"Warm Enough or Cool Enough at Need": Modern Mist Thread and the Galadhrim Cloak

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"Warm Enough or Cool Enough at Need": Modern Mist Thread and the Galadhrim Cloak

Postby SierraStrider » Wed Jan 18, 2017 6:43 pm

When Pippin asks the Galadhrim if the cloaks they give the Fellowship are magic, their response could be reasonably paraphrased, "Silly hobbit, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

The properties of the cloak certainly seem magical, even to our modern eyes:

they are light to wear, and warm enough or cool enough at need. And you will find them a great aid in keeping out of the sight of unfriendly eyes, whether you walk among the stones or the trees.


Active camouflage and variable insulation are still science fiction or fantasy. But we can come close to some fairly magical properties of our own with modern metamaterals.

I may not have access to hithlain, but I can get Gore-Tex. "Waterproof and breathable" is close enough to "warm enough and cool enough at need" for my liking.

With a material selected, the second question was design. I wanted a cloak I could sleep under, but a cloak can't really be longer than its wearer is tall without major folding or dragging on the ground.
I opted for a "full circle" cloak design, or rather a full hexagon, so that each corner could have a tie-out for use as a tent. Two of the equilateral triangles comprising the hexagon could be overlapped, forming a pentagonal pyramid which could be supported in the center by a single pole. Thus, the cloak could become a tent. But would the geometry work?

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Everything looks good. I ordered the Gore-Tex (plus a little extra) and got to work.

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Accurately cutting out large pieces of fabric is hard, but thankfully I had an assistant.

For reinforcement and to form the stake-out loops , I laid silver-gray #550 paracord into the hem with a zipper foot (tied with an Alpine butterfly loop or lineman's loop). I made a belt-loop to retain each one so they wouldn't hang down when in cloak mode and tacked each loop in place.

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I also bought a fair bit extra of the paracord for trekking, for:

...they added also coils of rope, three to each boat. Slender they looked, but strong, silken to the touch, grey of hue like the elven-cloaks.

Never travel far without a rope! And one that is long and strong and light. Such are these. They may be a help in many needs.


Nylon kern-and-mantle rope like Paracord sounds like a very good analogue for the hithlain rope of the Galadhrim. It won't untie itself on command, but I'll take what I can get.

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To fasten at the throat, I made a button hole and celtic button knot. I may buy a leaf brooch to put over it, but I also plan to use it as little as posible; I've never really liked cloaks fastening at the throat, because I need my throat and use it often. I don't like things pulling on it.The Game of Thrones style "harness" cloak seems like a good way to avoid this problem. I didn't replicate it exactly, but rather took a piece of cordage with a celtic button knot at one end and an eye at the other, passed it across my chest, around my back and back up across my chest again. I was worried about such a low-diameter cord cutting sharply, but it seems to be fine even over just a T-shirt. We'll see how that works on the trail.

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Here's the Cape Mode finished and on. It's voluminous and rather bulky (leading to a bit of a "little gray riding hood" look) but very, very light. I ended up sewing another celtic button knot to the back seam which the rear three corners button to to keep them from dragging. I originally made a separate hooded mantle to go with the cloak, but the fabric is so light that the mantle would fly up in even a light wind, making it useless for rain protection and exceedingly annoying to boot.. I cut the hood off the mantle and sewed it directly to the cloak, which seems to work a lot better and actually looks better, to my eye.

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The across-the-torso harness means it can be thrown back for mobility or cooling with perfect comfort and without choking. Seems like it would be very good for archery, too.

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Here's a shot of it in Tent Mode. I'm currently using a trekking pole as the central post, but an arrow shaft would work quite well. I'm also considering using an arming sword for that purpose. anything that's a little better than 30" will do the trick.

I'm overall very pleased. If I had it to do over again I might go for a rectangle cloak, doubled up on the inside, to act as a simple tarp-tent rather than the complex geometric tent I ultimately went with. I didn't want to fold the cloak for fear of decreasing its breathability, but I ended up having to a bit anyway and I don't think having extra cloth around your legs would be an issue. On the plus side, I recall Greg saying in his original Surcote post,

Greg wrote:My cloak protects me from the rain rather well. My back, head, shoulders, and (with a little ingenuity), arms, are covered well...but when you walk briskly in the rain, time and experience will reveal that there's one part of you that ALWAYS winds up soaked. Your thighs. From the knees almost up to the belt line, with every step, you get more and more wet.


