View Full Version : Cool weather sailing gear

11-17-2005, 09:23 AM
We finally got our first good cold front, so it won't be too long before the water temp starts falling. I got in some good sailing time during the summer, but starting to wonder about sailing during the cooler months. I'm sailing an open 14' boat, so the risk of taking a spill is a concern. I'd like to hear some recommendations on what type of clothing/gear to wear. I'm sure the folks at the local West Marine could give plenty of good advice, but I'd like to hear the thoughts of people who aren't trying to sell me something and have real experience.
Thanks, Al

11-17-2005, 09:26 AM
almeyer...We are talking Galveston Bay...
Now I worked in Highlands...about 20 miles as the crow flies from you...
Maybe being a Yankee, I do not think you have weather that gets too cold..Think it snowed twice in two years there.
So, what temps are you thinking about.
Now in New England...at this time of the year...I would suggest a wet suit...not appropriate for Galveston I would think.

martin schulz
11-17-2005, 09:42 AM
I alway wear thick classic wool pullovers and just put classic oilskins above it.

That works quite well and is really cheap. On the other hand if you are not constantly standing at the helm of a big working boat, but sit a lot in a chrouched position, with exposed back, modern waterresistance "breathing" materials like that professional sailing wear from "Helly Hansen", "Musto" or "Pro Rainier" must be your choice.

11-17-2005, 09:45 AM
Whatever you do...don't use the fake stuff...nylon..Wool is the best...It may get wet but it keeps the heat.
Your quiry also doesn't give a price range...
I have had a Gill off shore for 5 yrs...Great but extremely expensive.
Of course, my theory often is...buy something good that will last or you will always be in the market to replace any cheap stuff.

11-17-2005, 10:08 AM
Always over-dress as it is colder out there than it seems from the shore. Get a good dry-bag and use it for extra/removed layers.

Polypropulene longjohns, wool soxs/pants/shirt/sweater. I prefer fleece vests, as vests in general have more freedom of motion than layers of sweaters and coats.

Consider a thin poly balaclava, plus a thicker wool cap over it. Some wool caps have an artificial lining to reduce the 'itchies' effect.

Several pairs of gloves, either wool or wool under leather, or whatever works for you. Use the extra pair when your hands get chilled and wet -- as they will.

Your choice of foul-weather gear over that, bib-overall pants and good marine rubber boots strongly recommended.

[ 11-17-2005, 10:10 AM: Message edited by: Thorne ]

11-17-2005, 10:15 AM
Granted, "cold" is relative. What's frigging cold to me is probably very mild to folks from more northern climates. Last week the air temp was 80 deg F, with water temp in the mid 70s. My normal sailing attire is shorts, t-shirt, and a PFD. I'm not worried so much about the air temperature, I've got a knit cap, wool gloves, wool socks, etc. My biggest concern is keeping warm if I should take a spill.

Bruce Hooke
11-17-2005, 11:04 AM
My basic routine when it comes to cold weather conditions in which I might get wet is to eliminate ALL cotton. I even go so far as to wear polypro underwear, but that is probably only really necessary for comfort when I know I am going to get wet. I've done things like put my foot through the ice out in the woods when it was well below freezing and done just fine because everything I was wearing was either wool or synthetic. That time it took me about half and hour to hike back to the car and while my foot was wet, which was not that comfortable, it did not get cold. A good second line of defense is having spare clothes in a dry bag. A wool hat is also easy to carry and useful if you start to get cold.

You'll have to gauge what you actually wear depending on the actual temperatures you are dealing with. From the sounds of it, "cold" in your area may well be roughly the same as summer sailing in Maine (hell, I've seen days in July in Maine when the air temperature never broke 70, and you don't even want to know what the water temperature was!), in which case "full" cold weather gear -- polypro and wool in layers -- would likely boil you alive!

Both wool and appropriate synthetics will keep you warm when wet, so which you choose is largely a matter of personal preference. I tend towards wool, but there are some good arguments to be made for fleece and similar synthetic fabrics.

It should be noted that there are fancy suits designed for cold-weather small boat sailing, and if you are out a lot doing things like racing I'm sure these suits make sense, but I'm sure they are also not cheap! Good wool and polypro gear is not real cheap either, but at least it is more versitile.

[ 11-17-2005, 11:06 AM: Message edited by: Bruce Hooke ]

Brian Palmer
11-17-2005, 12:49 PM
We used to paddle whitewater year round in North Carolina.

