Forums - Your source for traditional winter trekking and camping information.

Winter Camping Discussion => Winter Camping Clothing => : Kevinkinney March 08, 2009, 04:21:27 PM

View the most recent posts on the forum.

: Rough/ruff question to answer
: Kevinkinney March 08, 2009, 04:21:27 PM
Hello all,

Kevin here again.

I've been struggling with a long term problem in our ECW shop. Ruffs.

Mine is not an ethical dilemma, but an economic one. I fully understand the necessity of wearing a ruff in cold weather. I like my nose. I like the noses of my family members as well, though one in particular is always shockingly cold.


I've been proud to offer our anoraks and parkas with the fur ruff integral to the design. It just makes sense to send a garment in it's complete form. But, wow is it getting tough to find good pelts. In years past, we've recycled old coyote fur coats. I like the ethical goodness of using something that was bound for the trash, and the price wasn't too bad.

This was our breakdown: One coat would cost us about $180 USD, accounting for shipping and handling as well. It would yield about 5-7 good ruffs if I was lucky. The songbirds in my yard lined their nests with all the fur that flew as I cut the coats apart. Those ruffs would cost the customer $50. That was how it worked 3 years ago. Here's a shot of our version in comparison with the $125 model from Wintergreen Designs.


In 2006 we bought 5 coats for the whole year and shipped 25 ruffs. In 2007, we used 6 coats, and shipped 24 ruffs. As time went on, the equation continued to shift in the wrong direction. The quality of the used coats was dropping, as their price rose. In 2008, I wrote off $850 worth of purchases that were useless, and shipped only 15 ruffs.

In January I delivered 8 zippers to our local furrier. He quoted a price of $50 per ruff, so I agreed to the terms, and ordered directly from them. Those 8 are already spent on back ordered products, so I'm out again. While the quality of the work was great, the ruffs themselves weren't what I had hoped for.

Our season is winding down, and I must make a decision for next year. I intend to keep our anoraks and parkas as functional as I can, so the zipper on the hood will remain. I'm not sure if the warm weather will reduce the price of used coats on Ebay. I know the cost of new pelts, as well as their yield. What I don't know is how you as a group would react if I had to raise the price to $120 to $160 for a ruff in the coming year (option #1). At that price, I would probably be using the prime portions of one entire pelt per ruff, $80-$90 of that being my cost for the coyote. My personal ruff is made from the leftovers from 6 prime pelts, using just the scruff of fur from the base of their necks. Some of the nicest and most functional ones I've sent out are made from prime coyote pelts.


I've used customer's fur for outfitting their anoraks (option 2), with a flat fee of $15 for the processing. To be fair to our books, I will have to raise this to $30 in the coming year which covers the hour of time it takes to make one from scratch. This leaves the most difficult task, finding fur, to you.

Option 3 is to offer our ruff pattern, and a short tutorial, as part of each anorak that leaves here. I would add a small fee ($5 or so) to the price, and ship with your garment: a pattern piece, hardware, and step-by-step instructions with illustrations or a CD. While the process takes time, the actual sewing isn't that tough. I can perform it on a home sewing machine if necessary. Warning- there will be fur everywhere. It's unavoidable.

So. There you have it. That's what I'm wrestling with here. I would appreciate your thoughts.


: Re: Rough/ruff question to answer
: cousin Pete March 08, 2009, 05:08:04 PM
Hello Kevin:  I have not given much thought to purchasing a ruff.  I will need to do more research to figure out how functional it would be for my purposes.  If I understand your  comments correctly, the quality of the coats that you receive is going down but the price is going up and you therefore need to increase the cost of the ruff from the current price of $50.00 to $120.00- $160.00.  However, the increase in price will provide us with better quality ruff.  If I felt that I needed a ruff for the most excellent anorak that I purchased from you, you would be the person that I would purchase it from.  If I was able to get my hands on a pelt, you would be the person that I would want to turn it into a ruff.  I still have to decide if I need one or not.  I might need to take a couple of years to decide.  Nice pictures.  Yes, I would pay more money to buy a good quality ruff from you. 

Take care,
Cousin Pete
: Re: Rough/ruff question to answer
: Rob March 08, 2009, 06:09:55 PM
I heard the fur prices are down this year. Many trappers up here are struggling.

It may be a cyclical thing. Is there a market for off cuts from furriers? Can off cuts even be used?
: Re: Rough/ruff question to answer
: Kevinkinney March 08, 2009, 06:44:48 PM
Hi Rob,

Sadly, it may take quite a while for any price reduction to settle down to my point of purchase. I'm still paying $80-$90 per good coyote. Smaller ones with thin fur run $50 or so.

There is actually very little waste from the furrier. They use a remarkable amount of each animal. I see this in the coats that I buy. I've been able to identify fur from most parts of the animal. The usage is quite clever, splicing panels that are, at some points, 1/2" wide strips of fur with even thinner strips of leather. What looks like nice fur, in the context of a large jacket panel, is quickly revealed as poor coverage when it's 'bent' in the shape of a ruff. The parts that may be left from the furrier are bound to be unattractive to them, and dubious at best for my use.

