Saturday, 21 November 2009

Merino Buff and The Antarctica Shirt Review

Det finns inget sådant som dåligt väder bara olämpligt kläder

As they say in Sweden or

"There's no such thing as bad weather - only inappropriate clothing"

To cut a short story long: Any amount of cold is tolerable (in the right gear) but even the smallest draft down my neck seems to suck the warmth from my soul. About 20 years ago when i first met MCP we worked a cycle messengers and would have to stand around in the cold wearing lycra waiting for the next job. Fortunately I know BoB (Brother of Bushwacker) a man whose had more mountain time in one winter than all the armchair warriors on the bushcraft forums have had in their lives, and at the time went by the nickname 'inspector gadget'. Some people thought he was called that because he had a lot of kit, true but not the reason, it was because he has the experience and insight to truly inspect gadgets, when he says 'Quite good, I'd have one' you know it'll out perform any claims made on the box and last three to four lifetimes of hard use, in foul weather. I have had tools that have literally collapsed under the weight of one of his sighs.

He sent me to a shop called Survival Aids in London's Euston station, where you could buy silk underwear and 'snoods'. Don't get exited ladies. These were sets of long johns and tops that seriously kept you warm while weighing nothing. The optional extra was what we now know as a Buff, but then called a snood, in navy blue silk. Boy do they work! Really NOTHING KEEPS YOU WARMER. I've had loads of different ones over the years and wouldn't think of going anywhere cold and windy without one. So after last swagmas's great gift of a Merino wool icebreaker turned out to be such a boon in the frozen north, when I saw Buffs were bringing out a Merino Buff I knew I'd have to get one - they seem a hell of a price at £21 - but i consoled myself that the Survival Aids ones were about £12 twenty years ago and took the plunge.

Basically you get a tube of fine woven Merino wool, if 'Betty Swollox' have knackered a pair of merino long johns you could just cut off a section of leg and save yourself the £21. But sitting the freezing cold wearing old underwear round your neck might not be your thing, in fact when i put it like that it's not my thing either.

One nice surprise is that they're about 1.5 X the length of a regular Buff so you and have it as hood and neck warmer simultaneously. Very good - even at over a score I'm still giving them a thumbs up - top piece of kit. If I do feel the company has a failing its that every time they send anything out to you (last bits were free so i shouldn't complain) they send you a new set of Buffs stickers -I don't need any Buff stickers - anyone can tell I'm Buff ;-) and an 'instructional DVD' which is frankly just more landfill.

They do eight different colours and I hope it's only a matter of time before they take up my suggestion and bring one out in Blaze Orange, as it would add 'arm band' and 'hat band' to the list of uses a Buff has, and as we know would be an important safety aid (and legal requirement) for hunters.

Recently I've been following a blog called Bashing Bambi - basically the adventures of an english chap who has a bit of woodland to raise pheasants on, does a fair bit of stalking, (english for deer hunting), likes military history, bad jokes and spends his weekends selling dog accessories and chronicling the sartorial crimes of the english upper classes AKA 'the Ruperts''.

At the bottom of his blog there are a couple of links to merchants he reckons have good stuff, and that's how I found a small site where a keen stalker is selling some things he's found useful himself. At very reasonable prices.

I ordered the Antarctica Shirt in a Nomex/Merino (30%/70%) wool mix for £44 inc postage, and very good it is too. They are available in any colour you like as long as it's green and as soon as I'd unpicked the horrible logo it's a very nice lightweight outdoorsy top; long back, holes to put your thumbs through so your wrists stay warm and a stovepipe collar. The sizes come up quite large, I might even buy another in a size down. Thumbs up again.

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