cagoules and anoraks

1:05 a.m. on November 29, 2011 (EST)
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One is a french word, but the other is an inuit word. They are both different articles of clothing. Have you used them?

6:17 a.m. on November 29, 2011 (EST)
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I have not used them, but I would like to know more about them, their origins, type of materials and applications.

Mike G.

8:10 a.m. on November 29, 2011 (EST)
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Strictly speaking, an anorak is a waterproof jacket with a hood and drawstrings at the waist and cuffs. I have a modern Pullover version, furless, I use regularly for very cold deep powder days. It keeps snow out well.

Wikipedia says, "Certain types of Inuit anoraks have to be regularly coated with fish oil to keep their water resistance".

Imagine rubbing fish oil all over your jacket and wearing it into polar bear country.


So much for not eating in the igloo.

9:45 a.m. on November 29, 2011 (EST)
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I have both cagoules and anoraks and have used them in various locales in Canada, for about 50 years, this includes the Canadian Northwest Territories, beginning in spring, 1966. These are the most useful overgarments available for harsh weather and good examples are made in Sweden, Norway, the UK and France, mine have been imports from these sources.

I have never heard of Inuit people using fish oils to supposedly waterproof their exterior clothing and I doubt that this happens. The anoraks now worn by these northern Canadians, are made of cotton or cotton-poly and insulated with wool duffle, making them from leather is not regularly practiced anywhere in Canada's high arctic and this region is so "dry" that in the cold months when they are worn, there would be no benefit to having a waterproof shell garment.

An event Anorak is perhaps the single most useful shell garment "south of 60" and a Ventile one for cold months would give one two of the most useful garments possible. I had a Black's of Greenock Ventile Anorak in the '70s and wish I could buy another plus an eVent one from some quality maker.

10:59 a.m. on November 29, 2011 (EST)
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 Dewey said,

I have never heard of Inuit people using fish oils to supposedly waterproof their exterior clothing and I doubt that this happens.

Of the dozen or so Inuit people I know I wouldn't put it past them.  But then again only knowing a handful and having visited several Alaskan villages doesn't make me an authority, so I'm not going to chime in like its a fact.

But Wikipedia if fact does say, "Certain types of Inuit anoraks have to be regularly coated with fish oil to keep their water resistance."  Whether or not wikipedia is correct I cannot confirm or deny, but the image it presents is entertaining.  

I would think that kayaking in a rough sea would be a time that a waterproof anorak might be nice, but I've never kayaked in the Arctic Ocean, so I can't know for sure.  

Any Inuit TS members out there?  Could use some of your knowledge.

11:19 a.m. on November 29, 2011 (EST)
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i think of these terms as describing a style of jacket rather than the material used.  for both, a defining feature is that the front zipper runs from the top to about mid-torso, rather than a full-length front zipper.  also, both tend to have a large front pocket, at a little above waist level, very often with openings on boths sides so you can insert both hands from either side.  most anoraks i can recall were either waist or hip length, whereas cagoules are much longer, extending to mid-thigh or knee. 

i skied and hiked in anorak shells for years, usually from LL Bean or some similar place.  mine were windshirts - uncoated, tightly woven nylon.  i don't think any of them were coated nylon or gore tex.  i liked the fact that they were lightweight and did a good job keeping wind out - an advantage of the shorter zipper.  i didn't like their limited ability to ventilate, a disadvantage of the short zipper.  they were also very slightly harder to take on and off because you have to pull them over your head.     

i only used a cagoule on a couple of hiking trips when i was in high school.  it was coated nylon and intended to substitute for a rain jacket and pants combo.  did a good job keeping the rain out; tended to get a little tangled up with my legs when the wind picked up, and it was pretty hot from the inside out - sweaty, hard to vent.  keeping in mind that this was pre-gore tex.

for the heck of it, i just ran a few searches and was surprised to see that someone still sells a traditional, coated nylon cagoule (campor, and it is inexpensive at forty bucks).  a number of companies make anoraks of different types.  north face has a nylon/hyvent anorak; montbell makes an ultralight nylon/pertex anorak that weighs under 3 ounces; arcteryx makes a high end (nearly $450) soft shell gore tex anorak.   