I would recommend looking at what the kayaking community would wear if you think you may need to self-rescue from a flip:

Polypro and pile (fleece) insulation covered with waterproof spray pants and spray top that seal at the ankles, waist, wrist, and neck, or a dry suit. Much more comfortable than the equivalent warmth in a wetsuit. Wetsuit booties over polypro socks.

I know from first-hand experience that the above will keep you warm and functional after a swim, even without a change of clothes.

I would stay away from oilskins and boots if you think you may need to self rescue. They would be too heavy when wet to get yourself back on board, even if they are fleece or wool. Honest.

-- Brian

11-17-2005, 09:40 PM
YOU SIMPLY CAN'T BEAT WOOL. It keeps you warm wet or dry. It also keeps you comfortable over a wider range of temps than fleece. Filson and woolrich both make wool vests by the way, Filson's by far the best [and priciest]

11-17-2005, 10:46 PM
CAUTION: Any advice you receive from this poster is probably worth as much as you've paid for it! :D

Almeyer, all these guys have given you some pretty good advice.

I used to fish in the Gulf during the winter off the Miss. coast. I tried a lot of different stuff but when I moved up to WA state, I learned to dress differently.

An 80 year old fisherman told me to get myself some polypropylene underwear(like cross country skiers use)and wear wool over it and use any cheap GoreTex to cover it from the wind and spray. By gosh he was exactly right! smile.gif

Polypro "wicks" the sweat away from your skin keeping you dry, and, as searcher said,100% wool will keep you warm wet or dry and you can wring it out if need be. I bought a set of Gortex parka and pants for about $100 to wear over it all with and I stayed toasty warm! :cool:

You might want to take a look at what Brian Palmer said about recovering from a swim. It's not a big problem, like it is in the NW, but
Galveston Bay water temperatures (http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/dsdt/wtg12.html) are still low enough to cause hypothermia. (If you're smart, you'll read up on it so you know what to look for.)

WHEN you turn over while sailing, if you have to be in cold water more than 16~18 minutes, your brain starts to slow down and you can get into real trouble 'cause you just can't think straight. You don't have to freeze to die of hypothermia, just stay a little too cold for a little too long and you're in trouble. :(

Also, it'd be smart to talk to the search and rescue people or stop by for a cup of coffee at the local Coast Guard station and ask about sailing out there. They can tell you a helluva' lot about winter sailing on Galveston Bay.

I hope you find a good combination that'll keep you warm and dry so you can really enjoy the sailing. If you do come up with a winning combination, I'd like to hear about it.

Have fun ! :D

11-18-2005, 08:04 AM
Wool is the key. Fleece is good but nothing beats wool. For cold weather sailing I wear wool sockes, poly pro long johns, poly pro, I think it's called dri-tec turtle neck, wool sweater farmer johns and a kayaking top.
I have tried any number of foulies and combinations over the years and the absolute best as far as mobility, waterproofness, toughness etc has been the Patagonia basic kayaking top. Mine is coming up on twenty years old and still going strong. The cuufs and neck can be cinched up and are watertight, the jacket is extremely light weight and is cut very full through the arms and shoulders so it offers a lot of unrestricted mobility.
As Bruce said NO COTTON. EVER.
Wool watch cap, a good cigar, and a hot cup of coffee round out the gear.

11-18-2005, 08:22 AM
Don't cleat your sheet.

martin schulz
11-18-2005, 08:50 AM
BRRR - 23° Fahrenheit this morning.

My sails are still on the boat - I wonder if I should sail the "Grogtörn" on December 26th - its only 38 days left?

Russ Manheimer
11-18-2005, 09:11 AM
Here's my solution for cold weather sailing!


Does anyone know of a source for suitable wool pants or overalls?


11-18-2005, 09:19 AM
Just remember...wool pants and overalls can soak up a lot of water if you go over...and they are hard to get out of...
If you want to...check out the sports/hunting stores...for such items...

Ian McColgin
11-18-2005, 09:34 AM
Firstly, don't even think of skimping on the PFD. I preferr a high-bouyancy rescue type that fits my body well, worn over any wool or poly fleece layer and under the outer foul-weather gear top.

Grundens or any such working gear will do just fine.

Make sure your foul weather pants are outside the boots. Nothing worse than trying to swarm back aboard a half swamped boat with a hundred pounds of water trapped with you.

