Monday, December 10, 2018

Jämä Blanket Shirt from Varusteleka

A clothing item you see on a lot of bushcraft-oriented sites is a blanket shirt. Basically, they are hoodies made from old wool blankets. They are favored for a few reasons: wool retains warmth even when wet, wool is safer around an open campfire than synthetic fabric, when hunting it's very quiet if it brushes up against something, and if in muted colors blends in with the woods well. And let's face it, blanket shirts fit the bushcraft aesthetic well.

Blanket shirts can be homemade or purchased. YouTube has numerous videos on making your own.

Perhaps the best known commercially available blanket shirt is the Boreal Shirt from Empire Canvas Works or Lester River Bushcraft. They are premium pieces of clothing and priced accordingly.

If your budget doesn't permit spending the money for a Boreal Shirt, or if you want to try out a less expensive factory-sewn option check out the Jämä Blanket Shirt from Varusteleka. They are sewn in Varusteleka's factory in Helsinki, Finland.

Varusteleka currently lists two variants, one made from H.R. Co. blankets, while the other is made from Finnish suplus wool cloth that was used for their M/65 uniforms.

A couple weeks ago I bought one in the Finnish wool, and I used it for the first time on my recent deer hunting trip while hanging out in our cold cabin. I wore it over a Hill People Gear long sleeve base layer, a flannel shirt, and an Orvis fleece and wool vest. I was warm in the cabin where the temps were in the low 30s. It wasn't very windy outside and the Jämä shirt kept me warm when I stepped outside for a few minutes to take a leak. If you're going to wear this in windy conditions, you're going to want a shell over top of it, however. A suitably sized windproof smock would be just the ticket.

For size reference, I am about 5'5" with an 18" neck, 32" sleeves, a 45" chest, 48" gut (ugh), and normally wear an XL or 2XL, depending on the item of clothing or a brand's sizing. The Jämä Blanket Shirt that I bought is a 3XL. (Pay attention to Varusteleka's sizing guidelines.) Since the garment does not stretch and you need to pull it on, it needs to be big, especially if you have any layers on.

The sleeves are 35" long, so they cover up my hands. I can roll them up if I am working.

Obviously, this is not something I'd wear about town. If I'm out in the woods I don't care if I look like a wannabe Jedi or I'm on my way to Mordor.

The hood is a bit floppy. In the picture I am wearing a ball cap under it, which keeps it out of my eyes. It's deep enough to provide protection against wind from the side and to help create a warm air bubble in front of your face.

As shown in the pictures, it has a kangaroo pocket, hood, and the back is longer than the front. I like the vertical placement of the front pocket, which is large enough to comfortably hold my keys, a pair of rag wool gloves, and my iPhone 7 Plus.

There is a smaller pocket inside the kangaroo pocket. You could put a folding knife in there but I don't see myself getting much use out of it. It's not large enough for the iPhone 7 Plus.

The stitching is good quality. There were no loose threads. The wool fabric is a bit nicer than an old military surplus blanket, which makes sense since it was actually intended for use in making clothing. It's about the same weight as the old USGI M-1951 wool field shirts but not as scratchy.

It's a good, basic hoodie. Compared with the Boreal Shirt it lacks some features. E.g., a draw cord on the hood, an adjustable collar, and snaps or straps to cinch down the wrists. However, the Jämä shirt also about 1/3 the cost. If you have moderate tailoring skills you could customize it.

Do I recommend the Jämä wool blanket shirt? Yes, if the sizing and feature set work for you. IMO it would be great for bow hunting with temps in the 30s or 40s.

Cold Weather Camping and Equipment Failure

Last weekend my daughter and I, along with a friend went up to Tioga County to catch the last two days of Pennsylvania's rifle deer hunting season. My friend's land is about 12 miles south of the New York line. Our plan was to go up Friday, get a couple hours of hunting in that afternoon, then hunt Saturday, and then come home Sunday. For shelter we'd be using my friend's primitive cabin.

