Archaic Technology 2 - Peter Langmaid on the Down Balaclava

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I thoroughly enjoyed clicking my way through the 1966/67 and was greatly amused the pictures of straight-looking George, before he grew his iconic mustache and mutton-chops. I was also amused to see the Down Balaclava offered for sale ($5).

I had a Down Balaclava, and I'll never forget my first and last experience using it. The traditional balaclava is insulating headgear made from tightly-knitted wool and designed to cover the entire head and neck, leaving only the eyes exposed. The balaclava was famously worn (and named) by British troops during the Battle of Balaclava (October 25th, 1854) during the Crimean War. The Down Balaclava utilized the same design, but rather than tightly-knitted wool, it was made from a nylon shell filled with goosedown.

I took my Down Balaclva with me on a ski trip to Boreal Ridge. The day was cold and the wind was howling: perfect conditions for my stylish new headgear. We reached the top of the chair lift and stood on the edge of the ridge from which we would descend. I opened by pack, whipped out my Down Balaclava with a prideful flourish, and pulled this magnificent item over my head. Freezing, my mates hollared "Let's go!," and we pushed off. Somewhere in the first turn a gust of wind grabbed my loose-fitting balaclava and slid the eye-hole around to my ear, leaving me blind. I was now the Stevie Wonder of Boreal Ridge!

I'm sure the mishap ended in a crash landing, but I don't remember that. What I do remember is the humiliation I felt, which has subsequently served me as a bit of self-effacing humor. So much for the limitations of the time-honored design technique of applying new materials to an existing concept.

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