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#33053 - 10/12/04 05:09 PM Filson question?

I know Filson stuff gets mentioned here from time to time- looking at the posts, it's mostly the vests, but I thought I'd ask..

Based on LOTS of recommendations I read in different places, and partly out of curiosity, I finally bought my first Filson, a "Cover Cloth Field Jacket".

This isn't one of your manly Filson canvas-so-thick-it-stands-on-it's-own jackets, this is the wimpy lightweight stuff that is advertised as being "comfortable without break-in" (which makes you wonder about the other stuff) but it is the "oiled finish". This is the stuff our grandparents called "oilcloth", or sometimes "oilskins", though I suspect that last term more properly refers to something far older and more literal...

Now, "lightweight" is a relative term, and this is light only in comparison to the other Filson jackets and coats. I had previously tried on Filson Shelter Cloth coats in a store (there aren't many, here on the "other" coast), so I had absolutely no illusions about backpacking with this thing. I bought it for wear about town and commuting (involving a particular daily "stroll" where I get caught in ALL kinds of weather with fair regularity), and MAYBE a cool weather day hike or two.

So far, I've gotta say I have mixed reactions.

Drove around town with it on a bit over the weekend, no problem except that the fabric feels a bit damp and "clammy" whenever it's cool. Ok.so... I've read comments that attribute almost mystical qualities to the break-in period of the waxed/oiled fabrics, so I figure that may lessen over time.

This morning's subway commute, no problem. Ok, one guy who sat down next to me changed seats after a minute, but there was an empty one suddenly available. I don't THINK it was me...

Out in the cool wind, it cut the wind pretty well, but still felt clammy. Not a "warm fuzzy" jacket, at least without a liner.

Back out, some hours later, it's a bit warmer out, but I had gotten chilled, so I zip up. Maybe the build-up of body heat inside is what made the difference... but when I made it to Starbucks (a lot of stuff seems to come out of Seattle these days), I kept catching a whiff of... something. Not quite kerosene, not quite turpentine, more... like a New Jersey refinery, actually...

I honestly didn't make the connection at first, since I'd worn the thing before with no problem, but after catching the smell again in an elevator on the way back, I checked the jacket when I took it of, and sure enough.. though, ten minutes later, I guess when the fabric cooled again, it was gone. No trace.

Ok, anyone have any experience with this stuff? Am I safe in assuming that part of the "break in" period is having these volatiles "boil off" (ok, ok, evaporate) and leave behind something more waxy than oily, less damp and clammy, that *doesn't* have a "distinctive" fragrance when it gets warm?

Or is this just normal for Seattleites? <img src="/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />


#33054 - 10/12/04 05:47 PM Re: Filson question?
Schwert Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/13/02
Posts: 905
Loc: Seattle, Washington

I am a real Filson fan and your observations as to the oil odor are correct. Heat seems to increase the odor and time will definately decrease it.

As to the clammy feel this is something I have not experienced. I nearly always have my coat over a wool vest or sweater though. I do not have any cover cloth coats but do have the cover cloth rain pants. This light cloth seems to drape more closely to the body...no break in required, but more closely fitting which may produce the clammy feel. My tin cloth coat stands away from the body as it is very stiff when cold. Shelter cloth is a bit less stiff but it also does not drape like the cover cloth.

I think a bit of a break in period will definately lessen the oil odor and change your "feel".

#33055 - 10/12/04 06:01 PM Re: Filson question?


I'm willing to give it some time, if it doesn't get too embarrassing... maybe I'll let it air out in the sun by itself for a bit...

#33056 - 10/12/04 07:14 PM Re: Filson question?
bountyhunter Offline

Registered: 11/14/03
Posts: 1224
Loc: Milwaukee, WI USA
Presumed Lost:

Did you wash it before you wore it?

I do so with all underwear and outerwear that I buy wheather new or used. I have never had a Filson product so I do not know their care recommendations


P.S. (As the King of Bel Air, Will Smith would say; "Smell you later".) <img src="/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" />

#33057 - 10/12/04 07:38 PM Re: Filson question?


Thanks for the thought, but almost all Filson stuff comes with the sentence "Clean by brushing or wiping only, gains character with use". They're sort of famous for it.

The shell fabrics on most of the garments are essentially oil/wax soaked cotten (sometimes very heavy), and there are dire warnings on the tag against washing it. Minimum results are loss of water resistance, but apparently drastic shrinkage is also possible.

For what it's worth, I've seen what they look like after years, and, to my eye at least, it's true.. they do look better with some miles on them. A friend used to say "quality is the distance between broken in, and broken down", and that does seem to apply to Filson stuff.

#33058 - 10/12/04 08:26 PM Re: Filson question?
Schwert Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/13/02
Posts: 905
Loc: Seattle, Washington
Correct...never never never wash an oiled Filson coat.

You will need to retreat the coat every couple of years or so if you want to maintain the water resistance. Somehow the smell of new wax is better than the smell of "original" treatment.

When I recoat mine, I rub the wax into my hands and then thinly spread it all over the garment. I turn it inside out and tumble it in a warm dryer for 5 minutes or so to melt the wax in....never never let your wife catch you doing this though.... <img src="/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> A hair dryer works too, but gentle on the heat....and gentle on the wax amount.

A tin cloth Filson coat takes about 2 years to break in....but about 5-10 years to achieve that perfect balance between new and broken in. I bet you can break in the cover cloth in a few months.

A few hours in the sun would probably take off quite a few of the more volitile oil components. The wax/oil mix is a balance between ease of application (more oil to spread) and water resistance. As it ages it sort of hardens (more wax than oil) and eventually almost goes away so has to be renewed.

