Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Upcoming Show of Interest: No Kitchen Required

For those of you interested in cooking when in the outdoors, there is an upcoming show that might be of some interest. It is called No Kitchen Required, and premiers April 3, 2012 on BBC America.

The show (as advertised) is supposed to drop off three chefs in remote locations around the globe, and let them hunt and gather to prepare a meal that will then be judged by the locals of the region.

If it keeps true to the description, it might be very interesting.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Bushcraft and Backpacking Food

I am not qualified to speak in any way about food or nutrition, but as promised I wanted to share what food I brought on my last trip (2/18/12-2/20/12) and my thinking behind it.


From what I understand, the average estimates for the calorie consumption of a person who is backpacking (assuming actual travel for most of the day under normal conditions) is about 3000 calories. I find it very hard to consume such high amount of calories, and I am usually not out for enough days to get my metabolism to ramp up to consume that much food.

I aim for about 2000 calories per day. I imagine this would be insufficient for an extended trip (weeks to months), but I am never out long enough to worry about that. Secondary considerations for me are the weight of the food and the ability of the food to last without spoiling, as it is not something I want to worry about on the trial. So, here is what my food looked like for a three day trip:


Each large ziploc bag contains the complete food for one day. I had another small ziploc bag with some salt, sugar, olive oil and Goya seasoning. Together everything went into a Sea to Summit stuff sack.

I like the idea of the food for each day being in a separate bag because it lets me keep track of what I have left of each item. Obviously here because my trip was only three days, I would have food left over on the first and last days (breakfast on the first day and dinner on the third day). This would in theory give me one extra day if I had to spend it in the woods.


Here is what was contained in each bag:


In the first column are just two packets of oatmeal. This is my breakfast. The top item in the middle column is a packet of rice, beans and dehydrated ground beef, while the top item in the third column is a packet of instant mashed potatoes combined with instant gravy. Those two bags are my dinner. The remaining items in the second column are six pieces of candy, a ziploc bag with beef jerky, and a ziploc bag with Gatorade mix and tea. The third column contains two granola bars and a bag of nuts. All these items are used for lunch and snacks during the day. Here is a more detailed caloric view of the items:


Calories (cal)

Weight (oz)


Rice and Beans (dinner)




Instant Potatoes (dinner)




Granola Bars x 2 (lunch)




Candy:bite size Snickers, Twix and Milky Way (lunch)




Candy: bite size chocolate x 3 (lunch)




Jerky-five pieces (lunch)




Nuts (lunch)




Oatmeal x 2 (breakfast)




Tea and Gatorade








The total weight of each bag, including packaging was 1 lb 4 oz (20 oz). This gives me a calorie per weight value of 107 cal/oz. Ideally, I should have about 150 cal/oz, but there are several reasons why I was not able to reach that.

The first is that the above calculations do not include oil or fat (other than the nuts). Oil will give you the highest calorie per weight value. Since all my food is dry in order to get it to preserve better, very few items have oil in them. If it is added from a bottle, the calories per ounce will increase.

The second reason is that I have prioritizes some degree of diversity in the food over calories. For example, the instant potatoes have higher calorie per weight value than the rice. However, I find the rice to taste better, so I carry it. Similarly, the jerky has less calories per weight than the candy, but I need something salty to mix up with all the sweet stuff.

Anyway, I found the food to be more than enough with respect to how much I could consume. The only exception was the breakfast. While I was full from the oatmeal, I was hungry by 10AM. It’s a good thing that my “lunch” was designed to be eaten in smaller doses as I went along, which made it easy to spread out.

Do not underestimate how important it is to get energy during the day. Many years ago I used to try to eat as little as possible during the day. When I started eating consistently during the day, I noticed a significant increase in my energy level. It is hard to believe that there is such an instant effect, but from my experience, there is.

