COMFORTABLE MORE FUN
by: John Kramer
Plastic bags are guaranteed to freeze your feet.
My feet have never been colder than when in synthetic rubber boots
standing in a goose blind 30 some years ago with synthetic socks.
If you trap the sweat, and your feet will sweat, youíll
soon freeze Ďem.I have never come closer to dying that when the
best high-tech mountaineering gear I could buy 25 - 30 years ago
failed me when I needed it mostóit was one of the markers that
led me to the old ways. I have never felt my life was at risk from
equipment failure using the old ways: with old ways survival is
simply up to me.
Itís a shame the rubber bottom - leather upper
"pac" or Maine hunting shoe is too late for our period.
They may the the best answer anyone ever devised. India rubber
shoes were available and good examples can be seen at the
Steamboat Arabia museum; they were stitched together like shoes
but not that dissimilar from some of todayís slip-on overshoes.
Traditionalists must first consider the local
climate; things are a little different in areas where it gets
below freezing and stays there, and places where it meanders back
and forth over that magic line. The former is easiest to deal
As in all winter wear the secret is in layering.
Start with silk (the warmest for its weight) or cotton next to the
skin. Add layers of cotton, linen, hemp, wool, and leather to meet
all contingency. Feet need the same. If you donít have silk and
can stand wool next to your skin it is better than cotton which
doesnít wick moisture away from the skin as well as silk and
wool. If you are sensitive to wool and doní t have silk the
cotton will work well enough.
If you are in an area where it is always frozen,
wear most of your layering under a light inner moc which slides
into a blanket boot and then into a heavy outer moc which always
stays outside so itís always frozen. There is really no weather
too cold for this kind of rig, but, if worn where it always
thawing and wet it will be heavy and cumbersome when soaked
For places like the Great State of Missouri
(pronounced Misery) you need a fairly heavy leather moc with
fabric layers within. The number of layers depends on how
sensitive your feet are. Spare fabric layers (stockings and
blanket boots) are a pleasure at night. If the moc leather is too
thin it will stretch so much it may cause a tripping hazard. Plan
on your feet being wet: it ainít as nice as dry, but, with
proper layering theyíll still be warm enough.
Greasing the leather helps. Be careful if you have
a chrome tanned leather (i.e. Dyerís) and use an animal grease
like bear oil. The stitching will soon pull through as the leather
deteriorates. If you buy neatsfoot oil be careful not to buy
compounded neatsfoot oil (which is mostly what is sold): be sure
to get pure neatsfoot oil. It makes a big difference.
Beeswax added to the neatsfoot oil helps keep
the grease on the leather a little longer. Bring the oil to a
temperature sufficient to melt wax of equal volume in a double
boiler. Add more oil or wax if you want it thicker or thinner. For
maximum penetration apply direct from the molten pot. Apply cold
layers later to build the surface resistance. (See sidebar for a
period recipe to waterproof leather boots). Or. . . I occasionally
have a little WONDER BUTTER available for sale or trade.
Never do anything which offers to totally
waterproof. If the outer surface is absolutely impermeable, your
feet are going to get real cold. One cheap and, I feel authentic
way, it was used at Valley Forge, is to wrap your feet in layers
of burlap. It doesnít wear well, requires fiddling with, but
will keep your feet from freezing.
For a summer rendezvous, barefoot is absolutely
correct. Squishy mud between your toes in spring is sort of a
primeval ritual like pissing on the ground every day: it keeps
your soul in contact with the earth. Think about that warm squshy
mud between your toes when the temps are 10 below.
Not only keep your powder dry, but keep your
SnakeOyl NAF #4
Method of Making Leather Impervious to Water
The New England fisherman preserve their boots
tight against water by the following method, which, it is said,
has been in use among them above a hundred years: A pint of boiled
linseed oil, half a pound of mutton suet, six ounces of clean
beeswax, and four ounces of rosin are melted and mixed over a
fire. Of this, while warm, not so hot as may burn the leather,
with a brush, lay plentifully on new boots or shoes, when they are
quite dry and clean. The leather is left pliant. Fishermen stand
in their boots in wat hour after hour, without inconvenience. For
three years past all my shoes, even of calf skin, have so been
served, and have in no instance admitted water to pass through the
leather. It is also a good salve - a Basilicon
American Almanac for the year 1796 - Pr. Abraham Blaudelt - New
Brunswick, N.J. 1795