I'm pleased to say that this will not be a problem with this cloak. I may look like Little Gray Riding Hood, but the benefit of that much fabric and rather paunchy poncho silhouette is that from the ankles up I'll stay dry as a bone no matter the weather, even when walking. As for 'light to wear', the whole thing weighs less than a liter of water--not bad for a tent and full rain suit.

I look forward to using this extensively, on ranger training trips, ranger-y bushcrafting trips, and full-on modern backpacking trips.
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Re: "Warm Enough or Cool Enough at Need": Modern Mist Thread and the Galadhrim Cloak

Postby Taurinor » Wed Jan 18, 2017 7:47 pm

Wow, that was an excellent write-up of a fascinating project! Thanks for sharing!
SierraStrider wrote:Two of the equilateral triangles comprising the hexagon could be overlapped, forming a pentagonal pyramid which could be supported in the center by a single pole. Thus, the cloak could become a tent. But would the geometry work?


I'm so glad I'm not the only one who finds themselves resorting to geometry/trigonometry in their pursuit of this hobby! My wife rolled her eyes when I showed her your sketch as proof that it isn't just me :mrgreen:

To be completely honest, I personally prefer to use natural materials in my impression, but you make a very good argument for the use of modern materials to approximate the capabilities of elven magic. I think it's an argument that has to be applied carefully to keep to the spirit of Tolkien's work, but for a particular object with extraordinary properties, it makes sense.

I toyed with the cloak-as-tent idea a little while back. I made a quick half-circle cloak out of a thrift store sheet (as opposed to your full circle/hexagon design) and played with it a bit. I just used rocks wrapped in the corners as tie outs, so it didn't pitch as taut as it could have, but like I said, I was just messing around with the idea.

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I eventually decided against it, mostly because I wanted to stick to natural fibers. If I wanted the cloak to be lightweight and water resistant, I was looking at making it from oilskin, which wouldn't breathe (and I was worried about wearing a long flowing potential torch...). If I wanted it to breathe, I could go with treated wool, but it would be heavy. I also decided I would rather carry an oilskin tarp that packs small and wear a wool cloak (distributing the weight of the wool more equally across my body) that I can wrap myself up in to sleep than wear a lightweight cloak and carry a more bulky bedroll. Like I said, though, it's an idea that really intrigues me, so I look forward to seeing how it works out for you!
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Re: "Warm Enough or Cool Enough at Need": Modern Mist Thread and the Galadhrim Cloak

Postby jbook » Wed Jan 18, 2017 8:26 pm

I applaud your ingenuity and geometry skills (of which I have none)!

I personally have always had a little trouble with the use of modern materials in place of the more "magical" elements of middle earth. I think it can become a slippery slope into more obvious stuff, and this is an extreme example, but things like using a cell phone as a seeing stone or something of the like. I just think one can begin to justify a lot of things.

I'm with Taurinor. I would think there would be a natural fiber alternative to this that would be just fine. Time to do some digging!

Again, excellent ingenuity, just not my personal bowl of pipe-weed, or cup of tea as the case may be.
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Re: "Warm Enough or Cool Enough at Need": Modern Mist Thread and the Galadhrim Cloak

Postby SierraStrider » Wed Jan 18, 2017 10:30 pm

Taurinor wrote:To be completely honest, I personally prefer to use natural materials in my impression...


jbook wrote:I personally have always had a little trouble with the use of modern materials in place of the more "magical" elements of middle earth. I think it can become a slippery slope...


I get that. For the use of modern equipment in general, I have a few thoughts:

1. I'm gearing up to replicate the feat of a very specific person (Strider) at a very specific time (The run of the three hunters). He had a small number of "magical" objects--specifically, a hithlain cloak and lembas bread. If I were working to do an impression of a ranger more generally, these would be inappropriate, and other artifacts for Strider would also be inappropriate. For example, I could take my titanium cook pot (It's a mithril analogue! No problem!) but rangers in general and Strider specifically didn't--and wouldn't--have a mithril cook pot. No one would. So I'll use my copper one.