I've been in the water after mid-winter capsizes wearing wool and wearing poly (under the Grundens) and don't think it matters too much which you choose. Wear whichever you feel happiest in.

An alternative to the PFD is Mustang's float coat. I've compared Mustang float coats and survival/work suits side by side with Stern's and it's flat simple get the Mustang. Period.

Back to the float coat - get the longer one with the "beaver tail" that will give you better insulation in the water and incidentally keeps the jacket from riding up if you're in the water. Even the bomber style - really comfortable if you're working a barge or something - rides up annoyingly when you hit the drink.

If you really want to go whole hog, Mustang makes some wonderful work suits - looks a bit like a snowmobile suit. These are a bit less hairy than the various ice and immersion survival-work-rescue suits which you really don't need for recreational sailing. I like the model with thigh staps to help constrict water when you're in.

An aside on snowmobile suits - most I've seen hold on to a lot of water. I'd not use one sailing. Regular foul weather gear with wool or poly under will get ride of much extra water as soon as you get out - drains right off those fibres but will not drain out of quilted insulations.

Whether a build up of wool or poly under traditional foul weather gear or a float coat or a work suit, pucker up and get in the water some cold day so you know what it'll feel like. All these things let the cold water in at first but if you're suited right, you'll be limiting the water movement and will warm a bit even in the water (especially if in the panic you take a whizzz) and you'll get nicely warm once back in the boat.

I don't have the gear to scan and post it, but I've a lovely photo of me just after returning from a mid-winter sail where I'd dumped the boat about 5 miles off-shore and had a hellacious beat back. My beard had not yet turned the white it is now, but it looked it with the sea frost. I'd just taken off my outer coat and my PFD so the Norweegan sweater is hanging dankly about me.

I was maybe 3 minutes in the water getting the boat upright and over an hour and a half sailing back towards warmth, and I was just fine, no lowered core temp or any such.

I've spent similar time in cold water and sailing after in my Mustang float coat - more comfortable - in my Mustang work suit - far more comfortable and worth the money if you're at all active - like weekly or more.

I also kayak and love my full body goretex dry suit, in which I can also recreational swim all winter if I want - but such is not necessary for sailing, unless you're doing some very active frost bite racing.


11-18-2005, 10:25 AM
for full cold weather suit...not storm weather...i use Henri Lloyd foul weather gear...really bad weather I slip into a wet suit or an arctic mustang suit...and kept a pair of mustang suits at lose hand and a spare in the life raft when offshore.....and when in Iceland, I had several cable knit long tail sweaters made so I could pull the bottom under my fanny when I sat down on a cold cockpit seat.....Icelandic wool..the best of the best...

11-18-2005, 03:33 PM

Check out Cabela's. they have wool overalls and wool pants. So does LL Bean. Malone cloth wool is almost too damn warm. We wore malone cloth in the woods in NH when I was a log hog. The stuff is briar proof and with enough bar and cahain oil on them they get pretty damn waterproof. You just have to get used to smelling like wet sheep.

11-18-2005, 09:02 PM
Filson in Oregon (?) they have a web site probably has the finest wool products on the market, pants and bib overalls included. They are doing alot of finer marino wool as well.
Nobody has mentioned silk, one of only three natural fabrics that wick. More comfortable against the skin than polly, and doesn't get that nasty stink. Tough as hell, you can machine wash it. Anyone know the third material?

Todd Bradshaw
11-19-2005, 04:42 AM
I can't imagine trying to sail a small boat in Malone Wool or Filson garments - especially if you get dunked and they're wet. I love them and spent about 20 years using and selling them, but for dinghy sailing? No way! Even 31 oz., double-twisted Malone wool makes a pretty good radiator if you dunk it and then blow wind across it's surface. Plus, they'll be heavy as hell because wool is a hydrophyllic material (it likes water and tends to soak up quite a bit of it) as are cotton (big time) and silk.

Nothing other than some form of neoprene (wetsuit-like) garment, or a drysuit (seals at wrists, neck and ankles with gaskets) is going to keep you warm while you're in the water, because regular clothing is going to be full of water that's moving in and out and taking your heat with it. While you're swimming, you can be wearing cotton, wool, polarfleece, polypro or nothing at all and you're still going to be losing core temperature at about the same rate.

