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Modifying your Get-Home-Bag (GHB) is a great way to stay ready for a winter emergency. The Fall is upon us now. Yet, Winter is about to arrive. Moreover, the winter season means traveling in dangerous weather conditions. Thus, it is critical to prepare to handle winter emergencies while on the road.

Therefore, one of the ways to be prepare to face a winter travel emergency is to keep an emergency survival kit in your vehicle. A convenient way to keep an emergency survival kit in your car is through a 72-hour level backpack. For this article, this bag is different from a vehicle emergency kit. This emergency bag is for personal survival while traveling in inclement weather conditions. Some people call this type of emergency bag, a Get-Home-Bag (GHB). This bag is to enable your survival as you get back your home after leaving your car.

Moreover, this article is not about building a Get-Home-Bag. Instead, the purpose of this article is to help you customize the GHB that you already have for the winter. This means examining what contents that are in your bag. What are some factors to consider when winterizing your bag?

Factors Influencing Winterizing Your Get Home Bag

Factor #1: Environment

The first factor to consider when winterizing your Get-Home-bag is your general environment. A more specific environmental consideration is the kind of winters that your area experiences. For example, people living in the Southwest do not have to worry about blizzard or whiteout conditions. By contrast, people living in the upper Midwest or New England have to take into consideration the more harsh conditions of winter. Another environmental factor that influences winterizing your bag are the winter temperatures and wind chill factors.

Factor # 2: Travel Distance

Moreover, the next factor to keep in mind is the distance that you will be traveling. People travelling long distances will have also to consider the winter conditions throughout their travel. Additionally, one should consider the type of infrastructures that can serve as emergency stopping points or emergency shelter while traveling. Additionally , experience with using your gear is important.

Factor # 3: Experience

A third factor you should consider when preparing your Get-Home-Bag is your level of experience. Your experience with the outdoors and survival gear influence what you carry in the bag. A good rule of thumb is to keep it simple. Only place items in your bag that you already know how to use. For example, a Bic® lighter is an item that you already know how to use. However, you may not know to use climbing or rappelling gear. The point here is that being stranded on a major interstate in a blizzard is no place to try something that you have never used. Thus, your attempt to experiment with an unfamiliar skill or gear in the middle of an emergency may jeopardize your life or the life of others of whom you are responsible. Therefore, as you consider modifying your Get-Home bag for winter, what are some things to think about when deciding on survival gear?

Gear Considerations For Winterizing Your Get Home Bag

The Right Backpack

The first thing to consider about your Get-Home-Bag is the bag itself. You may need to replace your current bag with something more durable. A couple of good examples of winter capable packs are the 5.11Tactical® Rush 72 Backpack (55 liters), sold at the Sigma 3 Survival School Store, or the SealLine® Black Canyon ™ Boundary Portage Pack (70 liters). Both of these packs have their strengths and weaknesses.

The strength of the Rush 72 pack is its capability for modularity. Its material is a water repelling (not waterproof) 1050 Denier nylon fabric. The main advantage of the SealLine® pack is that its waterproof 300 Denier TPU-double-coated nylon body with a 400 Denier TPU-coated nylon bottom. The waterproof material of this pack guarantees that clothing items in the bag will stay dry in rain or snow conditions. The main weakness of the Rush 72 pack is that it is not waterproof. Lengthy exposure in rain or snow water will eventually have moisture seep into the bag. The main weakness of the SealLine® pack is that it does not have any attachment points on its exterior. Thus, after selecting a winter-capable backpack, what are some winter survival gear options to place inside the bag?

Fire Making Items

The first survival gear consideration for a winter Get-Home-Bag is a fire making item. Fire is one of the four essentials of survival (Fire, Food, Water, Shelter). A great piece of fire-making gear is the Sigma 3 Fire Kit. Check out my review of this excellent fire kit for more information about this kit. In a winter scenario, being able to build a fire is critical to keep from getting hyperthermia. It allows you to stay warm, dry your wet clothing, sanitize water, melt snow, and cook food. Furthermore, meeting your hydration requirement is critical to surviving in a winter environment.

