Our reindeer skins come from Sweden where the Sami have long kept them in semi-domesticated herds (much like our own mountain or moorland sheep) both as food animals and for the remarkable warmth their hides provide, a warmth that was written into history over and over during the heroic age of antarctic adventure. They are what kept Wilson, Bowers, and Cherry-Garrard alive for over a month as they journeyed through the depths of the antarctic winter, through temperatures with a high of minus forty degrees centigrade, a low beneath minus sixty, through darkness, through blizzards, and the loss of their tent to collect penguin eggs for embryologists at the Natural History Museum. "You may sleep dreamlessly nearly all the time, rousing out for meals, or waking occasionally to hear from the soft warmth of your reindeer bag the deep boom of the tent flapping in the wind, or drowsily you may visit other parts of the world, while the drifting snow purrs against the green tent at your head." (Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World) But they were also cursed, perhaps no more so than by Shackleton and Worsley who doubtless had the worst of it trapped in the freezing yet airless confines of the the James Caird. "The next moment a filthy black paw shot out, seized a handful of reindeer hair from the hoosh, squeezed it out, so as to waste nothing, and then threw it away. We didn't mind a little dirt, but we drew the line at reindeer hair." (Worsley, Shackleton's Boat Journey) Unfortunately their vice is inseparable from their virtue, they share the same root cause, the fragility of the hairs is the reason for their warmth, and also perhaps in no small way their beauty. The hairs are hollow, more like tubes than wires, this helps explain their insulating warmth, air is trapped not only between the hairs, but within them (and maybe accounts for a certain luminosity as light is refracted through these hollow prisms) but it does leave them susceptible to snapping if flexed, pressured, or contorted. What does this mean in practical terms? It means reindeer skins shed. They do and they will, but there are things you can do to help ameliorate this. Try not to walk, sit, or lie upon the skin. Do not shake it, except very gently. Do not under any circumstances vacuum clean or attempt to brush out the loose hairs as this will only break more and significantly exacerbate the problem. So how can these be used? Well the suggestion is decoratively, which if it is a use, they no doubt can fulfil with aplomb. They can be hung on walls, or used as rugs in low to no wear areas, especially in front of fires where they will protect existing floor coverings from spits and burns (although admittedly it may be hard to resist enjoying the feel of fur in this circumstance). Alternatively there are many who find adequate compensation in the virtues to, if not accept, at least tolerate the vice. Remember skins such as these these kept men alive through months of antarctic travel in temperatures the like of which few of us can even imagine. They remain prized by bushcraft aficionados and more adventurous campers for the comfort and remarkable warmth they provide, both to sleep under, or especially upon. They are light, soft, and insulating, yet the skin is tough, making an acceptable bed on almost any surface. You might wake covered in a liberal smattering of soft white hairs, but these can be quickly brushed away into the wilds, where they will biodegrade quickly back into the earth. Generally between 120cm and 140cm in length by 80cm to 90cm to the widest point.
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