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Thread: Layering 70 years ago...no Goretex, no polypro...

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    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Default Layering 70 years ago...no Goretex, no polypro...

    Think your gear is too heavy? We've come a long ways haven't we? It's interesting to read historical accounts describing outdoors gear or clothing worn years ago. A friend loaned me G.O. Young's well-written account of a 2-3 month, horse-based hunting expedition in the 1940's. On the return trip, they board a boat to cross Kluane Lake in October. Mr. Young describes what he's wearing:

    ...woolen underwear...heavy wool trousers, shirt, overshirt, sweater, moose skin coat a heavy mackinaw coat, 1 pair of light wool and 4 pairs of heavy wool socks then shoepacs (from, Alaskan-Yukon Trophies Won and Lost)

    In their travels, several in the party also wore the tread off their boots, or wore the bottoms out. Gear is more durable now, keeps us drier, warmer, etc. Even 2nd or 3rd tier gear these days might be pretty good in comparison. Sometimes I wonder though, were they tougher, more hardy souls?

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    I just finished reading for the fourth and last time (Because I am old), "The Wilderness of Denali", by Charles Sheldon. He spends most of 1906-1908 living in a wall tent, and a small cabin, tramping all around Mt. McKinley. Some mornings on the way out to harvest sheep, he wades overflow 5' deep and the slush is so thick it takes an hour to cross 1/4 mile of ice water and slush.

    He harvests several hundred Dall Sheep and not once in the book Say's what cartridge and what rifle he used, it was just not that important. It seems he daily hikes for 18 to 35 miles, going for 17 to 20 hours a day, and day after day. And at -40* sometimes. He talks about Indian families he encounters, at -26* and the children are nearly nude, and have nothing on their feet, nothing and are playing in the snow.

    He wears mostly wool, canvas, and furs. One key thing that outdoors men did back then, that we do not do, is the "Boil-up". Once or twice per day, yes even at -38* below, they built a fire and made tea. They even packed the sticks they would need for boil'up if they were going to be above timber of days.

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    It's just warmer (globally) now
    Our modern layers sure do dry faster, but I like wearing sheepskin and wool is making a comeback as a "green" layer--check REI, AMH and others for smartwool.

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    Member sayak's Avatar
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    Default This Alaskan...

    ... has never changed. Still wearing Made in USA wool clothing and loving it. I'll leave the Gortex and Polarfleece to the trail mix crowd.

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    I also have thought about this topic. In the book Mawson's Will the antarctic explorers never complained about the cold. These explorers were scientists and kept detailed journals. When people wore what the local natives were wearing I believe they kept very warm. Additionally, I think these guys adjusted to the environment and weren't tied to the clock as we are today. The amount of walking they did just amazes me. In the book Alaska's Wolfman, Frank walked everywhere often great distances. Yes, I think they were tougher but that is what they knew. A lot did expire early. The all wool attire would certainly slow me down. My father in law worked on the Alaska Highway at Beaver Creek , in the winter. About all they had was wool and they stayed in wall tents. Way too harsh for me.
    pete

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    Member AlaskaTrueAdventure's Avatar
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    Thumbs up more alike than different....

    6X,
    After reading your post, I again find myself thinking that we are more alike, than different.

    Very often, either while hunting in the bush or while relaxing in the extreme comfort of my modern home, I have marveled at the absolute raw toughness of those early Alaskan souls. And if we are amazed at how frontier Alaskans lived , dressed, and survived 80 or 100 years ago, it is even more astonishing how early Alaskan natives survived 2000 years ago!

    While I have never been accused of being a "gadget guy", I really do appreciate the space-age materials used in our modern boots, clothing, and rain gear. And in our rafts! During the teeth cracking cold of winter, those early-day Alaskans were tough X 10!

    When I hunt/guide on the Alaska Peninsula or in the Wrangells, I often bring along an old paperback book written by Bob Reeve, titled Glacier Pilot, for myself or my client-hunter. I just can not believe how those open cockpit pilots survived the winter frontier flying of only 80 years ago.

    Dennis

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    Member Phish Finder's Avatar
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    My favorite hunting pants are still some old $8 wool pants. They are silent, warm when wet, heavy enough to require suspenders, and missing a beltloop. They were military surplus from just after world war 2. I wish I could buy more. They are indestructible.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phish Finder View Post
    My favorite hunting pants are still some old $8 wool pants. They are silent, warm when wet, heavy enough to require suspenders, and missing a beltloop. They were military surplus from just after world war 2. I wish I could buy more. They are indestructible.

    What size waist: I have several of those pants: My guess is they are 32" & 34"

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    Member Phish Finder's Avatar
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    36-38", If you find any, I would gladly take them off your hands. I haven't been a 34 for 20 years
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    [QUOTE= I haven't been a 34 for 20 years[/QUOTE]


    Sadly I have the same problem....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Phish Finder View Post
    My favorite hunting pants are still some old $8 wool pants. They are silent, warm when wet, heavy enough to require suspenders, and missing a beltloop. They were military surplus from just after world war 2. I wish I could buy more. They are indestructible.
    Are these the one you can buy at army surplus stores?
    I pick'em up around here all the time. I like the "officer" pants, they don't have the side cargo pockets and are lighter. They are a bit more than $8 now.
    "The older I get, the better I was."

