Interesting article found on line ..................................................

Wool – The Miracle Fibre



Comfort, Coolness, Resilience, Wrinkle Recovery, Absorption, Drape, Elasticity, Style,


Texture, Tenacity, Warmth



Wool has it all – naturally



Try as they may, scientists have not been able to produce a single fibre to match the properties of wool


There is a common misconception that wool is best suited exclusively for warmth in cool conditions. Scientific tests however negate this concept and consistently show that wool is ideal for apparel and bedding in hot, humid, dry, cold or wet conditions.


Wool has unique attributes, which give it superior performance to other fibres in a number of ways. Our bodies continually produce heat at a rate dependant on our activity level, this heat must be dissipated to the surroundings in the form of perspiration, at the same rate at which it is produced, to keep the body temperature constant1. When used in bedding wool creates a microclimate that assists in regulating body temperature and humidity. The degree to which body temperature and humidity is regulated is known as thermophysical comfort, that is, a state in which the individual is free from thermal stress.


Freedom from thermal stress is directly related to degree of rest. There are a number of thermophysical responses that can be measured to indicate how well rested a person is at any given time. Several studies examining and comparing the performance of wool blankets have consistently shown that in hot and cold conditions wool provides comfort and a more restful sleep than any other fibre type.


Umbach from the Holstein Institute in Germany, designed and undertook a series of studies to determine the measured responses which are most indicative of a rested nights sleep2. He found that first and foremost that the heart rate is the most accurate indicator. A person with a slow and regular heart beat is far more relaxed than a person with a fast pace and/or irregular heart beat. Two factors, which will be reflected in the heart rate, are the temperature and humidity of the bed microclimate. It is a well-known fact that in order for the major organs of the human body to function efficiently, the core temperature must be maintained at or near 37oC.


Using the thermophysical responses related to sleep behaviour, Umbach monitored several body and climate functions to compare the performance of wool versus acrylic blankets3. Subjects were monitored in environment controlled (temperature, humidity and airflow) rooms. It was found that the pulse rate of sleepers under wool blanket was normal at 60 beats per minute, where as it rose erratically up to 80 beats per minute under the acrylic blanket, indicating greater stress on the sleeping person. This was easily explained by Umbach’s other observations: the wool blanket absorbed 50% more perspiration than the acrylic blanket, and cotton pyjamas worn by the participant remained drier while they were under wool blankets. The microclimate under the acrylic blanket was too hot and humid for comfort.




The Ergonomics Unit at the Polytechnic of Wales compared comfort properties and sleep patterns of subjects sleeping under duvets rather than blankets4, again in an environment controlled room. When the bedroom was at 16oC, all sleepers were comfortable although the humidity under the wool duvet was lower. Interestingly, pulse rates under the wool filled duvets were again found to be lower than under the polyester filled duvets.


However, at 22oC the results were statistically discounted because the subjects under the polyester bedding exposed their limbs for periods of time in an effort to cool down. This response was poor substitute for the thermophysically controlled microclimate as found under the wool duvet.


A third trial designed by P.R Dickson used the subject’s own room and bed as a control. Time-lapse photography monitored movement during the night to determine the sleep quality5. Dickson found statistically significant differences in the number of immobile periods, immobile sequences, and the percentage of the total time spent sleeping with the wool blanket compared with the acrylic surface. Again the wool blanket was proven to be the most restful surface to sleep upon.


The positive health effect of sleeping with wool is best illustrated by a study by Scott et al6 of low birthweigth babies. This study found that babies nursed on lambs wool consistently showed a significant improvement in weight gain over and above those nursed by conventional methods using cotton.


Wool’s comfort advantages have traditionally been attributed to the capacity of the fibre to absorb a significant proportion of it’s own mass as watera7. Researchers agree that more than simply absorb, wool fibres have the ability to buffer by reacting to the humidity level within the particular environment. As the humidity rises, wool will absorb and store moisture as required. When the level decreases, the fibre releases the moisture thus regulating the microclimate. This property ensures that a damp, clammy feeling will never be experienced with wool. In this way, instead of the body regulating the microclimate, the wool bedding acclimatizes the body, ensuring a healthier rest with an even heart rate and blood pressure.