2. I'm not the greatest traveller and huntsman of this age of the world. That doesn't mean I get to cheat, but it means I need a backup plan in case my attempt at authenticity gets me into trouble. I can start a fire with flint and steel fairly consistently. But it's a long way from foolproof, so I'll definitely be taking a ferrocerium rod and lighter on all my trips, though I'll try not to use them. However authentic I'm aiming for, I'll always take modern survival necessities as backup--and if those can be worked into the overt kit, all the better.

3. This isn't Middle Earth. There are artificial and natural obstacles we have to overcome that the Fellowship didn't. For example, in a lot of the places I like going fire is simply forbidden. In a related vein, if there are waterborne pathogens in Middle Earth, The Fellowship never seems to worry about them. Nothing wrong with that; I never worried about purifying my water on my treks through Iceland, for example, but here in California I'm far less confident about the absence of danger in the water. So if I can't start a fire but need to purify water...I'll definitely be using a UV pasteurizer.

Bears are another issue. It's illegal for me to camp in the backcountry in much of California without a bear canister--so I'll be taking a bear cannister. I might dress it up as a small barrel, but I wouldn't feel bad about using (for example) aluminum barrel rings, because it's already a non-canonical imposition. And frankly, this ties into reason #2 as well; if I were a Numenorian who'd been training for 87 years with a sword, I might not worry about bears. As it is, I have a healthy respect for them.

4. Finally, some gear doesn't make life easier. I'll definitely be taking a cell phone (for a camera as much as anything) but not discounting it as a 'seeing stone'--rather, stopping to frame and take pictures is a hindrance, not a help, so no excuse is necessary.

I appreciate the criticism of using modern materials, and largely agree with it. I'd love to turn out some more authentic gear once I've completed my initial quest. I just thought I'd give my perspective.
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Re: "Warm Enough or Cool Enough at Need": Modern Mist Thread and the Galadhrim Cloak

Postby Greg » Wed Jan 18, 2017 10:44 pm

I tried the whole "cloak as a tent" thing years ago, and ditched it. On flat ground, it looked strikingly similar to yours, Taurinor. As nice as it was to not have to carry a separate tarp for shelter, nothing says miserable like wearing your rain-soaked tarp made from natural materials as a garment.

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Geometry factors heavily into some of my early design in projects...my first jerkin pattern, my bracers, and my boots (along several other projects) were patterned with a t-square, triangle, and a fabric measuring tape.
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Re: "Warm Enough or Cool Enough at Need": Modern Mist Thread and the Galadhrim Cloak

Postby Taurinor » Wed Jan 18, 2017 11:29 pm

SierraStrider wrote:1. I'm gearing up to replicate the feat of a very specific person (Strider) at a very specific time (The run of the three hunters). He had a small number of "magical" objects--specifically, a hithlain cloak and lembas bread.


I agree, hence my remark about using modern materials for a "particular object with extraordinary properties". The elven cloaks certainly needed to have extraordinary properties, since the Three Hunters are described as having "only one blanket apiece".

SierraStrider wrote:However authentic I'm aiming for, I'll always take modern survival necessities as backup


I also agree with (and practice) this. I keep matches, a water filter, and a space-bag bivvy in a pouch that I wear at the small of my back. Dying from exposure is very authentic for all periods and probably most fantasy universes, but I'd rather not try it.

Greg wrote:As nice as it was to not have to carry a separate tarp for shelter, nothing says miserable like wearing your rain-soaked tarp made from natural materials as a garment.


That's another reason I experimented with cloak-as-tent, but ultimately never used it on a trek. I think you mentioned that in a previous thread about attempting to make some items multi-purpose in ways that don't work well.
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Re: "Warm Enough or Cool Enough at Need": Modern Mist Thread and the Galadhrim Cloak

Postby Greg » Wed Jan 18, 2017 11:53 pm

Taurinor wrote:I think you mentioned that in a previous thread about attempting to make some items multi-purpose in ways that don't work well.


No tool made for many uses will do any one of those jobs better than the tool tailor-made specifically with that job in mind.
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Re: "Warm Enough or Cool Enough at Need": Modern Mist Thread and the Galadhrim Cloak

Postby Taurinor » Thu Jan 19, 2017 12:20 am

Greg wrote:No tool made for many uses will do any one of those jobs better than the tool tailor-made specifically with that job in mind.


