The WeatherWool anorak: It's at home in the woods or at a fine restaurant!
Check this if you think that wool isn't high-tech!
I’ve loved wool for as long as I can remember. In the 1960’s-70’s, when synthetic fibers towered, defending it wasn’t easy. Admirers like me were considered closed-minded old-timers who were stuck in the 19thcentury. But times have changed. High grade wool (merino) underwear, socks and T-shirts are now the rage in outdoor stores. But outer garments (long-sleeve shirts, jackets and parkas) are harder to find. Why? Because, they are heavier, stiffer, bulkier, itchier and more expensive than those made from synthetics.
Enter WeatherWool®--a company dedicated to making the finest wool outerwear. They may change how you view wool! My review of their signature anorak follows. But first, a primer on “Why wool is wonderful!”
WHY WOOL IS WONDERFUL!
1. Wool has a much wider temperature-comfort range than synthetics. For example: a polyester fleece jacket that is cozy in freezing temperatures will be too warm when the mercury hits 70. Wool is comfortable at both extremes. Historically, the Bedouin people relied on wool clothing to protect them from the hot desert sun and nightly cold. Their tents were also made of wool, dyed black to encourage draft and defy the sun’s glare.
2. Wool is wind and water-resistant. A tightly woven, pure wool shirt will defy a downpour for some time, but weave in a synthetic fiber (nylon, polyester, etc.) and rain passes through. Nature got it right by clothing sheep in pure wool.
3. Wool is warm when wet. Some synthetics—notably polyester fleece—are warm when wet—that is, if you wring out the water. Soaked wool is warm—no need to wring!
Some years ago, I attended a winter survival school in Spitzbergen, Norway. I cut ice blocks at 34 below zero, while wearing double-layer, merino mittens. My hands were wet but they were never cold.
In the 1970’s, National Geographic did a feature story on the Mongolian nomads. It was the rainy season so the team brought high-tech rain gear; the Mongolians had simple felted-wool parkas called kepeneks. It rained (bitterly cold) every day and the Americans became dangerously cold and wet. The Mongolians were warm and dry in their traditional wool kepeneks.
4. Washing improves the performance of wool. The insulating efficiency of wool and some synthetics may be comparable when they are new. Things change fast after they are washed. Wool becomes warmer with subsequent washings (the fibers tighten). It achieves maximum warmth after about five washings. Synthetics lose thermal efficiency with each washing. The more you wash them, the poorer they insulate!
5. Odor-resistance: Wool does not retain body odors over time. Synthetics, on the other hand, can become quite ripe after a few days. Some companies add strands of nano silver to their synthetic garments to kill odor-causing bacteria. Wool needs no additives.
6. Fire and chemical resistance: A campfire spark will instantly burn a hole through nylon and polyester. Spill solvent or DEET (insect repellent) on a synthetic fabric and note the holes that develop. Repeat with wool: no problem! Wool is non-flammable and it won’t melt.
WEATHERWOOL ANORAK REVIEW
I discovered WeatherWool recently when Ralph DiMeo, the company’s founder, called to say that a customer had ordered an anorak after reading about wool in my flagship book CANOEING WILD RIVERS. I was taken by surprise because as much as I try to keep abreast of new products, I had never heard of WeatherWool.
We talked for nearly an hour. DiMeo had long been a distributor of woolen clothing but he was not satisfied with the quality of garments he sold. He thought that fabrics (from even the best companies) were heavier, stiffer, itchier and less wind and water-resistant than they could be. And that styles were dated. So he started WeatherWool with the goal of making the best pure-wool, American made (everything, even the buttons are made in the U.S.A.) garments available. It took him three years to develop the merino Jacquard-weave fabric used in WeatherWool.
I was looking to replace my 40 year old Filson mackinaw so I took the plunge and ordered a WeatherWool anorak. The box it arrived in was so light that I thought there must be a mistake with my order. Wrong! The anorak was a half-pound lighter than my mackinaw! The fabric was softer too, and not itchy at all. I immediately put it on and went for a walk in the 74 degree F. heat. I didn’t sweat a bit.
What makes this anorak so special? For starters, there’s the fabric. The thick, lightly-felted merino wool is soft and nearly as supple as a beach towel—feels more like a heavy-duty cotton hoodie than a thick wool parka. Hold the fabric to a strong light and you’ll see a smattering of tiny pin-holes. The Filson fabric has many more. Which do you think will best deter wind and rain?
Tailoring: WeatherWool consulted with scores of outdoors experts to “get things right”. The design and tailoring of this garment is spot on.
Details:Heavy-duty zippers on each side run from below the armpits to the hem. Unzip slightly for ventilation, or completely to make the anorak easier to put on. In seriously foul weather, the hem can be secured with no-fail military spec “slot buttons”, which are also used at the neck and wrists. The slot buttons are attached with para-tape not thread! They are fast and easy to use, even while wearing gloves! There’s an interior hem cord, the expected kangaroo/hand-warmer pocket in front, two generously sized “hidden zipper” chest pockets and a zippered interior back pocket.
The hood is huge—two heads could fit inside! It has a hem draw-cord and an adjustable space-tightener. Three colors: olive drab, duff (brown) and proprietary Lynx pattern are offered. Lynx (my favorite) mimics the coat of the animal that bears its name. It is particularly striking and blends with the winter woods. Its unique pattern may discourage would-be thieves.
Summary: In the 1980’s, Harry Roberts, then editor of the popular WILDERNESS CAMPING magazine and an early proponent of narrow, fast canoes, reviewed a pricey cotton-ventile parka (cotton-ventile was developed during WW II for RAF pilots who flew the icy North Sea). Harry dubbed it “The best cotton parka in the world.” I think the Weatherwool anorak is the best wool one. Expensive? Yes. But quality always is. See the WeatherWool web-site (www.weatherwool.com) for more great garments. The company offers no-risk field tests—money back/return if you’re not satisfied.