I have 4 coats made from this spliced construction. The images I saw at the time of purchase looked very promising. It wasn't until the coats arrived that I realized my mistake. For my money, I'd rather buy finished pelts, repair the damage from harvesting and tanning, then make really nice ruffs.

Perhaps I should find some friends with skill in the northern woods, and barter for pelts.


: Re: Rough/ruff question to answer
: HOOP March 08, 2009, 09:24:51 PM
Hi Kevin,

If I understand the options, they summarize as:
Option 1:  Buy new coyote pelts and raise the price to $120-$160 per ruff.
Option 2:  Customers supply their own fur, and add 30$ for labour.
Option 3:  Provide pattern and DIY instructions for $5.

I have no idea if my customer profile would be typical, but here is my profile:
- I don't have a sewing machine and don't know how to sew;
- I am fairly busy (and lazy), and likely will not get into sewing, and so I will pay for the company's labour for manufacturing a piece of gear, rather than do it myself;
- I want high quality and durability, and I am willing to pay higher end for gear that is going to perform and last a long time, and hence trust a high end manufacturer to do it for me;
- When its really windy and really cold and my nose is about to freeze and I can prevent it with a fur ruff, it is not going to matter to me what the cost of my anorak and ruff is relative to other costs in day to day life.   I am going to be glad I have it and what I paid for it is worth it.  For an analogy, when it gets down to -40 and I am snug in my $700 high end goose down sleeping bag, it's well worth it.  My sleeping bag must be approaching 9 years old, and considering the service and piece of mind I have gotten, and the likelyhood it will easily last me another decade or more, I consider it a bargain.  It was tough to pay $700 for a sleeping bag, but man has paid for itself over and over in functionality and durability.

So my profile is the type who will be willing to pay the high end fee for the convenience for you to make the ruff, and for the quality of a choice section from the pelt to provide the quality and functionality of the ruff. 

I always like to contrast the price of gear with what I pay in vehicle gas costs to get there and back for a single outing, or for a case of beer, etc. 

A newbie (who does not sew and who does not know about buying tanned pelts), who is just gearing up and may be on a strict budget, can pass on the ruff initially for the first year or two.  If you were to standardize the zipper mount and sell the anorak/parka with it installed, and keep track of model numbers on the label (in case you change the model design), then the same newbie who gains some experience may come back in a year or two and order an option 1 ruff for his/her model X, and then he/she just zips it on.  You could advertise on your website and post notices on this website for those interested in adding a ruff, to order by date xx/yy/zz, so that you can order the required number of pelts in advance before the season starts.  If you carry a few extra, that covers the inevitable late order. 

For us Canadians, it also might be problematic for Option 2.  I don't know about shipping pelts across the border?  And if we have to ship a pelt to you, there is added costs for the Canadian consumer.  The Canadian customer just might pay for the convenience of option 1 and not have to pay the extra shipping to get it to you.

No doubt you have researched the economics of wolf?  They are at least twice as expensive per pelt, but I would guess you get more ruffs per pelt?  Perhaps more waste as well?  I am guessing wolf is also better quality? 

Maybe all 3 options would be viable? 

With the recession in full swing, I wonder if there is going to be an opportunity this fur sale season to pick up a shipment of coyote or wolf at bargain basement prices? 
: Re: Rough/ruff question to answer
: Jimbo James March 10, 2009, 03:59:42 AM

Just my two penny's worth...

I have been looking into shipping hides and fur from the US or Canada to the UK to make my mukluks from.  Now I've given up and am having to source them from over here - the paperwork for shipping hides and fur and tax fees are simply crazy for one guy doing a personal project.  I can only assume that it would be the same story if I was to try and get a pelt to you, but considering that I can only get coyote pelts from your neck of the woods anyway that option all seems a bit daft.  Option 2 is out then, for me at least.

Sewing my own via a kit is an option (I am quite handy with a needle and thread these days) but I'll never be as good as those who work for you.  There will be a definite quality issue I think.  And again, I have the problem sourcing a pelt.  That's Option 3 out too.

I'm more for option 1 myself.

I've used jackets with and without ruffs, and have had one with a huge ruff and one with a weedy little scruff of furr around the hood.  The first time I used the good ruff I was blown away with the difference it made, and that difference in comfort really did lift my spirits and make the whole trip that much more enjoyable.  On the flip side the weedy little scruff was next to useless, and I've never used that particular jacket with the ruff back on, it's not worth it.

The weedy scruff cost me £40 (about US$55 these days?) while the good one cost just over twice that at about £90 or US$130 ish.  If they were both zippers I would swap between jackets but the weedy one is velcro.

I like the suggestion of standardising your zippers so that extra ruffs could be bought at a later time.  It makes sence.

Personally, I would never want to go out in the cold without a good quality ruff.  If that means paying a bit extra, then so be it.  By the time you think of the years of service that a good jacket and ruff will give, spreading the extra over that time makes it a bit less painful.