If you think you might be in the water for a while, or if you haven't tried dumping the boat and recovering in conditions severe enough to capsize and don't have a clue how long it will take to get back in, then the only truly safe option is to dress for immersion - and that generally means only the wetsuit/drysuit types of gear. On the other hand, if you're convinced that you can dump the boat and be back up and in in a couple of minutes, you can leave the rubber stuff behind and go for more conventional clothing. Once you climb back aboard, different fabrics will perform the task of getting you comfortable again at different levels.

Wool does insulate pretty well when wet, even though it's just soaked up a lot of weight, tends to be abrasive and won't dry out particularly quickly. It insulates well for several reasons: It's stiff fibers don't squash down much, even when wet, so it still maintains a layer of insulation over you (by trapping air in small parcels, which is what is actually doing the insulating). Wool fibers are also supposedly hollow, so there is insulating air inside them as well. Some wool garments, like Paladin's Icelandic sweater create high loft with minimal amounts of stuff and drain really well and quickly. The fiber will still be wet and your body heat is what is being used-up in an effort to dry it out, but rapid draining aids drying. The tightly woven, slower draining, heavy Malone/Filson wools are going to suck an awful lot of heat out of you before they ever even approach feeling warm and dry again.

Note that any insulating layer (even a wetsuit to some extent, but especially, wool, fleece, etc.) is only going to be able to keep you warm once you're back in the boat if you block the wind with some sort of windproof layer over it. Otherwise, your sweater is a radiator and if you're sailing in ten or twelve knots of wind in a wet wool sweater or polarfleece top, that wind is going to be constantly blowing away your insulating dead air that the garment is trying to trap. Cool, wet, windy conditions are generally much more likely to kill you than winter-type cold - unless you can block the wind and prevent the introduction of more cold water into your insulating layers.

"Wicking" moisture is a very overused term, and often it's not used properly. Natural fibers, with their hydrophyllic nature don't really wick moisture all that well when tested in a lab and compared to some of the new synthetics. They suck it up OK, but then tend to hold it. They do, however often allow your body heat to drive moisture away from your skin. Silk does this because it's so thin. It doesn't take very long (or much of your limited heat supply) to drive the moisture away, leaving you a semi-dry layer against your skin which can then start trapping still air and insulating. Wool will do the same thing. You dry from the inside-out, like a dog (may kind of smell like one, too). Oiled wool, like the old Peter Storm sweaters, works even better because the oil helps keep the wool from absorbing as much water, so less drying is needed (but you REALLY smell like a wet dog).

Despite all the folklore and tradition surrounding the old favorite natural fibers, the modern synthetics (good ones) are pretty hard to beat for insulation garments and underwear. They absorb many times less water, so once you climb out of the water, they're a lot less wet. They're instantly much lighter and drain even faster than Paladin's Ice-Wool sweater. You can wring them out, put them back on and they will instantly feel very close to dry. You'll notice that the best, serious fleece garments don't have knit cuffs, waistbands, etc. That's because these things dry a lot slower. They'll just have a thin binding on the bottoms of the body and sleeves for neatness, but nothing that stays wet.

Unlike wool, these fabrics aren't quite as hard or durable. They pack down easier and wear thin faster, which is why they make pretty mediocre socks compared to wool. But in terms of fast draining, quick drying, limiting water absorption to begin with and quickly allowing your body heat to dry them out (at least to a reasonably comfortable level) wool isn't even close.

The fibers used to make synthetic underwear fabrics are actually hydrophobic (they don't absorb water - they're plastic) but their surface is treated to be hydrophyllic (sucks up water). These fibers dry you by sucking up water on their outsides without soaking their cores. Body heat drives the water away from you and the moisture is spread out where it can either evaporate or wander off into outer layers of clothing, where at least it's not chilling you at the skin level. No natural fiber does this bi-level approach and even the best of them soak up water to the tune of around 20%-40% of their weight, compared to about 1%-2% for polypropylene fiber and 2%-3% for polyester fiber. The less wet your clothing is when you start the body-heat-drying-your-insulation process, the faster you'll be warm and the more heat you will have conserved in the process.