Well said, just like the last time - "The critical thing is to remember that no tool which is designed to handle a myriad of tasks is going to do any of those individual tasks better than the single separate tool designed specifically for each individual task."
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Re: "Warm Enough or Cool Enough at Need": Modern Mist Thread and the Galadhrim Cloak

Postby Elleth » Fri Jan 20, 2017 2:52 am

What an interesting idea!

I'm gearing up to replicate the feat of a very specific person (Strider) at a very specific time (The run of the three hunters). He had a small number of "magical" objects--specifically, a hithlain cloak and lembas bread.


This makes sense to me - while like jbook I don't think I'd go down this road myself, I think I grok the intention... rather than replicating an artifact itself, you're aiming to replicate its functionality as closely as possible. Interesting approach! Looking forward to hearing how it works out! :)
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Re: "Warm Enough or Cool Enough at Need": Modern Mist Thread and the Galadhrim Cloak

Postby Kortoso » Fri Jan 20, 2017 5:49 pm

jbook wrote:I applaud your ingenuity and geometry skills (of which I have none)!

I personally have always had a little trouble with the use of modern materials in place of the more "magical" elements of middle earth. I think it can become a slippery slope into more obvious stuff, and this is an extreme example, but things like using a cell phone as a seeing stone or something of the like. I just think one can begin to justify a lot of things.

I'm with Taurinor. I would think there would be a natural fiber alternative to this that would be just fine. Time to do some digging!

Again, excellent ingenuity, just not my personal bowl of pipe-weed, or cup of tea as the case may be.


Indeed. While I support this interesting effort - for me, I am interested in duplicating the technologies of my fore fathers and stress-testing them to see what privations they endured (over many millenia), and the surprising ways in which their "primitive" technology was effective and efficient.
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Re: "Warm Enough or Cool Enough at Need": Modern Mist Thread and the Galadhrim Cloak

Postby JeffCee » Wed Jul 11, 2018 7:27 am

I really like this Idea!
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Re: "Warm Enough or Cool Enough at Need": Modern Mist Thread and the Galadhrim Cloak

Postby Grimolt » Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:47 pm

Looks very cool...how is it stealth wise? In my experience, gore-tex is kind of raspy and makes lots of noise.
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Re: "Warm Enough or Cool Enough at Need": Modern Mist Thread and the Galadhrim Cloak

Postby Iodo » Thu Jul 12, 2018 6:06 am

Grimolt wrote:Looks very cool...how is it stealth wise? In my experience, gore-tex is kind of raspy and makes lots of noise.

I tried a similar idea and made a cloak to the same pattern as my oil cloth one from man made waterproof fabric. I thought I'd try it because it would be much lighter to carry and breathable, a property oil cloth doesn't have.
There's two reasons I don't use it; First, it was to light and tended to blow in the wind so I still got wet, it takes a really wild storm to start to lift my oil cloth cloak. I didn't weight it by stitching chord around the outside like SierraStrider did, that would probably help. Second, it wasn't hard wearing enough and after one trip out it was ripped in a few places around the edge where I'd caught it on brambles.
The normal thin light gore-tex that hiking coats are made from is noisy, however, If you look hard enough and order samples it's possible to find thicker gore-tex lined or waterproof man made fabrics (usualy intended for makeing tent fly-sheets) that are less noisy. Sadly you'll never get rid of the problem completely.
There are problems to solve but I still think the idea has potential, hope this helps :P
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Re: "Warm Enough or Cool Enough at Need": Modern Mist Thread and the Galadhrim Cloak

Postby pkline5 » Thu Jul 19, 2018 1:55 pm

Did you have a pattern that you designed/made/used for the hood? How did you attach it to the cloak in order to maintain the lines for the tent?
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Re: "Warm Enough or Cool Enough at Need": Modern Mist Thread and the Galadhrim Cloak

Postby Iodo » Thu Jul 19, 2018 2:59 pm

pkline5 wrote:Did you have a pattern that you designed/made/used for the hood? How did you attach it to the cloak in order to maintain the lines for the tent?


Are you talking to me or SierraStrider, the original poster? If your talking to me, mine was never intended to be a tent, only a cloak.
I may be wrong, however his hood is very loose so when sewn to the edge of the cloak it shouldn't interfere with the action of the tent, and can probably be folded underneath when its in "tent mode" to keep it dry/stop it from rustling. A normal medevil hood mantle pattern would probably do to make the hood.

By the way, welcome to the forum :P pkline5
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