It was a chilly 27 degrees when the teen buzzed down a downtown Boise street on a bicycle. He didn't seem to care about the cold and looked pretty comfortable. No wonder. He was wearing a surplus wool German enlisted man's full-length coat.
When it comes to winter and cold, it's hard to beat surplus military wool clothing. The cool thing about it is that you don't have to sell your truck to outfit yourself or your kids for winter.
Wool works when it comes to sledding, playing in the snow or trekking in the backcountry. I've been asked a lot about winter clothing after a couple of youths got lost while sledding near Bogus Basin. They were wearing sneakers and jeans, but fortunately they survived the night.
I can't say it enough: Cotton can kill. The fabric does not insulate the body, especially when it gets wet. It will not prevent hypothermia.
I'm a wool surplus nut. I love the way wool insulates, even when it's wet. It is breathable, meaning it transfers perspiration from the body so you don't get that clammy feeling in the cold. My favorite gear is a pair of military wool mittens with trigger fingers. They work great for using a camera, shooting a shotgun, shifting gears on a bike or playing with an iPod. They're less than $5. Cover them with a pair of French surplus mitten covers for $2 and you can work on a downed snowmobile near Yellow Pine on a minus-5 night.
Of course, getting your kids to wear drab olive-green surplus might be hard. I think it's in style, but they don't. I take that back. Remember the kid on the bike?
By the way, the German enlisted man's wool overcoat the kid was wearing on the bike costs about $30.
Reprinted in part from Pete Zimowsky, The Idaho Statesman