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Options for natural parkas

 
gardener & author
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Location: Manitoba, Canada
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I grew up in the coldest city of its size in the world. Yes, I'm proud of that. And I highly respect anyone who lives where it is colder yet.

With the wind chill factor included, we hit -50 C pretty much every winter. And most of our winter weather bounces between -25 C and -45 C.

Nearly everyone I know, myself currently included, has a petroleum-based coat/parka. I'm wondering, what would be some possible options for staying warm in super cold weather using natural materials, preferably natural materials that are able to be grown here in Zone 3b?

I'm looking for the kind of thing where you could be outside for a few hours, not just making a mad dash for the nearest building.
 
pollinator
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Location: Rocky Mountains, USA
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Goose down FTW!

Other options are wool and animal furs.
(Though ethics may be an issue with that one, nonethless, cold-climate natives learned long ago that nature knows what it's doing when it created the bear, wolf, rabbit...)

Cotton, though natural, is pretty much trash. :/
 
pollinator
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I live in SW Ontario, so it doesn't get stupid cold, though we can have stretches of -20C highs and we do get down to -40 on occasion.  

I've also worked outside for a few winters, farming or construction, and your activity level and the sun can have a big impact.  I figure that a sunny day can feel about 10C warmer due to the radiation, and that wind can make a day feel 20C colder.  When working outside I just work harder when I'm cold and you get pretty warm, which can be the real issue.

If you're going to be active, you'll likely break a sweat, so you'll need a layer that wicks away the sweat from your body.  Wool does this, as do some man-made fibres, but cotton doesn't.  I like your thinking on this and I think I'd like to see a down coat with a silk shell (not sure how to waterproof it) and then layers of wool right down to the skin.  When working, I often have to strip off my coat if it's not windy.  I think it would be a massive undertaking to outfit even one person like that, but pretty cool.  I read on another thread that it took 700 hours to make a Viking tunic, iirc.

If you're sedentary, like ice fishing, same as above but likely more layers.  
 
Timothy Markus
pollinator
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Sometimes I can't see the forest for the trees.  I think the most expedient way to get a warm outer layer would be to use a bear pelt.  I have no idea how warm they might be, but Jon Snow was able to survive beyond the Wall with just a bear pelt capelet, but I suspect that it's much colder in the northern provinces than it is beyond the wall.

You guys had some Lapplanders settled in northern Manitoba after Chernobyl contaminated the lichen that the reindeer ate.  I wonder what they have historically worn.
 
pollinator
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Shawn Klassen-Koop wrote:I grew up in the coldest city of its size in the world. Yes, I'm proud of that. And I highly respect anyone who lives where it is colder yet.

I'm looking for the kind of thing where you could be outside for a few hours, not just making a mad dash for the nearest building.



Soo, Winnipeg? Right? I grew up in a small town in North Central Sk. So a bit farther north and just as cold if not colder.

I also have a lot of unnatural material for winter clothing. Currently I wear a lot of fleece for underlayers, tightly woven cotton as an outer layer to break the wind, and wool socks and wool midlayers.

I think that your question of what can be locally grown for warmth has a best answer. Sheep. Sheep do very well on Canadian prairies. Wool wicks sweat away and insulates extremely well. For a wind breaking outer layer we can use leather. Sheep skin is thin enough that it is not overly heavy, unlike cowhide which is not great for daily wear.

Before white people came here, the first Nations People used Bison hides to keep warm and did fine. One of the most valuable trading items when people from Europe came was wool blankets, I think this says something about the value of wool.

I think the vegans need to stay inside though if they want to wear natural material grown in Canada.
 
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Location: Ontario - Gardening in zone 3b, 4b, or 6b, depending on the day
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I've spent a fair amount of time in Canada's far north (near, above, and WAY past the tree line) over the last few years in the early or late winter, and in the spring/fall.

I was interested to see what the Inuit wore, especially to be outside for many hours at a time. I've never seen anyone with polar bear skin (I think it's too valuable). But lots of seal skin. Many people had full or partial seal skin jackets, or gorgeous seal skin mitts with fur cuffs (I really, really want seal skin mitts). I saw one man wearing a full-body suit made of seal skin to snowmobile in. Jackets usually homemade, and mid thigh or longer, with slits on the side for movement, sometimes anorak style, with no centre zip.  Traditional baby clothes looked like an anorak made of a thick wool blanket. People didn't typically wear snowmobile helmets - instead they had a hat (made of fur, of course), with a fur ruff (fox tail, I think?) that wrapped around the face. Jackets, even not made of seal skin, also tend to have a fluffy ruff on the hood, made only of real fur. Some jackets had a fur ruff on the bottom and cuffs, but that may be for decoration?

My wimpy southern self borrows a Canada Goose jacket from work (the functional kind, not the Toronto kind) and wears it if the temp drops below -15C. Super warm, even at -30C and 60 km/hr winds. The warmth in those jackets comes from pounds of down and feathers, and the coyote fur ruff around your face which baffles the wind, and really good knitted cuffs and snowskirt to prevent drafts.  I've often wondered if you could recreate something similar by subbing a tightly woven waxed cotton, (maybe a beeswaxed cotton feather ticking?) for the polyester. Cotton's not really a problem so long as you don't get it wet - I don't mind using it in a more outer layer in the extreme cold (down is useless if wet anyways). I also wear layers beneath the jacket - wool long johns, wool neckwarmer, wool hat, wool socks, wool or synthetic fleece sweater, sometimes a down vest if I am not wearing the CG jacket. Merino wool glove liners are GREAT. A lot of guys (not locals) buy sheepskin hardhat liners. They look super warm, and I want one. A sheepskin coat might be warm enough for most of Canada? Sometimes I see old fur coats at thrift stores. I've often wondered how warm they are.

I second the suggestion about bison fur - my grandmother talks about how warm bison "lap rugs" were - apparently they were ubiquitous for winter sleigh rides in Ontario. She also talks about  keeping a hot hardboiled egg or hot potato in each pocket on the way to school. If you keep your extremities warm you need far less core insulation, I think.
 
Maybe try buying a thriftstore fur coat and see if it's warm enough? Not 100 percent natural, but would be an interesting starting point in alternative winter clothing.
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