Empire Wool and Canvas Company Boreal Shirt
This is the most awesome piece of winter clothing…
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $250
This is the most awesome piece of winter clothing I have ever had! Made from 100% wool blankets, it is seriously warm...even when wet. The hood is intelligently designed, gives full coverage with or without a hat, holds in the heat, and doesn't obstruct vision.
- Bombproof construction
- All stainless steel hardware
- Generous pockets
- Has the best hood I've ever had on any garment
- Long enough to cover butt
- Unharmed by sparks from campfire.
- I honestly have not found a flaw with this potentially lifesaving piece of gear
The Boreal Shirt is made by Empire Wool and Canvas.
It is sold exclusively through Lester River Bushcraft.
Like all products from Empire Wool and Canvas, the Boreal Shirt is built like a truck. It has been, by far, the most successful product in the company's line. So successful in fact, that they had to spin up another shop dedicated to this garment just to keep up with the demand.
The company says that the garment is in use by various special forces groups, but I think the success is largely to be attributed to the "bushcraft" community where it has been enthusiastically embraced. It certainly seems that everyone in the bushcraft community has this awesome piece of kit.
One of the outstanding features is the hood. It is so well designed. It fits over a hat, yet it fits fine without a hat. Either way, it does so without obstructing peripheral vision. Pulling the hood up has the most dramatic effect of any hooded garment I have worn. You can instantly feel the heat from the body's core being retained as it hovers around the head.
Another nice touch is the generously cut hand warmer front pocket. Inside this kangaroo style pouch are other smaller pockets which secure and organize important items. Against the body is a zippered pocket for safekeeping of items too important to lose. There is also a D-ring for keys, etc.
On the front are three divider pockets for organization. I personally keep a wool beanie in the left, an Icebreaker balaclava in the center, and wool liners and gloves in the pocket divider on the right side. The big main pocket easily swallows monster expedition type mittens.
All hardware is stainless steel. The snaps on the sleeves close the arms off to drafts. The neck area may be cinched up with 550 cord laced through the stainless eyelets.
The ample cut will accommodate multiple layers of insulation. In most commercially produced clothing I wear medium pants (33/30) and large shirts and jackets. When ordering the Boreal Shirt I got the medium. It is plenty big. I routinely wear a merino base layer, a wool or nylon button down shirt, a synthetic lightweight jacket, and a fleece jacket such as Patagonia R4. All of this easily fits under the wool outer garment.
I like that the cut is long enough to cover my butt. I can take a rest while on the trail by sitting on a wet log, yet never feel wetness getting through to my pants.
The great thing about heavy weight wool is that it will keep you warm even if it is soaking wet.
Also, wool is very resistant to sparks and embers popping out of the campfire. An ember that would otherwise ruin a nylon/down type jacket is insignificant to wool.
Many forum posts and YouTube videos have been made about which items are most important for survival in the wilderness. Some argue for the knife, some for fire-making methods, some for shelter. In reality, the clothing is the first line of defense, sort of a micro shelter. Under most conditions (above freezing) I think one might survive a night in the woods by wearing a Boreal Shirt. You might be cold, wet, and hungry, ....but you'd probably survive.
A note on ordering: The Boreal Shirt is an exception in the Empire Wool and Canvas line. It is only available by ordering through Lester River Bushcraft. All other products from Empire Wool and Canvas are produced in small batches, usually about 20 or 30 pieces at a time. The owner has chosen to announce on his Facebook page when an item is about to begin production. Sometimes one must act quickly by reserving a space via email. The item goes into production, orders are filled, and he moves on to the next item in the product line.
I have also purchased the Camp Coat, which I like. I will try to do a review of this garment sometime soon. It has become my daily grab-and-go jacket this winter. I am in line for the True North Mittens, which will begin production in the next couple of weeks. I am impressed with the quality of Empire Wool and Canvas.