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Recently I relocated the buttons on my Filson double-cruiser and Mackinaw vest to give more room to fasten around my aging middle. When I first bought these back in 1972, the sales advisor at Eddie Bauer told me to buy "not less than two full sizes larger than I wore now," because quality woolens are "lifetime garments" which I would "grow into." When I got out of the Navy I wore a size 43 suit. I had intended to buy size 44. The sales advisor at Eddie Bauer talked me into a size 46. In hindsight, today I wish I had gotten a 48!

The wool has lost some of its nap over the years, its forest green color has faded and turned seams are threadbare in places. Living in West Virginia now, rather than New Hampshire, I wear the vest more often than my double cruiser, which sees only occasional winter wear. Both garments smell mildly of lanolin and wood smoke, have traveled many thousands lots of miles, and evoke memories of pleasant hunts, a few impromptu nights spent in the woods, and one especially dark, cold walk along SR114 after my car slid on black ice off the road and into a pond near Sutton, NH in 1984.

It is true that modern Gore-Tex and fleece is lighter to carry, but they are also less resistant to tears and abrasion when riding or walking through heavy brush. Tightly woven wool gear is heavier and more expensive, but if you buy quality it will last for many years of hard outdoor use and will keep you warm as long as you apply basic cold weather principles.

If the lowest weight and bulk are most important to you, then get the newer types of clothing that are available. But in harsh environments where you must make one set of outdoor clothing last, it should be entirely wool, except for a silk or polypro base layer and 60/40 cotton-poly rip stop anorak or wind shirt.

This is because wool remains warm when wet, including complete immersion. Next to a diver’s wet suit wool clothing offers the best protection in cold water. Trapped air in the garment is buoyant and aids as insulation. Bulky wool sweaters worn by sailors during WWII documentaries weren’t for show, but absolutely necessary for survival, because the body loses heat 32 times faster in water than in air.

You cannot appreciate the panic-shock of being suddenly immersed in cold water, until you have actually experienced it. IF you live to tell about it. It doesn’t have to be winter. After three hours in 70 degree water you are exhausted. Your hands will be too numb to securely grasp a lifeline. In 40 degree water you may last 30 minutes without an exposure suit. If you live near the water, boat, trap, hunt or fish in the cold water months you should be skilled in water self-rescue.

See: If You Fall Overboard

and Cold Water Survival

Modern processed wool garments have most of the natural lanolin extracted from the fiber. You can restore the lanolin to greatly improve the water repellent properties of your garment. Anhydrous lanolin isn’t as easy to find these days, but most pharmacies can order for you the Fougera brand of Lanolin, Modified, Topical Lubricant, which is used as a base for formulating salves and ointments. A one-pound canister will treat six wool blankets or ten outer garments when dissolved in 5 gallons of Varsol, aliphatic mineral spirits or Stoddard Solvent.

To treat a single garment or blanket dissolve 2 oz. of Bag Balm into a quart of aliphatic mineral spirits. Gently wet the garment and work the liquid throughout the fabric, gently rolling and squeezing the excess solvent out WITHOUT WRINGING! Next, lay the garment or blanket out on a flat surface to air dry outdoors. When almost dry to the touch, shape garments on a wooden clothes hanger or hang blankets over a clothes line, placing them outdoors to air out thoroughly until all remaining solvent has evaporated.

A field expedient method I have used successfully on hats, gloves, scarves and light weight single garments, such as wool shirts, which works fairly well is to emulsify 4 fluid ozs. of high lanolin content, unscented moisturizing lotion, in a pint of hot water. Apply this to the garment using a spray applicator, being sure to get good coverage of the shoulders, sleeves and back. Roll the garment up, seal in a plastic bag and place in the hot sun or a heated room for 12 hours, then remove, unroll and flatten out and reshape as described above. When almost dry to the touch finishing drying on a clothes line or hanger outdoors.

Woolen blankets are required survival gear for private aircraft in Alaska because they keep you warm when wet. Wool blankets are durable, long lasting, and cost less than sleeping bags. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/r...1145650285/sr=8-2/ref=pd_bbs_2?_encoding=UTF8They are flame resistant, noncombustible and safer to bundle up in close to a camp fire. British, Swiss, German and Italian army blankets may still be found online for as little as $25 each. The U.S. Army wool blanket is 60 inches wide, 84 inches long and weighs 3-1/2 pounds.