Another advantage of wool over other fibres is it’s outstanding insulating properties especially when compared with synthetic fibres8. The unique three-dimensional form of wool allows it to trap small pockets of air, thus giving it an insulating property. This property ensures that temperature changes are slow and gradual so that the bed’s microclimate has time to equilibrate. Rapid changes in heat loss or gain would hinder temperature and humidity regulation.


Wool’s natural resilience, is another property which aids comfort. The pile of an underlay will reduce pressure points and cushion the body. Tests using underlays with elderly and bedridden patients in hospitals have shown dramatic differences between the performance of wool and polyester bedpads. The following results clearly identify the advantages of wool.


Patients on wool had significant fewer skin problems than those on polyester pads. 77% of those on wool had no problems compared to 38% on polyester. Of those with debcutis, only 8% had a problem for more than one month while 38% on polyester had problems for a period for more than one month. In addition, no patients on wool pads had renewal of skin irritation once the initial problem had cleared up, while 14% had repetitive periods of irritation on polyesterb9. The health aspects of sleeping on wool continually outrank similar synthetic products.


a Wool can absorb 33.9% of it’s weight in water compared with synthetics at 0-4%, cotton 8%

b Sample space of twenty-six on wool underlays and twenty-one on polyester



An additional benefit to using wool products for bedding is the peace of mind in knowing wool is naturally resistant to ignition and is self-extinguishing. Perhaps the most dramatic demonstration of this was a trial developed to evaluate wool and polyester overlays to the British Standard B.S 7175. The ignition sources were, from one to six; a cigarette, 3 butane flames (the smallest of which represents a burning match) and 4 wooden cribs of various weights.


Results showed that the mattress assembly containing the wool underlay was capable of resisting ignition source 5, (wooden crib 16g) with no evidence of progressing smoldering. The polyester overlay however, when tested with a simulated match (ignition source 2) was found to act as a secondary source of ignition requiring extinguishing after eight minutes10. The ignition sources are numbered relative to their propensity to ignite the test material.


Wool with it’s unique physical properties is the ideal fibre for bedding applications, it has been subjectively and scientifically proven from a number of perspectives that wool has the advantage over other fibre types. Irrespective of whether wool is used for protection or comfort, its applications are suitable for conditions ranging from hot and humid tropics to the harsh and freezing Antarctic.


Wool has it all:-

-                        superior insulation

-                        resilience

-                        moisture absorption

-                        moisture buffering

-                        flame resistance

-                        therapeutic value

On wool, nature’s miracle fibre, you will rest comfortably, safely and rest assured.









1 “Wool – Why is it comfortable?”, B.Holcombe, Proceedings of the 8th Int. Wool Text. Res. Conf., Vol V., Fibre                         

     assemblies and product Properties, ed G.H Cranshaw (WRONZ) 1990, 205-214.

2 “Comparative Thermophysical tests on Blankets Made From Wool and Acrylic-Fibre-Cotton Blends”, K.H.Umbach,  

     J.Text. Inst., 1986, No.3.

3 “Comparative Thermophysical Tests on Blankets Made From Wool and Acrylic-Fibre-Cotton Blends”, K.H.Umbach,  

     J.Text. Inst., 1986, No.3.

4 “An Ergonomic Comparison of Wool and Polyester-Filled Quilts” , Polytechnic of Wales, Ergonomics Unit,

     published in IWS Technical Letter Number 26.

5 “Effect of a fleecy woollen underlay on sleep”, P.R.Dickson, The medical Journal of Australia, January 21, 1984,


6 “Weight Gain and movement patterns of Very Low Birthweight Babies Nursed on Lambswool”, S.Scott, P.Lucas,       .        

      T.Cole and M.Richards, Child care and development Group University of Cambridge and the MRC Dunn Nutrition  

      Unit Cambridge, Oct 1980-Sept 1981.

7 W.E Morton and J.W.S Hearle, Physical Properties of Fibre, The Textile Institute Manchester, 1986 Edition

8 W.E Morton and J.W.S Hearle, Physical Properties of Fibre, The Textile Institute Manchester 1986 Edition.

9 “Wool Pile Sliver Knit Bedpan Evaluation at Franklin Park Nursing Home”, L.R.Mizell, W.H.Marsden and V.Butler, 

     Summary report by New Market Outlet Section,IWS November 1974.

