WeatherWool, An introduction to Premium Wool

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.best wool 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 Latin lāna ‘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 sheep breeds 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.[1][2] Lanolin primarily consists of sterol esters instead.[3] 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!

yak wool

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.

Conclusion:

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:

WeatherWool Our Fabric: https://weatherwool.com/pages/the-weatherwool-difference

WeatherWool Anorak: https://survivalgear.us/collections/weatherwool/products/weatherwool-anorak

WeatherWool Pants: https://survivalgear.us/collections/weatherwool/products/weatherwool-pants

Winter Hammock Camping 101

The Realities of Winter Hammock Camping

In the last year, I have been all over the country living in my hammock. I decided to go homeless by choice in August 2017, so that I could be a nomad and live on the move in my favorite hammock system of all time. The Warbonnet Blackbird XLC is by far and away the best overall hammock system in the world in my opinion. I loved it so much, I got rid of my house so I could travel and live in it full time. They even have a new model they just released, in which we will do a write up on later. But the changes made to the Blackbird XLC are exactly what was needed to take the system to the next level.

During these travels, I’ve lived in my hammock in Puerto Rico after the Hurricanes devastated the island. I lived on the front of an airport, to beaches along the coast, to the front porch of buildings. I traveled from a tropical environment to a winter environment and that made a world of difference in how I set up my hammock to endure the weather. We recently camped out in just above zero temperatures in Northern PA and stayed extremely warm in our shelters even in a foot of snow.

Insulating Hammocks in Below Freezing Weather

The main problem with hammock camping in cold weather is the issue with convection underneath you. Wind blowing below you will suck heat away from you quicker than anything else and that is why you must know how to properly setup for winter hammock camping. There are many ways to set up for winter hammock camping conditions, but not all are equal.

Hammock Camping Winter

Different ways of setup:

  • Top Quilt and Underquilt- This is my preferred method for winter hammock camping. But it is also the most expensive and least modular for other uses. The top quilt is only 3/4 of a sleeping bag, eliminating weight from the bag where it isn’t needed. When in a hammock, it does no good to insulate underneath yourself with a typical sleeping bag because the insulation becomes compressed and provides no warmth. That is why an under quilt is so important because it makes up for the lack of insulation underneath you. And since the under quilt isn’t compressed by your body, it will provide substantial warmth. Down is the material of choice for insulation on hammocks, especially if conditions are consistently below freezing. The only time synthetic insulation would be better is if the conditions were constantly wet. Even then most down quilt manufacturers use silicon-treated down these days, so them getting wet is less of an issue than in the past.
  • Sleeping Bag and thermal pad- The next best option isn’t as warm, but it allows you to utilize sleeping bags you already own instead of having to purchase quilts that can really only be used for winter hammock camping. The problem with this option is that traditional sleeping bags are difficult to get in and out of in a hammock. The underneath portion of your sleeping bag is useless and a thermal pad is absolutely essential for staying warm. No matter how good your sleeping bag is rated, you will still get cold underneath you without a thermal pad.
  • Utilizing Tarps for warmth- One of the most important options for warmth is how you use your tarp. I’m a firm believer in having a tarp that will block the wind and rain from all directions. These triangular or partial coverage tarps aren’t good enough for cold conditions. Because if the wind can blow across your hammock because the tarp doesn’t block it all the way around, you are likely to get cold. The Warbonnet Superfly tarp is the best I’ve seen so far in these types of tarps. It is constructed to act like a tent around your hammock and if you want to block the wind in cold conditions you’ll need to put your tarp flaps all the way to the ground. This will block the wind effectively and make your shelter much warmer.
  • Blackbird XLC Top Cover and Under Quilt Cover- Recently Warbonnet changed some aspects of their Blackbird XLC. They added a top cover that can be purchased at any time because they aren’t custom to each hammock anymore. And they also have two vents added to them, which are essential for letting out moisture from your breath. The top cover itself will add around 15 degrees of warmth to your winter hammock system, but the problem with the original design was condensation build up inside the hammock from your breath throughout the night. This was a very big problem before because your breath would freeze to the inside of the hammock, causing your insulation to get wet. They have also designed a new underquilt cover, that is designed to block more wind and help keep your underquilt compressed against the hammock. This was a problem before with any underquilt, because if you moved too much the quilt could slip off. And this new design prevents that as well as adding more wind protection for winter hammock camping.
  • Thermal Pads- I truly believe that whether you use a sleeping bag or quilt system, that you truly should use a thermal pad for both setups. Its amazing how much warmth a Therma-rest pad can warm you sleep system up. In fact, I’d say it’s the single most important thing for staying warm when winter hammock camping.