The dreaded "polypro stink" that some synthetic underwear develops is related to the low water absorption. At only 1%-1.5% absorption, polypropylene fibers absorb so little water that they won't soak up enough wash water to clean out body oils, etc. Early Lifa polypro underwear proved that the wicking process was wonderful, but companies like Patagonia (makers of Capilene underwear) and a few others soon found that treated polyesters would do the wicking/hydrophyllic/hydrophobic thing and still absorb just enough soap and water to come clean in the laundry room. It also tended to last longer and didn't get that stiff, nasty feel that early polypro developed in time. If you've been using old synthetic underwear that feels nasty (and may even smell nasty) try the new stuff and witness progress for yourself, but remember that you get what you pay for. Patagonia, North Face and Thermax may cost three times as much as the stuff from Sears, but there is probably a very good reason for it. Somebody big enough to have in-house brands (like REI or LL Bean) is probably a better source if you're looking for something at a somewhat lower price. Northwest River Supplies (rafting and whitewater gear) is also a great source for clothing to get seriously wet in while boating.

Anyway, sorry this is so long and hopefully I didn't dyslexify and mis-spell too many words, but that's what I learnt about dressing for success when I owned a backpacking/canoeing/kayaking/sailing/ski shop.

[ 11-19-2005, 04:49 AM: Message edited by: Todd Bradshaw ]

11-19-2005, 05:28 AM
O.K. Al, I am over on Mobile Bay so what you've got I've got.

The one thing that you don't exactly explain is what kind of boat you are sailing. Are you sailing something like a Beetle Cat or are you sailing a Laser? Makes a big difference. For the Beetle Cat during the winter I just wear layers. Tee shirt, pullover, fleece, and then a traditional foul weather jacket to keep off the wind and spray. I wear fleece pants or sweats and whatever shoes that I feel like wearing.

For the Finn I wear a wicking tee, a long sleeved tee, my spray top,and my pfd on my upper body. Under that I wear my neopreme bottoms with thermal socks and boots. I almost always wear gloves in the cold weather. Probably the most important piece of gear that I wear in the winter is a good sailing hat to cover my ears. All of the sailing gear stores have them now. Usually from Patagonia or someplace like that.

It's not like it's snowing or anything, and if one of our infrequent northers do happen to blow up then the fireplace and a warm cup of something is probably the best bet anyway.

Mickey Lake

cedar savage
11-19-2005, 08:06 AM

I think the best advice you've gotten on this thread comes from Todd.

What you might want to do to see for yourself what works in your environment is to go to a local windsurfing beach and chat up the (least idiotic) folks there.

As a former cold climate - Lake Superior never gets much above 42 degrees F - windsurfer, I've been continuously wet and exposed to
high wind in air temps in the mid-50's with small ice still on the water.

I would wear high traction neoprene boots that came up over the ankle, a farmer john wetsuit, two layers of body hugging polypro long sleeve shirts - one of which was a turtleneck and a patagonia paddling jacket with seals at waist, wrists and neck. I experimented with lightweight nylon windblocker pants, but found them to be unneeded while actively windsurfing but nice to slip into on shore while resting.

In this combination, I would be on the water for an hour or so at a time, generally taking a "full body immersion" with a swim back to the board 4 or 5 times, so I was constantly wet.

The key is to be able to get back to shore.

[ 11-19-2005, 08:08 AM: Message edited by: cedar savage ]

Gary Bergman
11-19-2005, 09:57 AM
Whatever you wear, make sure a handheld VHF is in the pocket, as that's about the best answer for preventing hypothermia...

Gary E
11-19-2005, 10:36 AM
Most all of the above is not wrong,
BUT he said this....

I'm sailing an open 14' boat, so the risk of taking a spill is a concern. It's not big, it's open, it's not a "deep sea sailboat" ...therefore use some common sense, put on some sweats and carry a decent foul weather rain gear and your life jacket. Then look at the weather, STAY HOME when it looks like RITA is comming.

Todd Bradshaw
11-19-2005, 11:41 AM
It would be hard to find anything worse to wear than sweats - if you mean the cotton ones.

Gary E
11-19-2005, 12:51 PM
He said COOL WEATHER and it's not anything like your Wisconsin definition of cool.

Galveston "cool" is about like Manitowoc summer.