For more information on the foods I like, check out Cheap Lightweight Backpacking Foods Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Guest Post: True Tinder Fungus, by Gurthy

Recently I was invited to join a relatively new forum called Blades and Bushcraft. It has turned out to be one of the best forums I have participated in in a long time. It is still small, but the people there are knowledgeable and the moderators have gone trough great lengths to make sure that people whose opinions are worth reading are members of the forum. As an added benefit, you don’t have the same heavy handed moderation that you unfortunately see on some other forums these day. Well, Gurthy is a member who a met through the forum. He has started his own blog called Gurthy’s Bushcraft. I saw this post there, and thankfully he agreed to let me repost it here.

True Tinder Fungus

What I’ve learned about chaga and fire.

Firstly I want to say that I’m by no stretch of the imagination an expert in anything, I’m just a guy with an interest in outdoors skills. I have been hunting chaga for over a year and a half casually, and have found a small number of specimens. Recently I found and harvested a largepiece of quality chaga, and now that I’ve had time to experiment with good samples I’d like simply to share what I’ve learned.


Inonotus obliquus (also called chaga or true tinder fungus) is a parasitic fungus that grows on only a few species of trees, but is most commonly found on birch trees. The fungus is relatively rare and only grows on live trees. Do not bother looking on dead trees because the fungus cannot survive on a dead tree. To identifyInonotus obliquus I look for a black, charred looking section of the tree. I usually spot chaga in places where the tree has been damaged and it often looks like a burned burl. The fungus has a hard black exterior, an inner firm brown layer, and an innermost layer that is soft (cork like) and orangish-yellow in color.

Chaga on a birch


Chaga cut open... note the orangish interior. This was a mediocre specimen.


Harvesting, Preparation and Use

Harvesting chaga is simple… just hack or cut the fungus off the tree and section it into manageable chunks. That part of the fungus that works best for fire is the softer, spongy, cork-like orangish-yellow part. The firmer brown parts will work as a coal extender but I’ve found that they do not take a spark from a flint and steel very well. To prepare chaga for fire usage simply air dry it for a few days. I have not needed to dry chaga fast but I imagine that the process could be sped up with sunlight or by putting the fungus near a non-spark throwing heat source. 

"Good" chaga at left, "poor" chaga at right. Note the yellowish color and and spongy  texture of the better chaga versus the woody texture and brown color of the subpar chaga.


Once dried, chaga can be used to catch sparks from many sources. Ferrocerium rods obviously will work well. I like to hold the striker steady and pull the rod back, but whatever technique you usually use will work well.

Even the small sparks from a flint and steel quickly form an ember. For flint and steel I use the fungus the same way  I use charred cloth: I hold the fungus on top of the flint near the striking edge with my left (non-dominant) hand and I strike down with the steel in my right (dominant) hand.


I have a couple of pieces of chaga that I lit two days ago and then submerged the fungus in water for several seconds to extinguish the embers. Today I was able to easily light the same fungus with a couple of strikes of my flint and steel:


Be warned that the embers smolder very well and I've discovered that the tiniest of sparks can start an ember which may go unnoticed. Chaga embers are difficult to extinguish that you need to be very careful and either use the entire fungus chunk or extinguish it in water.

Here is a lit piece of Inonotus obliquus in the light:


And this is the same piece of fungus about 20 seconds later with the lights off.


Again, please check out both Gurthy’s Bushcraft blog and the Blades and Bushcraft forum. They are both excellent sources of information.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Trip Report: 2/18/12 - 2/20/12

Usually I don’t like to document or post about my trips because that’s my time to have fun in the woods, without having to worry about filming or taking pictures. It also lets me leave the rather heavy camera gear at home. In all honesty however, I’ve been getting a bit bored with posting about reviews and studies, so I figured I would try to take some pictures of the outing I did this last weekend, and share them with you.

The plan was to complete roughly a 25 mile roundtrip, starting on Saturday morning and finishing on Monday. The tracks would form a triangle, where on day one I climb to approximately the height of a ridge line, on day two I travel along the ridge line for about 10 miles, and on day three I make my way back to the staring point.

The weather has been all over the place in the last few weeks, swinging from unseasonably warm (in the 30F range) down to single digits (F). The weather forecast for this weekend said it would be around 30F all weekend, which would have made for a wet, but otherwise pleasant trip.

