Waterproof clothing

Here in the temperate rainforest waterproof clothing is fairly essential to life for over half of the year. There is a great deal of information on making buckskin and tanning furs available and alive in many people, and in a drier climate these would be sufficient. There doesn’t seem to be much info on primitive clothing that can keep you dry though, that knowledge seems more scattered. So let’s talk about it, and learn how to make some!
I know many indigenous people around the pacific rim used salmon skins - and the people where i am living used shredded yellow cedar bark cloaks that were supposedly waterproof.
Any ideas, info?

I used to have a poncho/blanket from Ecuador that was woven goat hair. It was virtually waterproof and warm. I wore it in all day, Oregon coast rain and was dry under it.

Apparently, in Cascadia people wore cloaks or capes made from Cedar Bark or woven mountain goat wool. Wool while not waterproof does retain amazing heat retaining properties even when wet.

Woven grass, like Otzi.

in the book “the way we genuinely live” the yup’ik elders said they used the skin from the salmon and it looks like alot of other fish for waterproof parkas , mittens, and boots. the yup’ik smoked the skins after peeling them and then soaked them in urine. then they stretched them and freeze dried them. this book is pretty dope…lots of applicable skills to the nw. check it out.


also one might try drying out the stomach of some larger animals and sewing them together for some sort of clothing. just a thought. ;D

I have a native made Cowichan sweater that was passed down to me, over 90 years old and still waterproof and very warm.

Here’s an article on them, there is supposed to be a documentary out there but I’ve never seen it.


Here’s another one:

From the article:

Long before outdoor wear made of Gore-Tex or polar fleece there were Cowichan sweaters: warm, waterproof and long-lasting. For nearly a century, the Coast Salish women of southern Vancouver Island have produced these distinctively patterned, hand-knit sweaters. Prime ministers, presidents and royalty have worn them, but until now little has been told about the extraordinary Aboriginal women who make them. Their story is now the subject of a one-hour film by M.tis writer/ director and UVic women’s studies professor Christine Welsh and her company, Prairie Girl Films.

“The Story of the Coast Salish Knitters” weaves together rare archival footage and interviews with three generations of Cowichan, Penelakut and Tsartlip women, telling an inspiring tale of artistry, courage, and cultural

Long before the arrival of Europeans, Coast Salish people had a strong tradition of weaving. The women wove blankets using the hair of small dogs mixed with mountain goat wool traded from the mainland. These blankets represented cultural esteem and were the main form of currency in
the Coast Salish economy, used for trade and ceremonial purposes. With the arrival of European settlers, Coast Salish women learned knitting and adapted this skill to create something distinctively
theirs- the Cowichan sweater.

They created their knit patterns without the use of dyes, using natural black, brown and white wool from sheep brought by the Europeans. Each Cowichan sweater is unique, incorporating designs animals, birds, sea creatures and geometric shapes that have been passed down from mother to daughter. Making the sweaters by hand involves much difficult work before knitting even begins. First, the women wash the wool by hand in boiling water so that it is clean yet retains the natural lanolin which makes the wool water resistant. Then they clean and tease the wool and card it, combing it in one direction to ready it for the next step spinning into yarn.

Like the blankets before them, the sweaters these women knit have had great economic importance for the Coast Salish. In the film, women speak of staying up all night knitting a sweater so they would have money to buy groceries the next day.

There’s a common perception that the people of the West Coast lived by logging and fishing in the first half of the twentieth century. That was certainly my perception, says Welsh. I had no idea of this hidden economy…that the Coast Salish women knit to put food on the table, to keep their families alive. Over the decades, Coast Salish knitters have struggled with unscrupulous buyers offering low prices, with fluctuating supply and demand, and with increasing competition from imitations and the use of new high-tech fabrics. However, throughout the past
century, Coast Salish women have continued producing these useful and beautiful garments a symbol of their extraordinary resourcefulness, creativity and adaptability.

I value my Cowichan as one of my prized possesions and know it will be around long after I’m gone.

Be careful there are imitations out there and many claim to sell Cowichans but they are inferior machine made products that undercut the native peoples still living off the trade of these hand made heirlooms to stay alive.

I’m not sure of the availability of “dog wool” today but even my 90 year old “newer” goat/sheep mix is waterproof and warm.


In my experience, sheepskin that still has its fur, on the inside (with the fur touching/facing towards your skin/body), works amazingly well to stay warm (even in the New England winter) AND is generally waterproof. I guess it depends how you get it/make it. I got mine from a farmer in Belgium when I lived there.