Benefits of Winter Hammock Camping

 

If you have followed our social media, you know that we are HUGE advocates of winter hammock camping for many reasons. Here the reasons we choose hammocks above other shelters:

  • Fast setup and flat ground not needed. You can camp on the side of hill, next to a waterfall, or anywhere you can find trees. There are even ways to setup them up without trees.
  • No need to clean the ground up on your site or prepare sleep area.
  • Super Lightweight and Packable. The warbonnet blackbird XLC weighs only around 3 lbs for the whole system and more if you add quilts and other accessories.
  • SuperFly tarp can be used as a tent if hammock not needed.
  • Most comfortable night sleep you can get in the woods. The blackbird XLC forces your body to sleep in an anatomically correct position and has eliminated all my back pain. I’ve considered hanging one in my bedroom when I quit being homeless.
  • Lightweight and Packable
  • Durable and comfortable- I’ve had the same hammock for 3 years and it has no noticeable wear of any kind, even after living in it full time for the last six months.

Conclusion:

Best Winter Hammock

Of all the choices available for cold winter camping, hammock camping with quilts is by far and away our favorite. The only downside to hammock camping versus other types of camping is you can’t have a fire next to any hammock system. The material is too lightweight to have a fire anywhere even close to it. We recommend keeping your hammock a minimum of 20 yards away from any fire. Other than the lack of exterior heating capability, the only other downside is you must have trees to hang the hammock. But even if you don’t you can put your superfly tarp straight to the ground and it can double as a floorless tent. All in all, you can’t go wrong with a Warbonnet XLC hammock system. If you can’t afford one, ENOS is a great secondary option. But they aren’t even close in comparison to quality, comfort, or utility uses.

Recommended Winter Hammock Camping products:

Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Classic Foam Sleeping Pad for Camping, Hiking, and Backpacking, Regular – 72 x 20 Inches

ENO Eagles Nest Outfitters – Blaze Under Quilt

ENO Eagles Nest Outfitters – Ignitor Top Quilt, Royal/Charcoal

Warbonnet Under Quilt

Warbonnet Top Quilt

Warbonnet Blackbird XLC Full package from SIGMA 3 Systems (Our Hammock Setup of Choice)

Warbonnet SuperFly Tarp

ENO Eagles Nest Outfitters – AirLoft Hammock Mattress, Hammock Accessory, Royal/Charcoal

ENO Eagles Nest Outfitters – JungleNest Hammock, Includes Hammock and Bug Net, Grey

reflective tarp

New Bushcrafter’s Reflective Tarp Shelter

ANNOUNCEMENT: We are proud to announce that SIGMA 3 will be the first US distributor of these reflective tarp products and currently the only place you can get this in America.We highly recommend this shelter after having used it in the field!

For years, I have been looking for a really good shelter made of reflective material that was designed for use by bushcrafters. In the US, you really only have the small emergency blanket tarps made of this material and they are all too small for comfortable use. Previously bushcrafters have had to resort to canvas, cordura, or other tough materials if they planned to sleep next to a campfire without damaging their tarp. Until recently I was completely stumped on how I could get a shelter made like I want because a company in the US has almost a total monopoly on reflective tarp material. That makes it super hard to get a hold of the material for making your own tarps. Then I stumbled onto the company Vihe Vaellus in Finland and was shocked at the AWESOME lineup of reflective bushcrafting shelters!

This company has really thought out these reflective tarp shelters very well and has a setup that will fit almost anyone’s needs. You can get solo shelters all the way up to 6 person shelters, and they all weigh less than 3 lbs. All the smaller reflective tarp shelters weigh less than 2 lbs and are surprisingly durable considering their weight. This traditional style of bushcraft shelter is designed to be placed next to a fire and will keep anyone sleeping in them really warm. They are not like a traditional nylon tarp that loses heat easily and has no sides to protect from the wind. This rip stop nylon has been coated with an aluminum spray that helps reflect all the heat back towards you. It is so effective that you don’t even need to keep the fire close to you at all. For a good size long fire, we recommend placing the fire about 4-5′ from the edge of your shelter.

To Purchase Click Here!

Remember that it is important to know your prevailing winds when using this type of reflective tarp shelter. Fire placement and prevailing winds will be an important decision to insure that you aren’t breathing much smoke from the fire. It is best to set these up in low wind forested areas but we have set them up in high winds several times and they have held up well.

Shelter Configurations:

reflective tarpreflective tarp

IMG_0567finnish loue

Reflective Tarp Technical Specs:

 

  • Width at the front 114″ or 9.5′
  • Diameter 125″ or 10.4′
  • Depth 62″ or 5.1′
  • Weight: 1.7 lbs
  • Pack Size in Compression Sack: 6″x6″

Price: $199.95

Because we have to import these from Europe, they do hit us pretty hard on shipping but we don’t plan to pass on that cost to you. If you buy this reflective tarp shelter from us, you will pay roughly the same price as if you were living in Europe. We are the only US distributor of this product and you won’t find it anywhere else in America! Only other place to get them is from foreign website, most of which are in another language.

