wool to protect from the cold. And most people also expect wool to excel in the damp cold. I remember a few years before WeatherWool, doing a show in Mississippi in February. I'd not been to MS before, and being from New Jersey I figured February in a Gulf State would be shirt-sleeve weather for me. Well ... a storm came up that dumped a few inches of wet snow on MS and paralyzed about 15 states. But the surprise for me was how bone-chilling it was in Mississippi! The temperature barely went below freezing. But the humidity was way up there, and it was windy and I've been in much colder temperatures that felt much warmer due to far lower humidity. And so I learned firsthand why wool is so popular in our Gulf States. WeatherWool really shines in the damp cold.
But most people do not expect wool to perform in the rain. And a lot of wool won’t. WeatherWool surely does, and that is certainly no accident.
Most wool fabric contains significant amounts of cotton. It is the industry standard to weave wool fabric with cotton. Even fabrics that say MADE WITH 100% VIRGIN WOOL will normally contain some cotton because that label means whatever wool is used is 100% virgin, but that the fabric itself can still contain other materials, and is often not 100% wool. Our Fabric is 100% wool and of course our wool is 100% virgin. So, we don't have any cotton to soak up water. And we don't use cotton thread either, because cotton thread will immediately soak up water and the wool will slowly wick water from the constantly-replenishing supply of water in the soaked cotton. We also don't use any liner fabrics to keep our wool off your skin. What small amounts of structural material we do use (such as the underside of a pocket flap), are a blend of wool and nylon used by the US Military, never any cotton. If you look at typical woolen garments, you will find a liner at the back of the neck and shoulders and at the cuffs .. and often other places, too. Typically, wool outerwear is made of relatively coarse wool, which chafes most people, and therefore the makers must use a liner to keep their wool off the wrists and neck. But the liners are normally synthetics that readily get wet, and in serious rain that wool will wick water from the cotton, or the liners. It is my strong opinion that cotton and synthetics do not do anything to enhance the performance of the garment ... they are used primarily because it is cheaper to use them than to make a garment from pure, highest-quality wool. A lot cheaper. (Synthetic liners do help a wool jacket slide over inner layers, and nylon can add strength.)
[As of late 2023, as part of Batch 9, we are developing 100% wool Utility Fabric. I've never been happy that we've always had to use small amounts of half-wool, half-nylon commercial fabric because our own Fabrics were too bulky. It's high-quality, mil-spec stuff, but I don't like it! We only use it for special spots like a pouch pocket where we don't want the bulk of our Full- or MidWeight Fabric. But now, hopefully, we can replace this commercial stuff with pure wool Utility Fabric of our own manufacture. If this effort is successful, absolutely all of the Fabric in our garments will be of our own manufacture, and 100% wool. Expensive to do, and a little crazy, too, but we leave no stones unturned in our efforts to improve.]
If you haven't experienced for yourself what wool can do in the rain, you may be surprised. It's not perfect, but neither is the dedicated rain gear ... and unlike everything else, wool keeps you warm even when it does, eventually, soak up water, which takes a very long time. Please click for a somewhat technical discussion of the behavior of Wool and Water. This page is describes actual field situations.
And of course, performance in the rain is just one of many things you are welcome to test for yourself as part of our No-Risk Field Testing.
One more thing ... the following stories are about WeatherWool in the rain for single-day outings. Spending multiple days in the weather is a different story (although the wool still works great). Please click to read about WeatherWool in the rain on some long trekking.
Here's a crazy story from Summer of 2018.
The photo above gives the details of the situation ... What to wear for a hike when it is warm and REALLY RAINING? I wore a MidWeight CPO, Big Brim Boonie Hat, cotton gym shorts, great wool socks and old sneakers that Debby wanted to toss away two years ago. I wore the ShirtJac without a base layer ... MidWeight WeatherWool on a bare torso. Because the trees were full of leaves, the rain was not pounding straight down on me from the sky, but instead coming off the trees most of the time. But anyway, it was crazy rain. The Boonie kept the rain off my head and face and neck, and the ShirtJac, sort of amazingly, kept me comfortable and pretty well dry. I still haven't figured out whether the moisture I did feel was rain or sweat from hiking in warm weather.
It's worth noting, also, that although my sneakers were worthless for keeping water out, that is why I chose them. The wool socks did all the work. As long as the water can get OUT of the sneaks, it doesn't matter how much gets in ... good wool socks will do the job.
Something else very important ... if I had worn a cotton T-Shirt under the ShirtJac, I would have been very wet and uncomfortable. Cotton can pull water through the wool.
The following is from the Blog Entry from 2019-06-18 ... Heavy Rain Again ...
