|Hudson Bay: Dressing For Success
or: How not to freeze your kishkas on the cheap thru Government Surplus
|In preparation for the upcoming Midwinter MINI Arctic Run, many of you have been asking about how to dress? Personally, I don't know why, since you are all driving in hardtops and will probably have the windows up and the heat cranking. You lightweights.
However, if any of you were thinking of coming into the Cabriol for a few hours, or maybe were concerned about how to dress for Sunday's activities, I hope the information below will be of help.
All of this stuff was commission by the government. It is all among the best, warmest you can buy. They spared no expense keeping the defenders of Liberty warm. And, they got no money when they decided to decommission all this stuff. You can buy all of it in Army/Navy Stores, at flea markets or on eBay. If you are patient, know what to look for and are in the right place, right time, you can steal this stuff (I've paid as little as $9.99 for a N3B parka. The government paid over $180.)
First, and foremost, please remember that no matter how big, how bulky, how warm, the best way to stay warm and snug is in layers. So, you want to combine all this stuff!
|One of the warmest coats on the planet is called the N3B Parka. To this day, it is standard government issue to all soldiers in extreme weather areas: McMurdo, Elsmendorf, Thule and others. This is one heavy mother parka. They come in sizes ranging from XXS to XXL. My son Jacob, who is small for a 6th grader, swims in an XXS. My wife, who is 5'2", wears an XS. I'm 6" and usually wear talls. I feel very comfortable in an XL. No matter what size, with the hood up and the fur trim pulled forward, you are completely sealed from the elements.
This parka comes in two incarnations. The first, and older, is shown in the three photos above on the left. This was made with a mixture of wool and cotton fabric. This gives the fabric has a sheen that makes it look a tad like nylon. This version has a genuine fox ruff. Fox is considered a non-endangered species, and if I am not mistaken one of the qualities is that this fur does not freeze. Later, the government spec changed and the fabric became all cotton. This is the scan on the right. Much more pleasing to look at and touch, but the draw back with this model is that the ruff is now 100% synthetic. And white.
|If you want to look around, you can find variations of both of these that will either increase or decrease the value. These sometimes come with reflective strips sewn on. A very good thing to have in the short daylight hours of winter. Also, of extreme value to collectors are original US Air Force, (or, better, US Army Air Corps) stenciling. The sample shown is not original. These are rarely this bright: I think this one was repainted.
|Please note, the parka to the left: Army Cold Weather Parka, called a Fish Tail, is NOT the same thing as an N3B. It will not keep you as warm.|
|Shearling Parka, made for forces in Alaska|
|ECW Fleece jacket. This sucker is the heaviest fleece I have ever seen. Puts Patagonia to shame. Also available in pants. Called a Bear Suit.|
|To the left above we have F1B trousers. Please click on the pics because all the detail is lost in the smaller image. These are THICK. The suspenders are not a quaint touch. Without them, these would be by your ankles in no time. The modern versions have an all cotton outter that is nice to the touch. Inside is a poly quilting. There was a version made during WWII (the pair to the far right) that features a fur-type insides. You'd think you died and went to heaven in these. They were made for crews in the B-17's over Europe, who flew in open, unheated airplanes at 30,000, and -40F temperatures.|
|To the right we have two types of trousers. The label at top is for the two pair to the left, at bottom for the pair at right.|
|Hands cold? These Mitten Set-Extreme Cold Weather will do the trick. They consist of a shell with leather palm and fur backing and a quilted insides. The teather string is not a 3rd grade playground thing. You don't want to loose these when you take them off. Slip your hand out and it sits there, waiting for your hand to go back.|
|Two choices for your feet. On the left are overboot shells that are worn over quilted wool liners (which I don't have a picture of, sorry) You can also wear them over Sorel liners. They come up high and keep the snow out of your pants. To the right, "Mickey Mouse Boots". You can guess why they are called that. They are a hold over from the cold war, no pun intended, and are still current issue.|
|A few things you want to keep in mind.
You want to layer your clothing. Warm air is one of the best insulators around. You also do not want to overdress. You will not be comfortable sitting in an N3B parka, with a wool sweater and long underwear, in your car with the heater on. Yes, wear thicker as you do less activity, but be reasonable. Conversely, if you are climbing a glacier you also don't want to wear a heavy parka (generally speaking) because your body is generating so much heat. Ever see the pictures of mountain climbers walking up a snowfield, huge pack on their back, in a t shirt. And they still are sweating?
Lastly. Remember quality. While this stuff will do a great job when it works, there is stuff on the market that is so because it was decommissioned as failed equipment. Replacing a Scovil zipper on a parka will cost you more than the coat itself.
Have fun, and stay warm!
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