As I’ve mentioned before, when the temperature is just about freezing, the big issue is trying to stay dry. Every time it got slightly warmer, the frost and snow would melt, getting everything wet. For example, here you can see a stream that for most of the year would be nearly dry. Because the snow from that last few weeks had melted however, it was now a good size stream.


Around noon I stopped for lunch. It was all ready to eat stuff: jerky, nuts, granola bar and candy. I’ll have more on the food in a later post.


I had unfortunately gotten a bit sweaty during the climb. I didn’t put extra clothing during lunch because I wanted to dry off. I knew I would get chilled, but I was going to start moving again soon enough, so I didn’t worry about it. If you think that wool clothing will keep you warm even when it is wet, give it a try. I got pretty chilled.

At some point in the 1700s there were a few small villages in this area, and there was some small scale mining done, mostly for iron. You can still see remnants of the mining operation hidden in the forest.


I bumped into an interesting plant on one of the hills. I wish I knew what it was, but my plant identification skills are rather pathetic.


In the afternoon I had to stop in order to refill with water. Because these mountains are so rocky and have such poor soil, it was unlikely that there would be water at the higher elevations, as it all tends to run off very quickly.


The red container you see on the ground is an insolative cover for the filter. When the temperatures dip below freezing, a wet filter will freeze if unprotected, causing it to crack. As you can see, a lot of the water itself was still frozen.


I used the rest opportunity to make myself some Gatorade and have some chocolate for the extra energy boost.


A few more hours of hiking and I was able to set up camp. At this elevation the available wood was mostly pine, which I was not accustomed to working with, but the ease with which it could be worked and would take a flame was a pleasant surprise.


A placed the pot on the fire and warmed up some water. I am not a fan of pot holders (I’m too lazy to make them), so I just put mine on the coals.


Here you can see me using the pot holder I showed you how to make in a previous video (well, trying to show it while taking pictures with the other hand).


I’m not a big fan of tea, but I’ll drink it during the winter because it’s a much better option than drinking cold water.


Here you can see me enjoying the tea while waiting for dinner to cook-some rice and dehydrated ground beef. The fancy contraption on which I am sitting is just a plastic bag. It doesn’t provide any insulation, but it is lightweight and keeps me dry. I like the Hefty bags because they stretch more and don’t rip as easily.


Unfortunately, at this point it decided to start snowing. It looks like a weather front moved in, and along with the snow, the temperature dropped by at least ten degrees.


It was particularly wet snow, and it stuck to my clothing, getting me wet very quickly. Here you can see me trying to dry up in front of the fire before getting into the sleeping bad. The pants dried up fine, but the outer shirt did not. I had to take it off before getting in the bag.


For the first few hours of the night there was a lot of wind and it continued to snow. Around 2AM however the wind died down, so I was able to get some good sleep.

When I got up, everything was covered with frost, including my sleeping bag and the inside of the tent. When it comes to the sleeping bag, the perspiration from your body passes through the bag, and then when it meets the cold air on the outside of the bag, it freezes. I scraped it off as best I could.


For breakfast, I made some oatmeal using the stove. The pump had frozen during the night, so I had to use a bit of force to get it to work.


After breakfast I got on the go again. I reached the ridge line for which I was aiming and started following it.


On one of the peaks I saw this geological survey marker. I have no idea what it means, but I thought it was kind of cool.


At one point I entered a small valley, where I found a small stream/swampy area. I took the opportunity to refill my water. The intake valve had frozen during the night, even though the filter was insulated. I hade to take it out and put it back in before the filter would start working.


I also noticed that the water in my water bottle had frozen even though the bottle was in an insulated neoprene sleeve, and had been in my backpack for several hours.


After that it was more hiking. Early in the afternoon I stopped for lunch-same as the previous day. I took the opportunity to make some more Gatorade.


When I got to the area where I had intended to camp, I set up the tent. The frost on the tent had melted, and it was now wet, but it’s not an issue for this tent as it is an open floor design.


I was tired, and wasn’t planning on staying up in the evening, so I didn’t make a fire, and just used the stove to make dinner-same rice and ground beef as the night before.