The cabin has no utilities and the off-grid solar project is not yet complete. For heat, we planned to rely on my Dyna-Glo 23,000 BTU kerosene heater and my friend's propane-fired patio heater. We've used the latter in the past and it's worked well.

My previous use of the kerosene heater was at home for space heating and for that it worked great. We haven't used it in a few years so I made sure to replace the two C batteries that power the igniter before we left. After we got onsite I filled the tank and let it sit for about an hour for the wick to soak up some fuel. It fired right up on the first try. Note that the K-1 kerosene I had was a few years old but still in the original, sealed 4 gallon can. When stored properly, K-1 has a long shelf life.

Unfortunately, this time the propane heater was not working, due to a failed or clogged regulator. My friend is a mechanical engineer by profession and no matter how we tried to clean, defrost, or clear it, we could not get sufficient gas to flow to the burner element of the heater.

The cabin is 16' x 24' with an uninsulated metal roof with a ridge vent. The kerosene heater was able to take the edge off but inside it still hovered around freezing, even before dark.

Friday night the temp was forecast to get down to about 20F (-6.7C). We all had sleeping bags up to the task but being out and about in the shelter wasn't so great.

We borrowed a Big Buddy propane heater from a neighbor, which we used while sleeping.

Overnight, the temp inside the cabin got down to about 30F (-1C). I was warm enough in my Kelty Cosmic Down 20 bag, which was inside my Jerven Thermo Hunter, but I couldn't get a good night's sleep. I found the Kelty mummy bag too constraining.

The forecast for Saturday night was 15F (-9.4C). We decided to hunt Saturday morning but pack up and head home after lunch. These temps may seem mild to my more Northern readers, but when you live in Southeast PA and are not acclimated, they are draining when you can't get inside and warm up.

Lessons learned:

  • The kerosene heater was awesome, easy to use, and took off the edge. Unfortunately, it was not enough to make the cabin comfortable.
  • The regulator on the patio heater may have been clogged. It may have helped had it been wrapped in a plastic bag and taped shut to keep bugs out.
  • It would have been a good idea to test it the last time someone was upstate, in warmer weather.
  • We really need to get a wood stove installed. My friend has one but it's not there, it's still at his house downstate.
  • We need to work on sealing up some of the drafts in the cabin and maybe rigging a tarp across it inside, to keep warm air lower, instead of escaping through the ridge vent.
  • I need a different cold weather sleeping bag. The Kelty is warm enough but to constricting. My daughter used my USGI MSS and was happy as a clam with it. I may pick up another one but I am also considering something like a 0-degree down backpacking quilt from Enlightened Equipment. I could throw it on top of my Hill People Gear Mountain Serape or Wilderness Innovation Osni Cloak, either of which can be used as a quilt or rectangular bag. Reader input is welcome.

What's in Your Parka

Over at American Grouch, Cro has an interesting article on what he carries in his parka pockets when out and about in extremely cold weather (i.e., sub-zero Fahrenheit).

Check it out.

15 Uses for a Triangular Bandage

A nice article over at Primal Survivor about medical and non-medical uses for triangular bandages:

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Polymer 80 Range Report

I shot the Polymer 80 "Glock 19" last night. My dad and I put about 150 rounds through it, mostly Herter's 115 grain ball (made by Sellier & Bellot), along with around 25 rounds of my handloads. They were 115 grain Berry's plated bullets on top of 4.5 grains of Universal Clays in mixed brass.

The gun had one malfunction, a failure to fully go into battery with one of the handloads. Previously, I had some issues with this batch in my CZ P-09. AFAIC it was an ammo issue, not a gun issue.

Accuracy was OK, nothing to crow about. Most of the rounds went into a palm-sized group at 7 yards. The limiting factor for me was the trigger. Even with my fluff and buff job it is still pretty bad -- heavy and creepy. I'll see what it feels like after 500 rounds but if there isn't a marked improvement I'll look into getting something like an Apex trigger.