Today was another one of those days, but the new wrinkle was the warmth (74F / 23C) and my decision to wear our Ball Cap. I wore a MidWeight CPO Shirt without a base layer, and the Ball Cap for a hike of about 4.3 miles (7 km) in a forest during heavy rain. I never felt the raindrops hitting me, and even though it was a warm (almost) summer day, the cool/cold rain never seemed to touch my skin. I thought with the Ball Cap, the rain would be running off the sides and back of the Cap, and then down inside the ShirtJac. But that didn't seem to happen. So the main point is that even in such relative warmth, the wool kept me much more comfortable than I would have been had I worn true rain gear, which would have caused me to overheat immediately. At the end of the hike, I was somewhat damp, but not at all uncomfortable. The ShirtJac itself, however, was pretty wet, and when I got home and draped it over a chair (about 20 minutes after getting into my truck), a little water dripped out of the sleeves.
The following narrative added on 3 May 2018
This material is from a customer who did not want us to use his name, just initials. Usually, we don't publish material without full identification, but I really love this review and it's easy to understand why people don't want their name floating around in cyberspace any more than necessary, particularly so in this case because of the customer's profession. Anyone who might question whether this crazy story is really true can check in with Advisor Mike Dean, who has had more than one more-or-less identical experience ...
Our customer "BN" is an All-Around Outdoorsman who for many years has enjoyed an early spring fishing trip for Lake Erie Walleye. The weather on the Great Lakes is famously difficult, and BN has been experimenting over the years with different clothing systems in hopes of finding a single set of clothing that can handle whatever Nature dishes out.
This (2018) year, BN wore his WeatherWool All-Around Jacket with Double Hood and FullWeight Pants over wool long johns and a wool sweater. Some days, the conditions on Erie were simply too dangerous to leave port. The worst day they did get out on the water, the temperature was about 28F/-2C, with heavy rain and wind speeds of 25-35 mph (40-56 kph). BN said no matter what the weather did, he was fine … warm and dry … wearing nothing but wool, even on the toughest day.
BN's companions all wore well-known synthetics, and brought duffel bags with extra clothes, but were still cold, somewhat wet and uncomfortable, even though the walleyes were really biting.
BN stressed that although the wool did get wet and heavy, the water and the cold did not reach him. He has ordered some additional WeatherWool for the fall season, when he makes a similar fishing trip to Canada. We will see if we can add a 2nd layer of wool to the thighs of his Pants. The idea behind the 2nd layer of wool is an experiment to see if it will act like the Double Yoke on the All-Around Jacket.
The following narrative was written 7 December 2014 and updated 4 September 2017.
I've worn WeatherWool out in the rain lots of times, of course. But yesterday (December 2014) was a really good example of what WeatherWool can do. Alex and I had gone out to Pennsylvania to hunt deer. The rain had begun to fall in mid-afternoon the previous day, and it just kept falling, so everything was sodden before we even got started. We were not out in really HEAVY rain, but a steady rain fell the entire day, only letting up for 15 or 20 minutes, with the temperature just above freezing. Perfect conditions to get soaked and cold.
Alex and I both wore MidWeight Pants without longjohns. Both of us wore a baselayer of Woolpower under our All Around Jacket. Alex forgot his hat at home, and wore a dedicated rain hat. I wore a Big Brim Boonie. And as required by Pennsylvania law, we both wore vests of blaze orange. The vests were made of some kind of water-loving synthetic material. Not as bad as cotton vests, but still bad, and they were the only chink in our armor.
On this day, Alex chose to sit and wait and I chose to stillhunt (sneak thru the woods). Our choice of hunting methods was important, because we presented different aspects to the weather. Because I was on my feet nearly the entire day, the rain fell on my head and shoulder area and just a little on the front of my thighs and knees when I would step forward. Sitting, Alex also had rain falling directly on his forearms and on his knees and thighs.
For both of us, the synthetic vests were soaked in short order, and we began to feel some moisture first under our arms, where the vests were pressed against our bodies by our upper arms. Sounds strange, but at the end of the day we could see this pattern of moisture on our Woolpower when we took off our All Around Jacs. Alex began to feel wet around 2PM, after maybe 7 hours in the rain. Plus, he didn't see any game, and decided to call it a day. He felt some moisture on his shoulders, forearms and thighs as well. If the vests had not been sabotaging us, the double yokes of our All-Around Jacs would have shed all the rain. Alex's thighs and forearms picked up some water because his forearms and thighs were perpendicular to the falling rain, and the Pants were laying flat against his skin.
I hunted until last light and then walked a mile to meet Alex. The Big Brim Boonie kept my head bone dry and warm and I never got a drop of rain on my glasses or down my neck. My legs were warm and comfortable and dry and although the Pants themselves were just a little wet, I kept them on until about midnight. I picked up a little water on my torso, under my arms and on the shoulders. It was sort of amazing to take off my All Around Jac and see the little bit of moisture on my Woolpower matched the pattern of the vest on my back!!
