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There's no place like foam
Pamela Knight
November 08, 1971
Animal fur is fine for keeping winter campers—and animals—warm, but now science has produced something more ecologically suitable
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November 08, 1971

There's No Place Like Foam

Animal fur is fine for keeping winter campers—and animals—warm, but now science has produced something more ecologically suitable

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There are 64 varieties of foam, open cell and closed cell. A Seattle company called Jan Sport makes mountain gear using closed-cell foam, completely waterproofed. Ron Fear, a volunteer safety instructor for the Mountain Rescue Council of Tacoma, Wash., successfully climbed Dhaulagiri II in Nepal last May using the almost weightless overboots, mittens and bivouac bag made for him by Jan Sport.

Before his big climb Fear experimented at home on Mount Rainier with various thicknesses and types of polyurethane foam and discovered, as Phillips had done, that rolls of the one-eighth-inch thickness were wonderful to slide next to the skin as protection against wind chill. "Fantastic stuff," says the climber. "It keeps you alive with your own body heat like a wet suit."

The Last Whole Earth Catalog describes the Ocat� model as the ideal poor man's sleeping bag—and, indeed, $40 for a one-man bag is a competitive price. The bag is hard-wearing and if it does rip it can be repaired with a Band-Aid, unlike the handsome, down-filled bags that spill all their feathers. The Catalog also advises that "rolling the Ocat� is difficult until you get the hang: squish the bag with your knees as you roll it." This does seem to be a minor problem. In the words of the company manager when asked to demonstrate: "Fold it over and then jump on the rascal until it lies flat."

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