WINTER HAS ALWAYS MADE STAYING COMFORTABLE MORE FUN
By: John Kramer
bags are guaranteed to freeze your feet. My feet have never
been colder than when in synthetic rubber boots standing in a
goose blind thirty some years ago with synthetic socks. If you
trap the sweat and your feet will sweat, you’ll soon freeze
‘em. I have never come closer to dying than when the best
high-tech mountaineering gear I could buy twenty-five or
thirty years ago failed me when I needed it most—it was one
of the markers that led me to the old ways. I have never felt
my life was a risk from equipment failure using the old ways;
with old ways survival is simply up to me.
a shame the rubber bottom-leather upper “pac” or Maine
hunting shoe is too late for our period. They may be 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 today’s slip-on- overshoes.
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 with.
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
contingencies: feet the same. If you don’t have silk and can
stand wool next to your skin, it is better than cotton which
doesn’t wick moisture as well as silk and wool. If you are
sensitive to wool and don’t have silk, the cotton will work
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 it is always frozen). There is really no
weather too cold for this kind of rig, but, if worn where it
always is thawing and wet it will be heavy and cumbersome when
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 ain’t as nice as dry but, with proper
layering they’ll still be warm enough.
the leather helps. Be careful if you have a chrome tanned
leather (i.e. Dyer’s) 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 to buy
compounded neatsfoot oil. It makes a huge difference.
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 directly from the molten pot. Apply cold layers later to
build the surface resistance. Or, I occasionally have a little WONDER
BUTTER available for trade.
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
doesn’t wear well, requires fiddling with, but it will keep
your feet from freezing.
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 squishy mud between your
toes when the temps are 10 below.
METHOD OF MAKING LEATHER IMPERVIOUS TO WATER (1795)
New England fishermen 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 water, 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
Brunswick, New Jersey, 1795