The other mod I have tentatively planned is a set of Heinie Straight Eight night sights.

After I finished shooting I field stripped it and saw no signs of unusual wear.

So far I'm very pleased with the gun.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Polymer 80 Build Complete

I finished up the Polymer 80 "Glock 19" today. Impressions:

  1. "Milling" the frame is easy. I used end nippers to remove most of the excess rail material, then filed and sanded them smooth.
  2. Assembly gave me some issues but mainly because this is my first "Glock." In particular, I had issues getting the slide stop in correctly so that it would either turn the gun into a single shot, or fail to raise at all. But I got it squared away.
  3. The "$0.25 Glock trigger job" is worth it. Before I polished several parts in the mechanism, the trigger pull was really heavy and gritty. Now it's a lot better and should smooth up with use.
  4. The Polymer 80 grip is an improvement for me over the stock Glock 19 grip.

I am left handed and found that the magazine catch rubbed on my middle finger uncomfortable, so I beveled the offending corner.

Not being a fan of the hole in the bottom of the grip behind the magazine well, I added a Strike Industries grip plug, which holds a combo flat head screw driver/punch, and a small oil vial. It had to be sanded a bit to allow magazines to drop free. Speaking of which, I bought four MagPul P-Mags from MidwayUSA to go with the gun.

I'm hoping to shoot it tonight on an indoor range. Range report to follow.

Monday, September 03, 2018

80% Glock Build

We've done 80% AR15s, so now it's time to build a Glock 19 from an 80% lower. Like with AR15s, this isn't about saving any money, it's more about flipping the bird to the man. You can pick up a perfectly serviceable used Glock for the same or less money.

I'm on a zillion lists already so blogging about this isn't going to make a difference for me.

Aside from that, it will be a great learning process so I know how Glocks work from the inside out. Glocks are among the most common handguns available so that's a good thing.

What's really neat about this is that because the receiver is plastic, it can be done entirely with hand tools. I've read of guys completing one of these in a half hour. That said, I plan to take my time and get it right.

Another nice thing from my perspective is that the Polymer 80 frames fix the uncomfortable-to-me Glock grip angle (the main reason I don't own a Glock).

The frames are compatible with OEM Gen 3 Glock parts, or aftermarket Gen 3 Glock parts. Gen 4 or 5 parts do not fit. Gen 1 or 2 may fit but Gen 3 is specified for these frames.


The Polymer 80 kits and assorted parts are available from various online vendors including MidwayUSA and Brownells. However, I didn't want to have to source all the parts to complete the build separately, so I went to 80P Builder and ordered a "Ruiz Package" which includes the 80% frame, lower parts kit, and an assembled barrel/slide assembly. This package was a special and is now out of stock. (Fred Ruiz is a pro shooter/ex-SEAL sponsored by 80P Builder.)

Pic of the kit I ordered:

(Picture borrowed from 80P Builder.)

The kit does not include a magazine and 80P Builder only has ETS mags in stock, so I ordered 4 MagPul Glock 19 P-Mags from MidwayUSA. (I don't know how good the ETS mags are. They may be just fine.)

Note: The frame has a metal plate molded in so that if you want or need to add a serial number, you can do so. E.g., California builders can request a serial number from the CA DOJ for their gun to stay within the bounds of state law. This is not required on a Federal level. In my opinion, putting some kind of serial number on the gun is a good idea if for no other reason than identification if you need to file a police report for a stolen gun.

Polymer 80 also sells frame kits for Glock 17 and 26 size guns. While mine will be in 9mm, AFAIK you could build one in .40 S&W or .357 SIG as long as you get the correct parts. They also work with Advantage Arms .22LR conversion kits. Polymer 80 is supposed to be introducting G20 / G21 sized frames later this year, for those interested in a 10mm or .45 ACP build.

I got a shipping notice from 80P Builder this morning. They are located in Charlotte, NC, so I expect to have it by the end of the week.

Updates to follow.