WestWinds Ventile Antarctic Smock

I’ve seen a few different clothing solutions in the past year, it’s good to know that membranes don’t have a monopoly of weatherproofing our persons. Retro gear has also featured large in these pages as solutions and features, as well as colours past, have been much lamented.
Covering all the above bases, and resolutely steering its own course is the Antarctic Smock from WestWinds.

When I got the chance to test something from the WestWindsrange, the smock lept out at me, it speaks to me of real heroes like Shackleton and Amundesen, natural fibres and nerves of steel.
I’ve long wanted to try modern Ventile, I get the impression it’s sidelined by its weight and of course fashion. But it’s reputation for funcionality can’t be ignored. It seems to be ideal for alpine and polar uses (indeed it’s the daily wear of the British Antarctic Survey Team), cold and dry, but the fabric is highly waterproof, reacting to wet by swelling to prevent its ingress.
It seems to me to be a heavy duty softshell of sorts, and with usuable features it should be an all-day wearable item. As I’ve long declared, the weight of what you’re wearing all day should be taken care of by personal fitness, so I’m not seeing an issue here.
There’s four huge pockets, fixed hood, gusseted neck zip (to stop snow getting in?), inner elastic cuffs and a crotch strap. There’s cuff, waist and hem adjustment, and it’s soft and pleasant to wear.

I know the smock’s a bit left field, but performance and functionality are universal, and this seems to have them both. Unfortunately the smock arrived a little late to make its mark on my winter trips, but I can see it being out on windy and showery days quite regularly. And, there’s another winter coming later in the year…

Is the past the future? Why not Technical Ventile shells, 99% recyclable synthetics, leather and coconut fibre trail shoes?
I’ve been invited along to the 2009 Innovations for Extremes Conference where such things will be debated by the folk who’ll make it happen. These are interesting and changing times.

I’ll be back with more.

13 thoughts on “WestWinds Ventile Antarctic Smock”

  1. Ooo, that looks nice! I have a jacket of their’s from a few years back, before I discovered Paramo. Very old fashioned cut – basically straight, and let down by not having an elasticated hem of some description. Despite all that, it’s a cracking coat and saw a lot of winter dog walking action with the then occasional Yorkshire Dales walk thrown in.

    It’s good to see them still about.

  2. Is that single or double layer ventile, ptc*?

    I must admit I hankered after a ventile smock in the early 80s but never took the (expensive) plunge. And now I can’t help thinking that, except for polar wear, the fabric’s probably been superceded by better options…. but that niggling ‘want’ won’t quite go away :))

    Aye, didn’t Westwinds use to do Nikwax Analogy garments (i,e, their own design of Paramo) long before the likes of Cioch and Finisterre? No sign of those now…. :(

    And I never realised they were connected to Snugpak!

  3. It’s single layer Matt, so in persistemt rain it’ll struggle.
    There were other models in two layer that’ll do better in the wet, but the smock is just something else altogether and had to be tested!

    Your probably right about the performance, I wonder if more widespread use would allow some development?
    I think it’s intriguing, wearing a fabric that you’re told not wear, but is worn successfully in the harshest climates. I love that middle finger held up to the regulations.
    I’m hoping it does well on my highland bimbling.

  4. That Braemar windshirt looks nice, much more contemporary that the rest.
    We need some sexy designs in this fabric.

    David, if you do take a maddie and ever don that outfit I will offer you money for the coverage of its first outing.

  5. Connecting Nikwax (Paramo) & Ventile, Hilltrek have come out with something called Cotton Analogy. Ventile outer, Nikwax pump liner inner.
    By the by, they also do made to measure Nikwax Analogy as well as ventile.
    And a small Scottish company with some invention. We need more of the same ilk rather than cost cutting online me-toos!

  6. Daves, there’s some interesting stuff on there right enough.
    I didn’t realise they did such a wide range of kit.

    I’d like to have a look at some of that.

  7. I wear a Westwinds Airedale for dog walking and general mooching. It’s a nice coat, I like it. Single layer so won’t keep you properly dry in heavy persistent rain but I don’t tend to get wet just damp. It has double layer on the shoulders to reduce wetting in that area.

    I strikes me as pretty breathable when dry. I would have thought though when wet its breathability is severly reduced seeing as the whole principle is it absorbs water in to the fabric to swell the fibres and prevent water passing through the garment? That said I don’t use it in high activity pursuits.

    My single layer leaks through in heavy rain at areas where articulation causes more fabric movement – arms (inner part of elbow joint) for example. The fact that the fabric stiffens as it gets wet takes some getting used to but isn’t a problem in terms of function though it does increase the weight quite a lot.

    It’s quite a quiet fabric so generally liked by birders/nature watchers and hunters/stalkers.

    Ventile also has a considerable following in the bushcraft community due to it not melting and having considerable holes burnt through it (as a laminate jacket would) if coming in to contact with sparks given off by open fires.

    I do like the sound of the Hilltrek ventiles with nikwax pump lining!

  8. Ah, I meant to get in touch with Hilltrek and quiz them about their kit, good timing.

    I like the Ventile, I even like the smell of it, reminds me of my old Belstaff jacket from my motorcycling days in the 70s.

    One day it’ll all be recycled or natural fabrics, I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

  9. I just came across this link when my curiosity for ventile was reawakened by a For Sale on OM – says it’s a Ventile Antarctic Smock but definitely describes it as double layer…

    Anyway, did you manage any natural-fibre forays in the course of last winter? (it might have been a good one for testing ventile ;) Any update on the performance of this stuff?

  10. Never got beyond the Kilpatricks Matt, my bottle kept going on bigger trips!
    It’s a funny material, and I reckon it’ll react differently to each wearer’s heat output/ tempereature sensitivity. dare I venture that Paramo friends will probably get on well with it?
    Autumn is coming, so I’ll get it out again and update myself. It is a lovely bit of kit, just a bit dated in some of the finishing and features.

  11. I’m still quite keen to try some, but the cost is a factor, especially as I can’t help wondering if it offers anything that Paramo doesn’t…

    …. and the style of most ventile garments does seem to be rooted in the ’60s!

    (Still, should a Paramo wearer even mention style? ;O)

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