With all the growing interest in the survival industry there are dozens of different fire starters on the market. Everything from fancy ferro rods, fire pistons, blast matches, and even electronic igniters. However; without a proper understanding of how to select and prepare natural tinders these fancy gadgets become nothing more than expensive sparklers.
Don’t get me wrong, survival gear is vital, and could very well save your life. The problem is we develop a false sense of security when we purchase these items without putting in the adequate dirt time to hone the skills necessary to operate them. For example anyone can take a ferro rod and light a cotton ball on fire, but what if they were told to go out into the forest and try to use a ferro rod in the rain with only natural materials?
Knowing what natural tinder to use, and having the ability to go out collect and harvest it is vital to being able to survive in harsh conditions. Below is a list of my favorite natural materials to use for fire starting.
Cedar bark is amazing due to it’s ability to be lit when damp. It is extremely fibrous, and because of it’s resinous nature it produces a hot flame aiding in lighting damp kindling. Simply scrape the outer bark from the tree, and create a softball size birds nest tinder bundle. Cedar/Juniper trees grow in abundance across the nation, and can be found in several different climates and elevations. It truly is the go to for fire starting.
Fatwood is bushcraft gold when it comes to fire starting, and is the king of wet fire. It burns super hot and last a long time. Fatwood is a resinous enriched dense pine wood that can be found in the roots and base of limbs. It can be a challenge to harvest, but once you do you wont regret it. I prefer to gather fatwood from the base of limbs of dead standing pine trees. Once this material is processed down to a 4-6″ pile of fine scrappings it will light very easily with a spark. Another option is to make a feather stick from a section of the fatwood.
Birch bark is an amazing fire starter. It is rich in resins and comes off the tree like sheets of paper. I have used paper (white) birch and river birch. Both work extremely well. I find the river birch tree most often in areas that collect water – river beds, valley bottoms, marshes, and other moist areas. Peel off the bark in sheets, and scrape it to reveal tiny fibers that will light with ease.
Cattail would be considered a flash tinder. It takes a spark easier than any of the previously mentioned tinders, but it burns extremely fast. Cattail is best mixed with cedar bark, pine needles or grass. You will find this amazing plant in still standing water such as swamps, ponds, or lakes. Process out the cattail heads by crushing or wringing it which will expose all the tiny fibers. Hit is with a spark and watch it go up in flame.
Polypore mushrooms make excellent tinder fungus. Look for dried mushrooms that look like shells, fans, horse hooves, or shelves. On the underside of the mushroom it should not have any gills. It should look like tiny pores, similar to pores in the skin. I have found these mushrooms on dead and alive trees, but they are usually found on trees with a dense overhead canopy. The tinder fungus is not the best for lighting, however; it is one of the best materials for transferring a coal or extending a fire.
Additional Natural Tinders
Pine Needles, leaves, and grasses are also descent options for tinder. The pine needles and leaves can be a challenge because they do not make a good bundle, but they are better used to extend a fire once you have flame. Grasses often times contain moisture, and can be challenging to light, but they work good when mixed with other fibers. Old Man’s Beard (Usnea) is another type of tinder that people sometimes use. For me it has extraordinary medicinal uses. I would rather save this amazing lichen, and find something else.
I hope you found this Natural Tinder blog to be educational and informative. Be sure to watch the companion video below, and show your support by liking, sharing, and subscribing. Thanks Justin “Sage” Williams
Here at Sigma 3 Survival we are about to launch a video series on home apothecaries. To start it off, we are sharing with you a brief description of our top 5 medicinal plants and what they are used for. Then, later in the series, we will go into much greater detail about these and other medicinal plants. Also we will talk about how to make specific medicines for many different illnesses. When choosing the top 5 medicinal plants for this list i of course chose the plants that were most effective for some of the most common general ailments. These plants were also chosen because of their availability. These plants can be found across the continental United States and most of the known world, so let’s jump right in with our top 5 medicinal plants in no specific order.
Willow (Salix sp.)
Willow is an analgesic. What this means in layman’s terms is pain reliever. Willows active ingredient is salicylic acid which is synthesized into acetylsalicylic acid better known as aspirin. Salicylic acid peaks in the human body about two hours after ingestion but relief from pain can sometimes be noticeable in as fast as ten minutes. Willow is also effective at reducing inflammation and fevers but I mainly use if for headaches and joint pain.
Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra)
Slippery elm is a medicine for the digestive tract. It contains a mucilage in the inner bark that, when consumed, coats and lubricates the entire tract from mouth to spout. It also activates our own mucus glands to help out. Its helps relieve sore throats, upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation, ulcers, even heartburn.
A small piece of bark chewed is usually enough to provide instant relief, but the bark can be powdered and put into tablets for persistent problems like ulcers. A tea of Slippery Elm is also useful internally and externally. Externally it is an emollient which in layman’s terms simply means skin softener.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Yarrow is an amazing medicine. Like its close cousin chamomile it is a great anti-anxiety medicine. It’s also analgesic and anti-inflammatory. These two properties along with its blood thinning properties make this a great tonic for women who suffer from mentation issues. This plant is sometimes called natures Midol. However that’s not why it made the top 5 medicinal plants list. It made this list because of its amazing ability to stop external bleeding. A small amount of powdered, or even fresh, Yarrow applied to a wound, will almost always stop the blood flow immediately. It was often carried into war, throughout human history, for this very reason. Not only does it stop bleeding but it also disinfects wounds and promotes healing.
