WeatherWool in the Rain
Rain beading up on our MidWeight ShirtJac
We named our company WeatherWool because we want each of our garments to deal with a wide variety of weather conditions.
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 ago 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 probably 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 liners we do use are structural (such as the underside of a pocket flap), and a blend of wool and nylon used by the US Military, never any cotton. If you look at other woolen garments, you will find a liner at the back of the neck and shoulders and at the cuffs. Other 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 usually synthetic acetate or polypropylene which are bad news because they readily get wet. So if you go out in serious rain other brands of wool will wick water from the cotton, acetate and polypro. Cotton and synthetics do not do anything to enhance the performance of the garment ... they are used basically because it is cheaper to use them than to make a garment from pure, highest-quality wool. A lot cheaper.
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 ShirtJac, 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 ShirtJac 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. 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.
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 by buddy was done. 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 they 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.
26 May 2019