The night was uneventful. There was no more snow, and no significant winds. The temperature was low again, so I had the same frost issues, but was not cold at any point during the night.

The next day it was more oatmeal for breakfast, and I set off on my way back to the car.


It looked like at the lower elevations there had been no snow, or maybe it had melted.


There was another old mine to check out on the way back.


…and one last great view before I got back to the road. Well, I’m sure it’s much better during summer.


And that’s about it for my trip. I know that when I read trip reports, I always want to know more about the gear used, so I’ll try to make another post about that. This one is long enough as it is. :)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Making Fire With Flint and Steel Part 3 – Making Char Cloth

In this last part of the video I wanted to take a few minutes and show you how to make some char cloth. It is a fairly easy process.

Most plant material can be charred in a similar manner, or simply by igniting them on the fire and them putting them out.


There are other natural tinders which can be used to start a fire using this method. Here are some of them. I have very little experience with most of these, but have seen them used:

Chaga-also known as true tinder fungus, Inonotus obliquus, can be used without any special preparation other than drying. It can be found growing on trees, birch in particular.

Amadou-derived from a fungus sometimes also referred to as tinder fungus or bracket fungus, Fomes fomentarius. The tinder requires preparation before use, and is derived from one particular area of the fungus.

Reed grass pith-can also be used as tinder without extensive preparation,

Cattail seed heads-the dried heads can catch a spark without much preparation.

Punk wood-this is simply rotting wood which has reached the stage where the fibers are falling apart and turning into dust. If the material is dried well enough, it can catch a spark.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Making Fire With Flint and Steel Part 2 – Alternative Methods

In the last video I covered some of the basics when it comes to using the traditional flint and steel method to start a fire. Since this form of tire lighting has been around for so long, there have been some more interesting and creative ways to use it.

One of these methods is the tinder tube. All it is, is a cotton rope with a small brass tube at one end. To prepare the tinder tube for use, light one of the ends, and then put it out. This will create a charred area on the rope. It is this charred material that will catch the spark, much in the same way as the char cloth we used in the last video. To put out the ember, just pull the rope into the brass tube and cover it until it goes out.


Another approach is to simply use some charcoal. After all, char cloth and the tinder tube are just other forms of charcoal. You can remove a piece from the fire and save it, or can take a piece of wood or other plant material and char it by holding it to the flames of your fire. Once a spark lands on the coal, it will glow just like the char cloth.


In the video I also mentioned that you can use the flint and steel to ignite the powder formed by a bow drill or any other method of friction fire lighting. A few weeks back I posted a video made by Les Stroud where it took him hours to get the dust from his bow drill to ignite. A simple spark from his knife a flint rock would have made his job much easier. Just drop a spark onto the dust and it will glow as if though it was ignited from the friction.


There are certainly some other techniques and approaches out there. These are just the few with which I am familiar. In the next post I will try to mention some other naturally occurring tinders that can be prepared and used. These however are my favorites because they are easy to both find and prepare.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Making Fire With Flint and Steel Part 1 – The Basics

In this video I wanted to go over some of the basics of starting fire using the traditional flint and steel method. Ironically, this method predates the invention of steel, when during the stone age people used to use a rock of high iron content to create the desired sparks.

The steel striker you see here is not special in any way. The only requirement is that it has high carbon content. A carbon steel knife, or an old file work just as well.


Once an ember is created, it is very difficult to put out, and will give you some time to work with. If for some reason you need additional time to prepare your kindling, just add another piece of tinder to the ember. Here you can see the ember glow even when placed in the snow.


A complete flint and steel kit will have a carbon steel striker, and flint or other hard rock capable of removing shavings from the steel, and a container of tinder. Please do not confuse this method with starting a fire with a ferro rod. That is not the flint and steel method. While they both make sparks, the flint and steel method goes back thousands of years, while the ferro rod/fire steel is a modern invention.


I am sure the presentation could have been a lot better, but it so happened that the weekend I went out to film this, the snow was coming down hard and the temperature was very low. It was very hard to keep things dry. I was fortunately able to go out the following week and take the pictures you see above.

