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Author Topic: Traditional v. High Tech clothes  (Read 33465 times)

Offline Tomd

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Traditional v. High Tech clothes
« on: December 07, 2008, 11:18:03 pm »
I am an interloper from down south (as in California). I found this site through a post on another backpacking site I belong to which focuses on lightweight backpacking.  I have read through just about everything here, more out of curiosity than anything since what we consider cold in the Sierra, you all would laugh at. The little bit of winter camping I do is in temps far above what I've read about here, so this is probably going to sound like a dumb question, but I'm going to ask it anyway.

It seems that far from trying to be lightweight, what you all are wearing looks more like 1908 than 2008 with wool and of all things, cotton like the Empire Canvas anorak, plus big fur hoods and bomber hats like the cops are wearing in Fargo (the movie, not the town itself). 

The mantra down here is "cotton kills" in winter and we preach to the newbies to leave their jeans, t-shirts and hoodies at home if they are going to be out in cold, wet weather and here you guys are dressed like the explorers from the Shackleton expedition.

Some of the posts seem to kind of pooh pooh modern materials like Goretex. At least that is what it seems like to me.  High altitude climbers wear all the latest and greatest in really cold weather-big down parkas made with high tech fabrics, so what makes the difference? Is is the time you are out that makes the old style still work? Is it that it is so cold that you really don't get wet except from the inside from sweating? I can understand not wanting to wear a $500 Gortex down parka or nylon gloves around a stove, but how about the rest of the time?

Offline Ted

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Re: Traditional v. High Tech clothes
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2008, 02:14:56 am »
Hi Tomd,
actually,those are some great questions. Let me take the first stab at answering before the real experts jump in.
the 'cotton kills' comment. The jeans, hoodies and t-shirts are left at home as well. The only cotton most of us wear in the winter is light-weight tightly-woven cotton canvas outer-wear. It breathes well yet cuts the wind. Cotton canvas is rugged enough that it won't rip when cutting poles and hauling firewood. Nobody wants to carry firewood wearing their $500 Gortex jacket or pants. Gortex is great for summer, spring and fall but won't breath worth a darn below zero. It just ices up on the inside. 

The wool and canvas allow us to get close to outdoor fires - no nylon to melt - and yet breaths well so moisture (sweat) doesn't stay close to the skin. It's not unusual to build a warming/cooking fire for lunches or a mug-up during the day. When pulling my sled, I often only have a medium weight wool shirt under a canvas anorak (long johns of course). When I stop for a break, I put on a parka but it comes off before the harness goes on. All depends on temperatures and the wind. The canvas and wool combos give me a lot of choice - warmth without sweat.

I've tried and still use on occasion high-tech down or fiberfill bib pants and nylon down parkas but that's usually just for day tripping now.  I can't stress just how useless Gortex is in the cold. It will hold the moisture when your moving and that moisture will turn to ice crystals as soon as you stop. I don't even use it for winter day tripping anymore.

Due to snow depth and the amounts of gear needed to live and enjoy the outdoors, pulling a pulk or toboggan is pretty standard.  I once fell in deep snow when carrying a heavy backpack and it took me almost 10 minutes to extricate myself and get back on my skis. There isn't a lot of wind and sun packing of snow in the dense bush.

Most of the winter campers here are camping in the boreal forests. Each different area has its own methods of surviving and enjoying.

The fur trim is just great when it's really cold as doesn't hold breath-ice and those hats actually work at -20 to -40 below and do a great job of protecting foreheads, the back of the neck and ears. My favorite saying is that the goofier you look, the warmer you'll be.  Nothing like a good wind at -30 temps to test your mettle and your gear.

Time for someone else to chime in.
Come on up sometime and we'll be happy to head out so you can see firsthand.
cheers Ted

« Last Edit: December 08, 2008, 10:07:08 am by ted »
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Offline White Wolf

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Re: Traditional v. High Tech clothes
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2008, 09:44:51 am »
Tomd

Ted did a bang up job on explaining things here. Yes many expeditions use the "high tech" materials. And yes they work. But as mentioned  they fail when it comes to man hauling wood and other materials. Even the construction crews here wear the heavy cotton canvas jackets and pants due to it been able to handle the abuse . 

Yes we may look like a flash back to the Shackleton and Scott polar crew members but they had the right idea as to clothing. And Wool is the best as even wet it will give some warmth. Looking at photos of people in the past and comparing them to how we dress there is not a lot of difference in the clothing for winter.

Many of us may have they high tech gear (gortex and other material) that we use either in the city and towns or on the ski hill but when it come time to haul sleds and firewood out comes the old "fashion" grear as it holds up the best. I personally can say that I have used gortex boots at work and as Ted said they freeze up as they are not able to expel the moisture fast. After three days of cold / wet feet I switched back to my felt pack boots.

