Friday, January 03, 2014

Some Cold Weather Clothing Reviews

With Winter upon us, I wanted to post a quick review of a few pieces of cold weather clothing that I’ve been using.

Duluth Fire Hose Pants.  Strictly speaking these aren’t cold weather pants, but they are heavy enough that I wouldn’t want to wear them in the Summer. I have two pairs of these, one of which I’ve owned for over a year. They don’t get a lot of use but one thing I like them for is cool/cold weather practical rifle matches. They allow very good freedom of movement, have well designed, deep pockets, and the fabric is bombproof. On my last trip to Tioga County, PA my friends and I did some grouse hunting, which involved going through some nasty thickets. The Duluth Fire Hose pants shrugged off briars like they were nothing. The pants are pretty wind resistant as well, and snow doesn’t wet them through quickly. Highly recommended.

German surplus wool pants. Wool milsurp clothes are becoming increasingly harder to find as militaries the world over have gone to synthetics in the past couple of decades. I wanted some wool pants for cold weather woodsbumming, camping, and hunting, and found these German surplus pants in my size at There are a few features that I don’t care for. Most annoying, the top button faces inward. I had that replaced with a hook and clasp. I don’t care for the flaps on the front pockets, and I dislike the button fly (something which you’ll find in a lot of older surplus). That said, they are extremely well made and warm. I plan to get a set of suspenders to use with them because they are a little long and feel like they are falling down, due to my lack of a behind.

Alpha Industries N-3B Parka. If  like me you were a boy in the 1970s you probably had a snorkel parka. They were based on the USAF N-3B parka adopted in 1958.  I’ve been wanting a heavy Winter coat for sub-freezing temps that I could just throw on without putting on multiple layers, and decided to go retro. This coat meets that need in spades. Design-wise, it’s a bit dated when compared with stuff you see at REI. For example, the number and size of pockets, and the buttons used for securing the wind flap.  However, it is probably the warmest coat I’ve ever owned. The night I bought it I took walk in 23*F (-5*C) weather with just a t-shirt and a cotton button down shirt underneath and was perfectly warm. I spent a fair amount of time today outside wearing the N-3B, clearing snow, and taking my kids sledding, all in temps under 20*F (-7*C), and stayed warm and dry the whole time. Tonight I went out for a walk while it was 9*F (-13*C). I wore a cotton t-shirt, a light cotton flannel shirt, a light polar fleece jacket, and the Alpha N3B parka. I started getting hot at the end of the walk.

The Alpha N-3B currently sold on the American civilian market has some differences from the USGI parkas, most notably the material used for the shell. Functionally, though, I think it’s as good as the original. There are some other brands of N-3Bs but you’re probably best of sticking with the Alpha. This is one of my favorite recent purchases. I bought mine at I. Goldberg’s in Philly, because I wanted to try it on first. The XL seems true to size, so if you don’t have a local source you can probably buy it online without too much worry about the size being off. Amazon carries it, here.

Swiss Surplus Wool Sweater. I wrote about this last month, so here’s the link in case you missed it. To update my original post on it, I’ve worn it several times, including during a party when we hung out by a fire pit in mid-30s weather for a few hours. It gets two thumbs up from me.