My Bush Coat

David's picture

Tramping through the Canadian bush during the colder part of the season has required me to take a good hard look at the clothing I wore. One of the first articles I found to be inadequate was my coat. It was your typical flannel coat with a synthetic lining, and filled with synthetic insulation. It works great when your activity levels are low, but when you start working up a sweat, it soon gets to be very uncomfortable. First, it holds moisture like a sponge and it feels like it's clinging to you. It also loses all of it's insulation ability when wet. This type of coat was not suitable for the conditions I was in. So, I hit the books and learnt a few things.

Now of course all kinds of coats can be found in a department store. And you can find coats that are made for tramping around and working in the cold. But I found two things wrong with these coats. First off was the price. A well made, good quality coat carries a hefty price tag. Secondly was the materials used. Most of them were, again, synthetic. Don't get me wrong, synthetics are great and generally hold up fine. But there are qualities in a coat which I feel are needed for what I do, and synthetics don't measure up.

I need my coat to be warm (of course), easily repairable, versatile in that it can be altered for an ever changing environment, resist fire, water and wind, and all while being inexpensive. With all the research I've done, only one type of coat fits the bill, and that's a wool coat. It maintains 80% of it's insulative properties when wet. It's hydrophobic so it can shed water. It's breathable. It has a high ignition point and doesn't melt. And, being how it's wool, it can be easily repaired. Now I did some lookin' around at some stores and online for wool coats, and not only are they pricey, but I didn't see anything that would do everything I wanted it to do. So, it was up to me to make it.

I figured my best bet was to find a wool blanket to make the coat from. It took me a while but I finally found one at a thrift store that was a nice grey color and had a simple whip stitch around the edges, done with black yarn. It was just big enough to make the coat, but there was no room for mistakes. I borrowed a book from a friend of mine (thank you Joe) that had a few different styles of blanket coats. They all seemed pretty nice, but some used more material than what I had, and some were too fancy (difficult), and others weren't exactly what I was looking for. So I borrowed bits and pieces from a couple of the styles, and made my own design. The book showed the different coats, but that was all. No measurements or 'how to' descriptions. So I was left shootin' from the hip. That was ok though. I knew a few basic stitches, and was sure I wouldn't have any problems.

The hardest part was cutting up all the different pieces. Also, the previous owner must have washed it incorrectly because one of the edges was badly misshapen. Like it shrunk. Good thing it was just at the edge cause the rest of the blanket was in good order. Anyways, the way I got the measurements was I simply laid out the blanket, folded at almost the halfway point. The crease was to be where my shoulders went. So I laid down on it, and with a pencil and the help of a tape measure, started making marks at different key locations around my body. Once I got the torso drawn up and cut out, I used the left overs for all the other parts of the coat. I measured these out, kinda the same way.... by feel and by eye. I had no idea if it was going to turn out to be a usable coat, but my rough/dry fit seemed to say that it would.

With all the pieces ready, it was time to get sewing. Patricia had some dark yarn (a wool blend) and didn't mind me using it up. So with that and a yarn needle, I went to work. Sewing wasn't too bad. I just had to make sure the edges stayed true with one another. After the major sewing was done, there were only a few more things to do. I had to track down a few buttons and some lacing.

I had a military jacket (another thrift store find) that had some bomb-proof, olive drab buttons. There was no way I was going to find better. And for the lacing, I grabbed a leather thong from another article of clothing whose days were numbered. I sewed in the buttons and created the eyelets on the opposite side. I punched the holes for the lacing, but I didn't want just a whole in the wool. I thought the lacing might start ripping the holes open with time, so I went ahead and crimped in some small grommets I had. Come to think of it, I think I got the tool and grommets for free from the house I rummaged through a while back. The same house I got some of the materials for the cob studio. Anyway, the buttons and lacing turned out just fine. And all-in-all, the entire coat turned out just fine.

So, some of the key features I added are:
- an extra large hood so that it can fit over my hat
- lots of interior room for layering underneath
- extended cuffs so that I could tuck my hands in if I wanted, without restricting the use of my hands
- hybrid pull-over/button up (the chest area is one solid piece and the belly area is button; it offers venting without full exposure)
- extra length over the thigh to help insulate the femoral artery
- extra extra length below the buttocks to add a thermal barrier when sitting on a cold stump or snow.
- one large pocket in the front that's easily accessible with mitts and quite roomy.

So far, this coat has served me well. I especially like the fact that I don't have to worry about being close to a fire with it. It won't melt or burst into flames. And the sparks pretty much bounce right off without leaving any scorch marks. Because of it's length, I was able to use it as an extra blanket when I camped in my tent. It's very warm, and as such I only wear it for maybe 3-4 months of the year. Otherwise it's just too gosh darn hot! I'm also able to easily repair it if it tears. I like the large diameter cuffs/arms. I'm able to slide each arm into the other (monk style) for added warmth. I did find one drawback however. The wind. The blanket was a tight weave, but it still fails to cut a strong wind. I don't have any hard numbers but I think it was around 30 kilometers when I could feel some drafting inside the coat. Also, the hood has a tendency to blow off my head. If worst comes to worst, I can always throw my poncho over the whole thing if it gets to windy.

I've gotten many compliments and, "Nice coat! Where can I get one?" comments. It's not even finished, hehe. I still need to dress up some of the edges with a whip stitch, but that's about it. Anyways, here are some pics taken by the cutest photographer ever...Phoenix! Enjoy!


David's picture

I think the camera added 20 lbs.

By David
Rick's picture

Dang man, you look pretty scary!

By Rick