I remember one winter camp where two people had very nice double stuffed down parkas on. As we were sitting around the fire a very odd smell was noticed. We looked around and sure as heck one of the parkas was actually burning from sparks of the fire. Good old duct tape was the patch. And the camp continued But the person sure was upset about the loss of the jacket.  Melting and losing a winter coat on a camp could mean life or death for a person. Not to mention the pain of losing a very expensive coat.

So we may look funny but we look funny together. And it is not a fashion show when it's -40 and your out there camping

 

Offline pake

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Re: Traditional v. High Tech clothes
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2008, 10:50:02 am »
Tomd, Hi!

Good questions!

So we may look funny but we look funny together. And it is not a fashion show when it's -40 and your out there camping

I'll have more to say on the issue after I wade through some of the stuff on my desk, although Ted and White Wolf hit most of it. But, White Wolf aludes to one point which you don't hear a lot about.

Fashion

The economies of retailers, wholesalers, producers and workers in the garment industry presuposes that they maintain regular and ongoing sales of the things they produce and sell. And so every season we are presented with a new 'must have' list of stuff.

But Tomd, you touched on another issue when you asked,
Quote from: Tomd
Is it the time you are out that makes the old style still work?

In a way, yes. Winter camping for many of us emulates or imitates what many indigenous (although admittedly shrinking) groups of northern people still do. That is they live through the winter season using these methods and materials. So they don't climb a mountain and then drive home and dry out and warm up. Or they don't over exert skiing or snowshoeing for the afternoon and then head over to the cinema in the evening. The clothing systems evolved in response to the fact that they were in fact captives to the season.  What they do today impacts how or even whether they will function in a week or a month. They were immersed 'in it' for a long time. So it is imperative not just to have the clothing available, but to understand the why and how. So, the time is not what makes it work but rather why it must work.

Hope this helps.

pake



Offline Rob

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Re: Traditional v. High Tech clothes
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2008, 01:48:40 pm »
Wool is where it is at!
Colder is better

Offline Tomd

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Re: Traditional v. High Tech clothes
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2008, 02:57:48 pm »
Thank you all for the detailed explanations. I appreciate learning something new.  I'm like most of you all, I really don't care that much about the fashion part of it, although I'm sure that plays a part down here to some extent, but the use of the materials.  I'm far more interested in being warm than being fashionable, even down here.  I'd heard that Gore-tex isn't that great in really cold weather.  I think eVEnt is supposed to breathe better, but I suppose it would have the same durability and fire issues as Gore-tex.

I read not long ago about a re-creation of the clothes Mallory and Irvine wore when they disappeared on Everest.  The climbers who tried out their outfits were suprised to find out how well the old school wool and silk layers worked.  Here is a link to a BBC story on Mallory's clothes-
http://overmywaders.com/malloryclothing.stm.htm

I did some backpacking in New Zealand back in the 1980's and while I had a Gore-tex parka, the locals were wearing wool shirts and anoraks under Japara (oilskin) jackets which seemed to work just fine.

I also bought an Australian stockman's coat-one of the original ones made out of canvas or whatever it is, not the light synthetic ones they also sell.  It is heavy, but incredibly durable. No wonder those Aussie cowboys wear them.

Just goes to show, modern technology isn't the answer for everything. :)
« Last Edit: December 08, 2008, 03:16:54 pm by Tomd »

Offline memaquay

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Re: Traditional v. High Tech clothes
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2008, 04:49:20 pm »
I know Filson gear isn't well known in Canada, but I recently acquired one, an oiled cotton jacket, and i have found it to be superb.  I was looking at their cold weather jacket.

http://www.filson.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3232728&cp=2069836.2069837.2075070&view=all&parentPage=family

Anyone ever try one of these?

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Re: Traditional v. High Tech clothes
« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2008, 06:21:47 pm »
Yesterday i was thinking about this  apparent contrast. I had merino wool on , and wool pants. the pants were old nato ones, with the internal nylon in the knee that rustles when it gets cold. My feet were in home tanned smoked moosehide mocassins with canvas tops and sorel liners. Merino socks.

On top I had the merion wool, a sierra designs jacket liner made of melted plastic bottles and my fav coat, a white canvas with bear trim, that looks remarkably like the author of this site's coat. It is what grabbed by attention. It was made by an old friend from old crow yukon and sounds very similar except that it has a liner of 200 wieght fleece.

Then a wool watch cap.

I was quiet, i was invisible, i was in stealth mode, I was asleep under a possible Christmas tree.