Bottom line for me: Ten or eleven hours of walking in steady rain, temperature barely above freezing, protected only by wool ... No Problemo.
PS --- We’ve had a number of requests for Blaze Orange and what I call Highway-Crew Neon Green. We will research both with an eye toward enhancing visibility and safety. As it stands now, we can't make truly color-fast Blaze Orange wool.
Here's one more "rain" story that's near and dear to my heart because this was the outing, back in November of 2012, that convinced me our three years of fabric development and testing had come to (initial!) fruition.
The temp was just above freezing, and I was out after deer with a friend. We had something like an hour of heavy rain, and then an hour of TORRENTIAL rain, and my buddy had had enough. I wore the All-Around Jacket that I still usually wear in the woods ... the tailoring is bad and we have changed the design a lot, so Debby doesn't want me to wear it at all. But it still gets the job done. Anyway, on this day I was wearing our original Hood, which had a single layer. We have since switched to a Double Hood. Under the hood I had a prototype of our Boonie Hat. With all this rain, I was mostly in fine shape. Not a drop of water reached my head or neck. And my shoulders and torso were dry. My arms got somewhat wet because the rain was landing more squarely on the single layer of wool. And I foolishly left my hands unprotected from the almost-freezing rain until they got really cold, and I put some light wool gloves on. The contents of my pockets were drowned from all the rain running down the jacket, and that's when we decided we'd add rain-guiding flaps over the pockets. After we left the woods, we went out to lunch, and then had about a 90-minute drive home. I kept the wool on the whole time, and it was all good. And so we were rolling with our Fabric, and our Lynx Pattern.
Here's an Instagram post I did on 23 March 2020 ...
Freezing Rain + Wind = WoolWeather! ... I love this old jacket because it's the very first garment made from what became our production Fabric. Back in 2012, after three years of R&D, this is the first garment that passed field tests, and it's still my main garment for field-wear. This morning, the temp was just above freezing, breezy, steady rain with a little ice mixed in. Good for hiking the local woods ... About 4.25 miles (6.5 km) ... Ideally, I would weigh 165 pounds (75 kg). But really, I weigh 280 (127 kg), and that means, unless sitting still, I stew inside typical rain gear. So I wore my old jacket -- with no base layer, and it worked great. The rain didn't penetrate, and I didn't overheat or feel a chill. The Big Brim Boonie Hat can handle crazy rain. This old jacket, after several design changes, became our current All-Around Jacket. One change we made was adding flaps over the cargo pockets, so rain is channeled down and off the jacket, and doesn't drown whatever is in the pockets. <<<<<<>>>>>> #BestWoolInTheWoods #HardcoreLuxury #LynxPattern #AllAroundJacket #MerinoWool #WeatherWool #ExperienceWool #WoolJacket #WoolShirt #AllNewAmerican #AmericanMade #AmericanWool #MadeInUSA #TheMadeInAmericaMovement #hiking #AllChallengesAccepted #BePrepared #NaturalWool #NatureKnowsBest #NoRiskTesting #OldFashioned #OldSchool #Quality #RealDeal #Versatility #WeWearWool #WoolWorks
At the end of September of 2023, three people called/wrote me about wearing their WeatherWool in the rain.
One of them is a landscaper working on the Western side of the Cascades in Oregon and Washington, where it usually doesn't get very cold, but it is very wet. He told me what I've heard from many others ... that traditional rain gear doesn't breathe, so even if the rain doesn't get in, he's all wet anyway. So now he just wears the wool.
The second is Advisor Jesse Manuta, who spends a great deal of time working and recreating outdoors, sometimes extremely vigorously.
I wanted to write you with a new experiment with WeatherWool I've been conducting: what if WeatherWool was all that was needed as rain gear? This past summer I was working on a farm in the mountains of North Carolina. I have a waxed canvas anorak that I use for rain while working, but my opinion has steadily changed over the course of the summer. First of all, the waxed canvas does not breathe all that well (still better than Gore-Tex), but there was always this persistent discomfort, even if the temps were in the 60's or low 70's. The second component is that the wax slowly wears off over time (I use a beeswax based wax), and there was a rainy day this past summer where we got 5 inches in one day. Within a couple hours of working my shirt (hemp) beneath the anorak was beginning to get wet. That was the day I decided it was time to just wear the [WeatherWool] MidWeight wool in warmer weather while it was raining. I will never look back! Each rainy day since I have only worn the MidWeight wool against my skin. Not only do I find the wool barely feels wet, but my skin is completely dry. I know you already know this, as I thoroughly read your article about wool and rain/water. The other benefit of wearing the MidWeight in the rain is that even when it does begin to absorb the water, the fabric never feels heavy or sags against the frame of my body, like how cotton does when it is soaked through. My body temperature feels so much more comfortable wearing the MidWeight in the rain, what a miraculous discovery! I also find that if I keep the MidWeight shirt on after working, that it will naturally dry with my body heat. I figured you would find this experiment amusing and I know you feel the same way.
