Winter 2017: Keeping Warm in Winter!

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Amrod Rhandir
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Location: banks of the great River, Kaintuckiana

Winter 2017: Keeping Warm in Winter!

Postby Udwin » Sat Mar 11, 2017 8:27 pm

Keeping Warm in Winter
At this time of year, as Old Man Winter’s strength waxes, I become more aware of the need to preserve my body’s heat while adventuring in the wilds. While I strongly believe that acclimatization to cold plays a large part in one’s comfort (which is why, in my experience, a second or third night of outdoor sleep is almost always better than the first), with the right preparations, one can have a pleasant outing even in the worst of winter weather.
In these cases, I take inspiration from the four-legged animals who live in the wild lands year-round! What lessons can those of us who go on two legs learn from them to help to make our travels more comfortable?
A quick word on acclimatization. Our animal brothers and sisters spend their whole year outdoors, and so are perfectly adjusted to outdoor living (and many have faster metabolisms as a result). However, we humans can take steps to adjust ourselves to adverse conditions well before beginning an outdoor journey, so that we are not ‘shocked’ when we set foot outside our carefully-constructed modern shelters. Try getting in the practice of wearing less clothing around the house, or lowering your thermostat (unless your house is heated only by burning wood, this will also save you money! If your family complains, tell them to put on a hat!). After all, the people of Middle-earth whom we aspire to imitate did not live in climate-controlled houses—they, like the majority of people throughout history, likely were used to being just a little bit uncomfortable. After all, this is living history, damn it! Cutting corners is for weekend reenactors and rendezvous-ers! Additionally, there are exercises one can practice with the goal of increasing one’s tolerance for cold; the ‘Wim Hof Method’ is one such example. With that said…

When it comes to sleeping arrangements, I find it is best to imitate the squirrels, who form their nests from great piles of dry leaves. As you prepare your camp, the time spent gathering blanketfuls of such insulating materials will be well-spent when the temperature begins to drop. As I do not pack a ‘mattress’ or tick to fill with leaves, I like to make a big pile to sleep on, lay my blanket(s) on it, and then add several more loads of leaves on top. When it’s time to sleep, I crawl into the blankets in the center of my nest!

Next, we move onto considerations for clothing. Buck the leaper changes his jacket at the beginning of autumn, swapping his thin red Summer coat for a thick Winter coat of hollow hairs (all the better to trap dead air). We woods-wanderers should do the same in our own way: don’t try to get by in Winter wearing the same clothes you would wear in Summer. Dress for the season!
Even more than Temperature, probably the one factor that makes the difference between comfort and misery in the wilds is Wind. Consider a daytime outing at 10°F: without wind, the air may be cold, but if one is active and properly clothed, there is little risk of frostbite or other dangers. However, even a 10 mile-per-hour wind will quickly drop that 10°F to -4°; naturally, the effects become more severe given lower temperatures and stronger wind: see NOAA’s chart.
Therefore, as the point of winter clothing is to help one maintain a warm personal environment, such items should be effective at blocking wind. Why rely solely on your own skin to cut the wind? Use someone else’s skin too—in the form of leather! Unlike fabric, skin is a continuous sheet, lacking the woven holes through which wind will inevitably send its icy, searching fingers. The best type of leather for outdoor wear (not only in winter) is braintanned, which not only has fluffy (i.e. air-trapping) surfaces, but is also—by its grain-less nature—quite breathable.
Even when dealing with modern materials, the most effective winter clothing combines wind-cutting ability with quality insulation, but how shall we address this need using period materials? By noting that the rest of our fellow land animals carry their own thick blankets with them wherever they go – so instead of trying to re-grow your own fur coat, again, why not make use of someone else’s? In other words, wear fur and wool!
Wool is without a doubt the ideal fabric for winter wear. It insulates supremely, continues to conduct a certain degree of warmth even while wet, is somewhat fire-retardant (so you can sleep closer to the fire), and, given a tight weave, thick nap, and the presence of natural lanolins, can even repel water! It’s great stuff! But that said, venturing out in just a wool tunic won’t get you very far.
Consider Beaver the builder, who wears two fur coats at once, and so can be cold and wet all he wants! His outer coat is long and coarse, and his under-fur is thick and water-repellant. Emulate him—dress in layers! Winter clothing should be neither too tight (which is constricting and limits the air to be warmed) nor too baggy (imagine trying to heat an empty mead-hall with a candle!), but allow us to wear several layers to trap air and yet move comfortably.
However, since we do not have waterproof coats like beavers, it pays to keep dry. When temperatures drop, moisture (inside and outside our clothes) can be quite dangerous.
As I wear braintanned deer over my inner tunic(s) to cut the wind, it is especially important that I take care to avoid getting it wet—wet braintan is like spongey Jell-O! To do this, I wear thick wool of some sort over my deer tunic—either another tunic, jacket, or even a blanket pinned about me.
It is also worth the momentary discomfort to ‘under-dress’ before activity – in order to avoid overheating, and so prevent sweating. If I am going to chop firewood or fell a tree for example, I will usually strip down to a single layer; my body will soon heat itself through exertion, and then I will be toasty warm again. If my inner clothing does get damp, I must either dry it by the fire before sleep, or else pack a spare garment for wearing at night. Otherwise, the sweat-dampened clothing will freeze during the night – and so will I!
With these suggestions in mind, I would like to briefly lay out my personal clothing choices for winter wear. On my lower body I wear woolen ‘Thorsberg’ trousers and braintanned leggings; thick felted wool boots wrapped with wool winningas take care of my bottom half. On my upper body I wear a thin woolen kyrtle under my braintanned tunic (in deep cold, I will add a Bronze Agestyle tunic of thicker wool under this).
For cold hands, fingerless wool mitts inside braintan/furlined mittens cover all my bases. My shoulders, neck, and head are kept warm by a threelayered (2x wool, plus linen lining) hood. Finally, over all is pinned a doubled wool blanket. For more layer-by-layer details of my winter clothing, see the Complete Kits section of
Again, this is what I personally wear in my winter interpretation of a common Man in the Anduin valley. Your own clothing will certainly vary, but if you follow the animal-wisdom I have related above, you should have a much warmer time on your outdoor adventuring!
AistanWinter17.jpg (229.01 KiB) Viewed 1167 times
Personae: Aistan son of Ansteig, common Beorning of Wilderland; Tungo Boffin, Eastfarthing Bounder, 3018 TA
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Amrod Rhandir
Posts: 553
Joined: Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:00 pm
Location: banks of the great River, Kaintuckiana