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
Mullein has a long history as an additive in native smoking mixtures. It was used to fluff up plant materials that would lay flat in a pipe and not burn well. Believe it or not it also is medicinal to the lungs and that’s why it’s on the list. Mullein is for lung health. Now I’m not recommending that people smoke mullein or any other plant medicines on a regular basis. All smoke contains tar and that is not good for the lungs. However mullein is an expectorant, which means it causes the lungs to expel phlegm. This helps clean the tar and mucus out of the lungs. The plant does not need to be smoked for this effect and in fact smoking destroys a large percentage of the medicine in the plant. The only time I would recommend smoking mullein is if you are suffering from an asthma attack. Mullein is a bronchial dilator, which means it opens constricting airways. If you are unable to breathe you probably don’t have time to wait for the medicinal action of this plant to pass through your digestive system. However, if you are suffering from a cold or a dry cough, a simple tea made from mullein leaves will help your cough become effective, removing the offending phlegm from your body.
Plantain (Plantago major)
Plantain made the top 5 medicinal plants list because of its amazing ability to heal the skin. We use this plant constantly at Sigma 3 Survival School and I’m still constantly amazed at how quickly it heals minor wounds and rashes. It’s almost miraculous. I’ve seen Poison Ivy rashes healed seemingly overnight. I use this medicine on my children whenever they get scrapes or burns. Not only does Plantain cause incredible skin regeneration, but it also disinfects wounds. In combination with Yarrow it is the perfect medicine for most minor cuts, rashes and burns.
Plantain can also be taken internally for many of the same uses list for slippery elm. It is mucilaginous so it coats the digestive tract almost as well as slippery elm. It also is a great food source that’s rich in calcium and vitamins A, C, and K.
These top 5 medicinal plants cover most common ailments generally encountertedand soon we will detail for you exactly how to use these and other great medicinal plants. Follow us for our upcoming apothecary series and you will be able to help the general health of your family and friends as well as yourself. Thanks for joining us and we will talk again soon.
To kill or not to kill. That is a good question. Preserving meat, as you know, is normally no big deal. Just build a smoker and make jerky. Boom, problem solved. Or, to get by for a few days, you can cook and recook meat, or even store it raw in an earthen fridge. While surviving Alone on Vancouver Island for the History Channel my Gill Net regularly caught more fish than I was able to eat in a single day. So, to avoid spoilage, I cooked and buried them in an earthen fridge. They kept for three days (and probably would have lasted for three more if I hadn’t eaten them). But sometimes, depending on the climate, conditions, and circumstances, preserving large quantities of meat can be problematic. Making jerky is time consuming, and time is a commodity in short supply when surviving alone.
Water, firewood, shelter, and food take up the majority of daylight not leaving enough time to make jerky. Catching animals alive, therefore, is the solution. It is very difficult to trap large game alive so, more often than not, it is best to live catch smaller game – birds, minks, weasels, squirrels, etc. Foot and leg snares are excellent but also require close monitoring so as not to lose the critter. Pit traps are effective but can be next to impossible to dig in rocky or root ridden soil.
The box trap, however, is versatile and fairly universal (just need strong, straight sticks to make the box and trigger). The live animal trap in the video was fashioned out of Shin Dagger Yucca stalks and Seep Willow sticks. It’s usually a good idea to stake down the back of the trap to minimize the risk of escape.
Over the years people have successfully trapped birds and animals alive in box traps. While surviving on Alone I set out several box traps and repeatedly caught mink and squirrel. Sometimes they would dig themselves out and get away, but most of the time I had to set them free (we were not allowed to kill animals with fur or feathers). I so desperately wanted to tame a mink but, unfortunately, the rules forbad it. So I survived alone.
While training to become a Survival Instructor for the U.S. Air Force we learned how to catch and process all kinds of creatures – fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and fur bearing mammals. One time, during a Solo Survival Exercise, I made the mistake of making friends with a Cottontail I had live trapped. Killing “Hoppy” to eat was heartbreaking.
Have fun making the live animal trap featured in the video below.
If you run into any problems please do not hesitate to ask for help. Or, better yet, come and join one of our classes and we can work on it together. Take care and God bless. Show your support like, share and subscribe.
Life has a way of tearing you down. It can be extremely difficult to carry the weight of it all. Many are aware that I took the 45 Day Instructor Course in the Spring of 2016, but what most don’t know is “WHY” I took the program. I will get into that shortly, but I wan’t you to first understand there are many reasons people take this course. For some it is the thought of one day teaching survival for a living, for others they want to join the Sigma team, but for most it is the opportunity to reconnect with nature. Each of those are amazing reasons to attend this course.
For me, I was going through a very dark time. I had lost my career (my calling), my best friend just went to jail for 40 years, and some people I thought had my back abandoned me. The crappy thing about it all, is none of this was my doing. It was the direct actions of another. I had lost all hope. $4,000 for a survival course seems like a far stretch, but at that time I would have paid a million dollars for a sense of relief and purpose again.
When I first arrived at Sigma 3 I was so excited. For 45 days I didn’t have to worry about anything except what I was going to eat, and where I was going to sleep. The heavy load completely lifted off my shoulders. From there, the rest was history. I am happy to say I was able to let go, and learn to forgive. Healing took place on that mountain.