By the way, the kindling I am using in the video is just some grass I gathered. In several places there was some sticking above the snow. As you can tell from the video, it was quite wet. The tips of the grass are thinner, and can catch fire more easily. I placed the tips in the center of the bundle, and twisted the rest of the grasses around to create the kindling bundle.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Things I Wish People Would Stop Doing

As you guys know, I was gone for a little while. Since coming back, I’ve been trying to catch up on what has been going on with different blogs and forums. Going through so much stuff in a short period of time, gave me a concentrated dose of some spectacular writing and research done by people, as well as a concentrated dose of the things that people do that annoy me to no end. I just wanted to list some of them here, more for purposes of venting than anything else.


Edible does not equal food. Please stop writing about how you can live off of plants because they are edible. Just because eating something will not kill you, does not mean that it has any non nominal nutritional value, and it certainly does not mean that it has any caloric value. You can easily starve to death with a stomach full of edible plants.

Leave the kits at home, bring the items you need. Please stop counting the items in your kit. For that matter, please stop making kits. Why is a 10 piece kit somehow more complete or ideal than a 9 or 11 piece kit? Why not just bring the items you need? I know it’s fun to have levels to one’s gear, with different kits, each with a different number of items in them, but we are not a space shuttle; we do not need to jettison levels of equipment as we travel in the woods. Try to remember the last trip where you started out with a full backpack (your 60, or whatever piece kit), and then due to unforeseen circumstances, you had to jettison items until you went through your 30 piece, 20 piece and then eventually just your 10 piece kit.

You liking something does not make it the best. Please stop trying to justify personal preferences and likes in terms of practicality. It is perfectly okay to like something just because you like it. Not every choice and preference has to be justified in terms of it being the best from a practical point. Forcing a practical justification for your stylistic or emotional choice just makes for an absurd argument. That is how we end up with a whole lot of ridiculous statements. For example, I wear a wool shirt when I go into the woods. I wear it because it is good enough in terms of performance, but more importantly, because I like the way it looks. I am fully aware that it is outperformed by numerous other materials and shirts on the market, and feel perfectly comfortable with that. I am not going to perform mental gymnastics to convince myself and other people that I chose it because it offers the best performance in the world.

A ferro rod is not a primitive form of fire lighting. I know, we all love sparks, but the ferro rod is a very modern invention. It kind of looks like flint and steel, but it’s not. If you want to use a traditional form of fire lighting, use flint and steel. Using a ferro rod is as primitive as using matches.

A bigger axe does not make you a better woodsman. Unfortunately, lately in the US there has been a trend where people have been taking larger and larger axes on their trips into the woods, with the apparent belief that it gives them credibility as woodsmen. Trust me, it does not. Maybe you will fool someone who has never used an axe, but there are few things less impressive than watching a person carry around a full size axe just so he can haphazardly swing it at a few wrist thick dead trees. A good rule of thumb is that if the tree will snap from a strong breeze, you don’t need that five pound axe. Similarly, poor technique, like trying to chew through the fallen wrist think piece of wood by repeatedly hitting it into the ground, negates any credibility you might have gotten from dragging around that full size axe. Save yourself the back problems, and bring an axe that is more suited for the task. Sometimes knowing means knowing when to stop.

Sleeping bags DO insulate on the bottom. Please stop writing that sleeping bags do not provide any insulation on the bottom because it gets compressed. A person is not a pile of bricks. The sleeping bag contours to your body beneath you and provides substantial insulation.

Your friends are not always objective. Stop thinking that just because your friends say you are “the best” you are actually the best. They are your friends; it’s a self selecting process. As we’ve learned from American Idol, just because your friends and family tell you you are great, doesn’t make it so.

The pack you are using is too small. Please stop telling everyone that you carry everything you need for the woods in the a shoulder bag (or some other small bag of choice), and then proceed to hang all of your gear on the outside of the bag. Just get a pack in which you can fit ALL of your gear.

