Hardcore Luxury® ..... No Brag, Just Fact

Testing Outerwear

Please LET ME KNOW how YOU think Outerwear should be tested?!! What is most important to you? --- THANKS --- Ralph

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WeatherWool Advisor Mark Eurich, a farmer and outdoorsman from Nebraska, places a high value on WeatherWool's versatility

Advisor Mark Eurich knew his Anorak would keep him dry and comfortable during a midnight snowstorm in April in Nebraska ... and also the next day, when the temperature jumped and the snow melted away.

Testing, comparing, contrasting, competing on performance ... that's the heart of the matter. What clothing is best? There are a LOT of other companies making outerwear and base layers, and we very much invite their help in developing tests, particularly for All-Purpose Outerwear. We also (of course!), would love to be tested with and against any other outerwear. Accepting any challenge is basic to what we do.

We invite comparison of WeatherWool to other outerwear ... and we generally describe WeatherWool as "All-Purpose Outerwear" ... that is, we design WeatherWool to be the choice for anyone who needs to handle whatever Nature dishes out.  

But ... how do you rate All-Purpose Outerwear? How do you test it? The test will be necessarily subjective because different people have different needs and priorities.

And maybe you want different performance from your Hat and your Jacket.

Also, the great majority of brands we'd be compared to aren't trying to be All-Purpose Outerwear ...

Here are some of the factors that need to be considered when evaluating outerwear:

  • Do you want to wear it? Will you be wearing it? This might seem like a wise-guy point to put in here, but this is my reasoning ... It's usually the unexpected situation that causes problems. That's where the Luxury part of Hardcore Luxury comes in. We make highly versatile garments, "go-to" garments, that people WANT to wear -- even when they don't expect to need WeatherWool performance -- because they simply like wearing WeatherWool. And then, if a pleasant afternoon hike somehow turns into a night out in freezing rain, you're wearing clothes that can see you through. This is exactly what happened to one of our customers, and he wrote to tell us he believes our wool saved his life! We try to make clothing that prepares you for the unexpected.
  • How does it perform in cold weather (temps below freezing and colder)? Moderate temperatures (around 50F/10C)? and warm weather? What range of temperatures will the same set of clothes handle?
  • How well does it resist rain, snow, sleet, drippy woods, wet bushes, spray from boating? And at the same time, how does it breathe?
  • Does it resist wind? How much wind? And does it breathe?
  • How does it handle humid, cold weather?
  • If it does get wet will it still provide warmth? What if I get caught out in a cold rain for a couple of days, or fall in a river in winter?
  • How does it handle the vapors of perspiration? How does it handle sweat? 
  • What kinds of activities is it good for? What levels of exertion?
  • Does it resist fire? Sparks? Embers? Does it melt? And if so, at what temperature? At what temperature will it burn? We are working on a page about how different fabrics handle fire and heat. How does it affect your skin if it does melt? How does it affect wounds inflicted by incendiary weapons or shrapnel or bullets?
  • How bulky is it? Is it compressible?
  • How heavy is it? How much does it weigh?
  • How quiet is it? I'm assuming silence is preferred, but maybe not always?
  • Does it blend into Nature?
  • Will it help me evade detection by animals and people? And what about the opposite? What about when you want to stand out? Such as a Search and Rescue situation?
  • Does it reflect light?
  • How much light passes through it (hold it up to the sun or a flashlight)? I think this depends a lot on the color of the fabrics tested, and put up a separate page on the Light Test. I think you can only meaningfully compare fabrics of the same color.
  • Does it shine in ultraviolet?
  • Does it absorb ultraviolet? That is, does it protect from sunburn?
  • Where can it be worn?  Only in the woods?  Is it acceptable in a restaurant or a business meeting or church or club?
  • How durable is it? How well does it resist abrasion? Punctures? Normal wear and tear?
  • If it fails in the field, can I repair it myself?
  • Does it resist soiling?
  • Does it resist odors?
  • Is it easy to clean?
  • Does it resist burrs?
  • Is it comfortable against bare skin? What base layers are required?
  • What is it made of? Multiple components? A lot of woolens, for example, have liners that cover the whole torso.  Meaning, you aren't really wearing wool ... you're wearing some synthetic liner that in turn is wearing wool. Other woolen fabrics often contain cotton, and/or are sewn together with water-loving cotton thread.
  • What components are used?  What kind of thread? Zippers? Snaps? Velcro, Fasteners? Cordage? etc?
  • How does it behave in the presence of electricity?
  • What else?

These points may not actually be part of a test of the clothing, but will be important to some:

  • How much does it cost? This isn't really a performance factor, but it's important to almost everyone
  • Warranty
  • How is customer service?
  • What if I don't like it? Can I test it and get a refund if I want one?
  • Where is it made? Where are the components made?
  • Who are the people behind the company?
  • How accessible is the company? Owners and representatives?

And now ... the real point of this whole page ... EXACTLY how do you test a garment? How do you compare different pieces of outerwear?