10 CPB-99 “The Flammability Performance of Wool and Polyester Mattress Overlays”, R.Woolin, J.LWebb, IWS

     Technical Information Bulletin, 29 June 1987.  


Ramblings of a mad man

Today I took the rare opportunity to get a few hours in the woods - these days it seems I eat, sleep and shit work and not by choice and if I'm not at work I'm commuting back and forth as the blood sucking solicitors still haven't sorted out my house sale ............... but all that aside or maybe because of it any down time I get I enjoy even more.

So today I took the rare ........... oh ya already said that.

The hike and woodland walk was great, but the reason I am drawn to write is because I had time to actually sit and think. And in so doing a few random thoughts popped to the surface and demanded to be shared.

My trip was dual purpose I wanted to recce my new woods some more and I wanted to hike with weight - so I packed my old LK35 with standard gear, wool blankets and even a canvas tarp.

And this was heavy .......and got me thinking about the kit we carry and why.

Most people carry very similar kits (and dress the same too) and whether your a Ray Mears fan with his "something to sleep in, something to carry it in, something to cook in" approach or a Dave Canterbury 10C's follower the kit you carry is generally that recommended by these perceived guru's and your peers (woe betide the forum followers wallet)...........and of course as a learner this is what you carry and learn to use and as such it becomes your kit, the norm and what you recommend to others - and that is great and if your content with this status quo good for you, but I wonder if sometimes we don't become a little bit to relaxed about our kit and loose track of the reason for carrying it.

As I sat in the dapple shade of a ancient yew tree these questions entered my mind -

Q1 - What is our aim? Are we practicing bushcraft as a hobby for bushcrafts sack OR is there another motive? Also what is the aim of the trip we are making - is it a day trip to a local wood or a week or longer hike across arctic Finland (as Ross points of for the day hike surely if we don't have all the bells and whistles of brand name kit WE WILL DIE!)

Q2 - How likely and how often are we going to achieve our aim? If our aim is just to enjoy the woods while walking the dog that's achievable daily but do we need bushcraft skills or kit? While if our aim is (and this is often my thinking when looking at kit - and one which is probably never going to be achieved but one which drives me to get the toughest most robust gear) to hike DUE SOUTH from the great slave lake to the Canadian border then bushcraft skills and kit might not only be handy but life saving.

Q3 - Do we need more or less gear - to achieve our aim?? Just because Kephart said he had one do you? Just because Ray Mears has a SFA do you need one? Often I will go into the woods for a couple of weeks and be amazed how little, if at all, I use my sheath knife or maybe my axe for example but my cook pot gets used daily and yet the cook pot isn't the thing most of use will happily spend a weeks wages on.

Q4 - How important do we want to make fire?? A comment on a previous post made me consider this for if we want fire to be central to our experience then surely we need a shelter and sleep system that can handle fire - is it a good thing or bad thing that these days we set up a camp with a central fire to cook on etc but then basha up 100 yards away and need to hike in bulky 3 season sleeping bags to keep us warm in the night while 100 yards away our fire burns down to nothing? Worse, I put it to you members of the jury that it is indeed a crime that we so do, some felon's even stock up the fire before turning in .............

Q5 Can we rely on Fire? For example if we decide our aim is a weeks hike across subarctic Sweden in Feb using a blanket and fire do we have the skills and knowledge to achieve this? Is it wiser to carry a sleeping bag and a stove (and I don't mean just as a emergency back up kit which like a first aid kit we should always carry if were smart)

So what are the answers to these questions?? I expect they are different for us all - some as I say will be happy maybe there are others like myself who even after all these years, with all the accumulated knowledge of over thirty years living and working outdoors who are yet to decide - or maybe it is and will always be so that outdoors folk never seem to reach that utopia of kit after all where would the bushcraft industry be if Ray Mears didn't change his rucksack or trouser brand annually?

Anyway folks have a think how applicable are Questions 1 - 5 in your outdoor sojourns ........


Real woodcraft consists rather in knowing how to get along without the appliances of civilization than in adapting them to wildwood life.
Kephart, Horace, 1862-1931.


