by Terry Wieland
Apparel is not usually my bailiwick, and I don’t intend to write about fashion. But I do have some strong views (not to say rigid and unbending) regarding what to wear when out with a gun—hunting, shooting, or just wandering around.
In the past, I’ve mentioned my preferences for really cold-weather hunting, or for mountain backpacking. When it’s 20 below, nothing I’ve found compares with, much less excels, the old Eddie Bauer goosedown products, which made a brief reappearance a dozen years ago and then quickly disappeared again. The Bauer stuff circa 2012 was not quite the same as the genuine, made in America, northern goosedown parkas and such from the 1960s, when the company proudly outfitted expeditions to the South Pole and the top of K2, but it was still excellent.
Working from the inside out, nothing beats pure silk long underwear, under pure wool outer garments, and then—if necessary—Bauer goosedown. Alas, Winter Silks, my favorite purveyor of all things silk, closed its doors sometime during the pandemic, but you can still find silk underwear elsewhere. Since most silk originates in China (remember the Silk Road?) most silk garments do as well. Fortunately, having learned at least one lesson in my life, I laid in a goodly supply.
For wool? Two sources: Pendleton for shirts, Filson for everything else. Filson wool whipcord pants were the greatest, I learned from a guide in Alaska in 1988. I got home, found the money to buy a pair, bought more as backups over the years, and I’m still wearing the first two; the second two are in a drawer, waiting to be called upon. They never wear out, which is fortunate because they no longer seem to be available.
The great thing about the silk/wool combination is that it’s comfortable when it’s warm, but warm when it’s cold. Backpacking can get you overheated quickly, but this combination acts as a natural thermostat. Another problem, for me, is that I cannot tolerate wool next to my skin, so regardless of the weather I wear the silk underneath. That, by the way, is an idiosyncrasy I share with Sir Winston Churchill; would there were more, but alas.