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    Default Those guys were tough...

    Quote Originally Posted by 6XLeech View Post
    Think your gear is too heavy? We've come a long ways haven't we? It's interesting to read historical accounts describing outdoors gear or clothing worn years ago.


    I have a book I like to re-read on occasion titled; Across the Olympic Mountains The Press Expedition, 1889-90 by Robert L. Wood. During the winter of 1889, six gentlemen were sponsored by the Seattle Press to cross the Olympic Mountains in Washington State. It took them about six months to go from the Elwha Basin to Lake Quinault. A couple of the explorers kept journals which the author later used to write their accounts. Often, the explorers talked about their gear and guns, which I found most interesting.

    On one account during January, the men were backpacking up the Elwha basin and Chares Barnes writes;

    “Although the trail was good and packed hard by trampling a misstep over the side meant a plunge of five feet into soft snow. We used moccasins because our boots cut the trail and broke the crust. Moccasins, however are little better than bare feet, so far as protection is concerned and most of us began to suffer from “mal de moccasin,” or foot lameness, from the unevenness and hardness of the icy trail” (Barnes).

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    Quote Originally Posted by 6XLeech View Post
    Sometimes I wonder though, were they tougher, more hardy souls?
    No doubt they were. They lived in a time and place that was barren of the modern conveniances and technology afforded to us today. The old timers made do with that which was available and as a result of their spartan conditions they lived tougher lives than we live today. Simply look at the pictures of the men and women of that era. The majority were lean and old for their years, their lifestyle didn't allow them to take advantage of modern comforts. At early ages they became hardened to rough and demanding lifestyle, what a time to have lived.

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    Quote Originally Posted by travelers View Post
    Are these the one you can buy at army surplus stores?
    I pick'em up around here all the time. I like the "officer" pants, they don't have the side cargo pockets and are lighter. They are a bit more than $8 now.
    I don't know if they still do, but back a few years ago the military surplus store on Spenard carried a mix of wool pants. The best ones were the Swiss army version- they were a nice looking pant but the bonus was the very thick wool they were made of. I bought a couple pair. Top notch.
    "If snowmachiners would adopt the habits of riding one at a time and not parking at the base of avalanche prone slopes, the number of fatalities would likely be whittled by at least a third, if not by half." ~ Jill Fredston, in the book Snowstruck, In The Grip Of Avalanches.

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    I'm sure those tough guys 100 years ago said the same about their counterparts that predated them by 100 years, and unfortunately they'll say the same about us 100 years from now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EagleRiverDee View Post
    I don't know if they still do, but back a few years ago the military surplus store on Spenard carried a mix of wool pants. The best ones were the Swiss army version- they were a nice looking pant but the bonus was the very thick wool they were made of. I bought a couple pair. Top notch.
    The Canadian Army version is top notch as well. I had a pair I bought two summers ago up at a Surplus/Variety store up in Dawson City. I should have bought two as the first pair was involved in an accident while being dried too close to a camp fire.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sayak View Post
    ... has never changed. Still wearing Made in USA wool clothing and loving it. I'll leave the Gortex and Polarfleece to the trail mix crowd.
    I still rock the wool too. Try and slide down a granite rock on your backside with polar fleece on......then go get some **** wool when you've shredded it. wool makes one tough fabric. I'm on my fifth year on the same wool hunting clothing.......I don't care how "heavy it gets when it's wet".....I'll leave that boohooing to the "geardo" crowd. I snow machine and snowshoe in wool too. It's a winter camo pattern. (but i won't lie.....i put on a windbreaking garment when snow machining).

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    Default Mainer-

    Though we have disagreed extensively in the field of politics, I daresay we would probably get along famously in the field that counts.

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    I gotta agree with both Mainer and Sayak on this one... my wool stuff is the bomb for busting brush, scrambling rocks and tending campfires.

    I gave up on Goretex a long time ago after melting the sleeve nearly off my new "wonder coat". I don't think my carhartt or woolrich jacket would have even smelled like smoke in the time it took to melt the sleeve.

    It only took about 15 minutes in a good rain to give up the "waterproof and breathable" bit too...

  20. #20

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    I'm all for wool now! I absolutely love it and don't care how heavy it may get. I use wool socks, boxers, finally base layers and my newly purchased wool outfits (jacket, shirt jacket, bibs and pants). they may not be the most expensive like KOM or SleepingIndian Wool but it's what I could afford at this time and it does the job.

    I often think, especially in my tree stand, about men and women of the past and to think about the basics they would use as gear and what they accomplished with that gear. To us it's the basics but at that time it was probably the most advanced. Gear has come a long way especially in the last 20 years. I can only imagine what gear is going to be like in 50years...jackets with solar panels on them to heat the jackets up...who knows???

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