The Ultimate Survival Material
Andy Snyder|October 17, 2017
Nearly 10,000 years ago, man stumbled upon one of the best survival materials on the planet. Because of it, we explored the world… our civilizations stretched farther north and south… and we changed the way we live off our land.
By all standards, it changed the world. And yet today, few folks give this critical natural material a second thought.
Wool deserves a spot in every man’s closest… and in his survival bag.
The story behind wool – such an innocuous everyday material – is fascinating.
It starts with the fiber’s discovery.
You see, wool isn’t quite as “natural” as we tend to think it is. While it wasn’t discovered in a lab, the wool we know today and the sheep it hails from are certainly manufactured. Before man started to domesticate sheep about 10,000 years ago, the critters didn’t have a whole lot of wool. Hunters wanted their meat… not their hair.
But once sheep were domesticated, things changed.
Smart farmers discovered some sheep had more wool on them than others. In nature, the wool was mainly in small patches on their bellies. But soon, smart breeding of the wooliest of sheep (which wasn’t saying much way back then) produced sheep with wool all over their bodies.
That’s when history changed.
Because of the incredible natural powers of wool, the fiber became a staple of trade and survival. As we learned to weave the highly insulating fibers into clothing, man was able to explore colder climates. We explored northward into once-deadly environments, expanding our borders and our trade as we went.
The Romans raised vast herds of sheep, using their meat and their wool to build an empire.
Later, Spain used wool to finance its conquistadores and Columbus’ grand voyages.
And by the 17th century, wool accounted for a full two-thirds of Great Britain’s foreign trade.
No doubt, it changed the world.
STAY ALIVE (AND STAY WARM) WITH WOOL
When I was working in remote Alaska, wool was essential.
The man-made, name-brand material that so many commercials want you to buy is junk in those conditions. Nothing beats the water-repellent, insulating properties of wool. Modern materials simply can’t compete.
Wool works so well because it’s not just an insulator; it’s a temperature regulator.
That’s why, if you pay attention, you’ll see folks in desert climates wearing the stuff. They’re not crazy. The wool keeps them cool… which, again, is why it’s the ultimate survival material.
It keeps our bodies cool the same way it keeps us warm.
There’s all sorts of crazy (complex) science happening in a strand of wool. But in the simplest terms, wool does its job so well because it’s made of three distinct layers. All of them help manage moisture.
The outer layer is water-repellent. If you have a wool coat, you know a bit of water is nothing it can’t handle. But sometimes we get caught in the rain or, so often the case in Alaska, we get caught on an angry, cold ocean.
When wool gets soaked, its innermost layer kicks in. When wet, it sparks off a chemical process that actually breaks down the hydrogen bond in water. It creates heat. In fact, one study showed that a kilogram of wool introduced to a wet environment emitted as much heat as an electric blanket releases in eight hours.
Crazy enough, though, that chemical reaction is not what keeps you warm. That’s only what keeps the wet material from zapping your body heat – a dangerous characteristic of man-made fabrics. Instead, what keeps you warm is the tiny, insulating air pockets created by these three unique layers.
And, again, unlike in cotton or expensive man-made materials, those pockets can’t be filled with water. Wool retains 80% of its insulating value when wet.
It’s that unique characteristic that makes wool a must-have material for any harsh climates or survival situation.
IN MY CLOSET
I have three key pieces of wool gear… and they aren’t just for winter.
First, a merino wool undershirt. With long sleeves, it’s my base layer for any cold-weather activity. But unlike when I wear my man-made polypropylene “expedition weight” base layer, I don’t have to worry about being overly active in it. It won’t lead to overheating just going for a walk like my synthetic stuff will.
Next, I often wear a wool vest. It’s a great piece to toss on when conditions get a bit extreme or things head downhill unexpectedly. It was always with me in Alaska… always.
But the very best layer is the outer layer. My go-to is a can’t-be-killed wool work jacket that gets use all year long. I’ll wear it while tending bees in July, and I’ll wear it hunting in the frigid January chill. The jacket has been flat-out abused and yet it far outperforms more “modern” material.
I know wool’s not cheap. It can be twice as expensive as name-brand synthetics. But wool is the ultimate antagonist to a throwaway economy.
It won’t wear out, and it won’t be out of fashion next year. I know of wool coats that have been handed from one generation to the next. Try that with the plastic coat in your closet.
But better yet, wool will keep you alive.
If you’re in an extreme environment, wool could mean the difference between life and death.
It’s the ultimate survival material.
P.S. I want to hear from readers. What are some essential survival tips and tricks you’ve used? Shoot me a note at email@example.com.
Andy Snyder is the founder of Manward Press, the nation’s premier source of unfiltered, unorthodox views on money and what it means for a free society. An American author, investor and serial entrepreneur, Andy cut his teeth at an esteemed financial firm with nearly $100 billion in assets under management. Andy and his ideas have been featured on Fox News, on countless radio stations, and in numerous print and online outlets. He’s been a keynote speaker and panelist at events all over the world, from four-star ballrooms to Senate hearing rooms. Today, Andy’s dissident thoughts on life, liberty and investing can be found in his popular daily newsletter, Manward Financial Digest.