• Leon Pantenburg | Survival Common Sense


Proven survival gear that works for me| Ole Red, the wool sweater

ole red, wool sweater, itchy wool
600 399 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

A story about Ole Red seems like it should be a country song about a faithful dog.

My Ole Red is a wool sweater, and it has never let me down.

by Leon Pantenburg

Disclaimer: I bought this sweater to use, long before I ever heard of the internet. These are my opinions, and nobody had any input into this review.

I was gearing up for a late season deer hunt last week at Delta National Forest in Central Mississippi, and tossing clothing into a pile to be packed. I automatically threw “Ole Red”my Lands End™ 100-percent red wool sweater on the stack. Red goes everywhere.

deb and ole red, sweater

My wife, Debbie, was wearing Ole Red when this 1989 picnic turned into a successful deer hunt.

Ole Red was one of three sweaters I bought after moving to Washington D.C. in 1986. I was working for the Military District of Washington D.C. at the time, and my job required professional office wear. I also had a long, cold commute to work in the middle of the winter. I would pull a sweater over my dress shirt and tie, and wear all this under a long wool coat. I kept a couple of suit coats in my office in case I needed to be presentable to go somewhere.

The other sweaters’ colors were blue and natural, and they got their fair share of  wear. But Red was what I wore outside and when I was hunting or recreating in rural Virginia or upstate New York. The natural color looked too much like a deer, and the blue wasn’t bright enough.

Everybody should have a wool pullover sweater, and it doesn’t matter where you live. A quality wool sweater is an investment, and you’ll probably never wear one out. The sweater is cozy warm under a windbreaker, but can also be reasonably cool in hot weather because wool insulates and breathes so well.

Does wool itch? Well, that depends. If you are allergic to wool, it might. But I checked out the whole itchy wool concept, and learned some ways to keep wool from itching. Here is what I found.

Here’s why you need a wool sweater in your emergency gear:

My red wool sweater has served me well for a couple decades.

Ole Red kept me warm on many winter campouts. This photo is from the Oregon High Desert in the mid-90s.

  • A sweater  is compact, light to carry and a pullover style seals out the wind.
  • Wool is very fire resistant. Polypropylene and other synthetics will melt when a spark from the campfire hits them.
  • Wool is warm when wet, breathes well and insulates as well or better than just about anything.
  • Wool can be an organic, renewable and sustainable material with a tiny carbon footprint. Synthetics and plastics use petroleum.
  • Wool sweaters can be cheap and they are easily available – check out your local surplus store for bargains. Look for wool sweaters at thrift stores and garage sales.
  • They seldom need cleaning, and when they do, a simple hand wash with mild soap will generally be all they need.
  • Quality wool sweaters can last a lifetime – be sure to get one you like!
ole red, wool sweater, itchy wool

Ole Red went on a Mississippi River canoe trip a few months ago.

Ole Red has a  lot of sentimental value to me, and I will admit the sweater  shows some wear on the cuffs and neck. And an encounter with a thorn bush in a thicket during a deer hunt unraveled it in a couple places. At some point, after 30+ years, it may be time for Red to be retired.

Right now, the biggest threat to Red’s existence is that my wife will find it when she’s taking a bunch of clothing to the Thrift Store or the Salvation Army.

But I’ve also been giving some thought to having my sister, Karla Pantenburg Moore, unravel Ole Red at some point, and knit it into another sweater, or maybe a stocking hat and gloves. Maybe. Regardless, Ole Red will continue to serve me, even if it is recycled.

Anyway, I know Nashville songwriters are always looking for new ideas for lyrics. Ole Red seems like a natural topic for a sentimental, sappy country song, so let me get someone started:

(Three cord country beat, key of G)

Ole Red has been here next to me, gave me shelter from the storm

Didn’t matter if it was wet and cold, Red always kept me warm

And now, it’s sad to know, that Red’s seen better days,

But Red’s headed for a better place, and it’ll be back again.

Somebody else take it from here. You heard it here first, and any royalty checks can be directed to this website.

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