Re: Winter 2017: Keeping Warm in Winter!

Postby Udwin » Sat Mar 11, 2017 8:44 pm

As explained in my essay, I cannot always rely on Mother Nature to cooperate and ensure ideal conditions whenever I need to get out and do some work or make tracks. Therefore, I found myself needing items of soft kit that will keep me warm while in the wilds, yet are document-able (or at least suggested and supportable) in Tolkien’s writings. Based on my experiences and current gear, what I really needed were something to keep both my neck/head and hands warm, especially in the evening when I am less active, or while sleeping. (On previous cold-weather campouts, my feet also tend to be chill, but the felt boots I have made in the years since have proven more than sufficient in addressing that issue).
Based on references in the Red Book and my needs stated above, I decided to create a pair of fur-lined mittens for my hands, and a thick, warm hood for my head/neck.
Serendipitously, I found a lovely fur jacket at a local thrift store for $6, which I took apart at the seams, yielding a prodigious amount of fine thick fur (of indeterminate animal origin). A simple three-part mitten pattern was found online*, and one of my braintanned deer hides—not smoked evenly enough for me to be willing to offer it for sale—provided the outer shell. As can be seen, only about half of the skin was needed for both outer mittens, while part of a jacket sleeve was needed for each mitten’s fur lining. The fur’s fabric backing meant that only a simple whipstitch was needed to sew the lining pieces together.

With my hands thus taken care of, I next needed to decide how I would keep my head and neck warm. A quick check of the Red Book sources suggested that hoods (as head-covering garments separate from cloaks) were widespread during the late Third Age, and my question then became ‘What sort of hood should it be?’. A few passages give some vague suggestions:
“Now we are all here!" said Gandalf, looking at the row of thirteen hoods—the best detachable party hoods—and his own hat hanging on the pegs.” (TH Ch1)
“An odd-looking waggon laden with odd-looking packages…toiled up the Hill to Bag End…it was driven by outlandish folk, singing strange songs: dwarves with long beards and deep hoods.” (LR BkICh1)
“A travel-stained cloak of heavy dark-green cloth was drawn close about [Strider], and in spite of the heat of the room he wore a hood that overshadowed his face; but the gleam of his eyes could be seen…” (BkICh9)

I combined Tolkien’s descriptions with a bit of research, which revealed that in extant hoods, liripipes were very uncommon until the 12th century, and that hoods became more fitted in later periods. As I like to base my interpretation on earlier designs, I opted to create a liripipe-less, less-fitted hood, which might still be able to shield my eyes or face from rain or sun (or unfriendly eyes!, as in the third quote above). Through some trial and error, I modified a fitted hood in The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant to create a workable pattern that would waste minimal fabric (a period-appropriate consideration!).
As this hood would be for cold-weather needs, I knew I wanted to use wool, and though I did not have any suitable material at the time, an eight-square-foot triangle of lovely wool offered itself to me at the thrift store for $3. Through some careful piecing, I was able to create two hoods from this wool, and then created a third hood in heavy linen as a lining; the outermost hood was fulled in warm English walnut dye, to darken the wool, tighten the weave, and increase its water-repellence. I finished off the lower edge with the knit hem of an old wool sweater.

mitten layout, modified hood, and mitten patterns used to create items in above picture.
Mittens_braintanshell.jpg (190.06 KiB) Viewed 1167 times
hood_modified.png (18.61 KiB) Viewed 1167 times
mitten 1-3.png
mitten 1-3.png (96.33 KiB) Viewed 1167 times
Personae: Aistan son of Ansteig, common Beorning of Wilderland; Tungo Boffin, Eastfarthing Bounder, 3018 TA

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