[ 11-19-2005, 01:23 PM: Message edited by: Gary E ]

11-19-2005, 11:13 PM
Thank you all for your responses. A lot of good advice, it may take me awhile to sort it all out and decide what works for my situation. But some things are immediately obvious:

- "use common sense" I got the chance to do quite a bit of sailing this summer, and feel much more confident than I did this time last year. But since I'm mostly self-taught, I also recognize that I'm still somewhat a ways down on the learning curve. The boat I sail is a Penobscot 14. It's a dry boat under decent conditions, and I'm cautious enough (or maybe just too damn scared) to go out when it's really snorting. This summer I accidentally swamped the boat, fortunately it was right near the dock. Learned a lot from that misfortune. Everything that wasn't lashed down floated off or sank, including my spare paddle. It also took what seemed forever to bail the boat using a one-gallon bucket. In summer water and being near the dock, it was inconvenient, but not dangerous. But I don't like the idea of spending that much time in the water when the temp is between 45 and 60 degrees.

- "don't cleat the sheet" This advice was also given on the forum when I was trying to set up the rig. It sounded like good advice, so I left off a cleat for the sheet. The sheet goes in one hand, the tiller in the other.

- "don't skimp on the PFD" My job requires that I go out on the water from time to time, and company policy is that PFDs are mandatory, unless you are in an enclosed cabin. I carry that practice through on my own boating, and wear a PFD religiously. It seems that a PFD won't do you any good if you're not wearing it.

- Floatcoats. The company not only bought me a PFD, but also a floatcoat. It's a Stearns, not a Mustang, but I won't look a gift horse in the mouth. I did some rowing last winter, and the floatcoat is really too warm for that, so I went back to the PFD. I row on the local bayous, nice flat water, well protected, so the risk of a capsize is somewhat less than the more open water that I sail on. And if I do get into trouble, the bank is seldom more than 25 yards away. But for sailing, the floatcoat might work well.

- polypro underwear/wetsuits/drysuits. I've got to educate myself on this. My next door neighbor is a distributor for surfer-type gear; he recommended a drysuit. Looked through one of his catalogs last night and could read the words well enough, but didn't understand any of what I was reading. Need to also go back through all of your responses and try to digest a little more slowly. Thanks again for your advice.


Todd Bradshaw
11-20-2005, 05:57 PM
Gary, I know what he means, but I wouldn't wear cotton sweats for dinghy sailing or kayaking in Manitowoc in the summer either. Cotton, especially a thick weave of it, is so bad that it's off the scale and I didn't even bother to mention it in the big post above. It soaks up water like a sponge (probably better than most sponges) holds it forever and in a cool wind you'll have hypothermia long before your body heat has come anywhere near being able to dry it out at all or make you even close to comfortable, but wet. It also weighs a ton, sags like crazy and makes it much harder to get back in the boat and back to sailing. Read the equipment and clothing lists for any small boat sailing, kayaking or rafting outfitter and the first thing they'll tell you is don't bring cotton.

I'm not sure whether Al's weather (and his abilities to get back in the boat quickly if dumped) will require a wetsuit or drysuit and they sometimes aren't the most comfortable things to wear, but certainly something more technical than a pair of cotton sweats is in order. It might be worth checking out the "Hydroskin" garments from Northwest River Supplies.
They are essentially very thin neoprene and much more comfortable than a regular wetsuit, but still offer some protection in cool weather and water. That's what I use on Lake Superior in the summer and what I would probably use in this case. It's not cheap stuff, but isn't horribly pricy and holds up well.

Ron Williamson
11-21-2005, 06:21 AM
Wet cotton on skin, is worse(or better,obviously,on a hot day) than bare skin,when it comes to heat loss.

11-28-2005, 10:51 AM
A last question or two: why is wool so much more comfortable over a wider range of temp than fleece [I have worked on land and sea in both] and why, when you work in wool does persp bead up on the outside, if it isn't wicking?

Todd Bradshaw
11-29-2005, 12:07 AM
It may seem silly at first, but you can't really make a statement like that - at least not without being a whole lot more specific and doing a bunch of research to be certain you're comparing apples to apples. There are too many different types of both wool and fleece garments - different fibers, different weaves, different amounts of breathability, water-repellency, wind-tightness, insulation value and a whole bunch of other variables to accurately compare one garment to another and make such broad claims about the different material groups.

You certainly might find that your Woolrich 85% wool/15% nylon twill-weave, 18 oz. Stag shirt seems to have a broader temperature range or more breathability than your North Face 9oz. Malden Mills Polarfleece pullover, and it well might, but doesn't give you enough technical ammo to make any kind of generalized claim about wool vs. fleece. There are most likely other aspects or uses where that specific fleece garment may be a better choice than that wool one and come out on top of the heap. The categories are just too broad for generalizing.