I'm sure I'd get some odd stares at young and Bloor, but get nary a second glance here in the north.

Offline Tomd

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Re: Traditional v. High Tech clothes
« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2008, 03:39:47 am »
Got another question-- Are bomber hats all that practical or are they more something that you see the tourists wearing?  I have a couple of balaclavas and a fleece cap I wear, but I like the idea of the big ear flaps.  If they are, I've seen some really expensive ones made by Crown Cap, which are way too much for me, but some others made by Mad Bomber which are much more reasonable. I'd have to order off the Internet, since no one down here carries them. What about something like this- http://www.supercasuals.com/Mad_Bomber/Mad_Bomber_303N03.cfm

The color might not be too practical, but I like it.

Offline HOOP

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Re: Traditional v. High Tech clothes
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2008, 03:51:15 am »
Hi Tomd,

You received some great responses here.

One of the big forks in the road in gear, equipment and style, is deciding if you are going to use fire or not.   Once you decide to use fire, you will ruin the synthetic outerwear.  Just gathering firewood in the bush would shred a goose down puffy jacket.   And the story of them catching fire is hilarious, (in a sad, expensive way  :'( ), but true.   Even more hilariously sad is when people melt their synthetic gloves or mitts by the fire.  Handwear is vitally important to keep intact.

Mountaineering style above treeline does require special gear and technique.   Since you are climbing, sleds are difficult to impossible, except to maybe base camp.   Carrying a backpack with all the clothing and shelter you will need at -30 to -40 means you are not staying out long.   When you want to stay out longer and "live" in winter, then this is where the wool, leather and canvas allows you to live comfortably and well - really well.   

With the wool, leather and canvas, you can actually travel lighter in the long run.   You live in your layers and dry them as you wear them.  The only thing I need to dry is boot liners, face gear, and hand wear.   Otherwise, everything just dries due to the body's heat pump.   The heavy sleds you see in the photos are the base gear that mountaineers would carry, plus a few extra items depending on whether you are cold camping or using hot tent style.  The pot sets we carry are usually bigger, since we can heat more water, and why not when you have the fuel.  Hot tenting obviously is heavier due to the tent and sheet metal woodstove.  But with the high tech newer canvas tents, that weight and bulk is coming down.   When you travel on the ice, you also need an emergency change of clothing in case you fall through, and that adds bulk.  Add an axe and saw, SAT phone, larger first aid kit, ice fishing gear sometimes, and ski gear + snowshoe gear, and the sled starts to grow.  Ice augers and ice chisels add close to 10 pounds.   When I have my ski gear on, I am carrying my pac boots and snowshoes on the sled, which are bulky.   I carry dried food just like for summer tripping, so my food is ultralight.    Oh ya, the milk crates we carry are outrageous luxury.  But having a seat is an incredibly important thing for my tired creaky body, and it keeps me much drier.  I would never leave home without it.

The sled loads look bigger than they really are, because they are packed loosely in duffels or a wrapping tank.  If you were to cram the stuff into a backpack to get rid of air space, then you would see the loads compress.  But at -20 to -30 in the morning (and sometimes -40 before the sun comes up), who wants to stuff gear into a backpack?   Just throw it on the sled, wrap it up, and get hauling!    :)

I have seen it several times Tomd:  A newbie who has suffered with synthetic wear, in the past, cold, clammy, shivering, not even daring to come close to a fire with gortex on, shivering all night in wet clothing,....then....having a eureka moment when they get the wool and canvas gear, (with high tech polyester fleece wicking layers underneath), good pac boots, and are roasting by the fire, and are actually comfortable and dry in deep cold, and living large.   

I do bring my gortex on trips when it might rain or wet snow, since my canvas outerwear cannot sustain rain.   But under the rain tarp by the fire, the gortex comes off, and the canvas anorak goes on to protect my fleece from sparks.  If I would get some wool upper wear, I would not even have that issue. 

I cannot imagine going back to being cold, clammy, and soaking wet in winter.   Hopefully we will build this new website and business into THE one-stop source for gear so that the gear will become more accessible to people.  One of the biggest barriers to people getting better wool, canvas and leather winter gear is simply not being able to find it.   
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"I firmly believe that far from hurting the planet, the growing knowledge of Bushcraft is helping our natural world. When we employ bushcraft skills, it may seem as though we are consuming natural resources.  But of course, the more we learn about the trees, the plants, the animals around us, the more we respect them. The more we respect them, the more we cherish them, the more we nurture and take care of them. That is the underlying principle of Bushcraft.