The first thing I'll say is that lab tests are not the answer. I appreciate the scientific approach, and the attempt to eliminate variables.  BUT ... putting an electronic mannequin (or even a person) in a set of clothes in a controlled, indoor environment and then attempting to extrapolate the findings into a real-world situation is bogus, in my opinion. I love this line from the great Yogi Berra: "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is." I used that line somewhere, an Instagram post, I think, and WeatherWool Advisor Stani Greenway, who has huge experience as an outdoors professional, responded "BOOM!".

Another gigantic factor is that we are concerned here with OUTERWEAR ... but you can't really test outerwear without also testing your base layer(s) ... a really big complicating factor. We recommend only woolen base layers, regardless of conditions. Other companies may have other ideas. WeatherWool can be worn without any base layers at all, however, and our own custom-made, soft, comfortable Hardcore Luxury® Fabric is the foundation of our company.

Now I've got to figure out the testing and write it up ... which has been a loooong time coming. Sorry about that! As always, we would love to get your input.

The simplest comparison test is probably to switch among various outer layers on the same day / same conditions ... Ron Spomer, a professional outdoorsmen of nearly 50 years, was a real synthetics-guy. But he did some switch-testing of garments and that little bit of testing did a lot of convincing. Ron is now one of our Advisors. Click here for a link to some other gear that Ron recommends.

But also ... maybe you don't even want to comparison-test ... maybe you just want to test a particular item to see if it is what you are looking for. That's an easier thing to do!

Some important things can be done in the living room:

  • Does it fit? If you need a different size, you can't really test. And if there is only one size, such as typical Watch Cap, and that size does not fit you ... DONE
  • Is it comfortable? Does it feel good? If it makes you itch or sweat or generates any feeling of discomfort, that's a virtually certain FAIL ... the exception would be for an item solely worn in extreme conditions
  • Can you move the way you want? Move your arms to simulate skiing, shooting, casting, etc.
  • When you raise your arms or stretch or squat or kneel, does the garment react in an unsatisfactory way? For example, are the sleeves too short when you raise your arms?
  • Will gloves or mittens be a problem with the cuffs, zippers or buttons, etc.?
  • Do you like the way it looks? Style? Color? Mirror?
  • Also, how do other people react to the garment? This comes up fairly often with our Lynx Pattern ... until they ask friends or colleagues, people are frequently concerned Lynx will be perceived by others as inappropriate for a professional setting.

If the living-room-eval is favorable, then try the outdoors-oriented factors listed above.

Also, please remember that with WeatherWool, you can test long and hard and THEN decide whether to keep the garment or return for a full refund. (You can even return if you just need the money back.) Also, we have our Lending Library which is intended, partly, to enable people to test our gear without buying.

Lots of people test outerwear. Some test professionally, such as John Viggato, the US Army tester who we quote on our Alaska page. And some test as a matter of lifestyle, such as Alex Javor, of National Geographic TV, who gave us some material to post here. A company whose purpose is testing outdoor gear is Outdoor Gear Lab. If they test woolens, they don't rate them highly because all of their top-rated men's winter jackets are synthetic. I did fill out their contact form in April of 2022, but they may not have seen my message. I would love to have WeatherWool tested against their recommended pieces. But anyway, one really interesting thing is that they present their Rating Categories, and the weighting attached to each category:

  1. Warmth, 25%
  2. Weather Resistance, 20%
  3. Comfort, 20%
  4. Style, 20%
  5. Features, 10%
  6. Durability, 5%

I have not seriously tried to quantify my own testing parameters, partly because I think everyone's parameters will vary. Also, there is definitely an overlap between categories. For example, it seems like Comfort, Weather Resistance and Warmth overlap quite a bit. But no matter, I really applaud the efforts of Outdoor Gear Labs. My list would definitely include Versatility, and I think I would give Durability more than a 5% weighting for jackets running $500 and up.

Another company that seriously tests gear is Product Research Gear. I've spoken a number of times with Jason Ramos, the Founder. Jason is defo a heavy-duty and highly experienced guy who has boundless enthusiasm for his life in Search and Rescue and for the gear that he relies on. WeatherWool is not yet shown on his website but we will be when he gets round to it! I really enjoy speaking with Jason because he is so knowledgeable and friendly and energetic (and yeah, because he loves out stuff!). Our calls usually lasts until one of us has to deal with something else.

Please give me your ideas on this page!?! -- Thanks -- Ralph

 

Garrett Riffle, one of the kingpins at Up Mountain Switchel, wears his CPO Shirt in all kinds of conditions, including here at Venice Beach, California

Garrett Riffle, who was with Up Mountain Switchel when we met him, wears his CPO Shirt in all kinds of conditions, including here at Venice Beach, California. Most people testing cold-weather clothing would not put an emphasis on how well the clothing does in mild conditions. But I think it's important, because a mild day can turn into a nasty night without shelter ... and in fact (sorry to repeat!) one of our customers said this is exactly what happened to him, and he believes WeatherWool saved his life. WOW!!!

 

15 May 2022 --- Ralph