It’s no secret that I’ve been looking for some decent wool trousers for ages. For some reason they are difficult to source in the UK and the idea of importing them from the States seemed a daunting prospect.
Then, in the last six months, a mixture of events resulted in not just one but five pairs landing on my desk at almost the same time. My cup suddenly runneth over.
In sequence, I bought a pair made by Johnson Woollen Mills from a member here. Shortly after two pairs made by Cabelas became available from another member that had bought them at the same time as I had tried to order some (Unsuccessfully but that’s a long story.)
Almost immediately after that, Stormy Kromer contacted me following a review I had posted of their Mackinaw Coat and asked me if I would like to review one of their caps. I said sure, but I’d be even more interested in their bunkhouse trousers.
(I should say here that although they were sent over free for review, they also marked the parcel with the value of the contents which resulted in a hefty customs charge to me when they arrived, so I still ended up paying for them in the end. Otherwise, I have no connection with any of the companies featured here.)
Before they had time to arrive in the post I then heard that Kev. at Endicotts had just had some surplus Danish wool trousers in at a very good price. It would have been just rude not to get some of them as well...
Well, this has certainly filled a gap in my woollen wardrobe and the obvious thing was to do a review of them all.
So I set out to make as fair a comparison as I could over the Winter.
First lets look at the materials: I measured the thickness with a micrometer and a couple of steel rulers as flats to get a good average.
The Cabelas are 100% wool, with a slightly raised nap and 1.26mm thick. The care label says they can be machine washed on cold.
The Johnsons are not labelled with the fibre content but their web site says they are 80% wool 20% nylon, drill woven and the thinnest of the bunch at 1.04mm.
The Stormy Kromers are again 80% wool and 20% nylon but with a good nap, 1.71mm thick. Both the Johnsons and the Stormy Kromers recommend dry cleaning on the care labels.
The Danish trousers are of unknown fibre content and care but are well napped and measure 1.55mm thickness.
All the materials handle well and have a good drape. The Stormy Kromers are the softest to the touch, the Danish pair the prickliest and the Johnsons, with the drilled weave, the hardest.
Just as a comparison I measured the thickness of my Swanndri bushshirt as 2.06mm, my Stormy Kromer coat as 1.88mm and my Bison shirt as 1.41mm.
Now for cut: All were much the same here when on the table and being fairly generous fit, the Stormy Kromers were slightly narrower in the leg, the Danish widest. The Johnsons, possibly because the material is less bulky, felt loosest when wearing but all were very comfortable.
Pockets: A bit more variation here. The Cabelas arrived to me with just four pockets. Two slash and two rear with buttoned flaps. As supplied they had cargo pockets as well but the previous owner removed them so I cannot comment. The inner material felt like cotton and a bit thin to me. As I tend to have busy pockets they are something I often wear through.
The Danish trousers had only three pockets, two slash and one buttoned rear right. Much thicker material again feeling like cotton or poly cotton.
The Johnson pockets, two slashed, two rear (left buttoned) felt the most robust with a drilled weave again cotton or poly cotton I think.
Stormy Kromer departed from the norm by applying patch pockets of the same material as the trousers. Two front, two rear (left buttoned) and another short narrow pocket on the right thigh, possibly for a knife (although I would have liked some method to secure it if that is the case.)
The only pockets I had doubts about were the Cabelas which felt no more rugged than a pair of office trousers.
All had sturdy belt loops, the Danish ones being best of all but of all the pairs, they were the only ones to lack internal button points for braces. This could easily be rectified of course.
I was hoping for some really cold conditions to give them all a try in but Winter here turned out to be a bit of a damp squib.
In the mixture of conditions I used them in I would say that the Stormy Kromers were the warmest on their own followed by the Danish then the Cabelas and lastly the Johnsons which seems perfectly consistent with the material thickness’.
With the use of a thin base layer this remained much the same order but when used with a thicker base layer like the Woolpower 400g, which I use in very cold conditions, then the slightly more generous cut of the Danish trousers prevented the loopstitch from getting crushed and hindering its performance. In the end this was a deciding factor in my kit choice for the Arctic trip but for UK use it would rarely be an issue.
In conclusion, which will I wear? As stated, I took the Danish trousers on my Arctic trip and I will probably keep these for use with the Woolpower base layer in really tough conditions.
The Johnsons are not really what I would consider as Winter trousers and were the odd pair in the bunch. Having said that they are hard wearing, spark resistant and comfortable on the skin without a base layer. They will be very good for Spring/Autumn conditions and may as such see the most use.
The Cabelas seem reasonably well made but the pocket linings were a slight disappointment to say nothing of the difficulties I had with the company when I ordered some.
For UK winter conditions, either on their own or with a thin base layer, the Stormy Kromers are very well suited. I particularly liked the fact that if by chance they do get wet, the patch pocket arrangement means there is no cotton lining, apart from the belt band, to retain that moisture.
So I think they’ll all earn their place on my kit lists but probably on different lists at different times.