Here are many of the life changing benefits that can come from immersing yourself into the wild:
Sense of Accomplishment
Independence from Artificial Establishments
Friendships that Last
Confidence in Your Abilities
Self-Realization like Never before
Oneness with Nature
Appreciation for the little things.
Stronger Relationships with Family
Freedom to Rediscover Who YOU ARE.
Not to even mention the skills you will learn, and the doors of opportunity that will open. As soon as I graduated I was invited to be a guest instructor at several survival schools, and even got a couple full-time teaching opportunities. I decided to take a job as the full-time survival instructor for a school based in South Carolina. I was super excited, but my heart was always in the Ozarks. My family and I moved to the Carolinas in the Summer of 2016, and within 6 months I had created an established survival program there. At the end of 2016 Rob (Sigma 3 Owner) decided it was time for me to come home, and he offered me the Director of Operations and Lead Instructor position at Sigma 3. Since then I have been leading the Sigma program, and together with Rob’s guidance we continue to run one of the largest and most comprehensive survival schools in the World.
So if you are like me, and need a fresh start then consider the 45 Days Instructor Program. I know you won’t regret it. REGISTER HERE!
In Western Cultures we have created a stigma about eating insects; however over 80% of the world eats bugs as a part of their daily diet. They in fact are super foods. We have labeled them as disgusting, yuck, and gross, but in reality they can be quite delicious. They are packed with nutrients, and when it comes to protein, many insects have more grams of protein than beef.
Most people see insects as pest or even dangerous. It is true that numerous bugs have parasites, bacteria, and in some cases they can carry disease, but if cooked properly there is almost 0% chance of those dangers transferring to humans. In this post I want to share some things to consider when eating bugs.
Bugs to Avoid:
Bright Colored Bugs – “Red and Yellow kill a Fellow, Green and Brown eat em’ down.”
Known Venomous Insects
Insects that carry disease: Ticks, Mosquitoes, Leaches, etc.
Centipedes and Millipedes
Bugs that look sickly or ill. (Example: parasite coming out of side)
Abnormal bugs. When in doubt, don’t eat it.
Common Edible Bugs:
Flies / Butterflies / Moths
The main concern with flies is they tend to feed off of dead carcasses and can carry hundreds of pathogens. It is best to look for their larva, and thoroughly cook those once you have washed them. Butterflies and Moths on the other hand are much cleaner and make a great roasted snack. Butterfly and Moth larva are a delicacy in many countries.
Worms / Grubs
Many worms and grubs can be eaten raw, but I rarely ever recommend you eat a bug raw. I prefer to squeeze out any waste in their system, and then roast on a stick, fry, or even boil them. Earthworms and mealworms have a real earthy dirt flavor, where as big grubs can actually have a delicious nutty flavor. Don’t hesitate to eat these creepy crawlies.
Ants / Termites
Your average ants and termites are the one bug that I am not concerned about eating raw; however bullet ants, fire ants, and other stinging ants should be roasted or fried. This keeps them from stinging you in your mouth or throat. In rare cases anaphylaxis can cause swelling in the throat if stung, causing breathing issues. For the most part I regularly let them climb on a stick, and then eat them off. You can lick your finger which will cause them to stick to it, and eat them that way. These little insencts are packed with tons of nutrients.
Grass Hoppers / Crickets
When I was a kid I loved catching grasshoppers. Not so much fun when you haven’t eaten in a couple days, and are trying to get your hands on one. The best way to procure jumping or flying insects is to create a swatter. Usually I just get a stick with some branches on the end. You have to find a good balance, because if there are too many branches it will slow down your swatter.
Once you catch them, the best thing to do is remove the head and pull out the entrails. From there remove the any sharp wings or lower legs that might stab you or get stuck in your throat. My favorite way to cook these delicious hoppers is to skewer them on a long thin stick (spice bush works great), and then roast over a camp fire. This is a fun insect to get your kids started with.
Beetles / Water Bugs / Cockroaches
I think out of all the bugs I have ever eaten, beetles and cockroaches have always been the hardest for me. They taste pretty good, but they have strong skeletal structure making them crunchy, and just the thought of eating a roach is a little mind blowing. They are one of the few creatures to survive and thrive after being exposed to nuclear matter. Never the less cook thoroughly, and you are good to go. Another fun fact: Cockroaches are the fastest insect on foot. Because of this it is better to try and trap instead of catch.
There are numerous other edible bugs, over 1500 recorded species to be more exact, which include spiders, scorpions, slugs, bees, wasp, and dragonflies. I personally choose to only eat bugs that aren’t as likely to cause me harm. Remember to use safe food handling practices and wash your hands regularly while handling these injects.
*Caution: Never Eat any insects that you are not able to properly identify as edible. Also, if you have any food allergies, do not any insect.
Show your support, share, and shop the provided links. Looking for more interesting edible bugs read the article from Primal Survival – Guide to Eating Bugs. If you are really interested in learning more, research entomophagy or entomology.
Thanks for Reading!
