I'm Mad About Wool Blankets

I picked up some wool blankets recently at a second hand thrift shop. They cost $4 each. I am utterly amazed at the prices there. To buy a new King sized blanket at the Hudson's Bay store in Canada, it would cost me $475. For a Double sized blanket, $275. Even to buy one on Ebay.ca, with shipping factored in, I'd be paying at least $75.

So instead, I occasionally stop in at the neighbourhood thrift shop and browse the rack at the back of the floor where you can pick up used comforters, sheets and towels. Nearly every time I go there, there are one or two blankets waiting for me.

Why is this such a big deal for me? I'm not sure. I'm obsessed for some reason. For the outdoors, there is something magical about a wool blanket. It is a terrific insulator. Your body emits about the same amount of heat energy as a 150 watt light bulb. The trick to staying warm in the outdoors is to keep that heat from leaking away from your body faster than your body can replenish it. You can achieve that equilibrium - or overcome the environmental temperature differential - by keeping colder objects away from your body (the ground, water, even cold air) or by adding warmth to your immediate area (warm air from a fire, hot water bottle, infrared radiation from a fire-heated rock wall, etc...), which effectively does the same thing - keeping the cold away.

Mors Kochanski talks about treating your clothing and covering as a micro-environment. He says that you should be sufficiently clothed to survive whatever nature can throw at your for 4 full days, without having a shelter. So you need to have layers of covering and clothes that will trap air in it, and not hold water. Water is not a great insulator. In fact, it allows heat to migrate from your body to the environment 27 times more efficiently than does air. Worse still would be to wrap yourself in aluminum foil... I would be prepared for the worst if I had a couple of wool blankets with my normal winter camping clothing. Even wet, wool retains a degree of insulation - and it won't wick and absorb moisture like cotton does.

A wool blanket is safe around a fire - when sparks land on a wool blanket, it chars but won't catch on fire. It won't melt like polyester fleece, or like plastic. You can use a wool blanket to sit on, or as a quick tarp-like shelter which will protect you from light rains, and from the sun.

A wool blanket can be quickly and easily made into a coat, or with extra effort, into a nicely-cut shirt, and can be used as a sleeping bag:

Dave Canterbury of the Pathfinder Training School on his Wilderness Outfitters Archery web site has a great video entitled One Blanket Tricks demonstrating a match-coat:

A backpack can be quickly made with a wool blanket and some twine, to carry your gear, or even a baby. Tightly rolled up and tied off with a bit of twine or paracord, I can easily attach a couple of blankets to a knapsack.

You can collect nuts, seeds, berries, fruit and other edibles on an outspread blanket, and of course use it to transport them in.

But for me, a wool blanket is mostly for wrapping myself in when I am sitting down in the outdoors.



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