During WWII and Korea the original GI “poncho liner” was improvised by cutting an 18 inch slot cut parallel to and centered 36 inches back from one of the short edges, fabric taped and stitched by parachute riggers. The 36 inch length in front of the slot falls to the crotch, but doesn’t get in the way of your legs when running. The 48 inch length in back covers your butt and back in warm comfort while sitting. The sides tuck at the waist and are held by the pistol belt. If evading like Rambo in First Blood you could use parachute cord. What you are doing here is converting the blanket into a Wetterfleck, the Loden cape used for centuries by German, Swiss and Austrian foresters.
 

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read an interesting article a few years back....the vikings oil skins and wool were compared to the latest hi tech winter wear....

it came out a tie as to staying warm with the new clothes getting the nod due to lighter wieght...
 

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Wool is best for all around use IMO. Wish I had more of it!

Another good thing is acrylic, usually in the form of acryllic sweater's. It isn't as warm as wool when wet, but, because it's a man made material,has the advantage of being able to be dried out with body heat, i.e., while wearing it. I like synthetic fleece as well, but either of the mat'l's will burn quite well if too close to fire, they scorch/melt quick. "Fleece" is not very warm when wet at all I usually only ever use it as a vest or pull over, and not when it is raining, but is okay when used under an over parka or anorak.

I second the Italian military blankets! Very good! Durable, heavy and should last a long time. The only thing I don't like about them is the moth ball smell. Airing help's but is not a cure all. I've had mine dry cleaned but that wasn't a cure either.
 

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Kept me warm on numerous Minnesota deer hunts, and though seldom used anymore due E. TN temps, I still have the Woolrich red plaid wool jacket & hat I bought in 1968.
 
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El Kabong
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I made my own capote decades ago, still looks brand new. I have no less than 3 wool jackets from sportmans Guide. Dang nice coats for $20 odd bucks.
Still keep my wool army scarves, pile cap, and mittens.

It maybe frozen outside, but inside, its roast toasty
 

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I had wool winter fatigues in the army, they were warm, but heavy especially when wet. However, wool is one of the few materials that will keep you warm when wet. As an outdoor person for ages, I have a lot of the modern material that started with Gortex, which has evolved over the years. Modern fleece is very warm, does not absorb very much water, is lightweight, and cheap. So, I usually go with the modern materials when I am in the field. However, at home I have two good ole army blankets on my bed and wrap myself under them during cold winter nights to save on my heating bill.

I have noticed over the last couple of years, modern outdoor companies have been incorporating wool back into their product line up. I'd say they know something that we should know too.




Cheers!


Mike T.
 

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Wool and Cotton are still my go to for winter wear.

I've made a lot of 1840s style clothing and what not while I was participating in Black Powder Rendevous and competition. Including Capotes and buckskin clothing. Took a lot off time hand stitching, even got my mug plastered in the local rags a few times.

But wool and cotton were my better clothes for comfort.
 

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Absolutely true what was said above about wool. Wool is all I hunt in. Since 2005, I invested in a few sets of Beagle Outdoor Wear camo wool hunting clothes. The first set I bought and it is still as good as the day I bought it. Best part is, it is American made in Vermont. Costs similar to high-end tech clothes but far superior to anything else out there. Check them out online.
 

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I know full well the feeling of being dunked in below freezing water.
I was sea kayaking in the Damariscotta Estuary in April!
I was new to it and the guy who I went with was a long term pro.
We went out into the ocean bad idea for a novice....

I had a dry suit on which is why I'm alive today.
My arms just wore out and the waves had gotten to 2 1/2 feet which
is substantial in a kayak in the winter for a novice.
There is no feeling like being dumped into the ocean in below freezing water.
Had on a wool hat and a dry suit and gloves.

I managed to get over to a grouping of rocks and empty the kayak out of water
Forget those tiny pumps There are better ways of emptying water if you can stand.

I got back ok but wouldn't do it again, rough water is no fun when it's that cold.
Lots of seals around there. I wrote a story about it years ago, never sent it in tho.

Wool works as do the synthetics. I have US military wool blankets at home.
My wife prefers fleece but I trust real wool over fleece when it comes right down to it.
Fleece is lighter but when the power is out that wool feels really good.
 

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I've worn wool pants deer hunting for 40 years.
Army surplus when I was younger, my latest pair I bought in the late 90's at the woolen mill in Bemidji, MN.
 

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El Kabong
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My preferred Icelandic warmer...

bemodel60s.jpg

Brit Ekland for your youngsters
 
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