12:38 p.m. on November 29, 2011 (EST)
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Most traditional anoraks are not coated with anything. They are typically made of cotton, since these rarely if ever see actual rain they perform amazingly well. Cotton canvas is the fabric of choice for outerwear when temps are below freezing due to its superb breathability. They are also very durable. They are waterproof by design but will still get wet and freeze. Similar to a canvas wall tent.

More modern anoraks are made of uncoated nylons, and you can also find them made out of an assortment of waterproof fabrics...though that defeats the purpose of having a super breathable outer shell.

Whether fish oil was used or not i can't say, but waxed cotton was very common and was made with many different kinds of oils. I am sure fish oil or other sea creature blubber was used by some cultures as that is all that would have been available readily.

I use a waxed cotton shell in winter often and it works flawlessly.

If one is looking for a very budget friendly anorak the swiss army surplus ones can be had for really cheap, typically less than 20-25 euros.

1:06 p.m. on November 29, 2011 (EST)
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It is nice to hear that some of us still use them albeit in variations and others would like to know more. Pull overs marketed as "anoraks" today are often only waist length, but a traditional anorak sits about mid thigh, often with a crotch strap to keep it down. A cagoule in climbing/backpacking lingo, is usually about ankle length or at least mid calf. With a drawstring at the hem, they can be shortened to mid-thigh. Cagoules are cut very generously, so even in the waterproof non-breathable versions, they have good ventilation and are easy to walk in. They eliminate the need for rain pants in most situations and will serve as a bivouac shelter. "Crag" at Swallows Nest used to make very nice ones , and more recently, Northwerks made a breathable cagoule. 

Anoraks can be made from a variety of fabrics, cotton being traditional and still used, though coated fabrics are also common.Fjallraven makes a very nice traditional anorak.

Both items are distinguished by a pull over style, with a deep hood and tunnel neck for full weather protection. They are commonly not insulated, though some are double layers. A kangaroo pocket works well.

Dewey, would you like my Blacks of Greenock Stormpruf anorak? I bought it in London circa 1976 and I have to say the quality isn't what it was on the Relco Bobby anoraks.

1:54 p.m. on November 29, 2011 (EST)
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I still have and sometimes wear an original Black's orange-red coated nylon cagoule, the second of two I have had since circa 1970, I used these a lot in the early-mid '70s for lots of different treks and they were very useful, light and fitted into the rear pocket of my "Pioneer" cruiser's vest. I now have the Hille. Bivanorak and consider this to be among the most useful gear items I own, for many uses, but, it is not ideal for everything.

I have spent some time in the north and my wife was an Arctic "outpost" RN in the '70s, when I was still in wilderness forerstry work in northern BC. I have never seen an aboriginal person use fish oil for anything to do with clothing and I think that Wikipedia may be in error here, but, perhaps some did at one time in some areas. I cannot see any benefit to this and can see a couple of serious problems associated with doing it.

I think that any oils used by northern Canadian aborigines in traditional practices, would be rendered from pinnipeds and maybe cetaceans, not fish and I would be very interested in any further info. on this that anyone may have.

Erich, I would be interested in your anorak IF it would fit me, I am built like a "linebacker" and have a bullneck, large shoulders and a 48-49" chest. If, it is large enough and in very nice condition and is Ventile, I cannot recall if the Stormproof is that fabric due to it being over 35 years since I bought mine, I would pay you a decent price for it. Who, pray tell, is Relco Bobby as I do not recognize this name?

I know that some German firms made and may still make Ventile shells of different types and one expects gear made in Germany to be among the finest, so, I would also be grateful for any info. on obtaining a Ventile anorak from that source as well. I like it for wearing while snowshoe camping here in BC and prefer it to GoreTex for that and in very cold weather. Any sourcing info. id greatly appreciated.

