Announcing a breakthrough in breathable, waterproof materials. . .from an unlikely source. Although modern science has produced some amazing technologies to protect us from the elements—think waterproof fabrics and synthetic insulation—it’s sometimes hard to beat the tools that nature provides us. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the warmth of real goose down over Primaloft any day of the week, and in comparison to cow hide, faux leather is laughable.
In 2012, Orvis CEO Perk Perkins established a well-funded internal program to discover a natural alternative to the breathable fabrics we use to make waders. Perkins wanted to honor the Orvis Company’s commitments to using natural materials and reducing the carbon footprint of manufacturing processes, so he dispatched associates to the four corners of the globe on a fact-finding mission to discover local knowledge and traditional materials that could be applied to a modern product line.
Four years, and thousands of travel miles later, we are proud and excited to introduce a product that represents both the past and future of waterproof technology: the Orvis Tweed Wader.
Research and Development
Yes, you read that right: We have taken a classic of menswear and transformed it into a highly technical, breathable, lightweight material perfect for the rigors of fly fishing. The breakthrough occurred when Orvis’s Albert Harris was combing through ancient Gaelic texts in the National Museum of Scotland and came across mention of how, in order to protect themselves from the harsh waters of the North Atlantic, kelp harvesters of the Outer Hebrides had created a super-tight weave in the late 1700s using a specific Cheviot wool from Cille Bhrìghde on the island of South Uist.
“Could there be any living weavers familiar with this process?” Harris wondered. So he caught a ferry in Oban and made the seven-hour journey to the Western Isles.
After three days of inquiries, false leads, and buying countless pints of McEwan’s Red, Harris met Oighrig MacDonald, the 103-year-old descendent of the Clan Ranald weavers who had closely guarded the trade secrets of their methods. Harris followed MacDonald to her thatched cottage by the sea, and half a bottle of Bruichladdich Scotch later, he had all the information he needed, cribbed from faded notes scribbled on the back pages of the ancient MacDonald family Bible.
When our product developers in Vermont pored over Harris’s findings, they were initially skeptical. But wader specialist Tim Daughton found a source of the proper wool and set about creating the manufacturing process that would lead to the tightest weave possible. It turned out that the wool from South Uisk was incredibly strong, and the fibers bonded to each other like Velcro. Initial tests shocked everyone, as the fabric was not only waterproof but breathable, as well. And because the fibers were so tight, they did not absorb water. But the field testing would be the real test. . . .
On-The-Water Testing and Results
The first tweed waders were sent to five Orvis-endorsed guides in spring 2015, and their initial reactions were predictable—ranging from “What the hell is this?” to “No way.” After a little arm-twisting, however, all agreed to give the new waders a try. . .although a couple said it would be a night-fishing-only proposition. Soon, however, there was a marked change of tune.
- “Holy crap. These are the most comfortable waders ever!” gushed John Herzer of Blackfoot River Outfitters in Missoula, Montana. “It’s like wearing regular pants, the way they move with you.”
- Eben Schaefer, of Hubbard’s Yellowstone Lodge, said, “I waded into the river expecting to have wet legs almost immediately. Four hours later, my feet were still dry as bone. Plus, I got some pretty admiring glances from two gals in a drift boat. (Don’t tell Nancy.)”
- Kip Vieth of Wildwood Float Trips, in Montecello, Minnesota, joked, “They’re so comfortable, I might sleep in the darned things to cut down on my morning prep time.”
- But perhaps the most gratifying comments came from Chris Scalley of River Through Atlanta Outfitters in Georgia: “When I took these out of the box, I thought, ‘What kind of Yankee madness is this?’ But after three days on the Chattahoochee, I’m ready to order some for all my guides.”
After a full season of field-testing, in which they proved their waterpoofness and incredible durability, we are incredibly excited to introduce the Tweed Wader for Spring 2016. There is no other product in the world like these revolutionary waders. Here are the specs:
These are the toughest and best fly-fishing wader made, making use of a proprietary weaving method. Highly breathable, ultradurable, and built for the demanding rigors of full-time fishing, the Orvis Tweed Waders are designed to keep you dry, comfortable, and looking great. Imported.
- Newest member of the Orvis wader family, four years in the making
- Available in men’s and women’s sizes
- Outer shell: 100% Scottish wool thornproof tweed
- Estate Herringbone Tweed pattern, with a contrasting Striped Tweed chest patch
- Lined with a breathable membrane to reduce itchiness
- 100% more abrasion resistant, 50% more puncture resistant than standard breathable waders
- Kangaroo-style handwarmer pocket with YKK water-resistant zippers
- External storage sporran with fly patch and hemostat tassels
- Y-style padded yoke suspenders
- Attached, reinforced gravel guards with quick-drain panel
- Anatomically correct, sculpted neoprene booties
- Easy-adjusting wading belt included