30 November 2011

G. Fred Asbell Haversack & Wool Pullover

I've had a chance to both wear and modify the pullover and haversack that I ordered from G. Fred Asbell, and so far I am quite pleased. For the price point these products are offered they are quite serviceable, indeed, enjoyable to wear and use.

The weights of the wool that they use to make the pullovers, Mackinaws, & haversacks varies from 20oz to 28oz. You can use their website to get an idea of what weight wool each color is, for the pullover I wanted the heaviest weight they have listed, there are a couple in the 28oz range but I went with the Grey. It bears pointing out that the pullovers come in basically three designs, no hood, hood, and Mackinaw. The Mackinaw is what I ordered, basically what that is, is a caped hood where you have the hood attached to another piece of the same weight wool that is a sleeveless short pullover. This gives you a double layer of wool over the shoulders and the upper part of your chest and back. It's really a system, on cool days the pullover is enough, on colder days, or sitting on a stand, snow and the like, you can add the Mackinaw to accommodate.

In the image below you can see the Mackinaw fairly well.

I ordered the 2XL version of the Grey Mackinaw, the cut was generous and fits the way that I like outer layer shirts to fit. I'm six feet tall and weight 235 pounds, the shirt fits perfectly for my tastes. The stitching is top notch, I could find no fault. The pockets are large, big enough for me to slip my Pentax KX with an 18-55 lens attached, the camera I take my pictures with, inside. They are also well stitched, when I went out the other day for Wind, Wool, & Bacon, I carried that small 7" mini-skillet inside one of those pockets, still had room for my hand and it carried quite well.

The bulk of the garment and the coloring, coupled with the way wool handles light makes the shirt blend very well in my opinion. Take a look at the image below, in the center. That's about twenty yards from the camera.

The hood of the Mackinaw is very generously cut, will fit over virtually any type of hat. While it is difficult to see I am wearing a wool Stormy Kromer beneath the hood. More than enough space to accommodate that. The hood was very nice in the wind, pulling it into place effectively cut the bite, it works. Here are several other images showing the garment from different angles and distances.

I trimmed the neckline, cuffs, and pocket entrances with tanned deer skin, those images can be found in the Wind, Wool, & Bacon post. Overall I am quite pleased with the pullover. From experience I would say the shirt is great over just a Henley or the like through most cool autumn days, for wind and deep winter cold you're going to want to layer under it. I found that a fleece pullover, with a light base layer then the Asbell pullover completely cut the wind and kept me warm even when sitting on a stand all day. I would recommend that if rain is expected, a breathable waterproof shell be worn over the pullover. The Grouch is pleased, the pullover is a winner.

So, on to the haversack. I've always been a fan of possibles bags, the finial iteration of which for me, was my Rifleman's Bag that I wrote about here. I'd not tried one made of wool before, so I picked one of those up as well. It's described on their website as a 'double bag' with a forward side and a rearward side for less used items, and two smaller organizational pockets. You can find these on their website, scroll down below the information on the quiver, Haversacks.

When I got the bag I have to admit, I did not like the strap right away. It's a slick woven nylon, which means it slides freely against most materials, I knew I'd be modifying that. Incidentally, their plaid version comes with a leather strap but is smaller than the green.

The series of images below are of the haversack before I really started to modify it, though I had at that point cut the nylon strap off. It was connected to the haversack by way of the plastic squares that in turn are stitched to the sack via more nylon webbing. No, it doesn't come with the BushClass patches. :)


Couple things to point out. The nylon webbing that holds the plastic pieces for the strap, pretty typical machine stitching. It is double layered and the material is durable. However after a couple days of use the stitching on mine began to pull out, as you can see in the image below.

I solved this problem by adding some reinforcing stitching, using synthetic sinew to those points. It did indeed solve the problem.

I replaced the nylon strap with an old WWII leather pistol belt, I don't recall where I acquired that belt but it is a wide one, and it's width was a perfect match to slip through the plastic strap lash points. I want to replace that plastic, and I will, as soon as I come up with an acceptable solution. The belt has a double row of holes, what I did was slide the belt all the way through one side, into the other plastic piece, folded it and ran a piece of leather through the holes to secure it. This also gave me the ability to adjust for length.

Sometime in the future I'll do another post on what I carry in it. There's plenty of room which if you are not careful, will result in overloading it. There is enough room to carry everything in my Rifleman's bag plus a lot more. In fact it is also serving to carry my camera along with all the other gear found in the Rifleman's bag. I trimmed out the flap with more tanned deer skin, part of what I used on the shirt. I think it came out real nice. I'm satisfied in both products from G.Fred, Backwoods Bum approved.

27 November 2011

Wind, Wool, & Bacon...

 I wanted to trim out the neck, cuffs, and the slash pockets on my Asbell pullover. Was a pretty simple process if a bit time consuming. The leather is from a tanned deer hide.

We had a warm system come through a couple days ago that had some rain in it. Melted most of our snow, now the temps are dropping again. It's unusual to be able to see the ground this time of year up here.

Awfully windy today, didn't figure I'd see any deer but I wanted to get out for a bit anyway. Try out my modified wool shirt, bum about and do some stump shooting to keep by bow-eye sharp so to speak.

Not a lot of scenery pics today, was more focused on shooting stumps and covering a bit of ground. The wind was pretty fierce but I stayed toasty in the shirt.

Stopped for some lunch, hope you enjoy the pics. The video at the end, is guaranteed to spark some hunger!

