I agree with the person who said Icebreaker from New Zealand. I have been wearing that stuff for a decade and there is nothing like it. After hiking for ten days in the Himalayas (Nepal), it does not even stink up.
Also... I have been buying up old wool blankets and sewing my own winter gear for a couple of years. Run them up on the machine with cotton threads, and hand finish seamswith embroidery silks, or crochet cotton and a larger needle. If you cut dresses or jackets on the cross, you even get great drape. And the fabric is to die for. Also takes dye, if you need to change the colours.
If you line it, you make it windproof.
hugshugs from early winter new Zealand where I went foraging on the beach today and came home with two bags of kelp (Ecklonia Radiata) for the garden where I will start kumara (sweet potato) slips ready for next season.
What about bamboo long underwear. I love mine - not itchy and cheaper than silk. Boody Wear (organically grown bamboo viscose). Breathable, soft, thermoregulating.
Charyl Rocco wrote:What about bamboo long underwear. I love mine - not itchy and cheaper than silk. Boody Wear (organically grown bamboo viscose). Breathable, soft, thermoregulating.
When I looked into it, my findings were that bamboo viscose was among the most energy and water intensive in its production process. It seemed about the only benefit over synthetic fibers was that further washing would not produce micro plastics in the wash water. I've often encountered reports of bamboo undergarments wearing threadbare/holy prematurely. Hopefully production processes vary and these shortfalls are just a result of unethical Asian producers rushing to get the product to market without concern for externalities- it holds promise otherwise. In the particular case of Boody, I bought one pair of briefs to try them out and they were cut to fit guys who are ken doll-like anatomically incorrect. Only wore them 2 or 3 times because they were extremely uncomfortable.
Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, but neither let firebrands of compromise blind you to the world of the ideal.
I'd also second (third?) the references to "Snow Walker's Companion" by Connover and Connover, and Lure of the North's (LOTN) website and YouTube channel for guidance on traditional northern temperate to sub arctic cold weather clothing for serious and protracted use. I've corresponded briefly with both Garret Connover and Dave Marrone, and both were helpful.
I have found that layering wool shirts and sweaters, wool pants (I have "Big Bill" brand fuzzy pants and M1951 Korean war surplus trousers in a low loft weave), and long underwear under a windproof shell is a good combo. Suspenders are better than a belt. Mittens are better than gloves. Hoods (at least a wind proof one over your insulation) are good. A fur ruff (wolf, coyote or other animal adapted to exposed winter living) can help trap warmer (less cold?) air near your face. Even if you can grow a dense beard, don't overlook a scarf. I bought my wife a qiviut scarf; it's very light weight and extremely warm, not at all scratchy. It is made from musk ox wool which is collected on the tundra when the musk oxen shed in the spring - very sustainable and natural, but not cheap. I wouldn't buy one for myself, but for her...
For an alternate point of view to the Connover/LOTN approach, Jerry Kobalenko's gear blog has some useful stuff on cold weather clothing and such, but is definitely not HUSP grade:
Another thing to check into is "string underwear" - basically a sort of coarse fishnet long handled undies. Sound a little kinky, but it's not; the idea is to hold many pockets of air next to the skin, before the first true insulation layer, for better control of moisture due to transpiration or perspiration. An alternate name for these, if you are looking for old patterns was "health underwear" or "string vest" - supposedly it was more healthful to wear this, and for all I know, it might have fended off ringworm or something. Traditionally, string undergarments have been made from either wool or cotton (I know, the whole "cotton kills" thing - true as a rule of thumb, but it is great for some purposes, especially the Ventile/canvas outerwear shells). I intend to knit a set of fully fashioned wool string underwear, using a homemade "knitting loom", to replace my current black lamb's wool long underwear, which are showing their age. Knitting looms are also a means of making socks, hats, sweaters, etc. for people who are "allergic" to traditional knitting - more like making a latch hooked rug than knitting. Be aware that if the bottom set of your string underwear goes to the ankle, you may get "crocodile skin" on your lower legs when wearing close fitting boots (expedition ski touring boots, pack style boots with IceTrek exoskeleton bindings, or similar), so "short johns" which stop just below the knee (combined with tall wool socks) may be a better choice, depending on your intended use.