If you dont you will DIE

Readers will know I am presently seeking that illusive "perfect" minimalist kit and in so doing researching ideas. So it was with great surprise I rediscovered this article on Ross's blog ( this fired off a few idea's of its own. Ross's comments ring true - his humour gets the point across well and its a great read, the point of which many of us can benefit from.


And finally

Just a quick note to congratulate the cadets from the Kent squadrons who attended the bushcraft course last weekend - many of whom were not only new to cadets but also to sleeping outdoors!!

As such their achievements are doubly good as they slept in natural shelters in some very challenging weather.

It was a great way to wind up the year - spending my last course with some old and very good friends!!

Looking forward to next year already - but never mind now time to populate my you tube channel!!


A little italian number ..............

Outdoors gear has always been a talking point even back in the days of the fur trade certain items gained reputations as being the best kit to have, things such as Hawken rifles and Hudson's bay point blankets become "the" item to have and many aspiring Mountain men would go all out to own such things so trusted were the reputation and word of the experienced men who went before them.
In the last decade word of mouth reputation seemed to slip by the way side as the outdoor industry grew and sales blah, biased reviews and bushcraft forums became popular. Sales pitches can generally be seen as what they are, biased reviews with a little research can be confirmed or negated but a lot of misinformation was and is pumped out by forum members, some to boost their own ego's, some to improve the rating of the forum and thus create a money making opportunity etc - regardless the reason ultimately forum reviews in my experience tend to be from guys who rarely actually get out in the field and as such these days I don't visit forums with the sole exception of the finnish bushcraft forum, this small forum is made up of mostly genuine outdoors men who actually spend more time in the woods than on the computer.
Anyway the reason I point this out is that for me the best research source now is you tube, here you can sort the wheat from the chaff just by watching guys trying to do or replicate various skills and here also reputations are being made. There are some excellent woodcrafters on the tube, DC from wilderness outfitters (apart from the politics of his being dropped from discovery channel a mistake on his part lead to a major mistake on their part as the new co host doesn't cut the mustard for me) Mitch from Native survival even good old Mors can now be found on there as well as yours truly!! With regards to kit likewise some items seem to be very popular, Mora knives for example and rightly so.
An item proving popular and growing in reputation on YT is the Italian Army Rucksack (known by other names too such as Italian Alpine backpack etc) these are canvas sacks with a classic look that I like.
Some of the YT reviews of these are done by experienced guys so straight way giving them some credence right off (just like the OH butcher knife mind you) but are they as good as these folks say??
Well only one way to find out ................................
These sacks seem to be virtually non-available in UK so I had to order one from America. The company I ordered from deserve a note here as unlike many US firms they ship very quickly (items arrive within 2 weeks and are tracked throughout) they don't over charge postage and if you contact them offer excellent customer service.
They only seem to stock used packs however but at $13 I figured used was good enough and so placed my order. When the sack arrived I was not only pleased with the speed of the delivery but also the "newness" of the sack - it did have writing on the flap and the metal strap ends of the lid were missing but bought as used and at that price I wasn't going to complain as the rest of the sack looks new.
Now one YT vid I watched the guy modified his sack by replacing the shoulder straps with Alice pack ones and this I did too - mainly as the shoulder straps supplied are not only very heavy for what they are, they also seem to be designed for someone with the anatomy of a stick insect and me being a burly 6 foot found I couldn't actually wear the sack comfortably or at least adjust it out enough to fit.
Three other changes I made were to add a paracord loop between the middle eyes of the lid draw cord as part of the axe suspension system (my axe is now carried with the head through the loop and the handle slid inside the strap between the buckles). I also rethreaded the cordage on the sides to allow the side pockets to expand easier and the cordage to be tightened or loosened as required. Lastly I replaced the lid draw cord with paracord, so nothing to "imaginative!"