Water and Hydration Items

The second consideration for survival gear your Get-Home-Bag is hydration. Water is a primary key to survival in winter. Therefore, water procurement, treatment, and consumption are central to surviving in a winter emergency. However, finding fresh running water in a stream may be difficult in the winter. Thus, it is essential to have a capability to melt snow or ice to get fresh drinkable water in the winter. The Sigma 3 Water Kit is an excellent piece of gear to consider putting into any winterized GHB. Check out my review of this water kit for more information this versatile gear.

Shelter and Cover Items

Additionally, a third survival gear consideration for a Get-Home-Bag is that of shelter. One option for meeting your winter shelter needs would be the Warbonnet Blackbird XLC hammock system. The hammock is available at the Sigma 3 Survival store. This hammock system comes with some additional add-on items: a winter top cover and under quilt protector. If you are interested in more information on this hammock system, read my review and video at the Sigma 3 Survival Store. A further consideration for this hammock system would be a sleeping bag. The Snugpak® Tactical 4 winter sleeping bag also would be a great addition to the winter shelter consideration for any GHB. The Snugpak® sleeping bag could be attached to the bottom of the Rush 72 pack.

Food and Food Procurement Items

Additionally, a fourth survival gear consideration for a winter Get-Home-Bag is food and food procurement. Another item to think about putting in a GHB for the winter is the Yoyo Fish Trap fishing Reel or the Emmrod® Kayak King Cast Rod and Reel Kit. These items are available at the Sigma 3 Survival School Store. Pre-made meals such as MREs or Mountain House® pouches are useful items to meet the food requirements for a GHB. You can also build your meal kit by using instant oatmeal, instant rice, beef jerky, energy bars, crackers, and instant electrolyte powder (Gatorade®/Propel®).

Winter Clothing Items

Moreover, a final survival gear consideration for a Get-Home-Bag for the winter is addressing clothing needs. Winter clothing items can be bulky and take up space in the backpack. Therefore, choose winter clothing items carefully. Wool and Gore-Tex should be the kinds of materials that characterize winter clothing. Here are some suggestions for some winter clothing items.

The first winter clothing item to consider are wool socks. Keeping feet warm and dry is a critical consideration when discussing surviving in the winter. The U.S. Army MIL-84K Wool Boot Socks or Smartwool® Men’s Hunt Extra Heavy Over the Calf Socks are the types of socks to consider for winter clothing in a Get-Home Bag. Some other winter clothing considerations could be having a wool-based base layer set in the bag, such as the Meriwool Men’s Merino Wool Midweight Baselayer. A military wool watch cap and Weather Wool Neck Gaiter scarf would also be a great item to consider for one’s emergency bag.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Get-Home-Bag is a great resource to have available in one’s vehicle. As the winter period of the year dawns, it is prudent to check your bag. You should analyze what winter specific survival items you need. It is possible that a more substantial bag may be necessary to meet your winter needs.  For example, the things in my GHB are easily stored in the current pack. There is no requirement where I live to maintain large bulky cold weather gear. However, I do need to preserve some winter gear in my bag for traveling in the mountainous regions of the Southwest. So as you begin to assess your winter needs for your Get-Home-Bag choose carefully and wisely the gear that you will need.

Over the ages, nature has helped evolve the best solutions for survival in the very animals that live off the land. Every species must adapt to it’s environment and find a way to stay warm in the coldest environments. So when you are looking for the warmest fibers on the planet, it makes sense to look at animals that survive in the coldest, nastiest environments on the planet. The one domestic animal that survives at the highest altitudes, experiences the biggest temperature changes, and endures constant moisture is the sheep. Sheep are purpose bred to survive in the highlands and grow a fiber that is natures miracle to mankind. The wool fiber truly is an amazing thing to behold once you really study it on it’s deepest levels.

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And I definitely consider myself a wool dork.

Check out this diagram of the breakdown of whats actually in a woolen fiber. Then it all begins to make sense on why this fiber truly is the king of all fibers for cold wet weather. As outdoorsmen, we tend to be in wet cold weather when pursuing our passions in the wilderness. The real difference between wool and other synthetic options is performance when wet, durability, fire resistance, and the anti-bacterial properties. The real problem with synthetic fibers is that over time they will begin to stink and there is never a good way to wash clothes in very cold weather. You don’t encounter the same issues with wool and I’ve owned my WeatherWool anorak for over a year and wear it on average three days a week and it doesn’t smell.

