Genuine buckskin shirts are still listed in the catalogues of certain dealers in the Northwest. Be sure the skins are " smoke-tanned," so that they will dry soft and not shrink so badly as those dressed by a commercial tanner. A fringed shirt dries better than a plain one, as the water tends to drip off the fringes.
Swedish dogskin jackets are rain-proof, but not so pliable as buckskin.
If one can get them (Hudson Bay posts) light caribou skins are better than buckskin. Caribou or reindeer hide has the singular property of not stretching when wet. When tanned with the hair on it is the warmest of all coverings.
A vest without coat may not be sightly, but it is mighty workmanlike. Suspenders can be worn under it without desecrating the landscape — and stout suspenders, say what you please, are a badge of good common sense on a woodsman.
But the vest worn in town is not fit for the wilderness. One's back is more vulnerable to cold than his chest; hence the thick cloth of a waistcoat should go all the way round. There should be four roomy pockets, the lower ones with buttoned flaps. Tabs fitted at the bottom will keep the vest from flapping when worn open.
Wet clothing is heavy and uncomfortable. It is much less permeable to air than dry clothing; consequently it interferes with evaporation of sweat; and it is chilly, because water, which is a good conductor of heat, has replaced the air, which is a non-conductor. Air passes through dry cloth more than twice as freely as through wet material.
The problem is to waterproof the outer garments and still leave them permeable to air. This is done with cotton goods by cravenetting the material, or, less effectively, by the alum and sugar-of-lead process which fixes acetate of alumina in the fibers.
It is easier to waterproof woolens than cotton clothing. Simply make a solution of anhydrous lanolin in benzine or gasoline, soak the garment in it about three minutes, wring out gently, stretch to shape, and hang up to dry, shifting position of garment frequently, until nearly dry, so that the lanolin will be evenly distributed. This process is very cheap, and old clothing can be treated by it as well as new, without injuring the buttons or anything else.
Cloth so treated permits the ready evaporation of sweat, and so may be worn without ill effects, no matter what the weather may be. In fact the perspiration escapes more freely than from plain wroolen cloth, because moisture cannot penetrate the fibers and swell them — the interstices are left open for air to pass through. And yet woolens impregnated with lanolin shed rain better than cloth treated by any of the chemical processes. The goods are not changed in weight, color, or odor. Instead of being weakened, they are made stronger. The waterproofing is permanent.
Lanolin can be bought at any drug-store. It is simply purified wool fat. Wool, in its natural state, contains a grease known as suint. This suint is removed by alkalis before spinning the fiber into cloth. If it had been let alone, as in a Navajo blanket of the old type, the cloth would have shed water. But suint has an unpleasant odor, which is got rid of by purifying the fat into lanolin.
This lanolin, although it is a fat, has the singular property of taking up a great deal of water, and water is purposely added to it in preparing the common (hydrous) lanolin that is used as an ointment base and in cosmetics. In buying, specify that it be anhydrous (water-free). Cloth treated with lanolin absorbs little moisture because water cannot penetrate the fiber and is repelled from the interspaces.
The strength of solution to be used depends upon climate. For a hot, rainy climate, use four ounces of lanolin to a gallon of benzine; for average conditions in the temperate zone, three ounces to the gallon ; for cold climate, or winter use exclusively, two ounces to the gallon, as cold has a tendency to stiffen cloth that has been steeped in a strong solution. The three-ounce formula is right for blankets.
If trouble is experienced in making a solution of lanolin, dissolve it first in a little chloroform, then pour into the benzine.
It is a truism that " a soldier is no better than his feet." Neither is anybody else who has much walking to do. Such shoes as we wear in town are wholly unfit for the field. They are too light, too short, and too narrow. We do little walking in town, and none that we do is over rough ground. We carry no burdens on our backs. So the " snug fit" is tolerated, and the thin socks.
On the trail it is different. One must have free play for his toes, or his feet will be cramped and blistered within a few hours — then misery! In marching with a pack, one's foot lengthens about half an inch every time his weight is thrown on it, and broadens nearly as much. And after hiking some distance the feet begin to swell.
The only way to insure a good fit is to put on thick socks, pick up a weight equal to the load you are to carry, slip a tape-measure under the sole, then throw your whole weight on that foot, and have someone do the measuring. Then the other foot similarly; for in many cases the two differ. Have the shoe made a half inch longer than the foot measurement, and wide enough to give a snug but easy fit over the ball when poised as above. Around the heel it should be snug enough to prevent slipping and chafing. These are the army rules, and they are right for anyone who marches and has equipment to carry.
When starting afield, lace the shoes rather tightly across the instep; then ease the lacing when ycur feet begin to swell. By the way, some people are always having their shoe laces come undone, because tied with a granny bow. A true bow knot (Fig. 94) is made like a reef knot (Figs. 95, 96) except that the ends are doubled back before tying.
Carry spare laces. They come handy for many purposes. Rawhide laces may be hardened at the ends by slightly roasting them.