Traditional Clothing and Materials
Ventile is a long staple cotton fabric of the highest quality. It was developed in World War II for high altitude clothing for the RAF. It is a natural fibre naturally, soft, windproof and incredibly hard wearing. I've worn a ventile windproof jacket and over trousers in hurricane force winds well below freezing and apart from being blown every where was as comfortable as could be - ok it's all relative but the weather didn't get through.
Ventile is the fabric used for the "windies" (windproofs) that I was issued with as standard wear in Antarctica. These compromised the outer layers, not insulated as such, but because of their windproof properties gave more warmth than would appear. They were worn everywhere, no modern fabric came close in comfort or versatility.
Ventile garments are often offered as "Hunting Wear" where they function admirably being resistant to snagging on vegetation, highly breathable, very water resistant and exceptionally quiet in use adding a "stealth" aspect to their qualities.
Ventile is also very versatile, I had a pair of ventile pants in Antarctica and also when I left and travelled around South America. I've worn them in all climates and temperatures and always found them supremely comfortable. More windproof than moleskin and harder wearing. They are also superb in really cold weather when teamed up with some thermal undergarments as the wind just never gets through them.
Any of the modern (not historical) pictures on this site that show people in Antarctica will mainly show them orange or green ventile windproof jacket - for practicality, they had no rival.
The "secret" of ventile is simple, it's not laminated, it's not coated, it's just made from the highest quality raw material. The finest long staple cotton fibers found only in the top 2% of the world cotton crop are used. The cotton is then woven into a very dense "Oxford" weave pattern that requires up to 30% more cotton than other conventional fabrics. It is an entirely natural 100% cotton product.
On wetting, the cotton fibers swell and a combination of fibers and weave pattern mean that the fabric "closes up" preventing the passage of water. The fabric still remains breathable in a way that no other man-made synthetic water resistant material can manage. It will eventually let water through though and becomes stiff and cold when wet.
- Weatherproof, protects from anything the elements can throw at you.
- Windproof, in Antarctica the windiest continent on earth, ventile is used to make windproof garments for field parties.
- Breathable, very important in Antarctica (and elsewhere too) when rest after exertion can cause freezing of sweat if it is not allowed to escape.
- Quiet, no "rustle", so people or animals can't hear you approaching.
- Comfort, soft and forgiving and doesn't stiffen up at low temperatures like some synthetic materials do.
- Durable, tough and hardwearing.
- Reliable, simple construction means no coatings or separation of layers to worry about.