Offline wd

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Re: Traditional v. High Tech clothes
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2008, 04:02:19 am »
No doubt, I never wear Goretex below 30 degrees--and only in a heavy rain otherwise.  I have an Etaproof pullover which is ok for a light rain--great for sub-freezing.  But something as waterproof as a Goretex parka is quite nice in warmer weather during a downpour.  However under the Goretex would have to be the most breathable insulating layer--a wool sweater or fleece.  I find fleece slightly lighter in weight than wool.  However only Merino wool goes next to my skin.

Offline HOOP

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Re: Traditional v. High Tech clothes
« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2008, 04:17:33 am »
Hi again TomD,

I should add, have a look at our Trip Report forums (if you have not already).  You will see lots of gear and people in action.  It will give you an idea of the cross section of gear being used.   And its a continually evolving "science".   I can't think of what's more fun than testing gear!   :)
My Youtube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Wintertrekker

"I firmly believe that far from hurting the planet, the growing knowledge of Bushcraft is helping our natural world. When we employ bushcraft skills, it may seem as though we are consuming natural resources.  But of course, the more we learn about the trees, the plants, the animals around us, the more we respect them. The more we respect them, the more we cherish them, the more we nurture and take care of them. That is the underlying principle of Bushcraft.

Offline HOOP

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Re: Traditional v. High Tech clothes
« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2008, 07:04:57 am »
Hi TomD,

I don't have a mad bomber hat, but my buddy does (Crown Cap brand), and he loves it.   They are very functional.   Some rabbit fur hats have extra insulation sandwiched between the fur and the outer fabric, so that is something to check.  You still need a balaclava for them since the ear loop's will sometimes cup out and won't grip the face directly.  But when its super cold you need something for your nose and face anyways.

That manufacturer you posted is one I don't know, but they have the right name  :D, and the hats look cool.  Click on the link to their full line, and they have models with wool and cotton twill outer fabric.  I would reccomend those rather than the supplex nylon which will get spark holes in it around a fire.   If you buy one, please post a gear review!   :)
My Youtube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Wintertrekker

"I firmly believe that far from hurting the planet, the growing knowledge of Bushcraft is helping our natural world. When we employ bushcraft skills, it may seem as though we are consuming natural resources.  But of course, the more we learn about the trees, the plants, the animals around us, the more we respect them. The more we respect them, the more we cherish them, the more we nurture and take care of them. That is the underlying principle of Bushcraft.

Offline dks

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Re: Traditional v. High Tech clothes
« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2008, 10:54:00 am »
I came across this PDF file from Woolpower on cold weather clothing. You can download it from here.

http://www.woolpower.se/en/asp/kladigratt_1.asp

Interesting read about the advantages of wool.

Offline Tomd

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Re: Traditional v. High Tech clothes
« Reply #14 on: December 09, 2008, 05:58:19 pm »
Thanks everyone. I moderate on a couple of websites and spend a fair amount of time answering questions for newbies on three season camping, so I appreciate the effort.

Hoop-I spent a good part of last night reading almost all of the trip reviews. I especially enjoyed yours and the photos. It really is beautiful up your way. The photos really help show how you guys do it.

Your website is great-very well organized and just about all the info anyone could need who was considering going out in winter, even mild winter like we have here.  I have skis and a small sled (a little blue one made by Pelican from Quebec) but after a couple of trips, I realize the sled is a bit too small. My next one will probably be a Paris that is sold down here. I have a big duffle bag that holds almost everything and I attach the sled to my pack, which is lightly packed, with pvc poles and caribiners.  I did two trips on snowshoes, but like skis better. I have Atomic Rainier skis and full skins. The skis have fishscales on them, but on an icy road, the skins give enough grip to pull the sled.

You are right, tossing everything into the duffle bag, makes packing up easy. The milk crate is a great idea. I have one and should think about bringing it. I usually shovel out a little seat and lay down a piece of blue foam. Works pretty good in mild temps.

On one of the sites I belong to, The Lightweight Backpacker, at www.backpacking.net which is for lightweight backpacking, we have a couple of Canadian members, including Rick from Ontario-the same Rick who made the homemade Baker tent, and members from BC, around Edmonton, Newfoundland and I think one more from Ontario.  They all are great about sharing about winter camping.  I asked the same question there and they all popped up with great responses.  Please stop by the site sometime. Go to Community from the home page to find the forums.

Hoop-check out how the sponsors are linked in at TLB. I don't know exactly how the monetization works, but I do know that's how the site gets supported in part. The site has links above the pages, different links for different forums and a "Portal" that links to a sponsors' page. The site has some big online sponsors like REI (both online and a big chain down here) as well as some "cottage industry" gear makers like Tarptent.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2011, 02:46:24 am by Tomd »