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Discussion in 'Outerwear' started by Dudleydoright, Jan 25, 2010.

  1. Dudleydoright

    Dudleydoright A-List Customer

    Well, since so many threads get hijacked into talking about ventile, I thought it might be best to starts a thread dedicated to ventile.

    I'm not going to start it with any long diatribes about it's history or uses etc, there's plenty of information available elsewhere here and on the 'net.

    If you're into anoraks I can recomend this one from Hilltrek. Their quality is great, they will do modifications and tweak lengths etc and they are very friendly. Non UK enquirers just be aware that the lovely Highland twang that Bill has might be a little difficult to understand (Americans especially have never had the linguistic imagination to be cunning linguists :D ).


    The biggest problem with most modern made anoraks is that they are too short. You need them mid thigh at the least.

    I have one of their cycling jackets and I think I may have posted some photos of it elsewhere on the Lounge. It is great and if you like the old Grenfell cloth 50's styled hiking jackets, this fits the bill less metal zippers. And I bet if you had the zippers that they'd put them in for you.

    There are several other makers out there who all do good work. Sadly the one that made the British Antarctic Survey anoraks I've posted elsewhere are no longer doing them or anything in ventile. Word appears to be that BAS no longer use ventile. (Luckily I have three of them :eek: ) It would be easier for folk overseas to buy the material and then find or make a pattern and get any good seamstress or tailor to make what you want.

    Snowsled also make a good, if short, anorak. I gather that they also do custom work but expect to pay big bucks for that service.


    It would be great if people would post photos of their ventile clothing in action with info on who made it age and general thoughts on why they like to use ventile or feel it does the job for them.

  2. pipvh

    pipvh Practically Family

    Dave, thanks for starting a thread for those of us who don't want to take to the hills looking and sounding like a packet of Quavers.

    Right then, here goes my most pressing Ventile question:

    Does anyone have any experience wearing the Royal Navy Ventile smocks as walking gear, or are they just too big and heavy? They look a lot like the Westwinds BAS smock on a cursory glance basis, but possibly a lot cheaper and a bit more trad. On the other hand, it would be in my rucksack and I wouldn't want to be carrying the textile equivalent of a breezeblock: they look weighty.
  3. Dudleydoright

    Dudleydoright A-List Customer

    Hey Pip,

    I've had several of these. The first back in the late 70's. They are HEAVY !!!! This is due to the complex features that the jackets has as well as the heavy cotton drill lining. They are made for radiomen on deck of HM's ships and not people who are active to any level at all. The have triple patches on elbows and knees(of the trousers). They are quite short and have elastic at the hem and cuffs which gathers up a lot of the excess material. They have little press studded pockets and runners for wireless cables and an impossibly complex hood that is made to go over a helmet and headphones. The throat flaps are many and you need a dergree to operate them all efficiently. Shed loads of buttons too.

    From a practical point of view, the lining, being cotton, could kill you on the hills as it holds water/sweat and sucks the heat out of your like nothing on Earth.

    For a bit of posing about town, yep fine but don't think of paying more than £30 for a good 'un as, judging by the amount on the market lately, the MoD have probably released a lot to surplus recently. I bought one several months ago mint for £20 and sold it for £140. I knew what was coming !!

    The trousers are about 2 sizes to big and lined as per the anorak. No use whatsoever on the hills.

    Hope that helps ??

    Cheers, Dave
  4. Dave,

    Good idea on your part for a specialist Ventile(R) thread. Would it be hijacking it if we were to include oblique references to other traditional finely woven cotton fabrics?

    I'm sure there is interest, for instance, in the relative history and comparative performance of Ventile(R) and Grenfell(R) fabrics.

    Also, of course, there is 'non-proprietory' Ventile-type fabric [no (R)] such as used by the MOD for windproof smocks that is virtually identical in appearance, feel and performance to expensive proprietory Ventile(R).

    I used to do research for a living and enjoy conducting tests of fabric performance. For instance, the recent cold spell enabled a back-to back comparison of my mate's Hilltrek Braemar windshirt against my army cadet surplus windproof smock. We walked out in our own gear, swapped and walking back. OK, Kinder Scout isn't the Hardangervidda, but we agreed to wear nothing but Smedley long undies and a Norge shirt. Hypothermia could have been a consequence of either garment not 'doing its stuff'.

    The result? Both windproofs performed well, the difference in our perception was imperceptible, but mine is 50 years young, was 110GBP cheaper and (IMO) looks a lot cooler...
  5. Dave and Pip,

    Belstaff had at least one of the contracts for these when I worked there. Like Dave I wouldn't recommend them for active wear at all. Not hiking gear, for which purpose I recommend The Smocks, Windproof, Cadets in terms of lightness, packability and performance. Oh, and price at around 10GBP in unissued condition for a small size. I add parachute smock cuffs to mine out of preference.

    I hope this helps.

  6. Dudleydoright

    Dudleydoright A-List Customer

    Mr J,
    There's more than enough room on this thread for what you are asking !! It would be most welcome. I claim no real knowledge of any of this other than what I have experienced. I will only learn more by others contributing. I am a LONG way from being any sort of expert :eek:

    Perhaps I should have named it the 'Natural fabrics outer layer' thread ;)

    I think the point is to get as many different garments - both ancient and modern - posted, reviewed and preferably photographed as we can.

    The current makers of these types of garments are usually small and would welcome all the custom they can get as well widening the choice of what we natural fabric afficianados have available to us.

