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June 09, 2008

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Out Cold

Aye, lads, it's cold outside
Colder than the edge of an ice-bound pool;
Colder than the tip of an Eskimo's tool.
Aye, lads, it's a wee bit chilly
But not as cold as my boy Willy
He's dead--f**k him.

--Korean-War-era poem which I either heard in the Army or got from a book; it's hard to remember what's real and what isn't.

As hunters, it's part of our lot in life to be cold. The idea that you can be comfortable at all temperatures, no matter what you're doing, is a crock. Having frozen in various outdoor pursuits for 50 years or so, I can boil (no pun intended) the subject down to two great truths:

1) If you get wet, either from sweat, rain, or snow, you're in trouble.
2) If you can't keep the wind off, you're in trouble.

All else is advertising copy.

Here are some more truths:

Wind goes through wool, period. If you have a wool coat, you better have something windproof to wear underneath.

If you really work hard, your "moisture-permeable membrane" which "allows sweat to escape" will parboil you.

Down will do the same. On two occasions, I've seen condensed sweat roll out of the inside of a down jacket like rain off a roof.

But neither will leave you drenched and steaming like oiled cotton, which is beloved of the British and yuppie sporting clays shooters.

Some people can take a lot more cold than others. So if you are sensitive to cold, follow Gresham's Laws (Grits', not Sir Thomas') which states:

If you don't bring it, you can't wear it.
If I don't bring it, it's because I don't own it.

The most useful item of cold-weather clothing that no one seems to sell: Back in the 60s, ski shops used to carry wool fishnet undershirts from Scandinavia that kept the sweat off your hide and did not stink. They seem to have vanished. There are poly versions around, but after two days like this you will reek like a cage filled with baboons.


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Dave Petzal,
These are the books I was referring to: "My Life with the Eskimos" by Vilhjalmur Stefansson.
A read will show that Stefansson lived quite fully with the Eskimos, although the results of his co-habitation are not revealed in the book they are quite well known by followers of his history. Upon the return from this expedition he held for to his NYC audience that they lived on nothing but meat. He was roundly denounced, as the 'experts' knew it was impossible to live on nothing but meat. Whereupon he undertook a program to live for one year under medical supervision on nothing but meat. At the end of the year he proved healthier than most!!!
"My Life in the Frozen Arctic" by Peter Freuchen.
Relates his early living in northern Greenland, above Thule, along with Knud Rassmussen. Both were Danes.
Also see: "Arctic Survial" by Vilhjalmur Stefansson. To quote, "This Manual was written for the Air Corps of the United States Army, but the reasons for it go back to civilian flying, indeed to the first job of ordinary commercial air transport between North America and Asia. They go back also to Alaska's first Arctic airplane tragedy." (This being the crash and death of Carl Ben Eielson while attempting to haul furs from the vessel Nanuk which had been caught in ice and forced to over-winter near North Cape on the easter Siberan coast of the Bering Sea, to market in Nome.)
Read and enjoy!!


Sorry, I didn't mean to double post.


I agree with you fully about the need to always be prepared. I grew up in MN which, compared to ND seems nearly civilized and over populated! I have now lived in Alaska for 50 years.
My comment was more to preparation for those times when you know you may be separated from the luxuries mentioned and have no recourse to that but what you have with or on you.



That net thermal underwear is still available from Brynje of Norway. The original cotton is a bit cheaper than the newer synthetic fiber net thermals, but I think it still works as good today as it did back in the 60's.

I wouldn't know tho, I wasn't born until 79.

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