Lanolin, the wool fibers secret?

The real key thing that separates wool from many other fibers that are available is that it is coated with lanolin and each type of wool has different amounts of it. I’ll let Wikipedia define exactly what lanolin is.

Lanolin (from Latin lāna ‘wool’, and oleum ‘oil’), also called wool wax or wool grease, is a wax secreted by the sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals. Lanolin used by humans comes from domestic sheep breeds that are raised specifically for their wool. Historically, many pharmacopoeias have referred to lanolin as wool fat (adeps lanae); however, as lanolin lacks glycerides (glycerol esters), it is not a true fat.[1][2] Lanolin primarily consists of sterol esters instead.[3] Lanolin’s waterproofing property aids sheep in shedding water from their coats. Certain breeds of sheep produce large amounts of lanolin. There is an inverse correlation between wool fiber diameter and lanolin content.

A little known fact about winter camping is that it is essential to have an oil coating on your skin to stay warmer. That can be done in two different ways, either by  build up of the skins natural oils over time or the by rubbing your skin with natural oils. Either will produce a similar result, though putting natural oil on your skin is more hygenic than natural oils, its not sustainable in the field long term. I always tell instructor course students before long stays in the cold, that they should not take showers and allow the oil to build up on their skin to protect them. And it’s definitely key to make sure you aren’t taking hot showers because that will de-acclimatize your skin to the cold conditions around you. In fact, getting in cold water can help you acclimatize your skin to very cold conditions and will cause a rush of blood to your skin. It helps you build that natural comfortable cold you get from a long time in the woods in winter. And like the oils that protect our skin, the lanolin in the wool protects the fiber.

Different types of Wool Available?

Alpaca- I’ve used Alpaca wool for years and it has some amazing properties. Alpaca socks are hands down some of the warmest socks I’ve ever worn in my life and I still prefer them for many things. But the main problem I’ve had with it is durability issues. You can’t hike long distances in these socks without wearing a hole in them quick. There also isn’t a lot of options on the market right now to even purchase Alpaca wool clothing or socks. The fiber just isn’t used that much by American companies for durability issues, so that limits the products you could hope to purchase.

Yak Wool- This is something new to the market and hasn’t really been utilized much yet. There is one company that I recently purchased some base layers from that I haven’t used in the field yet that is making yak wool products. Kora is making a revolutionary new Yak wool that is suppose to be much warmer and more durable than other fibers to date. It makes sense considering Yak’s are exposed to the siberian tundra and the worst winter conditions on the planet as their daily life. But none of this has been substantiated in field testing yet and since they are the only company I’m aware of offering these products. It makes your selection extremely limited!

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Merino- The most used type of wool on the planet is merino wool by a landslide. One of the reasons is that it is a commonly kept domestic animal and have been raised for generations by farmers. These sheep have survived in all types of conditions to high mountain fields to low land wet weather areas. They are one of the best overall fibers you can choose from for several reasons. It is a thinner,  softer, and more workable fiber that can be processed into tougher outer garments or soft undergarments to wear next to the skin. In essence, its one of the more versatile wool fibers and their is a huge plethora of products to choose from on the market. Almost anything you can think of can be had in this wool fiber.

Rambouillet Merino- This is a big upgrade from the standard merino wool and rambouillet are bred in order to produce the highest quality wool fiber you can get. With the main goal in mind being performance in the elements and softness against the skin. WeatherWool is  the only brand using this material and they only choose the top 1% of the top 1% of any merino wool available. There purchase costs for this fiber are 5 times higher than any other type of merino available to date. In fact, this material wasn’t really available before WeatherWool came along and Ralph Dimeo is a pioneer of it. With the sole goal of building a garment that performs flawlessly in any environment, looks good, and is comfortable to wear. Because lets be honest, if the wool is itchy and scratchy, you’re less likely to wear it. Finding high quality wool that you can wear directly on your skin is difficult, meaning you’ll have to wear warm base layers to keep your skin away from it. And that means you might get to hot and makes the garment less flexible for use in the field. This is my favorite wool so far by a landslide and I’ve owned all the competitions stuff. If you have an interest in learning more about the WeatherWool fabric and the tedious process of selection they use then visit: WeatherWool Fabric

Mouton- Mouton is French for sheep. In the fur trade, Mouton refers to an extremely select pelt of a lamb that has evolved to offer some remarkable properties to the outdoorsman.