Well, this is all I have at this point. These are just things that jump out at me, and continue to annoy me time and time again. I’m sure there are many other things out there, and I am sure there are plenty of things I do that get on people’s nerves, so if you have any, make sure to post a comment about them. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Comparison Between Modern and Traditional Inuit Cold Weather Clothing

A few months back I did a post comparing the performance characteristics between modern and early 20th century cold weather clothing. The comparison was along several different factors such as insulation, wind protection and weight, and was performed with respect to the clothing choices of several well known early 20th century explorers. You can see the post here. The result was that the modern clothing outperformed the early 20th century clothing in terms of insulation, and in particular, insulation per unit weight. The early 20th century outfits tested were largely comprised of wool as insulation, with the exception of Amundsen, who used a fur outer layer. His outfit performed the best out of the traditional clothing options.

In one of the comments, a member of this blog pointed me to another study, which looked at a comparison between modern clothing, and traditional Inuit cold weather clothing. I’ve gone through the study, and wanted to share some of the very interesting conclusions with you. For those interested, the study is Comparison of Traditional and Manufactured Cold Weather Ensembles, Clim. Res. Vol. 5: 83-90, 1995.

The study compared three different clothing ensembles. For each of the three choices, the test subjects were wearing the same cotton/polyester underwear and turtle neck shirt, wool socks, and a wool toque. All three ensembles were rated to  -40 degrees C/F.

First Ensamble-1991 Canadian military arctic clothing comprised of an inner and outer hooded parka, pants, wind pants and mittens. The inner and outer pants were made from uncoated nylon canvas outer shell with an inner layer of Polargard (100% polyester) and a layer of Dermoflex (coated fabric) lined with Nomex (a plain-weave natural-colored fabric). The parka (outer layer) and jacket (inner layer) were made from coated fabric (Dermaflex) and lined with Nomex. The parka also had a Polargard (100% polyester) insulation layer. Mitts made of the same layers as in the parka and Amry Mukluks completed this ensemble.

I tried to find a picture of the 1991 Canadian military arctic outfit, but was not able to do so. The closest thing I could find was a picture of soldiers wearing the 2008 Canadian military arctic clothing. Clearly there have been changes since 1991, but I hope it at least gives you an idea of what it would be like to wear it. If someone has a picture of the 1991 version, please let me know.


Second Ensamble-Expedition ensemble made by Blue Skys Ltd (circa 1995) comprised of an inner and outer hooded parka, pants, wind pants and mittens. Each item consisted of four layers: a nylon lining, open mesh nylon interlining, 6mm layer of Thinsulate, and a Gortex nylon outer layer. Army Mukluks/Skidoo Boots were worn, with composite liners.

I had no success finding any arctic clothing currently made by Blue Skys Ltd. The company still exists, but no longer seems to sell this line of products, nor was I able to find any pictures of any clothing they have made. The picture you see here is from the 1995 Weber/Malakhov unsupported expedition to the North Pole.


Third Ensamble-Inuit caribou clothing comprised of inner and outer caribou hooded parka, caribou skin outer pants, caribou skin stockings work inside seal skin boots, and caribou skin mittens. The hood was trimmed with dog fur. The inner layer of the parka was worn with the fur facing in, while the outer layer of the parka was worn with the fur facing out.


The test was performed by having each subject sit in a room for 60 minutes at      -28 degrees C/-18.4 degrees F; 70% relative humidity; 20 km/h wind speed. Temperature measurements were taken at different points on the body throughout the test. The subjective impressions of the test subjects were also collected, but in this post I am more interested in the actual data that was generated, as it is less likely to mislead us.

Before jumping into the results, it should be noted that what was being tested here was the overall performance of each outfit. As a result, there was no attempt to isolate the actual factors contributing to any difference in terms of performance. Keep in mind that the data we see may be a result either of the propertied of the materials being used, or of the design of the clothing. The study makes mention of a few design features that may have created a difference, but no control is being provided in order to test the performance of the materials themselves.

Chest Temperature

In the graph below you can see the chest temperature for each ensemble. This is probably the best area from which to judge the performance of materials rather than design, as there is very little design variation between the clothing choices in this area. Any difference in performance will be either a result of the type of insulation used, or the amount of insulation used.