This experiment gave me the idea for WeatherWool bib overalls with a double yoke of fabric over the thighs, to wear in cold rain. Since the overalls are held up by your shoulders, the bibs could be made of the FullWeight fabric without being too heavy. That is my only critique of using the FullWeight fabric for pants, they are so heavy that they don't stay up as well as I would like. That is why we made our new pants out of the MidWeight. By the way, I will be testing these new MidWeight pants all autumn/winter/spring from now on and will update you on their performance. These new MidWeight pants are also my new rain pants : )
The third is customer Tim L, who has homes in North Carolina and in Montana.
There is a soccer game tonight for the high school girls of one of my subcontractors and it has started to rain. So I'm trying to decide which of my WeatherWool jackets I will be wearing. WeatherWool has become my "go to" rain coat now. :>)).
In response to Tim's note, I sent him excerpts from Jesse's email, and Tim responded:
As you know, we have property in the mountains of NC and I experimented years ago with waxed canvas [Outback dusters]. One difference between Mr. Manuta and us is that we have seen rains of 15 inches in a 24 hour period. In fact, one year it rained 13 inches one day, 15 inches the next day, and then 12 inches the next day. That last day was the day the water came up over the one major highway into town and every other road leading into town too. I drove through a low spot where the water was in the process of flooding the road by aiming for the corner of a barn across the low spot. By the time I reached the other side water inside my car was up to my knees! But I had three kids at home and I was determined to get to them. I did get home to the kids, but my wife was later in heading home and had to spend the next three days with friends in town who were on higher ground!
Anyway......I too came to the conclusion that waxed canvas was not "the cat's meow", so to speak. However........HOWEVER! Your wool that I have experimented with for the past three years is now my "go to" rain gear. Period. And as an aside I have just about every type of rain gear you might mention. I used to buy rain gear from a fishing supply store in NJ.....Somers Point? I can't remember exactly and I don't need to remember anymore because your wool has eliminated every other choice! From a nice rain this morning in MT to being up on a ladder in a downpour fixing a gutter drain in NC, WeatherWool is "the cat's meow"!!!
So......Mr. Manuta is on the right track! He won't go back to any other rain gear.
Thanks for sharing,
And Part Three of Tim's emailed thoughts:
Since you liked my email I will provide the following additional data: Rain gear I have used in years past and which is hanging in my closets: Gore-Tex, Carhartt, Outback, Helly Hansen, and Grunden's. There are a few others which have gone out of business such as Willis and Geiger.
In my opinion, and after enough testing to satisfy myself, your wool beats all of the above.
Having written that I will allow that I have not tried your gear on a fishing trawler where one is getting drenched in spray and maybe dunked by waves. In those situations I have heard from sailor friends of years past that either you are going to get wet through your rain gear or you will sweat so much inside your rain gear [Helly Hansen, and especially Grunden's] that you will be drenched.....and therefore those sailors would wear....wait for it!.......wool sweaters under their rain gear. Yes! Wool such as the Wooley Pulley sweaters underneath the Grunden's!!! Aha! There is that amazing wool again!!
I had a funny and instructive experience in 2017, the last time we had a booth at an outdoors-related show-convention. A customer was in our booth, and he asked something about WWB. Exactly as I responded "I've never found any garments that were truly windproof, waterproof and breathable", someone behind me, unseen, said "That's because it doesn't exist!" I turned to see a mentor-friend who is a wheel in the outdoors industry. Not wanting to "out" my friend in front of the customer, I said something like "What about all those magazine ads touting Windproof, Waterproof and Breathable?"
My friend then told us what he'd seen at a laboratory of a major clothing maker. They have a mannequin in a room where they control and measure the temperature and humidity and maybe (I don't remember) wind. Not only can they control the temperature of the mannequin, but they can also control the amount and pressure of water vapor produced by the mannequin, in order to simulate human perspiration. To test/demonstrate WWB, they dress the mannequin in their outerwear, and set the mannequin to sweat. Instruments measure there is, in fact, moisture coming off the mannequin and through the clothing, even in high ambient humidity.
This, my friend explained, is absolute, lab-based, carefully measured, LEGAL evidence that the garments are WWB. BUT, BUT, BUT!!! The WWB is demonstrated when the mannequin generates vapor pressure far in excess of what any human would ever produce. For actual human application, the garments are Windproof and Waterproof but NOT Breathable.
Demonstrate to me a fabric that is truly WWB under real field conditions and I will recant and publish and apologize.
2 October 2023 --- Ralph