Here is an excerpt from WeatherWools fabric page:

“Like all WeatherWool components, our Mouton is pure American. Americans have very little appetite for the meat of adult sheep. Virtually all sheep that are raised for meat in the USA are processed as lambs at about one year old. The pelts of all these lambs are used. Those pelts that are of the very highest quality; less than 1% of all pelts, are selected for processing into Mouton. Mouton was originally developed as an alternative to wild furs such as beaver and seal.

There are several steps in the creation of a Mouton Fur.  First, the lamb must grade out to ‘Mouton potential’.  Only one in one hundred lambs will have the dense, soft, and uniform fleece necessary for Mouton. When the raw pelt is shipped to the tannery, it is graded again, and about 15% of the Mouton candidates are rejected at this point.  Acceptable pelts are tanned, then heat treated to make the wool fibers relatively water-resistant and straight, and extremely soft and glossy.  The fleece is sheared to a uniform length of 5/8 inches (1.6 cm) and dyed. Our favorite color is a rich BROWN, but BLACK, WHITE and GRAY are also available. Wool, and therefore Mouton as well, is considered by the medical profession to be hypoallergenic. Mouton cannot be washed, because of the leather, but does resist soiling fairly well. If necessary, it can be cleaned by professionals who launder furs.”

Interesting fact about Mouton and sheeps pelt jackets is they were worn by World War 2 bombers. The guys flying at the highest altitudes, with the windows opening and blaring machine guns under Japanese fire, chose to use sheeps pelts and leather jackets. Why is that? Warmth when wet, the leather stops the wind, and good breathability under tense conditions. And all these mouton clothing options from WeatherWool are just a modern and elegant version of those. They can be worn in the arctic circle or in the finest restaurants because of their beauty and comfort. You might think they are overpriced, but there is really no mark up on this product. The company makes almost nothing for their efforts, but Weatherwool is committed to making the highest quality garments you can get, regardless if they make much on it or not. And I can tell you from personally wearing these mouton items, that they are hands down the warmest garment I’ve ever put on.

What is wool not good for?

There is no one tool option for outdoor clothing and each item you purchase should be well thought out and something you’ll wear regularly. And as always, I’m a buy once cry once kind of guy, so always buy the best you can afford. As survivalists, we choose wool because of it’s wet weather performance, warmth under the wettest conditions, durability, fire resistance, and long term hygiene benefits in the field. That being said, wool is the heaviest and least packable of all the products available. It is also much heavier when wet than almost any other garment out there. Its not recommended for long hiking expeditions, where speed and staying lightweight is the key. It is however the king of camping and any kind of sedentary outdoor usage. Unless are you choosing lightweight performance hiking wool products, you’ll find most wool products have limited uses for people moving long distances. But the upside, is the main outer wool clothing you use can be worn under almost any temp conditions and you don’t have to put it in a backpack or worry about shedding it much. So packability becomes less of an issue when you use wool base layers and proper choice of outer garments.

I’m a big believer in mixing fibers to combine the best of both worlds. My favorite non wool clothing brand is by far and away Fjallraven outdoor clothing, and I like too wear Fjallraven Vidda Pro Pants with wool under garments and wool jackets. The pants are the best hiking pants I’ve ever used, they shed water easily, and dry even faster than nylon does. Combine these pant options with wool outer garments and base layers and I promise you that you’ll love them. Lightweight, packable, tough, and they have the best fit and tailoring I’ve ever seen on any pants.

So my philosopy on outdoor clothing is to mix and match these fibers for optimal performance for your specific outdoor trip. But just remember that wool is always your fall back clothing or you base foundation. Base layers, socks, wool caps, scarfs, underwear, tshirts, and much more are available in wool today. Use the wool products for the areas close to your skin. And then combine the wool with fjallraven pants, goretex shells, ponchos, and other garments that compliment the wool for each specific trip you take. Mix and match different materials for optimal performance. Just remember there is no one tool option, but if there was one, it would be wool.

