Inupiat craftsman Isaac Atungana of Point Hope specializes in these luxuriously warm and comfortable beaver fur hats.
After months of admiring the ruffs on the parkas of our students and friends in Shishmaref, I got a beautiful wolf ruff for Barbra. Our friend Nancy sewed on it. Aside from its beauty, the ruff around her hood serves a very practical purpose: protection from the elements. Whether made of polar bear fur, wolf fur, or, perhaps best of all, wolverine fur, a good ruff traps a pocket of warm air around the wearer’s face, keeps the wind off bare skin, and cuts down on the sun’s glare. Barbra loves hers. “You should get one,” she’s been urging this past winter.
Partly out of tightfistedness, partly out of skepticism, I’ve been resisting. First, good ruffs are fairly expensive. Second, I just couldn’t see how a little fur, fur that isn’t even lying next to one’s skin, could make that much difference. So I’ve soldiered on with my performance fleece face mask and my Mountain Hardware Polartec watch cap. Quality gear, and with my head and face thus ensconced and tucked beneath the down hood of my Mountain Hardware parka, I reasoned that I should be plenty warm.
And down to about zero degrees Fahrenheit, I am. Below that, if I have to be out long, especially if there’s wind, I get cold pretty fast.
“Face hurts,” I say to Barbra.
“You should let me get you a ruff,” she replies. “A real good one. Wolverine.”
“Maybe,” I answer back like a record with a needle stuck.
The other day, Isaac Atungana, who makes superbly warm beaver fur hats, showed me his latest creation. Unlike his other hats, this one was completely lined with thick, soft, warm beaver fur.
I try it on. It’s a little big. “I can take it in right along this seam,” he says pointing.
The first time I wore the hat, it was negative 17 outside with a windchill pushing the temperature down to negative 50. It was a revelation. My face didn’t hurt at all. In fact, I felt downright… cozy! And that was with the hat on backwards! (I’ve since been instructed as to the proper positioning of the hat on one’s head.)
The beaver fur extends past my face and traps a pocket of air the same way a ruff does. And the hat, which weighs nearly a pound, is thick and well-insulated, comfortable and warm. Man, if I had had this hat when deer hunting and ice fishing back in Pennsylvania…