    It would also be nice to see what has been made in the past.

  7. pipvh

    pipvh Practically Family

    Dave and Mr J,

    Thanks for saving me more than a few ££. The RN smocks really aren't cheap. I'm planning a trawl around the Friday Portobello market under the Westway in a couple of weeks - might turn up some treasures.

    Meanwhile I think I'd be better off with the Snowsled. It does look a bit short, but then again I'm just under 5'10" so that might not be a problem.
  8. norton

    norton One of the Regulars

    I'm glad this thread came up. I buy almost all of my winter outdoor clothing from Wiggy's and I saw this jacket could be bought made of ventile cotton as an option. I had never heard of ventile and I avoid cotton for winter outdoor wear so I was curious why it was being offered and why the premium price.

    On a separate note, I swear by Wiggy's. Their lamilite products are the warmest and driest clothing available for cold weather camping.
  9. Mr. H.Johnson, my question stands... now in the correct department...


  10. BT

    I can do no better than refer us all to the specification section of the Ventile(R) website:


    Given that the minimum hydrostatic head that can be called 'waterproof' is 1500mm, we can see that Ventile(R) is NOT officially waterproof, in spite of what vendors may say. Having said that, it can be argued that the hydrostatic head test isn't realistic.

    At Belstaff we used to dress a lad up in the garment being tested, stand him in the yard and turn a hose on him. It can be argued that this type of test is more realistic... Leeds University Textile Research Centre has what it calls its 'Rain Room Test' that is a more sophisticated version of this. The people there have a mass of data on such tests and have been very helpful in the past.

    In answer to your question, it is hard enough to obtain reasonable quantities of 'real' Ventile(R) cotton, so I would take what I could get, but in an ideal world for an average anorak I'd go for the L28, although (as I am sure Dave will point out) two layers of L34 would probably outperform a single layer of L28.

    You know about Points North, of course...

    BTW, there may be some exciting developments in the remanufacture of a traditional (and much older) alternative to Ventile(R) cotton...

    I hope this helps!
  11. There must have been some disinformation coming from the synthetic fiber people here in the US that wasn't the case in the UK.

    Associating this luxury good from a country known for mild weather and eccentric traditions with "cotton," that sucker-upper of clammy precip and persp, would have its benefits here in the rugged land of high tech and low temperatures.

    Or maybe just word of mouth among outdoorsmen who had no experience with it but the hefty price tags would have done the job. We all know what they think of dudes in expensive kit, whatever it's made of.

    Moderator please excise if this comes too close to the "diatribes" Dudley was talking about.
  12. Dudleydoright

    Dudleydoright A-List Customer

    Most outdoorsmen (and women) know the value of good kit and normally that quality doesn't come cheap. What most don't like is people spending big bucks to get Gucci kit to give themselves credibility.

    Ventile has never been made in the sort of quantities that would enable enough garments to be made to satisfy the larger companies in the US who have many outlets. It would be more likely to make it's way to small outfitting type companies IMVHO.

  13. norton

    norton One of the Regulars

    I'm sorry, I don't understand if your saying that ventile is worth the extra cost or is not. Or if you're saying that it would not perform as well in climates colder than England or that it would not. Has anyone on the forum used ventile as a wind block layer in sub zero (F) temperatures and how well does it allow water vapor to pass?
  14. norton

    norton One of the Regulars


    If you've ever really needed good equipment you don't mind paying the price.
  15. Creeping Past

    Creeping Past One Too Many

    Oh yes! See the Antarctic gear thread from which this thread emerged.
  16. Dudleydoright

    Dudleydoright A-List Customer

    If you look into the "Anorak Like Brad Pitt wears" & "Antarctic" threads, you'll see that I have used Ventile in VERY cold temps and never had a problem. And we're talking Arctic here not the moderate UK climate.

    Just because it says "UK" where we are from doesn't mean we've only ever been here all along !! :)

    In the old days when only those who really knew what good kit was and who used it so much and so hard that spending the money to get the best andmost durable kit were those out there. Nowadays every Tom & Dick with some spare cash wants to look like they know and spend a lot of time in the great outdoors......... :rage:

  17. tjoek

    tjoek New in Town

    I have Lost Worlds ventile jacket and contrary to popular belief, ventile has the ability to absorb water to some degree (not totally waterproof). For light shower, the jacket will do fine however not under big rainy day as ventile will absorb the water as normal cotton.

    Having said all that, I love the natural feeling when you touch the fabric unlike gore-tex with the plastic feeling.
  18. Creeping Past

    Creeping Past One Too Many

    As has been mentioned here and in other threads, this fabric absorbs water until the long staple fibres expand to form a barrier to further water penetration.

  19. Yes, I don't think the "public belief" was ever that Ventile cloth was totally waterproof. It's gift is in being a natural, windproof, breathable layer but as Mr. Past says, it does indeed have a place, perhaps somewhat secondary in the "water resistant" category.

  20. After reading more and more, I'm beginning to believe that there's
    Ventile and Ventile...
    ...some folks believe/have experienced that, a) it's the wetting of the fibres, creating an eventual waterproof barrier and "waterproofness" and others believing that, b)cotton Ventile is a micro-porous (same benefit as the modern, synthetic high-tech cloths)cloth and actually "un-wettable", sheds water, duck's back style, yet allowing breathing.

    Read on:


    So- perhaps both are true, dependent on the specific cloth.


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