It's also very true that people believe in what they believe in. Hard-core wool lovers, or fleece lovers for that matter, aren't about to jump the fence and switch just because somebody told them to. Their perceptions of the performance of their garments are colored to some extent by what they believe. As a retailer, your best bet is to give advice and technical education when asked for it, but stock both and sell the customer what he wants to buy. There is so much non-technical, mumbo-jumbo, old wive's tale, "my uncle Ernie says I should get" stuff floating around in the outdoor gear industry that it sometimes drives you up the wall. You help as much as you can and enjoy the fact that the guy you couldn't talk out of the cotton stuff will eventually freeze to death and fall victim to natural selection. :D

Wild Wassa
11-29-2005, 12:43 AM
I like my cold weather gear, when we race we always get wet. Ordinary or inappropriate gear can be a hinderance and uncomfortable. Crappy PFD's get caught in the rigging, and with windchill factors bad gear is dangerous, etc.

Harken gloves perfect for Spectra and Kevlar lines and they dry soft. I think they are called Black Magic gloves because of the extra grippy palms.
Ronstan deck boots, above ankle for hiking out.
An O'Neil Reactor 2mm wet suit. Knee to elbow. With seamless flex zones.
A Jet Pilot, A-10 body moulded side entry competition PFD (or vest as Jet Pilot calls them). When it is cold or wet it really works well. Well worth the money and you look like a Starship Trooper, :rolleyes: . Mine is all silver, the two tone vests look cheesy.
A good spray jacket with a high collar but without a hood, I prefer. The Ronstan Gortex jackets are very fashionable and practical and non-chaffing and allow a good stretch. With Velcro wrist and waist adjustments.
... and a baseball cap.

All up, a couturier's eyeful.


[ 11-29-2005, 08:05 PM: Message edited by: Wild Wassa ]

11-29-2005, 08:51 AM
Jeezus, folks, we need some PHOTOS here -- these descriptions are too good to not see them fully.

;- )

Tod and others really hit the nail on the head with the wool vs fleece discussions. It is very technical and of course varies from wool to wool, artificial fleece to fleece.

There are many types of wool, altho these have diminished with the use of artificial fibers over the years. Some reprocessed wools are really different from virgin wools.

In the '70's I picked up some polo team uniform shirts from an estate sale, made in the 20's from top-end New Zealand wool -- these could be worn directly against bare skin and were lovely and soft even at that advanced age. Supposedly this wool was made from just the top/soft ends of the wool fibers.

In a very basic sense, one of wool's main advantages is the wicking of moisture away from the skin, or through the garment. This is due primarily to the hollow fibers in virgin wool. Wool socks are a primary example of this function, wicking moisture away from damp feet and sealed boots up into the air at the ankles where it can disperse.

For sailing your PB 14 down there, you probably don't need all the wetsuit gear that boardsailors use, as I suspect you won't be swamping it too many more times. So pick kit that you feel (and look) comfortable in, and carry extra layers in drybags (which also double as floatation bags if secured under thwarts).

[ 11-29-2005, 08:52 AM: Message edited by: Thorne ]

Wild Wassa
11-29-2005, 07:33 PM
Thorne, all too easy. We don't have the luxury of warm water in the mountains, that the costal sailors have, 12" under the surface it is freezing and life threatening if you stay wet for a couple of hours because of the chill factor.

I will not put the gear on, I hope you don't mind because someone will laugh.

The silver vest turns heads, well I think it is the vest that is turning the heads, unless I look like a ballet nobilo in the tight pants.



The gloves are grey but didn't photograph well.


[ 11-29-2005, 08:09 PM: Message edited by: Wild Wassa ]

12-01-2005, 10:50 AM
Gentlemen, this has been most informative. I have been converted to poly undies, at least. I still vote for woolsweaters, vests, socks, etc.
I am thinking a pair of mid weight wool tights under foul weather gear might be ideal. Actually, poly of the same weight should work too. Any coments?

Todd Bradshaw
12-01-2005, 12:55 PM
If it's polyester (Patagonia Capilene, Thermax, North Face, etc. - good quality stuff) rather than polypropylene, it should work substantially better than wool tights. Performance-wise for wet activities, wool tights haven't been at, or even close to, the top of the heap since the early 1970's.

12-03-2005, 01:55 AM
If your not into brand names or fancy colors, you might check out the stuff at the army surplus store. It's not all great stuff but some of it is.