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