Justin “Sage” Williams
Director / Lead Instructor
Sigma 3 Survival School
During my 10+ years in survival I have seen hundreds of survival gadgets come and go. Many of which I thought were clever, but would never make it, and others I thought would be great to have. It is kind of like the fidget spinners. They were extremely popular, and even bushcrafters were using them to make friction fire, but I knew the craze would die off. Many survival gadgets are like that, but I wanted to share a few that I think are extremely useful:
Some of favorite survival gadgets that I use on a regular basis:
There is nothing worse than tangled paracord (cordage). If you have ever done any shelter building with cordage then you know what I am talking about. The Spool Tool is amazing because it holds up to 100 ft of paracord, and it has a cutting blade and spot to hold a mini Bic lighter. I absolutely love this thing.
This nifty gadget is great for keeping your Bic lighter dry. I love kayaking, and in the winter time it is essential that you have good fire starters that will work even if they get wet. The FireSleeve is a waterproof case for your Bic lighter. It also has a rubber flap to slide over the gas button so it stays lit. I did have to remove the child safety to get the flap to stay. Overall great gadget for the price.
I love survival bracelets, and they make excellent gift for kids and kids at heart. Unfortunately a lot of them are overpriced, or the bracelet doesn’t fit right. The great thing about the SpeedyJig is it is easy to use, and you can get the perfect fit every time. Once you get the basics down then you can begin adding things to make it the ultimate survival bracelet. I have one with some fishing line, hooks, jute twine, and even a small ferro rod attached to it.
This amazing knife sharpener will get your blade extremely sharp. Even if you have no experience sharpening knives the guides help you get the perfect angle for bushcraft. I used to always struggle getting a consistent edge on my knives until I started using this handy gadget. You can also sharpen serrations and fish hooks. I love it’s versatility, and not only does it have diamond plates it also has a ceramic rod and leather strop on the sides. I won’t go into the field without it.
These amazing lanterns are great for backpacking because of their portability and weight. They are extremely light, and they pack up nice and compact. The inflatable design turns the light from and ordinary lamp into a bright lantern. The best part is it is solar powered. I had the opportunity to use one of these first hand recently during a search and rescue training I was doing. It wasn’t no spotlight, but it lit up the area really well. I plan on taking two with me when I go to the Jungle in June.
There are several gadgets out on the market right now, and there are sure to be hundreds more, but these 5 are winners in my book, and if you are looking at picking up any of these items be sure to support Sigma 3 and purchase from the links provided.
Thanks for Reading!
Justin “Sage” Williams
Director Sigma 3
The term bugging out is a term survivalist preppers and some military use when talking about getting out of a certain situation. A bugout bag is a handy set of ready to go items that you can just grab and go. Some people prefer the term “B.O.B.”(Bug Out Bag) or “Go Bag.” The general rule of thumb is to have enough supplies in your bug out bag to survive at least 3 days, although sometimes bug out bags are made to last 7 – 21 days, and even indefinitely.
Depending on your skillset and how much survival training or knowledge your posses it is possible to survive with a knife alone. Even the most skilled survivalists would rather have more tools with them than just a knife. I mean why would you want to make surviving harder on yourself.
We have compiled a list of must-have items that our Instructor’s recommend, as well as a list of items to put inside your bug out bags. These items could vary depending on the climate you live in but for the most part, they will stay the same.
3 Day Bugout Bag Checklist – 3 Days is the bare minimum amount you will want to have enough supplies for. Having enough water and food can easily be packed into a small bag. The 3 day kit is designed to meet your initial needs. It provides for the key components to any short-term survival situation. Shelter, Fire, Water, Food, and Security. It is designed to get you by for the first 72 hours until you can resupply or relocate to a safer, more plentiful location. Other than food and water your 3 Day B.O.B. should contain :
21 Day Bugout Bag Checklist – Beyond those primary needs you will need to extend your kit. When building out your bug out bag consider keeping it modular. You should be able to simply attach your 3 Day Bag right on to your 21 Day Bag. This prevents you from having to pack all the same items into two separate bags. In addition to your 3 Day Bag, your 21 Day Bug Out Bag should include:
INCH Bag “I’m Never Coming Home”Checklist – You can’t possibly carry enough supplies to last forever, but with some training, you could survive for a very long time and possibly indefinitely. The INCH Bag contains all the items in your 3 and 21 Day Bug Out Bags, but also includes everything you feel like you can’t live without. In the event your home becomes uninhabitable due to disaster or hostile environments you will want to secure invaluable items. This could include everything from photos, family heirlooms, and items that bring you joy and fulfillment. The list of INCH Bag items is only limited by your ability to transport those items.
This list is provided to give you some options. You may not need to carry every item on it. Just things to consider.
Preparedness is key, and having a quick bugout bag ready to go at a moments notice could be the difference between survival and worst case scenario. In closing, the items recommended in this list have been tested in the field by experienced survival instructors. Show your support, share and shop the links provided in this blog post.
Thanks for Reading!
Justin “Sage” Williams
Director Sigma 3
Over the ages, nature has helped evolve the best solutions for survival in the very animals that live off the land. Every species must adapt to it’s environment and find a way to stay warm in the coldest environments. So when you are looking for the warmest fibers on the planet, it makes sense to look at animals that survive in the coldest, nastiest environments on the planet. The one domestic animal that survives at the highest altitudes, experiences the biggest temperature changes, and endures constant moisture is the sheep. Sheep are purpose bred to survive in the highlands and grow a fiber that is natures miracle to mankind. The wool fiber truly is an amazing thing to behold once you really study it on it’s deepest levels.