Where I stopped for lunch, the pines were breaking the wind a bit and there was some good dry fuel about as well.

Getting started on the fire prep. Dug out a bit with a rock, then used some of the other rocks to lay a dry flat and some walls.

Prep laid up with tinder and some Birch bark. The little bottle has some pure pine sap I gathered back in the summer, wanted to see how flammable it was.


When we kill and process a hog I don't have the bacon sliced, instead we have it smoke cured in 2 to 4 pound chunks. I like it this way so I can slice my bacon the way I like it. Mankilla thick if I had to put a name to it. I also like to have it in chunks like this for transport, just wrapped in some butcher's paper and toss it in the possibles bag.

Getting the fire just right before I set the iron pan on.

Laid up in that wool shirt, I like the way it came out. Trimming the cuffs, neck, and pockets with tanned doeskin changed the whole shirt, not just the looks either. The neck line and cuffs are more comfortable.

Waiting on the crispy goodness!


This should get your juices flowing if you're a bacon kind of person.

24 November 2011

Gear Obsessing...it serves a purpose, seriously.

I posted something similar to this a few weeks back, not exactly but I guess close enough for one to wonder why. Well it isn't a duplicate, I'm still working through something and trying to find the best way to articulate it I guess, you could say I'm sharpening my pencil perhaps. 

There is more to gear selection than just what works, there are other reasons too, and often I think maybe someone new to this sort of thing does their purchasing based on a number of factors. One of the most important of which, in my not so humble opinion, is almost never reflected in the decision making.

I'm sure you've seen the commentary regarding gear, comparison and selection, even obsessing over it. I've read both condemnation for it as well as intelligent, logical comparisons. Discussion of gear for the sake of gear itself maybe isn't such a good thing, but, it serves a purpose. To both stoke the coals of memories as well as ignite the embers of the future.

When a woodsman is barred from forest and stream, hill and dale, trapped by life's responsibilities and commitments, the mind can still wander the far places. Still smell the wood smoke, hear the creek talk to the rocks, the wind whistle the leaves, the mist burn away from the valley in the morning Sun. The process of pouring over gear, discussing it, visualizing it being used can take a man back to memories made, provide visions of the future, afield once more.

While gear does not make a woodsman, gear facilitates experiences, helps memorialize precious time afield. It also serves as a conveyance for the wandering mind suffocating behind four walls. While a piece of kit is no substitute for time spent back of beyond, it serves a purpose beyond the utility it was designed for. Townsend Whelen once said:

"What you are going to need if you are going to take fullest possible advantage of the woods and hills and streams is, obviously,an outfit of your own...assembling such a rig one of the most consistent joys of the outdoors-man's life..." "After you have gone through the process of adding, discarding, and reconsidering for years, you will have to admit even to yourself that there is no such thing as a perfect outfit. Trying to achieve the near ideal is, however, all the more challenging because of that."

Certainly memories made in the wild are kept within, and don't need an object for their retention, I would theorize however, that those objects used are a tangible piece of those memories. That what is carried and what is used to make a memory, that later sits by your winter fire is in fact a connection to a time and place and is a piece there of, ready at hand.

A piece of kit needn't be overly expensive to be a memory enabler, or to be useful for the originally designed purpose. I would say though, that there are always those essentials without which you can do no longer, no matter what their purchase does to the budget. For me those tend to be the bigger pieces of kit, those that do the most work and bear the most burden. A pack for example, or a good pair of boots.  A pack for not only will it be tasked with the careful and secure conveyance of all my gear, but also because it will spend as much time on my back as my shirt. For this reason it must last, it must be comfortable, it must age as I do, a bit marred and scarred but still fully functional. Boots for there is no single other piece of gear that will work as hard or for as long under the worst possible conditions. For these two I'll pay what I believe is necessary for the quality I require and the design I prefer.

To be sure, the search really never ends for the perfect pieces of kit by category, for they do not exist. No single boot for example, will ever be the right boot for all occasions. Similarly speaking, no single pack, or knife, or type of clothing will serve the need across all uses, weather and geographical conditions. The belief that they will is the most common misconception I have seen, indeed, I was myself guilty of it more than once.

This reality, of course, dictates that there will be kit for season, for use, for area. A two week stint in the Boundary Waters requires a certain type, as does a week of winter trekking in subzero temperatures. A late spring foray into the wet North Woods is quite a bit different than a walk through the November North woods, as is a journey of Frost and Snow.

One of the first things the neophyte will do is pour over gear, look for discussions regarding it, ask for opinions, sometimes buy gimmicks, other times shy from them. Fact of the matter is, the first stop for most folks looking to go to the back of beyond, is gear. Their interest often is piqued by something not so quiet inside, a bit of wonder-lust perhaps, or maybe memories as a child ranging with a father far afield.

We were all here once, starting out somewhat bewildered by all that is there and lacking the knowledge perhaps of what is really truly needed. In a world of mass marketing it is indeed challenging to sift through all of it. Suffice to say this is a natural course and there is no easy way through it, of course we could all heed the sales rep at the local REI, the magazine articles, the web reviews. All these things are there, I suppose even this blog is one of them. In the end none of them, including this one, is a substitute for going and doing for garnering the experience and wisdom to make informed decisions not on soundbites or web pages, but field time.

Just bear in mind before, the reasons you are about to do what you are about to do. While pictures are great things and God knows I take enough and love them dearly, memories are something made, not taken. Choose your kit with more in mind than singular end use.

Consider the selection of gear the same as making friends because that is in fact what you are doing.