Italian army backpack (above left) with ALICE PACK SHOULDER STRAPS and pictured next to a Swedish army LK25 for size comparison.
So the sack itself, firstly its small (about 20 to 25 litres I imagine) and the canvas is heavy duty. But this isn't actually detrimental rather the opposite as it makes you think about what you carry and why! Those who have read or seen my article/vid about bed rolling will be pleased to hear the sack will easily take that amount of kit - indeed I'll add a kit list below this review. Again on YT many of the reviewers also change the straps at the base and here attach thick bedrolls or woollen blankets. 
The lids, both main sack and pockets, is lined with a waterproof material as is the base of the main sack however the rest of the canvas sack is merely canvas (waterproofing materials are available for canvas) however being of a generation of soldiers who grew up with 58 pattern webbing I simply waterproof all my gear by lining the sack with a heavy gauge rubble sack.
The last item worth noting is the buckles for the lid, these are a pressed steel with a sliding gate style lock - the metal is thin but not so delicate as to appear weak, simply sliding the strap through and pulling locks it down but it is easy to open again when you need to so not a hassle if you were wearing gloves or mittens for example.

Over all I can say this sack actually deserves the positive reviews and popularity it is gaining. It is robust, well priced and with minimal adjusting extremely fit for purpose. It also typifies the new bushcraft trend towards functional and traditional gear going back to what in my mind bushcraft should be.

Kit list of what I actually pack in mine.

·        Mora Classic No3, Hatchet and Saw (small cuts first aid kit)

·        Candles, tinder

·        20m bank line + para cord, sharpening stone, snare wire.

·        Slingshot and ammo

·        Solo cook set, stainless steel water bottle x 2 and cup, Spoon/s (1x US 1x Wooden) – condiments - Lighter

·     Primus gas stove and fuel

·     24hrs Rations and brew kit

·        Head torch

·        Jungle sleeping bag – green reusable space blanket

·        Desert camo tarp and cordage/pegs

·    Spare socks (thick wool)

·    Radio

·    Goretex jacket

·    Quilted Jacket liner
(A wool blanket would replace the jungle bag in winter when fire is needed for warmth but the above kit is easily enough for overnighting and or emergency use)


Girls rule Boys Drool ...............

This very wet and miserable weekend saw us leading yet another survival/bushcraft course for the cadets of the Royal Air Force - a course I always enjoy doing as much for the fact I don't have to organise it as for the fact that the students are generally eager, bright and motivated (generally!)

The course itself runs over a weekend and we have been running these for various cadet squadron's in the south east of England for about 8 years now - I teach these for free (well food and board anyway) and really enjoy them as its a labour of love - giving something to the future, maybe a future Ray Mears will be beginning their "career" with me, and if not at least I hope to teach the kids a little of my love and understanding of nature.

This weekend we covered all the usual skills,
  • Knife craft
  • Saw craft
  • One match fire
  • Arctic (firesteel) lay fire
  • Shelter building
  • Game harvesting and prep
  • Water collection and purification
  • Outdoor cookery
  • Flora selection and ID
As well as all the "side" products that come from this training such as self confidence, the understanding of nature, team and individual spirit and motivation etc.

But as an aside I also wanted to try a new minimalist kit ideal - basically sleeping under a £1.95 tarp with just a blanket - October temperatures and the prospect of torrential rain would test this idea.


Above was my bed for the night - 100% wool blanket with an economy tarp roof - I have slept in the blanket before at minus 10c in Sweden but in that environment we had a fire to heat us. Here, the ground was water logged and the night nothing but constant rain so the only fire we had was the communal campfire. How did I fair - well I slept well but I think this was as much due to the fact I was also wearing a hoody made from a US army blanket (top picture) as to the blanket but it was a damp experience as the rain was heavy. To heavy indeed for the tarp whose weave wasn't tight enough and while not leaking and drippy did allow moist through in the form of fine spray or mist.

Overall the experiment was a success and the kit would have allowed me to survive - but in the conditions experienced it would have been a miserable night especially if you were in a survival situation. The tarps cost and weight make it attractive but end of the day I think a Poncho and poncho liner while heavier would offer longevity and more versatility.

Luckily for me breakfast was a sausage sandwich or two and with these and a hot campfire coffee inside me all was again right with the world!

Cadets carry out game prep - we did both bird and mammal

They also enjoyed their wild food - kebab (below) and in a sustaining and tasty rabbit stew

The following morning was wet (and that's an understatement) so we decided to give the guys a little competition to keep the motivated - in this cause they had to race to light their individual fire with a spark - the winner became fire meister and lighting and thus owner of the communal fire ...........