And I definitely consider myself a wool dork.
Check out this diagram of the breakdown of whats actually in a woolen fiber. Then it all begins to make sense on why this fiber truly is the king of all fibers for cold wet weather. As outdoorsmen, we tend to be in wet cold weather when pursuing our passions in the wilderness. The real difference between wool and other synthetic options is performance when wet, durability, fire resistance, and the anti-bacterial properties. The real problem with synthetic fibers is that over time they will begin to stink and there is never a good way to wash clothes in very cold weather. You don’t encounter the same issues with wool and I’ve owned my WeatherWool anorak for over a year and wear it on average three days a week and it doesn’t smell.
Lanolin, the wool fibers secret?
The real key thing that separates wool from many other fibers that are available is that it is coated with lanolin and each type of wool has different amounts of it. I’ll let Wikipedia define exactly what lanolin is.
Lanolin (from Latinlāna ‘wool’, and oleum ‘oil’), also called wool wax or wool grease, is a wax secreted by the sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals. Lanolin used by humans comes from domestic sheepbreeds that are raised specifically for their wool. Historically, many pharmacopoeias have referred to lanolin as wool fat (adeps lanae); however, as lanolin lacks glycerides (glycerol esters), it is not a true fat. Lanolin primarily consists of sterol esters instead. Lanolin’s waterproofing property aids sheep in shedding water from their coats. Certain breeds of sheep produce large amounts of lanolin. There is an inverse correlation between wool fiber diameter and lanolin content.
A little known fact about winter camping is that it is essential to have an oil coating on your skin to stay warmer. That can be done in two different ways, either by build up of the skins natural oils over time or the by rubbing your skin with natural oils. Either will produce a similar result, though putting natural oil on your skin is more hygenic than natural oils, its not sustainable in the field long term. I always tell instructor course students before long stays in the cold, that they should not take showers and allow the oil to build up on their skin to protect them. And it’s definitely key to make sure you aren’t taking hot showers because that will de-acclimatize your skin to the cold conditions around you. In fact, getting in cold water can help you acclimatize your skin to very cold conditions and will cause a rush of blood to your skin. It helps you build that natural comfortable cold you get from a long time in the woods in winter. And like the oils that protect our skin, the lanolin in the wool protects the fiber.
Different types of Wool Available?
Alpaca- I’ve used Alpaca wool for years and it has some amazing properties. Alpaca socks are hands down some of the warmest socks I’ve ever worn in my life and I still prefer them for many things. But the main problem I’ve had with it is durability issues. You can’t hike long distances in these socks without wearing a hole in them quick. There also isn’t a lot of options on the market right now to even purchase Alpaca wool clothing or socks. The fiber just isn’t used that much by American companies for durability issues, so that limits the products you could hope to purchase.
Yak Wool- This is something new to the market and hasn’t really been utilized much yet. There is one company that I recently purchased some base layers from that I haven’t used in the field yet that is making yak wool products. Kora is making a revolutionary new Yak wool that is suppose to be much warmer and more durable than other fibers to date. It makes sense considering Yak’s are exposed to the siberian tundra and the worst winter conditions on the planet as their daily life. But none of this has been substantiated in field testing yet and since they are the only company I’m aware of offering these products. It makes your selection extremely limited!
Merino- The most used type of wool on the planet is merino wool by a landslide. One of the reasons is that it is a commonly kept domestic animal and have been raised for generations by farmers. These sheep have survived in all types of conditions to high mountain fields to low land wet weather areas. They are one of the best overall fibers you can choose from for several reasons. It is a thinner, softer, and more workable fiber that can be processed into tougher outer garments or soft undergarments to wear next to the skin. In essence, its one of the more versatile wool fibers and their is a huge plethora of products to choose from on the market. Almost anything you can think of can be had in this wool fiber.
Rambouillet Merino- This is a big upgrade from the standard merino wool and rambouillet are bred in order to produce the highest quality wool fiber you can get. With the main goal in mind being performance in the elements and softness against the skin. WeatherWool is the only brand using this material and they only choose the top 1% of the top 1% of any merino wool available. There purchase costs for this fiber are 5 times higher than any other type of merino available to date. In fact, this material wasn’t really available before WeatherWool came along and Ralph Dimeo is a pioneer of it. With the sole goal of building a garment that performs flawlessly in any environment, looks good, and is comfortable to wear. Because lets be honest, if the wool is itchy and scratchy, you’re less likely to wear it. Finding high quality wool that you can wear directly on your skin is difficult, meaning you’ll have to wear warm base layers to keep your skin away from it. And that means you might get to hot and makes the garment less flexible for use in the field. This is my favorite wool so far by a landslide and I’ve owned all the competitions stuff. If you have an interest in learning more about the WeatherWool fabric and the tedious process of selection they use then visit: WeatherWool Fabric
Mouton- Mouton is French for sheep. In the fur trade, Mouton refers to an extremely select pelt of a lamb that has evolved to offer some remarkable properties to the outdoorsman.
Here is an excerpt from WeatherWools fabric page:
“Like all WeatherWool components, our Mouton is pure American. Americans have very little appetite for the meat of adult sheep. Virtually all sheep that are raised for meat in the USA are processed as lambs at about one year old. The pelts of all these lambs are used. Those pelts that are of the very highest quality; less than 1% of all pelts, are selected for processing into Mouton. Mouton was originally developed as an alternative to wild furs such as beaver and seal.