Warning: Do not get the fire to close to your shelter, it is essential that it stays the proper distance away to avoid sparks. Now we have had this shelter in 50 mph winds on several occasions and it took some huge spark showers with no damage. We have even had the flames wicking extremely close to the material without it melting or deforming in anyway. But I would play it safe and make sure to protect the tarp the best you can from fire damage.

For over a year now we have recommended the Warbonnet Hammock system as our top survival shelter for all uses. But not everyone likes sleeping in hammocks and some people want to sleep next to fires. Well this is the perfect option for people that like sleeping on the ground next to a fire. You can carry all types of bed rolls with this setup and won’t have to worry about damaging them next to the fire. I used an Exped Down Mattress in the video below and I have to tell you that it is by far the most comfortable ground pad you will ever use. By far the best for comfort, but very pricey!

You can also make a bed using dry leaves, boughs, or other soft material for sleeping if you plan to go lightweight. I recommend a small mat and lightweight sleeping bag. When using a fire next to this shelter you will not need a large sleeping bag as long as you stoke the fire through the night. It is a great way to cut weight out of your hiking setup by bringing a smaller sleeping bag.

Conclusion: This is the best ground based reflective tarp shelter in the world and is a must have for those that sleep next to a fire.  You really can’t beat the packability of the product or it’s weight. There is simply nothing else on the market that really compares with it. I truly believe these shelters will take over the bushcrafting community and all those canvas/cordura/oil cloth fans will be switching over to this once they try it. No need for heavy bulky shelters so that you can sleep next to the fire. I still totally recommend the Warbonnet system as my go to shelter for most people. But if you like sleeping on the ground next to a fire, then this is the only way to go. I’m getting rid of all my canvas tarps after using this system!

If your interested in purchasing this product:

http://shop.survivalschool.us/vihe-vaellus-loue-1-reflective-tarp-shelter/

reflective tarp

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Dress for Cold Weather Survival

How to Dress for Cold Weather Survival in Winter ConditionsRobleantoo pic

Winter dress is one of the most important factors when taking trips into the woods in cold conditions. If you don’t dress right you won’t enjoy your trip nearly as much, so in this article we are going to break down what do wear and how to layer it. The purpose of clothing is to keep your core temperature regulated and maintained and there are a few tips and tricks for doing that. Shelter is always the most important priority in survival and clothing is your first layer of shelter. Your core temperature only has to drop a few degrees before you can be in serious trouble and your body will start shutting down. You will lose dexterity and clarity of thought and it will be that much harder to complete even the most basic tasks. Hypothermia is a fast killer and has taken many lives and can happen to the best of us. There is a multitude of different ways that you can dress in order to combat the killer cold.

The rule of 3’s states:
3 mins without air
3 hours of exposure
3 days without water
3 weeks without food

Everyone is different and you may last longer than or not as long as the given rules of threes. The rule we are going to focus on is the rule of 3 hours of exposure in low temperatures and how to combat it. First rule of cold weather survival is to never let yourself get wet or you DIE! Now let’s go over how you can prevent from getting wet and stop damp clothing from potentially killing you.

The key to dress for cold weather is all about temperature regulation and what you wear can vary greatly for different conditions. This recommendation is for -10F to 32F, and if you find yourself in colder conditions then that will change your strategy slightly. The best way I have found to regulate temperature and control sweating is by simply layering materials properly according to the temperature conditions. It is important to stay at a comfortable cold, you never want to get hot enough to lead to sweating! By staying at a comfortable cold you will not sweat and if you do its minimal. So how do you do this? You must dress in layers and peel those layers off as your temp increases and by layering you give yourself modularity to tailor your warmth up or down based on your activity. It is all about staying dry in these cold environments, so staying dry means staying alive. By dressing in layers when you feel hot you take off an outer layer or even two, to allow your body to cool off. Then when you feel cold again you throw a layer back on or the two and you will warm up quickly. By constantly removing and adding layers when needed you combat getting wet. Always remember you get your clothes wet your first shelter is gone.

 

cold weather survival using pack sleds
There are numerous materials that you can use for insulation but I’m going to cover what my favorite layering systems are and what works best for me in the coldest conditions. First we will talk about cotton, and why cotton kills. The problem with cotton is that it absorbs water and holds it, thus the insulation value drops to almost nothing when wet. As well to dry it, it takes a long time and that can be bad if you need your clothes dry in a hurry.

Second we will talk about polyester or synthetic products, which is also warm and can be added as a wicking layer. This means it absorbs the sweat and draws it away from your body and dries quickly. It can become soaked just like any other material, but the benefit to polyester based products is that they dry very quickly. Remember you can always speed up that drying process by placing it next to the fire.

