Too stifling in heat,
Too leaky in rain
Not enough insulation when it get’s cold.
Too porous in winds.
There’s a lot that can go wrong with your outer shell in bad weather.
Modern technology keeps working on new solutions, and there are some good ones out there. Gore-Tex is decent stuff: lightweight, breathable, and fairly water-resistant.
But for an all-in-one jacket that provides warmth, wind protection, and waterproofing, the best solution may the one that’s been around for centuries – the waxed cotton jacket.
What Is Waxed Cotton?Waxed cotton cloth was originally used to make sails for wind-powered ships. It was the last word in technology, at its time.
Oiled sails had been used for years, since the oiled cloth caught the wind better and stayed lighter when it rained, but for many years they were made from flax fibers treated with linseed oil, which got stiff and yellowed with age. In fact coats and capes made from old sails are where we get the association of fisherman’s slickers and the color yellow.
Egyptian cotton treated with paraffin wax allowed the creation of the light, waterproof sails that the fastest “tea clippers” used near the end of the Age of Sail. It rapidly caught on as a practical material for outdoor jackets as well, heavily promoted by the British company Barbour and sons (which still exists today), and the style has stayed with us ever since.
Waxed cotton jackets are doubly waterproofed: not only is the outside treated with a waterproof coating, the individual threads of the cloth are impregnated with wax before the bolt is woven.
The result is a waxy protection that goes all the way through the jacket — unlike a sprayed-on shell, the waterproofing can’t wear through.