There are several steps in the creation of a Mouton Fur. First, the lamb must grade out to ‘Mouton potential’. Only one in one hundred lambs will have the dense, soft, and uniform fleece necessary for Mouton. When the raw pelt is shipped to the tannery, it is graded again, and about 15% of the Mouton candidates are rejected at this point. Acceptable pelts are tanned, then heat treated to make the wool fibers relatively water-resistant and straight, and extremely soft and glossy. The fleece is sheared to a uniform length of 5/8 inches (1.6 cm) and dyed. Our favorite color is a rich BROWN, but BLACK, WHITE and GRAY are also available. Wool, and therefore Mouton as well, is considered by the medical profession to be hypoallergenic. Mouton cannot be washed, because of the leather, but does resist soiling fairly well. If necessary, it can be cleaned by professionals who launder furs.”
Interesting fact about Mouton and sheeps pelt jackets is they were worn by World War 2 bombers. The guys flying at the highest altitudes, with the windows opening and blaring machine guns under Japanese fire, chose to use sheeps pelts and leather jackets. Why is that? Warmth when wet, the leather stops the wind, and good breathability under tense conditions. And all these mouton clothing options from WeatherWool are just a modern and elegant version of those. They can be worn in the arctic circle or in the finest restaurants because of their beauty and comfort. You might think they are overpriced, but there is really no mark up on this product. The company makes almost nothing for their efforts, but Weatherwool is committed to making the highest quality garments you can get, regardless if they make much on it or not. And I can tell you from personally wearing these mouton items, that they are hands down the warmest garment I’ve ever put on.
What is wool not good for?
There is no one tool option for outdoor clothing and each item you purchase should be well thought out and something you’ll wear regularly. And as always, I’m a buy once cry once kind of guy, so always buy the best you can afford. As survivalists, we choose wool because of it’s wet weather performance, warmth under the wettest conditions, durability, fire resistance, and long term hygiene benefits in the field. That being said, wool is the heaviest and least packable of all the products available. It is also much heavier when wet than almost any other garment out there. Its not recommended for long hiking expeditions, where speed and staying lightweight is the key. It is however the king of camping and any kind of sedentary outdoor usage. Unless are you choosing lightweight performance hiking wool products, you’ll find most wool products have limited uses for people moving long distances. But the upside, is the main outer wool clothing you use can be worn under almost any temp conditions and you don’t have to put it in a backpack or worry about shedding it much. So packability becomes less of an issue when you use wool base layers and proper choice of outer garments.
I’m a big believer in mixing fibers to combine the best of both worlds. My favorite non wool clothing brand is by far and away Fjallraven outdoor clothing, and I like too wear Fjallraven Vidda Pro Pants with wool under garments and wool jackets. The pants are the best hiking pants I’ve ever used, they shed water easily, and dry even faster than nylon does. Combine these pant options with wool outer garments and base layers and I promise you that you’ll love them. Lightweight, packable, tough, and they have the best fit and tailoring I’ve ever seen on any pants.
So my philosopy on outdoor clothing is to mix and match these fibers for optimal performance for your specific outdoor trip. But just remember that wool is always your fall back clothing or you base foundation. Base layers, socks, wool caps, scarfs, underwear, tshirts, and much more are available in wool today. Use the wool products for the areas close to your skin. And then combine the wool with fjallraven pants, goretex shells, ponchos, and other garments that compliment the wool for each specific trip you take. Mix and match different materials for optimal performance. Just remember there is no one tool option, but if there was one, it would be wool.
Difference in Design?
So one of the big problems with most wool designs is that many manufacturers use cotton in their apparel. Cotton stitching, cotton liners, and some even use cotton inside the actual wool material. That isn’t a big issue until you get wet. I’ll give you a for instance, the Columbia wool clothing I own has a cotton lining in the hood of the jacket, and if I was to fall into a creek or get rained on that cotton would begin to freeze. And once that cotton freezes, it eliminates the benefits of having the wool in the first place. Remember that we choose wool because of it’s wet and cold weather performance. So ask yourself why a huge majority of the manufacturers out there would have large amounts of cotton in their apparel. Why? Because its WAY WAY cheaper to do it that way for one. But the sole purpose for adding liners is because the wool fabric they use is so scratchy that it will irritate any skin it touches. So why buy rough wool when you can have soft wool with much better performance? The only reason to buy rough wool is if you just can’t afford wool that is soft. Which is fine because budget is the single most important factor when purchasing something like this. Some guys will never be able to afford the higher quality performance products, so they should stick with surplus stuff and not feel bad about it all. But if you have the money, and if you travel to places where the cold can kill you, then get the best you can. I promise when your warm at deer camp and everyone else is freezing their ass off, I promise you’ll then begin to appreciate the purchase. And the big difference with WeatherWool, is that you can wear your hunting equipment EVERYWHERE up to 80 degrees.
Price for Premium Wools?