Third you have wool, wool is a great choice for warmth but also holds moisture and is very slow to dry. The great thing about wools is that even when it is wet it can maintain up to 80% of its insulation value, thus still giving you warm and protection from the cold. Remember that if the wool freezes though it won’t really matter, so it is optimal to keep your insulation as dry as possible because if it freezes later that could put you in big trouble. That is why a water resistant layer such as goretex over the outside of your clothing is so important.

Lastly, lets talk about down insulation for a few seconds! Down is by far and away the most lightweight, warmest, and most packable product you can buy. It is also the most expensive and worst material for getting wet. For extremely cold conditions we recommend a mix of down and synthetic products. Never depend completely on down for all your insulation needs unless your alpine mountaineering and temps are extremely low and all water freezes quickly. Even then you need layers underneath down like under armour or wool merino long johns. I prefer a mixture of these products to make sure I have the most optimal system possible.

Outline of Optimal Layering Products for Cold Weather Survival:
Layer 1- Polyester or synthetic base layer. We recommend military poly pros for a budget item or Under Armor Cold Weather gear for something more expensive.
Layer 2- Wool sweater or material that will absorb moisture from your first layer. For budget items we recommend military wool surplus sweaters or for a really nice shirt the Columbia Gallatin line is fantastic!
Layer 3- Light Jacket of either wool or down. Your choice of materials will depend on how much moving your plan to do and how much you can pack. Remember wool is heavy and not very packable. Synthetic products and down are lightweight and packable, but typically not as bomb-proof.
• Layer 4- Lightweight goretex outer jacket and pants. This layer will block the wind and keep you from getting wet from dropping snow, walking, and when you sit down on wet material. Remember that goretex isn’t 100% waterproof, but it is great for snowy conditions.
• Socks- Layer of thin wool or polyester socks, and then a medium weight wool sock over them. The thick layer will draw the moisture from the think layer and keep your skin warm. Dry them out EVERY night though!
• Gloves- We recommend a wool glove liner with a goretex over glove. You want to have more than one glove. And dry out your wool glove every night and the goretex is too keep your hands dry when working with wet or snowy objects. It’s best to carry two sets of liners so that when the first ones get damp, you can dry them and wear your other pair. Leather mittens are also a very warm option but will protect less against wetness than goretex will. We prefer mittens and leather for extremely cold conditions and goretex for slightly warmer conditions.
• Headwear- Fleece or wool beanie is typically best and a balaclava or face protection as well. Just make sure there is a nose vent on the face protection you use, you don’t want your breathe moisture to compromise your face insulation. And your goretex jacket should have a hood as well.

jacket sliderwool pants sliderwool jacket slidergoretex jacket slidergoretex pantsfleece beanie goretex glovesunder armour base layer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Items Listed: Columbia Gallatin Range Wool Jacket and Pants, Mont Bell Down Jacket, Tru-Spec Goretex ECWCS Gen 2 Jacket, Tru Spec Goretex Pants, fleece military beanie, Outdoor Research Goretex Multicam gloves, Under Armour Level 4 Cold Weather Gear

I like dress for cold weather in four layers rather than three. The reason being is that if you can stay somewhat warm with only the three layers while moving and the fourth layer keeps you warm during the down time, is the best method for me. Having three layers, say a poly shirt, sweater, and jacket, the problem is when you heat up and take off your jacket the clothing you have on is minimal and you cool very fast, so you are constantly removing and replacing your jacket, but it’s easy to leave it on too long because it’s so cold when you take it off. It is difficult to stay at a comfortable cold with only 3 layers. Wearing 4 layers to dress for cold weather is much easier to regulate in my opinion. If you get hot you take off your outer jacket and still have two sweaters and a poly shirt on so you can be at a comfortable cold and you’re more attuned to putting on and off the way you should, because it’s not a shock when you do.

 

As for the head a nice wool hat works great, something that fits your head and provides ear protection. A hat is the first way to regulate your temperature, take that off first when heating up then go from there. Boots and socks are another area and important. You want a thin pair of poly socks for first layer with wool socks over top of them for warmth and to absorb the sweat. As for boots I prefer water proof and insulating at the same time. Mukluks like the Camuk Extreme are great for super cold conditions and Muck Boots are fantastic for when waterproof is absolutely essential in slightly warmer temperatures.

 

When it comes to your hands, it is easier to work with gloves although mittens provide more warmth. Remember wool retains warmth even when wet, so choose wisely. Some people wear a small thin pair of gloves under a pair of heavy mittens.

 

So in closing, I hope this helps you to dress for cold weather and lets you see what you have to consider and how to combat the cold to keep your core temperature regulated. You can pick and choose; it’s your choice but remember the pros and cons of each material and stay at a comfortable cold!

cold weather survival - extreme arctic techniques