Ruff, ruff

I cannot recall specifically, but it was in one of those first-person life/adventure novels I read in elementary school that I first learned about the power of fur. The heroine of said novel, intended to be a kid just like me, hunted seals and got lost and then found on the tundra among other adventurous things, surviving the cold dark with her strong spirit and the magic fur ruff on her parka. Fur from a predator, I learned then and remembered to this day, would not ice up and provided a warm microclimate which preserved nose, cheeks, and lips.

On a few occasions last winter, usually skiing into a nasty headwind, I remembered that fur ruff and thought that it would be a good idea. So early this week I ordered a coyote pelt from up the road. It arrived yesterday, and I took a bit of time to add a ruff to my Patagonia Essenshell anorak.

I choose the Essenshell because it has been my go-to deep cold shell since I found it used two years ago.  It is supposedly made of Epic, but the DWR-effect has never impressed me (the attribute Epic is supposed to favor, and the reason I bought it).  What has impressed me is the solid wind resistance and breathability, especially in very cold temps.  I’ll never bring it on a trip where bitter cold is not expected, and want the ruff for moving in said conditions, so it was a natural fit.

I picked coyote for several reasons.  The need for a predator fur in this application has already been discussed, and all my research confirmed that piece of early wisdom.  Wolf and wolverine were out; given the current state of their populations in Montana hunting or trapping either is not moral.  They are both very expensive, too.  I was worried that a fox pelt would be too small, and while I would prefer to see Coyotes revered (they did give us fire, stealing it from the gods by lighting their own tail) rather than reviled, but research shows that their fecundity is so remarkable that concerted hunting and trapping actually increase the population.  Confined to the lower west 500 years ago, Coyotes didn’t make it east of the Mississippi until the 20th century.  Now the eastern Coyote is a genetically distinct subspecies which averages 30 pounds heavier than their western cousins.  I feel less bad about supporting Coyote trapping, and will wear their fur with pride.

The project itself was dead easy.  It would have been even easier, except that all my research suggested that the fur should be aligned across the grain when mounted, so that the hairs stand up and provide a more fertile and hospitable microclimate.  I cut three 5 inch by 8 inch pieces, sewed them together (easy, except for the loose fur after cutting), then sewed that to the hood.  I probably could have cut less fur off by being a bit more careful (and by not using a rotary cutter), but that is not a big deal.  I had plenty left over (including a tail), so a fox probably would have been big enough.

The ruff adds quite a bit of weight, some style, and serious warmth to the anorak.  Given that in years past we usually see negative temps by Thanksgiving, its use should not be long off.


6 responses to “Ruff, ruff”

  1. Rad idea. California doesn’t get nearly cold enough for something like that.

  2. You’re gonna love it. Perfect for skiing. Good work!
    …and dead on with the bio/ecological info :)

  3. Nice work. Interesting timing. I just did this a couple of nights ago for my wife’s viking costume. Only, I used faux fur which I’m sure is much more easy to sew through, etc. Was thinking the whole time about this application though. I just folded 3’ish inch wide strip on to the edge of the hood after I doubled it over around the hood cuff. Will the real fur stand up like this? Or is it too thick to double over the cuff like that?

    BTW: I picked up a used Pinnacle off craigslist and I think my torso is just short enough to make it work. I’m going to attempt running a pair of stays in conjunction w/ a reinforced chunk of pad in the lumbar region. My initial thought is to sew a couple of pockets adjacent to the load lifter connections at the top w/ pack cloth to hold the tops of the stays in place and maybe a couple of dbl. sided velcro strips along the mid back panel as well, that way the stays are removable at lighter loads.

    1. The coyote hide was very easy to work with, surprisingly so. The part closest to the edge of the hood is doubled and sewn just as you described, and was easier than sewing cordura (thickness of the fur aside).

  4. Dave I’m looking to do something similar, a coyote pelt looks to cost $80, would you still have a piece left you would part with?

    1. I don’t. The tricky thing is that you want to cut strips perpendicular to the long axis of the pelt, and then sew them together. This helps the fur stand up and create a better micro climate. 2 coyote pelts would be good for 3 ruffs, I’d imagine.

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