Oh the smell of tin cloth in the Autumn....

Edited by Schwert (10/12/04 08:32 PM)

#33059 - 10/12/04 08:43 PM Re: Filson question?

Reminds me a lot of treating our old, two-ton hiking boots with Sno-Seal in the '70s.

Hmmm. I have yet to see the Tin Cloth in person. Some of them, like the Packer, are just hopelessly exotic here. I was eyeing the "Waterfowl/Upland coat", though, and I just found a site that has it for $75 off list. Mutter, mutter...

Two to ten years to get really broken in, huh? When it's new, can you flex the arms enough to hold coffee? <img src="/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />

#33060 - 10/13/04 12:06 AM Re: Filson question?
Schwert Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/13/02
Posts: 905
Loc: Seattle, Washington
The tin cloth Original Hunters coat (no longer made) is my favorite. In the winter I have been known to drape it over a heat register for a few minutes to melt it enough to put my arms in <img src="/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

The Waterfowl coat I have in Shelter cloth and it is very nice. I sometimes wish it was in in tin but it is far more wearable than the tin for the first few years.

My Original Hunters coat is a double layer of tin through the body and single in the arms so I can just bend it enough to get that essential morning cup of coffee in. That cup starts my heat engine enough to make the coat conform....

Filson changed their wax/oil formula recently to make the garments softer...another reason for the more intense initial aroma. Old wax tin coats need no rack to hang, you can lean them up against a wall for storage. I bought an additional old wax Original Hunter's coat when I heard they were both changing the wax formula and dropping this old design from their catalog.

In my view their is nothing that beats a Filson coat for durability, protection and style....not my backpacking coat for sure, but around town or on day field walks these are my choice.

When I complete Part II of my Urban Prep article my Filson coats will appear as primary shelter choices.

Might As Well Have the Best. (Filson tag line that I find true)

#33061 - 10/13/04 12:57 PM Re: Filson question?

>>The Waterfowl coat I have in Shelter cloth and it is very nice. I sometimes wish it was in in tin but it is far more wearable than the tin for the first few years.<<

I find that an interesting statement. Bear in mind that many of us are just guessing what this stuff is really like- no dealers I've found in this area who carry Filson (there aren't many) carry any of the Tin Cloth garments at all.

So, given some small sacrifice in wearability for the "first few years" (the fact that it takes two men, a boy, a small winch and the Jaws of Life to get you into it, for example), what makes you sometimes wish it was in Tin Cloth? I can guess that it might be it's value as a stand-alone shelter, or as an emergency re-entry shield (now that Virgin Galactic is a going concern), or just the fact that being covered in hard waxy stuff is such a babe magnet, but I'm just taking shots in the dark here... <img src="/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />

PS- subsequent activities in the Cover Cloth Field Jacket lead me to think that body heat had nothing to do with the odor. I'm guessing that walk was the first time it was exposed to direct sunlight for more than a minute or two, and, even though the air temperature was below 70 F, that direct sun was enough to warm the surface well above ambient. No recurrance so far.

#33062 - 10/13/04 10:18 PM Re: Filson question?
Schwert Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/13/02
Posts: 905
Loc: Seattle, Washington
Hard question to answer on tin vs shelter cloth. I really tend to like the stiff coat feel of my tin but I bought the shelter cloth waterfowl coat because it was immediately comfortable. I did not really have to break it in like tin, but now 5 years later it would be broken in and .....ramble ramble ramble...

My original wants for this coat made getting flexible right away a good choice. I wanted to travel to Scandanavia with it right away and really did not want to be breaking one in on the trip.

I have the super luxury of working 3 blocks from their main store so trying on and choosing is difficult (I always want both) but it is at least doable.

For ultimate first day comfort cover cloth or shelter cloth or wool is the way to go, for long term durability then oiled tin has my vote, but there is a price to pay in comfort initially.

Water resistance is similar across the board as I see it. This stuff is good but it is not coated nylon or goretex. It can get wet but it seems to shed water better when wet. One advantage to tin in my view is that the stiffness can work for you in that the coat can be made to ventilate by body movement...the whole coat can be lifted with a shoulder shrug and warm moist air inside forced out. The shelter cloth and presumably the lighter cover cloth does not "move" this way. My Original Hunters coat #66 really works great in our damp but mild climate. It is not too warm, sheds light and prolonged rain, and does not steam up if my activity level is reasonable (walks but not chopping wood). My shelter cloth Packer and Waterfowl are super wind coats, shed rain a bit less well than the OHC, and since they are less thick seem to dissipate excess heat well. I can wear them for more active work without steaming up and their greater flexibilty is necessary for things like ax work, canoeing or fly fishing. The OHC would be a perfect shotgun field coat (designed for it) as it rides well, and once warmed by body heat flexible enough to mount the gun, but highly resistant to the usual stickers and briars in a bird hunt.

The choices from Filson are very wide, I recommend calling the store and discussing your needs and expected uses and then probably ordering a couple of candidates with the expectation that one will be returned....but if you are like me it will be very hard to return one <img src="/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" />

The prices will seem high at first, but considering that my father still wears a Filson cruiser he bought in the 50's, and I have many garments (coats, shirts, sweaters) that are close to 10 years old and still going strong, the prices are really an excellent bargain.

as to

fact that being covered in hard waxy stuff is such a babe magnet

I have not found the material makes much difference here...quality Filson stuff always makes them swoon <img src="/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />

Edited by Schwert (10/13/04 10:20 PM)

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