What most people fail to understand is there is a big difference in rough run of the mill production wool and a high grade premium option. If you want real wool and the performance of it, there is no getting around opening your pocket book for a big hit. Whether it’s buying base layers or a fullweight jacket, they aren’t going to be cheap. I recently paid almost $300 for just some baselayers in Yak wool, and that is only one layer in the wool options. If you’re going to have an entire wool outfit, there isn’t any way around spending a $1000 or more unless you go for recycled or mixed blend wool options that don’t perform as well. And I’m of the mindset, that if you’re going spend a lot of money, I’d rather spend a little more and get something that will last a lifetime. The only cheap option available for 100% wool is thrift shops and european military surplus, which can be found in abundance all over the web. And I’m not going to say the performance of these items are bad because they are good for what they are. But they will all universally feel scratchy on the skin, sizing can be difficult, and performance has improved incredibly since the invention of those older garments. But those garments are a testament to how long wool clothing lasts. It doesn’t matter where you go to find wool, it’s expensive everywhere. The cheapest wool product available in our industry is the Lester River Wool Anorak and I own one of them. It’s an okay piece of equipment, but it’s a cheap and scratchy military wool blanket of the lowest quality. It will get the job done in cold weather, but it won’t be a piece of equipment you wear often. Whereas high end WeatherWool is a piece of clothing you’ll wear year round to all your life events. It’s comfortable to wear in temps up to 80 degrees because of how well it breathes. You can wear it directly onto your skin with no base layers, unlike most other wool. So all in all, I’m a component for spending more for wool equipment and have something I’ll pass onto my kids. Versus something that will sit in my closet most of the time.
Wool is natures answer to all things cold and wet. It is the base fiber to build all your other fibers upon. Learn to mix and match fibers for different performance in different environments. Remember that you always wear wool socks no matter the climate hot or cold. Wool next to the skin will help the most of any fiber with long term hygiene issues. And weatherwool garments are the top choice for no scratchy, high performance wool outwear. I personally own most of the major companies wool products available and choose weatherwool hands down over the other guys. If you’re interested in purchasing some WeatherWool gear, click the links below or visit:
For many years, I’ve been searching to find the best wool clothing on the planet. Working in the wilderness full time means I need a clothing fiber that works in wide range of temperatures and rough conditions. Clothing choice is a huge consideration when purchasing equipment for work because it means the difference in being comfortable and miserable. Because we train in all kinds of terrible conditions. I’ve gone through and purchased numerous cheaper options that were available and was still un-satisfied with the performance. Like many people I believed that cheap wool items can provide as good of performance of the more expensive stuff. Oh how I was wrong. Its a mistake I’ve made many times over the years when purchasing new equipment.
I get it, everyone always wants the best deal and so do I. But when deals don’t exist in high grade performance fabrics, what else are you to do but open your wallet and take the hit. If you need it for your lifestyle then it’s an investment in your life. Over the years, I’ve learned the hard way that it is better to skip buying all the cheap shit and just use what the professionals use. Buy once, cry once and have something that is so high quality you can give it to your kids in twenty years. Then I came across weatherwool products and immediately became hooked. I’ve been using my WeatherWool Anorak for around a year and half now, and it quickly became my favorite piece of clothing. And not just for outdoors use, I wear my anorak probably around a 100 days a year to social and urban events as well as hardcore trips into the wilderness. That is why I’m so passionate about this piece of equipment versus the other wool outer wear I own. Because it doesn’t hang in my closet most of the year until the really cold days hit. I will wear my weatherwool in 75 degree weather on the regular. It has the best temperature regulation and softest feel of any wool garment on the market.
It’s something I can wear right next to my skin with no need for base layers to protect me from the scratchy fibers on my skin. Rough wool directly on the skin over extended periods of time can cause a significant rash and itching in many people. And I am one of those people. WeatherWool is the wool for people that don’t like wool.
What wool outdoor gear I currently own?
Two weather wool anoraks $575 I liked this piece of equipment so much, I got two of them. Olive drab and duff brown (like coyote brown) in two different sizes. This is by far my favorite piece of outdoor apparel and the thing I wear more than anything. If you were going to start with a piece of weatherwool, this is where I’d start.
Weatherwool full weight pants $500- These pants will be used less often because they are so warm. But the benefit to having weatherwool fabric for pants is that you don’t need to wear base layers with them. Unlike other garments that have rough wool and will irritate the skin. And don’t forget that if they put a cotton liner over the wool then you’ll regret that purchase when you get wet. Cotton and wool don’t mix at all, so don’t choose a wool brand that uses cotton, linings, or cheap wool.
Weatherwool Gaiter $65- This is a very useful piece of equipment that can be used in conjunction with the anorak to keep more heat inside the wool. Your neck is an area where blood is close to the skin and it cools quicker there. You can help prevent that heat loss from the upper torso with a merino wool gaiter. Its two layers and can be extended out by itself to make a 5′ length that can be used as a scarf as well. Very versatile piece of equipment for those colder days.
Weatherwool Mouton Vest $1200- Mouton is the single warmest clothing material I’ve ever experienced to date. Combine this item with the weatherwool anorak, and you have something that is extremely warm. But regulates heat so well, you can keep it on in the house if you want too. And it’s luxurious enough to be worn in any five star establishment. I was blown away at how warm the Weatherwool Mouton clothing items were and instantly fell in love with them. In fact, I’m obsessed with this weatherwool mouton line of clothing. It is simply the softest sheep’s skin you’ll ever feel. They have a process for only selecting the top 1% of all mouton pelts and use them in the lining of the vest and jacket. So that means you have leather and wool combined into one jacket. Meaning the leather stops the wind and the wool keeps you warm. The one big downside to wool is that it’s porous and doesn’t stop the wind as well without a shell. So the combination of leather and the best wool fiber on the planet means some serious luxury warmth. And I get it, they are ridiculously expensive. But here is the deal, you would think there is a big markup on these items. But in fact they are the lowest margin item they have and they spend all the money on top quality material. These clothes have been tested around the arctic circle at Camp Sargo by the military and had fantastic results you can read here Camp Sargo Weatherwool Testing.