Regarding down, a review of Apsley Cherry-Garrard's "The Worst Journey in the World" as a cautionary tale may be in order if you intend to use down as your primary insulation and you anticipate not being able to dry out the down at least once per day; their down sleeping bag insulation turned into frozen balls, and they ended up "sleeping" stacked like cordwood at temps in the -70s F. They survived their Antarctic penguin counting expedition with minimal damage to extremities, but it's hard to imagine exactly how. There are modern, high tech versions of down which have some sort of water repellent or hydrophobic coating, but that's not very HUSP. Down is good insulation, but just be aware of the limitations.
Another technique for creating very hard-wearing fiber goods is "nailbinding" (nålebinding). This technique dates back at least as far as ancient Egypt and was geographically widespread, but is best known to westerners via Scandinavia. The functional equivalent of knitted stitches are taken with a darning needle, using short lengths of yarn (6 or 8 feet, give or take). Successive short lengths of the wool yarn are traditionally "spit spliced" together. Many different stitches are possible for various functional and decorative effects. If a thread breaks in the finished fabric, nailbinding work will not unravel like knitted goods, because each stitch is looped through the existing fabric - it isn't built of slip knots, in other words. Slower to make than knitting, but much less fragile, very hard wearing. There are stitch instructions and patterns for nailbinding mittens, socks and such available online.
For a reasonably simple means of spinning which is a bit more technically involved than a drop spindle, an Indian head spinning wheel driven by a sewing machine treadle may be worth a look. A nice homemade one, constructed by an enthusiastic fellow, can be seen here:
There are detailed plans available for purchase:
https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/663759971/build-your-own-indian-head-spinning I am cogitating on converting an old hand cranked grinder to treadle drive (I mainly want more clearance for sharpening wide tools than the existing crank handle will allow). If I do, I may also make an Indian head spinning attachment, which can be belt driven by a pulley swapped in place of the grinding wheel.
Caveats: I am not much of a fiber arts type. I am interested in functional fiber goods, however.
Alpaca is, hands down, my favorite material to work with. I started trying to teach myself primitive and homesteading skills a few years ago. I started with Angora rabbits because it seemed affordable. Angora is heavenly soft. But you need a lot of rabbits to make a sweater, and the stuff got up my nose. The rabbits were kinda high maintenance. The angora needs to be mixed with another fiber so it doesn't fall apart, it's pretty delicate. And it sheds pretty badly.
On to wool. I have been allergic to wool my whole life-I thought. Turns out I was allergic to whatever they use in the industry to process it. I got a sheep. I sheered it. I washed it with dish soap. I made yarn. I made socks and hats and gloves. It was VERY warm in winter. Excellent insulator in rubber barn boots. You know how your feet always get cold in those things? Merino wool is wonderfully soft.
Next, I tried alpaca. Because alpacas are quieter. I got overrun with wool fairly quickly. Alpaca is super soft, 7 times warmer than wool , while at the same time more lightweight. It practically spins itself, and doesn't grab as badly when carding...it's just easier to work with imo. Alpacas poop all in one nice, organized pile for cleanup. I have made socks, hats, and gloves with alpaca as well and they are always coveted as gifts at Christmas when I make them.
It's worth it to learn a skill of knitting or weaving, and it's very satisfying. My first spinning tool was a ballpoint pen with a cap. I have spun dog hair, cat hair, recycled fibers, you name it.
As far as shoes, when we processed a farm animal for our own consumption, we used every part. So I tanned the hide (as best I know how), and made moccasins. It rains a lot here. So that was only good for summer months. After researching what Natives wore in this area, so far I have found that they wore mukluks. Sealskin. Obviously, I'm not going to get my hands on sealskin, so I had thoughts of using my pigs' hides, as they are sufficiently oily to repel water. In fact, I have rubbed lard into a cow hide and left it out in the rain. It worked pretty well. In my research, I thought I had read somewhere that traditionally, cowboy boots were made with pigskin for a sole because it is extremely tough?
I have also experimented with felting slippers and moccasins. I have sewed / glued on recycled rubber from my barn boots (I used to cut the tops off bc my calves wouldn't fit). Because the rocks can get kinda rough at times. But the almost barefoot feeling is wonderful. I experimented with silicone on the bottom of wool felted slippers for soles. That looked kind of wierd, but had more traction than the rubber recycled from my barn boots. Moccasins are wonderfully comfortable, but walking on concrete kills the bottoms of them fast. Especially if they are deer hide. Also, there's the stubbing your toe thing. No bueno. Bad words said.
So that's the extent of what I've done. If that helps.