2:58 p.m. on November 29, 2011 (EST)
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Somewhere in my closet, I have a couple of cagoules and an anorak or two. I used to use a cagoule plus my summit pack instead of a bivy. The summit pack was (is, since I still have it), a UK pack with a leather bottom and a fold-out waterproof section that you put your feet in and came up to above your waist. The cagoule (originally a monk's pull-over robe) had a hood that can be fairly tightly closed, no zippers, and extends down over the knees,so there is a large overlap of the cagoule and the pack.

In the 2006 photo below, Eiichi (on the right) is wearing the same cagoule he wore on the 1966 first ascent of Mt Vinson. The photo was taken on the shoulder of Vinson, a couple hundred feet below the summit. One of my cagoules is the same model as Eiichi's. The down parkas that John and Brian are wearing, by the way, are the Eddie Bauer parkas they wore, also on the 1966 first ascent - the American Antarctic Expedition.

6:12 p.m. on November 29, 2011 (EST)
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as we say in Vezoul : fou ta cagoule :

7:36 p.m. on November 29, 2011 (EST)
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I had a Black's of Greenock orange cotton anorak in the 1970's that I wore until it wore through. I use for my daily wear a colorful anorak made for L.L. Bean in the 1980's that has pit zips and is made of a "breathable, waterproof" Gore-tex like fabric. I spent a long time searching for a decent modern anorak before I found this one.

I like the old anoraks for their length. With ties at both waist and hem, you could sit down on a mossy rock and not get your butt wet.

Today the term anorak is overused - some major outdoor suppliers sell "anoraks" with full-length zippers (see ).

8:08 p.m. on November 29, 2011 (EST)
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Dewey, my Blacks anorak isn't going to fit you. Blacks made anoraks in the 70's both with a single layer of ventile, as well as the one I have with a ventile outer and a lighter cotton inner. As well, they started putting a layer of coated nylon inside over the shoulders. Relco Bobby Sportswear made both double and single layer ventile anoraks that REI sold in the sixties. They came in green, blue and orange. They were IMO better made than the Blacks. I still have two of them. Empire canvas makes cotton anoraks that are the real deal, being quite long. One advantage in very cold conditions that many may not realize, is that the breathable waterproof synthetic fabrics cease breathing. Cotton, especially ventile cotton, will continue to breathe even as the mercury drops way below freezing. Although there is no insulating value, the cotton acts as a windbreak, keeps the snow off, and breathes well in situations of heavy exertion.

Bill, I had one of those "bivy" packs until it died a few years ago. It had been made by Karrimor and I bought it in a little shop in Shasta City in about 1988.

An advantage of a cagoule, is that they are cut generously so that they can also cover a pack.

Ventile cotton is still the preferred material for RAF flight suits, and used extensively in the Antarctic. One source is Snowsled linked below.

8:24 p.m. on November 29, 2011 (EST)
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Kevin Kinney makes a really nice canvas anorak that is popular with Canadian winter campers-

There are several other makers as well, including this company-

Here are a couple of pictures on the Wintertrekking website-

Should be others in the clothing section.

This Swanndri Bushshirt isn't really an anorak, but it is cut like one and I saw a lot of them when I was in NZ years ago-



9:33 p.m. on November 29, 2011 (EST)
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I have a Columbia anorak from the late 80s.  Aren't they more commonly known now as just a pullover?  Made of some special nylon weave to resist water.  Pit zips.  One full side zip.  Coated, waterproof big center pocket with fleece behind it to act like a handwarmer pocket.  Big, lower center pocket with a sewn-in belt made so you can tuck the jacket into itself and wear like a fanny pack.  Attached hood.  It isn't something I would depend upon in a heavy rain, but it is great for light rain, misting, a windbreaker, and all around great piece of gear for around camp or as an outer shell for snowshoeing or winter backpacking.  Everything about this thing is designed and tailored perfectly.  It's my single most used piece of gear I've ever owned.  I know some people don't like them because they don't like how warm they can get without one big zipper in the front, but if you use them in the proper temperature range, I like them better than a traditional jacket or shell.

