Outdoor clothing has come a long waysWhen I was a teenager back in the 1960s, I spent most weekends in winter wandering about the North Dakota countryside by myself in search of red foxes and white-tailed jackrabbits. I could walk from dark to dark and be less tired than I am today in walking up the block and back.
By: Bernie Kuntz, The Jamestown Sun
When I was a teenager back in the 1960s, I spent most weekends in winter wandering about the North Dakota countryside by myself in search of red foxes and white-tailed jackrabbits. I could walk from dark to dark and be less tired than I am today in walking up the block and back.
However, it was generally a cold pastime given much of the primitive clothing I wore —some sort of heavy, quilted underwear, a heavy, cumbersome leather coat of unknown origin, a white stocking cap and a white, cotton painter’s suit over everything. I wore green, insulated Herter’s pacs with wool socks. (If sock liners even had been invented at that time, I never had heard of them.) My gloves were made of deer hide with fleece liners, and they quickly became damp and cold.
None of my clothes “breathed” particularly well, so by day’s end my entire body was damp from perspiration. Yet, I still enjoyed hunting in winter.
In the early ‘70s, an uncle gave me a wool cap from World War II, which was an improvement over the dreadful stocking cap. I had never heard of a balaclava until well into adulthood. Now I have several, and they have saved me from misery on many occasions.
Years later, I was able to buy Schnee’s boots with removable inserts, and Russell’s High Country Hunter boots with air-bob soles (perfect for snow) and lined with Gore-Tex and Thinsulate. In the 1990s Katrina bought a cap for me that is fleece-lined inside, snow-camouflaged wool on the outside with generous ear flaps. I still wear it today. At about the same time, I bought a lightweight white-camo suit from Cabela’s. It is lined with Thinsulate, and clad in the suit, I have lain in a snowbank for half a day while goose hunting and been relatively comfortable.
In autumn I generally wear a King of the Mountain wool mackinaw beneath a blaze orange fleece vest. Some younger, more “tuned-in” hunters are wearing exclusively the miracle synthetics, fleece jackets and coats.
Gloves and mittens have made huge advances in the last couple decades. I now own a couple pairs of wool gloves that have an attachment you can flip over your fingers, so they act as a mitten. When you are ready to shoot, you simply remove the mitten cap and it sticks to Velcro, out of your way. Oh, and there is a finger slit in each trigger finger for an unencumbered use of the trigger —shotgun or rifle. For extreme cold, I wear insulated mittens, also from Cabela’s. For general use, I have a couple more pairs of Thinsulate-lined gloves I picked up here and there at sporting goods stores.
Long underwear is a subject in itself these days, and I make no claim to be on the cutting edge of knowledge in that area. I can tell you that I haven’t owned a set of cotton underwear in 40 years. Today it is all merino wool, or capiline polyester, polypro, fleeced polyester, lightweight silk … I probably own at least one pair of each for different sorts of outdoor uses, and in winter I often wear them in place of pajamas.
Socks these days are made from similar materials, and are a godsend! The last time I foolishly wore a cotton sock was about 25 years ago when Laurie and I backpacked up to Jerome Rock Lakes in the Spanish Peaks Wilderness near our home in Bozeman, Mont. Why I wore the cotton socks remains a mystery, forgotten in the passage of time. But I DO remember very clearly the blisters that I developed —one on the ball of each foot —and the pain I felt at every step during the eight-mile pack back to the trailhead.
In the early fall, I still wear cotton shirts and pants, and wear uninsulated buckskin gloves. But when it gets cold, I am the first to appreciate the marvelous advances in outdoor clothing!