Oilskin Outerwear

7:35 p.m. on November 15, 2013 (EST)
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Has anyone ever used oilskin? I understand it will be heavy, but I am thinking it would be a useable alternative to breathable rain shells or PU/PVC rainshells.

How is the maintenance like on them and are they actually 100% waterproof? Do they breathe at all?

3:33 a.m. on November 18, 2013 (EST)
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I have an Aussie oilskin duster, the real deal. Heavy, waterproof, not what I would wear camping. Great if you are on a horse or want to look like a cowboy. I got mine just for the heck of it and wear it for a retro raincoat. I rarely wear mine so haven't had to seal it again but if it got a lot of use then I think you would. Oilskin is basically coated canvas.It doesn't really breathe.

7:46 a.m. on November 18, 2013 (EST)
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i bought myself a browning oilskin field jacket to celebrate passing the bar exam in 1993.  looks kind of like a lot of hunting jackets - lots of pockets, loops for shotgun shells, a large zippered pocket in the back where i could carry pheasant carcasses if i were a hunter.

i still have the jacket, it is in excellent shape.  I suppose it could be an alternative to a PVC rain shell.  it functions more or less the same, anyway - waterproof, essentially, heavy, and not at all breathable.  

you have to maintain these occasionally to keep them waterproof.  driza-bone and barbour sell tins of reproofing stuff, which is basically a gooey waxy paste.  you heat the paste in a shallow pan of warm water, then wipe it onto the jacket with a cloth.  i think companies that make these also offer professional reproofing for a price.  i have re-done mine on 2 or 3 occasions over the years, and it is mostly waterproof - i haven't worn it in an all-day rain, but for going out to dinner or walking the dog, it keeps me dry.  

in my opinion, these kinds of jackets are an interesting look, and functional for wearing around town, slow strolls in the woods on a wet afternoon, a damp sporting event.  not my choice for hiking, backpacking, or anything active.  

9:18 a.m. on November 18, 2013 (EST)
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Thanks guys!

1:25 p.m. on November 18, 2013 (EST)
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Hi Kyle,

I have had "oil skin" garments since the 1960's, starting with Filson Tin Pants and Cruiser Vest, and then in the '70s, Belstaff and Barbour for motorcycle clothing. Basically, the material is cotton, of various weights. Belstaff and Barbour use an oxford cloth, Filson likes 10 oz duck. Filson wax has no solvent, the Belstaff is wax with a white gas additive to make it easier to apply. Don't use in direct flame!

I worked outside in Filson double tin pants. They are heavy, and no matter what the level of coating, they will eventually start to get you wet if it is pouring. They are incredibly durable and heavy and comfortable. My first pants lasted 20 years, some of the working summers fighting forest fires and working in the woods. I would call them more water resistant than water proof. To make them really water proof, they need a lot of wax, and then they don't breathe as well. I still use a Filson Tin hat on some canoe trips. The Belstaff and Barbour wear kept me dry, but again, I had to use a lot of wax and regularly add more. Their system of using white gas as an emulsifier is a good one as the wax is easy to get into the fabric. One note, is that the light weight cloth in the Belstaff and Barbour clothing means that the stiff waxed parts can wear prematurely. Not a big deal overall, but after ten years of riding with it, the corners of the bellows pokets started to wear.

For hiking clothing, it is too heavy, imo. If you are a logger or lineman, it is a good alternative where it is wet, like a northwest drizzle, rather than a down pour.

1:03 p.m. on November 24, 2013 (EST)
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I like Filson garments and they have been in my family for 4 generations. In really wet conditions like the PNW mountains, where it is often raining or the brush is still wet, there are two solutions. One is waxed canvas, the other is a set of Helly Hansen raingear. The canvas is heavier, but breathes and is extremely durable. The Hellys don't breathe much at all, but they are waterproof and hold up.

Working in Alaska, I found Goretex garments and many others too flimsy. They get shredded in the brush. They get wet after awhile. Hence the conslusions above.

8:13 a.m. on December 6, 2013 (EST)
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My experience with oilskins has only been with Barbour. I bought a pair of pants when I was a student in England in the late 1970s. Thought them very expensive at the time but had been frustrated with the outdoor pants I wore that caused condensation due to lack of breathability. At the time Goretex was coming out but I did not have a pair. The Barbour might have been excellent for a country stroll on the estate of an English aristocrat, but when I took them goose hunting in Hudson Bay, they developed holes in the knees in three days flat. This must have been caused by wearing waders which caused abrasion. I returned them to Barbour which generously sent me a new pair. I subsequently used them for thousands of kilometers on an ATV. They wore out at the leg bottoms and at the knees and I repatched them with non barbour material. They were the go to pants for months of travelling, as they were very breathable and yet waterproof. No condensation at all. I did not bother waxing them after a while, which may have made them more breathable. The only problem was durability. I basically turned them into patched up rags. I have since moved on to the goretex type protection, but my barbour pants still hang on the rack. I looked at them for this review and discovered I had not removed the mud from them since last used which must have been a quarter century ago. I found them as breathable as goretex but durability for the hard core hunting I did when I was young was the only problem.

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