I believe some British (or maybe even European) companies call them a smock.

10:57 p.m. on November 29, 2011 (EST)
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Zeno, a smock is a type of pull over in common usage in the UK. Waist length pull overs, are sometimes called anoraks by manufacturers. However, a true anorak of the type we're talking about, is a mid thigh pull over, often with a crotch strap to hold it down. They are usually cut with raglan sleeves and are not cut with anything resembling a tailored fit. They are baggy so that layers of insulated clothing can be worn underneath.

Dewey(and others), I spoke with a kayaking friend who knows quite a bit about Inuit history, and anoraks for kayaking were oiled, often with seal oil. He didn't know about fish oil. In Greenland, traditional methods and gear have resurfaced recently(and have never really disappeared), so I wouldn't be surprised to find traditional clothes still being made.

12:34 a.m. on November 30, 2011 (EST)
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Erich, many thanks for the link to Snowsled gear, that is EXACTLY what I have wanted for several years as a Ventile parka was a major part of my working bush gear for most of my life. We had them made here in Vancouver, BC, once the "capital" of one of the world's largest forest, fisheries and mining industrial societies for decades an those by "Pioneer" were equal to any made anywhere.

As I have posted on TS, I bought a Black's when my "Pioneer" wore out and then a "Synergy Works" when my Black's wore out, the last is still in my closet, badly worn, but, full of mountain and ocean memories and will never be trash canned as long as I am still "this side of Paradise". For cold weather, I dislike any "canvas" as it will chafe you severely as will "60/40 cloth" and most synthetic shell fabrics, while Ventile is comfortable at any temp.

So, while I prefer eVent shells for most uses, BC has an annual temp. range from 105*F to -30ish,  most years, sometimes a bit hotter and often much colder and is WET, the Ventile shells are far nicer in cold and snow and I want another. They are horribly expensive, but, my simple lifestyle and budgeting seems to always bring me the gear, guns, books and Rottweilers I need, so, it will happen.

Yes, I posted that I thought that some aboriginals might well use Pinniped oils for treating clothing and all I have to say about that is better them then me! Fish oils, I doubt would ever be available in quantities as the oily fish such as Eulachon are not available there and the gawdawful reek of this would prevent any human from using it, then, as mentioned, there are the bears........

Very interesting, enjoyable and thought-provoking thread, all, I have learned from it and found myself recalling things I had forgotten for some forty years. Some guys I knew had the REI Ventile parkas back  then, but, I always bought what was available locally here in BC and did not join REI until 1975ish. I do agree that Blacks gear quality went downhill beginning in the early 70s and I stopped buying it after two mountain tents I bought from their head Canadian store when in Ottawa were just junk and then theu disappeared from the outlets here.

1:49 a.m. on November 30, 2011 (EST)
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Erich said:

Zeno, a smock is a type of pull over in common usage in the UK. Waist length pull overs, are sometimes called anoraks by manufacturers. However, a true anorak of the type we're talking about, is a mid thigh pull over, often with a crotch strap to hold it down. They are usually cut with raglan sleeves and are not cut with anything resembling a tailored fit. They are baggy so that layers of insulated clothing can be worn underneath.

 Thanks for clearing that up for me.  Mine looks a lot like that Snowsled Classic Smock (pouch pocket).

2:20 a.m. on November 30, 2011 (EST)
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I have not seen the Snowsled Anorak, so can't comment directly, but it looks short to me. I have seen and can attest that the Fjallraven Anorak, which is the same that they introduced in the 60's, is of the preferred anorak style, and has the crotch strap. They are not cheap at $300, but are a very well made product.

Zeno, you are welcome. Your avatar has the most triconis I've ever seen on a nailed boot.