And our winner - was the only female on the course (well done Katie) hence Girls rule and boys drool ..... She got her individual fire going before any of the boys and then commenced to light the cooking fire, enjoying the warmth of the fire she managed while the lads had to endure the wet weather gathering fire wood!! Lesson's were learnt - especially fire wood that's sat on the ground isn't the ideal wood for cooking. One thing I always remember from my woodlore days which is as true today and it was then is that those who learn fire lighting in wet weather learn it better than those who learn it in good weather and this weekend the fire was very much centre of attention and a hard task master teaching the cadets well!

A great weekend - good to catch up with old friends and even better to share a little knowledge with the future generations of not only our service men and women but also bushcrafters and outdoors folk!

NNUK Knives - update

Their are those who will tell you that you cant carve with a big knife!
Personally I say never judge the knife judge the owner - or more correctly, see what they can do with their knife before to decide whether the knife is a good tool for the environment.
And that brings me back to my NNUK Knife made for me to our own specs by Jan Ververs. A knife happily I see he has now made quick a few of!
For a all round bushcraft survival knife this is a robust tool and one well worth consideration as per my previous review
But now having used it for a bit longer I thought I would up date the story .....................

So update 1. Edge retention - initially I found I had trouble with this, it seemed sharpening the knife achieved nothing and I wondered if the temper was wrong. Speaking to Jan he told me this was common as the metal needed to settle down - I was a bit sceptical but Jan's a good man and I trust him so I continued to work the blade and dah dah - suddenly it settled down and now has and holds a razor edge through thick and thin.

Update 2 - Size and shape, this is a big camp knife, the spines thick and the bevels small, in combination it makes this a tool which carves well but hacks and chops like a much more "meaty" tool - an excellent combination. (Spoon pictured was carved in about an hour with the knife)

Update 3 - my only gripe and a minor one it is too - the kydex sheath is fine but either the kydex is a little to thin or top rivet location is a little to low and this means the knife isn't locked in the sheath when not in use, ie it can be shaken out when upside down. To rectify this I use the lanyard pictured above and when not in use loop this around the bottom of the fire steel as a lock.

But this aside I really cant fault the tool and it is now my winter/survival knife and (to use a American term I don't like much) my go to knife ........... if I had to trust my life to a knife this one would be the one on my belt for sure!!


The last trapper

I thought this film was not only very enjoyable but inspiring. It tugged at heart strings I never knew I had and left me yearning to live that life.
The views are stunning and the scenery breath taking. Having worked with camera crews before I know or at least came imagine the amount of scenes set for the camera and the amount of retakes ................ Nebraska is one hell of a women too but the real stars of the story are the dogs ........... well worth a watch!


Old Hickory - in action ..................

This is the Old Hickory in action carving feather sticks and batoning a seasoned willow branch - and this was all that was required for the scales to come loose??


There's a rover turned over on the flyer to Dover, over .................

LOL anyone remember that from voice procedure training??

Anyway I digress, this weekend myself and Tomo decided to clock up a few miles as part of our pre-classic training. The idea was simple (bit like me! What, who said that?) like all the best ideas are tab out, clock the miles with a full pack. Overnight somewhere and tab back.

As the photo journal below will show - that's what we did ............... so here's a few pictures

 One interesting aspect of the hike was the military history of the area, and this ranges from Knights Templar chapels through Napoleonic forts to World War 2 bunkers and coastal defences for the German invasion that never happened.

Kit wise I think I'm pretty squared away for the race but two things are still yet to be decided up - my pack and my foot wear - two of the most important things as the pack will be on my back all day and a uncomfortable or badly fitted pack will ruin a enjoyable hike and likewise my footwear, which is wrong can not only ruin a hike but cripple you too .......... for this hike I carried my Swedish army LK70

My footwear was the same as last time and like last time the lightweight hiking shoes left my feet sore - tender foot, was a term used to describe a European fur trader who, newly arrived in the interior of the colonies of British America, feet weren't harden to the wearing of moccasins. And I certainly feel their pain and the thin flexible soles of the light hiking shoes leave me foot in agony. So much so that I am now wondering whether to wear them in arctic Sweden, if after a two day hike they leave me hobbling for a day so what will be the result after five days?? Would I be wiser to just wear heavier but sturdier boots??

We shall see - that's part the reason we are doing these training hikes to trial our gear.

And finally ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Some morning after shots .................