Difference in Design?

So one of the big problems with most wool designs is that many manufacturers use cotton in their apparel. Cotton stitching, cotton liners, and some even use cotton inside the actual wool material. That isn’t a big issue until you get wet. I’ll give you a for instance, the Columbia wool clothing I own has a cotton lining in the hood of the jacket, and if I was to fall into a creek or get rained on that cotton would begin to freeze. And once that cotton freezes, it eliminates the benefits of having the wool in the first place. Remember that we choose wool because of it’s wet and cold weather performance. So ask yourself why a huge majority of the manufacturers out there would have large amounts of cotton in their apparel. Why? Because its WAY WAY cheaper to do it that way for one. But the sole purpose for adding liners is because the wool fabric they use is so scratchy that it will irritate any skin it touches. So why buy rough wool when you can have soft wool with much better performance? The only reason to buy rough wool is if you just can’t afford wool that is soft. Which is fine because budget is the single most important factor when purchasing something like this. Some guys will never be able to afford the higher quality performance products, so they should stick with surplus stuff and not feel bad about it all. But if you have the money, and if you travel to places where the cold can kill you, then get the best you can. I promise when your warm at deer camp and everyone else is freezing their ass off, I promise you’ll then begin to appreciate the purchase. And the big difference with WeatherWool, is that you can wear your hunting equipment EVERYWHERE up to 80 degrees.

Price for Premium Wools?

What most people fail to understand is there is a big difference in rough run of the mill production wool and a high grade premium option. If you want real wool and the performance of it, there is no getting around opening your pocket book for a big hit. Whether it’s buying base layers or a fullweight jacket, they aren’t going to be cheap. I recently paid almost $300 for just some baselayers in Yak wool, and that is only one layer in the wool options. If you’re going to have an entire wool outfit, there isn’t any way around spending a $1000 or more unless you go for recycled or mixed blend wool options that don’t perform as well. And I’m of the mindset, that if you’re going spend a lot of money, I’d rather spend a little more and get something that will last a lifetime. The only cheap option available for 100% wool is thrift shops and european military surplus, which can be found in abundance all over the web. And I’m not going to say the performance of these items are bad because they are good for what they are. But they will all universally feel scratchy on the skin, sizing can be difficult, and performance has improved incredibly since the invention of those older garments. But those garments are a testament to how long wool clothing lasts. It doesn’t matter where you go to find wool, it’s expensive everywhere. The cheapest wool product available in our industry is the Lester River Wool Anorak and I own one of them. It’s an okay piece of equipment, but it’s a cheap and scratchy military wool blanket of the lowest quality. It will get the job done in cold weather, but it won’t be a piece of equipment you wear often. Whereas high end WeatherWool is a piece of clothing you’ll wear year round to all your life events. It’s comfortable to wear in temps up to 80 degrees because of how well it breathes. You can wear it directly onto your skin with no base layers, unlike most other wool. So all in all, I’m a component for spending more for wool equipment and have something I’ll pass onto my kids. Versus something that will sit in my closet most of the time.

Conclusion:

Wool is natures answer to all things cold and wet. It is the base fiber to build all your other fibers upon. Learn to mix and match fibers for different performance in different environments. Remember that you always wear wool socks no matter the climate hot or cold. Wool next to the skin will help the most of any fiber with long term hygiene issues. And weatherwool garments are the top choice for no scratchy, high performance wool outwear. I personally own most of the major companies wool products available and choose weatherwool hands down over the other guys. If you’re interested in purchasing some WeatherWool gear, click the links below or visit:

WeatherWool Our Fabric: https://weatherwool.com/pages/the-weatherwool-difference

WeatherWool Anorak: https://survivalgear.us/collections/weatherwool/products/weatherwool-anorak

WeatherWool Pants: https://survivalgear.us/collections/weatherwool/products/weatherwool-pants

For many years, I’ve been searching to find the best wool clothing on the planet. Working in the wilderness full time means I need a clothing fiber that works in wide range of temperatures and rough conditions. Clothing choice is a huge consideration when purchasing equipment for work because it means the difference in being […]

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