I had this paper stashed on my disorganized detachable hard drive electronic archive, but the link above will get you your own copy.
By most metrics, the caribou outerwear is the clear winner in this paper. In a few cases, there is little difference between the treatments (e.g. bare hand skin temperature). As an aside, most of the time, a person doesn't go bare handed for very long in truly cold conditions, anyway; pop off the mittens (preferably left dangling from "sourdough strings" or wrist loops, so they can't be easily lost), do the task requiring dexterity, and get the mitts back on. If necessary, use a pair of thin leather work gloves to block the wind and conduction to metal (touching aluminum at -20 F feels like touching a hot stove - I repaired commercial doors for a while, and wintertime is hard on stuff). I usually don't switch to mitts until temps are colder than 10 F, as long it's not too windy and I will be working or walking or otherwise busy. It's sometimes a bit cold and painful for the first few minutes I'm out, until my body realizes that more blood flow is required to my hands, then I'm fine. I find that not being overdressed on one part of my body seems to work better for providing equilibrated comfort. I first learned this delivering a morning paper route as a kid - I could handle the papers and open storm doors and so on without needing to pull off my el-cheapo Wells Lamont work gloves, and my hands would warm up and be comfortable by the time I was about halfway through my route. My hands will often get uncomfortably sweaty wearing mitts while working (I am naturally a sweaty sort, I guess - maybe I just run warm), which then makes the mitts a bit soggy and thus less insulative when I stop and sit. I will keep a pair of light mitts handy (leather "choppers" with a wool or fleece liner, preferably removable so they can be dried or the liners swapped), "just in case"; but, the mitts will remain dry until I really need them.
Caribou is pretty much the same as reindeer (as best I know, it is a single species with circumpolar distribution, but having several inter fertile sub-species, at least some of which in the western hemisphere seem to remain fairly well genetically isolated from each other due to behavioral reasons). However, unlike reindeer, caribou will never be domesticated, at least by the Ethen-eldeli ("caribou eater") Dene who are the traditionally seasonal nomadic caribou hunters of the American north, since they believe as an article of faith that if the caribou are ever owned, the caribou will leave and never return (see for instance, chapter 6 of the reference here: https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk2/ftp02/NQ32015.pdf). Since caribou traditionally provided to the Dene nearly everything necessary for life, the absence of caribou would be devastating to them; even though a lot of stuff can be purchased from the Northern Store, subsistence hunting and fishing is still very important, and the cultural loss would be huge. I have some (very limited) summertime experience with the Sayisi Dene of Tadoule Lake, MB, about 100 miles west of Churchill on Hudson Bay and about 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle. A delivery to the village featured on Ice Road Truckers, but in the summer, it's strictly a fly-in village, though you could technically go up the Seal River from Churchill if you were tough and started early enough in the season, since that's how the Tadoule Lake Band got there from Churchill when they first left the government ghetto (some of the men had scoped out potential relocation sites the previous winter by dog sled, and identified Tadoule Lake as the best spot, in part due to the good fishing). Thankfully, I did not open my fat yap and offer a "helpful suggestion" of domesticating caribou while I was there, though I am sure they would have graciously explained my faux pas and kindly overlooked my ignorance and cultural insensitivity.
In any case, tracking down caribou hides in the Lower 48 might not be too easy. However, for the metrics for which there was a distinct difference in comfort in the results presented in this paper, caribou was top notch, and might be worth the effort. Which makes sense, since the caribou migrate from their summer breeding grounds on the tundra to the boreal forests to winter, and subarctic weather is often as cold as or even colder than the arctic. Jimmy Clipping told me that they'd had a stretch of bad weather the winter prior to my summertime trip, with temps in the mid -50s C (near -60 F), and the snow had drifted up to his eave (8 or 9 feet, by eye). Tadoule Lake is within the wintering range of the Qamanirjuaq herd, so the caribou are naturally properly dressed for such cold conditions. It might also be possible to get reindeer hides, if you wanted to go this route. As I noted above, the differences between caribou and reindeer are slim to none, as far as I know, other than which passport they carry.
I also have some info (somewhere in my vastly extensive electronic stash of stuff) on making fish skin rain gear (an article with pretty pictures, but little in the way of technical detail, is here: https://hakaimagazine.com/article-short/secret-language-salmon-skin-coats/). I have something which shows stitching details and such like and also for making waterproof seal skin kamiks, but I'll have to dig. All of which, together with the caribou hide outerwear, would be very HUSP-y.