Columbia Gallatin Range Wool $150- I own every single piece they offer in this line. Good stuff, but not even close to 100% wool. It has numerous cotton elements in it such as liners, cotton in the fabric, mixed with fleece. And in general it is a very very cheap woolen product. Its marketed like a quality wool product, but it’s really not. I had numerous buttons pop off at un-opportune times. But if you are on an extreme budget, they are a suitable option for people looking to get into wool.
Empire Wool and Canvas Camp Coat $345- This is a very hardy jacket with well built buttons and is mid priced in comparison to other models mentioned. But the wool is extremely rough and I don’t like wearing it without a long shirt underneath. It also doesn’t fit that well around the shoulders due to the design. I actually wore my cheap columbia way more often than this jacket. Like the Lester River Shirt, it is made of cheap military wool blankets. You’re paying more for tailoring than you are the quality of the wool.
Lester River Boreal Shirt $285– This is probably the single most popular wool Anorak in the survival industry at the moment. And like any other gear whore would, I went ahead and bought one due to the hype. And it is a solid piece of equipment, as long as you wear base layers under it. Its a very rough wool, so it’s not enjoyable to wear without base layers. I also don’t like that it has no options to vent heat out. It has no size zips like the WW Anorak, and it has an annoying piece of material that goes over the neck area, that restricts cooling greatly. I would have preferred they left that neck shield off, because I’d rather have the option to wear a gaiter if it gets colder. Heat regulation when active is everything in cold environments. I do however like the hand warmer pockets because they have segmented pockets for organizing items.
King of the Mountain Hooded Sweat Shirt $620- I got this item in a trade from a good friend. And it turned out to be a solid piece of wool, but it was very expensive and the wool was still really rough. I don’t think you can appreciate wool until you’ve used a really soft 100% wool garment. You won’t go back to the rough wool. This item was used in winter, but that was about the only time. Whereas I’d wear my weatherwool almost year round.
So what are we looking for in the Best Wool Anorak?
Temperature Regulation- This is one of the most important features to me. If i’m constantly sweating in a garment because it has no venting options, that means i’ll be much colder later when I slow down due to moisture on my skin. So it’s important to find a wool garment that allows you to vent heat out. Its nice to have a garment you can wear in the city as well.
Softness- If you the wool isn’t comfortable to wear against your skin. Chances are you will wear it a lot less. Meaning you spent a substantial amount of money on an item you rarely use. Anytime you make a major clothing purchase you need that item to be versatile and have many uses in your life. Otherwise why are you buying? To hang in the closet?
Durability- Any expensive wool purchase must have durability and ruggedness. Otherwise, why even choose wool? Durability is in large part determined by the weave of the fabric, the thickness of the fiber, layering, and choosing farms that don’t allow poly bags on their farm because it weakens the wool.
Fire Resistance-This is important to us as bushcrafter, hikers, or camp cooks. Because we have to have a fire for food and warmth. Even if it’s only to heat some water up to make a mountain house meal. Synthetic materials get destroyed extremely easily with even sparks from a fire. I have a down jacket that looks like swiss cheese in certain areas because of all the holes from fire sparks.
Water shedding- Last but not least is the ability of the wool to shed water in a downpour. Wool never really becomes soaked because it is coated with oils. The moisture can reside in the fabric though until it dries out. But even when soaked the wool retains 80% of insulation abilities. So it doesn’t really matter if you get wet in cold weather. Won’t take long with activity to warm back up. Taken it from someone that has fallen through ice in the winter and wish I had wool. Wool can be very heavy when wet, so you want a wool that has a really tight weave so that water doesn’t come through. Weatherwool uses a jacquard loom, that stacks layers of wool and gives it greater durability and a tighter weave, which is good for blocking wind and rain.
WeatherWool Refund policy: You can have any garment they offer shipped to your house and you can try it on and use it for awhile. Don’t like it, send it back and they will give you a full refund. You can also sell your older WeatherWool clothes back to them and use them as credits for other purchases. Name one outdoor clothing company that does that? I’m still waiting, Lol. So it’s basically a no risk purchase as long as you can afford it. Because I guarantee you won’t return it after you try it. They are a small niche company trying to make a name for themselves by just simply making the highest quality wool you can get. They don’t do anything else but premium wool!
Conclusion: There are a ton of solid wool products out there to choose from. From military surplus, to hunting brands, and thrift stores. But none of them are going to have a soft wool that is non scratchy and is also something you’ll want to wear in public as well as the woods. In fact, there aren’t really any outdoor options for a soft wool that is nice to wear next to your skin. Pretty much everyone else uses run of the mill wool fibers and no one has taken quality of fabric to the next level like WeatherWool has done. And since the price is the same as many of their high end competitors, then why go with anything else. Its good for urban and wilderness, looks luxurious, comes with a full refund if you don’t like it, and impeccable customer service.