2:38 p.m. on November 30, 2011 (EST)
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I'm cursing this thread and the mention of the Snowsled Classic Smock (pouch pocket).  I want one, and I cannot justify that price.  Horrible timing.  ARGH!

4:33 p.m. on November 30, 2011 (EST)
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The Empire Canvas Works products are really nice and very well made.  I met Kevin last month at a winter camping symposium and he is a very nice guy.  I will eventually pick up one of each of his clothing items.

I have always wanted a cagoule, campmor sells one in coated nylon but I'd rather have gore tex/event.  Unfortunately Northwerks went under.  I may someday sew my own from the Rainshed pattern.  The hilleberg bivanorak is not far off from a traditional caougle.

Rainshed pattern - add pit zips, not a bad option.

I frequently use my NOLS windshirt (anorak) when hiking.  A simple design with everything you need and nothing you do not need.  Mine is made by Kokatat for NOLS.

On my NOLS trip students without raingear were issued cagoules.  During the big storm the cagoule wearers stayed drier than everyone else.

5:05 p.m. on November 30, 2011 (EST)
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alan said:

Rainshed pattern - add pit zips, not a bad option.

 for convenience:

10:31 p.m. on November 30, 2011 (EST)
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I have a couple of light pull over wind shirts and they work well in summer. For shoulder season and winter conditions, besides the Empire Anorak, the Fjallraven linked below are the real deals.

10:31 p.m. on January 24, 2012 (EST)
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Anyone own, seen, or have an otherwise opinion on this ventile smock?

I'm still lusting over the Snowsled Classic, so I'm out digging.

7:51 a.m. on January 25, 2012 (EST)
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I have seen them in person Zeno, however i think 200 euros for it is astronomically high. They are pretty nice, but i wouldnt pay anywhere near that price for it. If your in the uk check out some surplus stores, i have seen them there in the past for much much less.

I would recommend the canvas anorak from

Made in USA, very good quality, and a superb product, and much less expensive at $150, thats what a $100 savings i think

Then there is always the Sewdish army snow smock, very cheap, durable, and very functional. Easily found on ebay and some other sites. Usually around 13-15 euro


8:53 a.m. on January 25, 2012 (EST)
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I just came in from my usual AM walk-about.   32 degrees, and frozen fog.  Kinda coats one in ice, after a half-hour, or so.


I was wearing one of my anoraks.   This one being an L.L. Bean, insulated one with a fine hood.   Not sure of the insulating material, as the label is in Japanese.   I usually find the Japanese make quality merchandise.   These are rare.

Without actually going into my 'man cave' / storage, I would guess (?) I probably have about 10  (probably more) anoraks, of various configurations and materials ... including wool, Ventile, poly-cotton, technical fabric, etc.

I have been at this hiking / backpacking / camping thing, for OVER 50 years.

Anoraks were among my earliest, and preferred acquisitions.  A few vintage Eddie Bauer pieces, with the "Expedition Outfitter" designation on the label ...NOT the current "Outdoor Outfitter" on the label, which I believe began when that "German newspaper,  Der Spiegel " (joke) took over, have done yeoman service, over many years of rough use.

 A few Patagonia examples have proven to be of good quality.   Also, a very old (late 1950s ?) Abercrombie & Fitch (when that outfit, in Manhattan, was THE source of the finest in expedition and safari outfitting).

I even have a handmade leather anorak, which has served me well in the construction business, where toting rough-cut lumber easily shreds lesser materials.   It HAS become somewhat the worse for wear, though.

Also, in my "quiver", is an unusual sleeveless anorak, which is used in lieu of a vest.

Part of my preference for anoraks, is the freedom of movement through the upper-torso.   I am sorta a "V"-shaped guy.   Take a men's size LARGE through the chest and shoulders, and a size SMALL at the waist.   (NO "middle-aged spread").   Also, one does not have to fumble about with a zipper (at the lower part of the garment),  as on a jacket.   Loosening the waist drawstring (or cord) enables excellent venting of body heat.

                             ~ r2 ~

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