As you can see, the Canadian military outfit preserved the chest temperature at a constant level for the duration of the experiment. The Inuit caribou outfit actually increased the chest temperature by about one (1) degree, while the Blue Skys Ltd outfit allowed for a one (1) degree drop in chest temperature. The results clearly show that the caribou clothing provides the best chest insulation, followed by the army clothing (which maintained the exact same chest temperature), while the commercial outfit provided the least insulation, allowing for a drop in chest temperature.

Thigh Temperature

In this next graph, we can see the result in temperature change for the thighs of the test subjects. 


The Canadian military outfit allowed for a one (1) degree thigh temperature drop over the duration of the experiment. The Inuit caribou clothing maintained the same thigh temperature, while the commercial, Blue Skys Ltd outfit allowed for an almost five (5) degree drop in thigh temperature. Considering that the commercial outfit is made of similar materials to the military outfit, the difference might be an issue of the amount of insulation being used. The Inuit outfit also has a design advantage here as the Parka comes down almost to the knee, providing additional thigh insulation.

Cheek/Face Temperature

In this next graph you can see the cheek/face temperature for each subject.


Here both the Canadian military and the commercial/Blue Skys Ltd outfits allowed for the similar twelve (12) degree drop in temperature over the duration of the test. The Inuit caribou outfit allowed only for a four (4) degree drop in cheek temperature. The testers postulated that it was the design of the Inuit clothing hood that made the difference, using the fur trim to create a micro climate of the face. 

Finger Temperature

In this next graph you can see the finger temperature for each subject.


Here the performance of all three outfits seems to be similar, with the Blue Skys Ltd ensemble being slightly warmer. This may be an indication that in the absence of design variation, the different materials might have very similar insulating properties.

Toe Temperature

In the last graph you can see the toe temperature for each subject.


Here the Canadian military and the Blue Skys Ltd outfits again perform very similarly, allowing for a twelve (12) degree drop during the duration of the test. The Inuit outfit allowed for a five (5) degree drop in temperature.

The study goes on the average the results from each of the above tests, and try to come up with some way of graphing the overall performance of each outfit, but I am not sure what value that has considering the wide variation in performance between different components of each ensemble. As few of us can get our hands on a 1991 Canadian military arctic weather outfit or a 1995 Blue Skys Ltd cold weather outfit, the performance of individual elements might be more significant.

It appears that in terms of the chest and finger insulation, all three outfits had a similar performance. In terms of the thighs, the commercial outfit showed a significant lack of insulation when compared to the military and Inuit outfits, and in term of toe and face protection, both the military and commercial outfits were significantly outperformed by the Inuit clothing.

Few things I was curious about:

As far as I know from modern military clothing, an arctic weather outfit is comprised of multiple layers. I am not sure why they were not used in this case. It seems that all that was used was the base layer and the parka. It makes for good comparison in terms of clothing items, but I’m not sure it correctly reflects the overall military cold weather outfit. If anyone has more information on the 1991 Canadian military arctic clothing components, please let me know. 

It is interesting that so many early 20th century cold weather explorers rejected fur as a clothing option. With the exception of Amundsen, who used it as an outer layer, most explorers stayed away from it as not being worth the effort. This study seems to indicate that they would have all been much better wearing fur rather than wool. Interestingly, Nansen did not use fur on his travels, but he did use fur coats when on the Fram while attempting to reach the North Pole. Perhaps it was an issue of mobility-avoiding furs unless inactivity was expected.

It is a shame that none of the weights were provided for the clothing. Temperature data is good, but it usually has to be placed in the context of weight. After all, insulation is not much good when you can not move in it. This may have had a significant design influence on clothing like the military arctic ensemble, which has to prioritize mobility and combat effectiveness.

The good thing about data is that it speaks for itself. There isn’t much more I can say beyond that. As always, it would have been great if we had more complete data with respect to factors such as weight and ability to move, but it’s great that we at least have some studies that can guide our choices. If any of you are familiar with any other tests on the subject, please let me know, and I would be happy to go through them.