Arctic and extreme cold weather gear

Christophe Noel

Expedition Leader
#17
Base Layers: I've become increasingly fond of Icebreaker merino wool base layers. In particular I like how they fight odor, even as the second or third week in the backcountry approaches. The 260 weight base layers are flat out toasty. Those are my go-to layers for the coldest of ice climbing days. Don't go lower than 200 weight for their base layers as durability becomes an issue. I'd also be very critical of the Mountain Hardwear pieces you select. Granted Ueli Steck has no problem soloing the Eiger in less than a day in those products, but I've seen a deterioration in their overall quality at times.

As a fun footnote to cold weather advice in general: In 2001 I spent a week backcountry skiing outside Atlin Lake in BC. One of the local natives was giving me advice about staying warm. I remember two things in particular. One, in was -25 every day of the trip. Two, this nice guy giving me advice was wearing a Dallas Cowboys cotton sweatshirt as his primary layer. Go figure.
 

Ray Hyland

Expedition Leader
#18
I would try the Sorel Glacier.

Not too big and bulky, so you can still drive with it, even manage a clutch. They are rated for 100 Below (Celsius) but still have a rugged enough outer boot that you can work with them and not tear them. 13mm Felt inner boot plus an additional 13mm underneath so you have over an inch of felt between you and the ice.
 

pskhaat

2005 Expedition Trophy Champion
#19
was -25 every day of the trip. Two, this nice guy giving me advice was wearing a Dallas Cowboys cotton sweatshirt as his primary layer. Go figure.
When my life was nothing but skiing and travel to skiing and alpine climbing to do some skiing (you get the picture and granted it rarely got below that temperature you just mentioned), we always wore--and I still wear--a common non-hooded cotton sweatshirt just as you mentioned :) Glad to hear I'm not crazy in my cold-weather generic cotton attire choice.
 

1911

Expedition Leader
#20
One more (obvious?) "secret" to keeping warm is calories. You need to eat an insane amount if you're going to be outside in the arctic for very long. Your body will burn it to keep you warm.
 

TangoBlue

American Adventurist
#21
One more (obvious?) "secret" to keeping warm is calories. You need to eat an insane amount if you're going to be outside in the arctic for very long. Your body will burn it to keep you warm.
I've been practicing in case we have another real bad cold snap.
 

Ray Hyland

Expedition Leader
#22
Good fit is also important.

The best boots in the world will still feel cold if they are just a little bit too snug. Make sure when you try them on you are wearing the same socks (I am assuming a double-layer of socks, a thin inner polypropylene or merino to wick moisture and a thicker wool outer sock for warmth and comfort) that you will wear on the trip.

And if you are going for a layered clothing system (say 3-4 layers on the bottom and 6-7 layers up top) then having the right fit for each layer is also important. Snug enough that you dont have wrinkles and bunching, but not too tight, otherwise it will be tiring, and you will not get the full insulating effect of the layers.
 
#23
I would try the Sorel Glacier.

Not too big and bulky, so you can still drive with it, even manage a clutch. They are rated for 100 Below (Celsius) but still have a rugged enough outer boot that you can work with them and not tear them. 13mm Felt inner boot plus an additional 13mm underneath so you have over an inch of felt between you and the ice.
Good fit is also important.

The best boots in the world will still feel cold if they are just a little bit too snug. Make sure when you try them on you are wearing the same socks (I am assuming a double-layer of socks, a thin inner polypropylene or merino to wick moisture and a thicker wool outer sock for warmth and comfort) that you will wear on the trip.

And if you are going for a layered clothing system (say 3-4 layers on the bottom and 6-7 layers up top) then having the right fit for each layer is also important. Snug enough that you dont have wrinkles and bunching, but not too tight, otherwise it will be tiring, and you will not get the full insulating effect of the layers.


I bought the Sorel Glacier III in the mid '90's and I would have to disagree with the driveability with a clutch (at least in a GMC Sonoma). Of course, I had made a slight misjudgement in sizing at the time. I normally wear a size 12, but I thought I would be smart by shopping for a size 13 (as per the boot fit theory above). All they had were size 14, so I thought for 120 bucks I would live with a bigger boot. Bad idea. I couldn't drive in them, they wouldn't fit in my snowshoe bindings and I could barely even walk in them! Turns out I probably should have just stuck with my normal size 12. Pac boots fit loose to begin with and are designed with thick socks in mind. In the end, I think I gave them to my buddy, who is 6'7".

Jason
 
#24
One more (obvious?) "secret" to keeping warm is calories. You need to eat an insane amount if you're going to be outside in the arctic for very long. Your body will burn it to keep you warm.
I had completely forgotten about this till you mentioned it. On my last dogsled trip, I ate 3 times as much as I normally do and still came home weighing 5 kilos less than when I started.
 

Ray Hyland

Expedition Leader
#26
I bought the Sorel Glacier III in the mid '90's and I would have to disagree with the driveability with a clutch (at least in a GMC Sonoma). Of course, I had made a slight misjudgement in sizing at the time. I normally wear a size 12, but I thought I would be smart by shopping for a size 13 (as per the boot fit theory above). All they had were size 14, so I thought for 120 bucks I would live with a bigger boot. Bad idea. I couldn't drive in them, they wouldn't fit in my snowshoe bindings and I could barely even walk in them! Turns out I probably should have just stuck with my normal size 12. Pac boots fit loose to begin with and are designed with thick socks in mind. In the end, I think I gave them to my buddy, who is 6'7".

Jason
Yeah, driveability is relative, I was comparing them to the Bunny Boots.

:ylsmoke:
 

Christophe Noel

Expedition Leader
#27
That's great advice from Ray about the design of your layering system. Well thought out layers are certainly the key to happiness in the cold, especially when temperatures or exertion levels have extreme changes.

You know me well enough to know I'm a shameless gear junkie. I have tons of pieces that qualify as base, mid and outter layers, but I don't interchange all of them randomly. I've found not all mid layers work with all outter layers, so designing the entire system, as a system, is key.

I have some favorite pieces:

Arcteryx Atom LT Jacket: http://arcteryx.com/Product.aspx?EN/Mens/Mid_Layer-Sweaters/Atom-LT-Jacket#
Atom-LT-Jacket-Black.gif
This is a very sleek piece with minimal bulk. It has large stretch panels along the sides that give it a snug fit without feeling constrictive. The inner and outter shell fabrics are super slick, which again aids in mobility within your layers. Being synthetic, and using nylon as the shell fabric, it's easy to transition that piece from a heavy mid layer to a light outter layer. So, it may be helpful way beyond your cold weather travels. It also stuffs into nothingness. I use the hoody version more or less as my sleeping bag on bikepacking jaunts.

OR Firebrand Gloves: http://www.outdoorresearch.com/en/mens/handwear/ascent/firebrand-gloves.html
I have the previous generation of these gloves and used them regularly in Alaska on ice climbs and mountain ascents. They're borderline bulky, but there's no question they're warm. For more dexterity for driving, cooking and other tasks, the Stormcells are my go-to. I use those all winter long for everything from mountain biking to walking the pup. You will need two pair anyway. http://www.outdoorresearch.com/en/mens/handwear/ascent/stormcell-gloves.html While climbing in the Chugach I dropped a cup of hot water in my tent. That turned into a five hour ordeal. Never underestimate the value of grippy grabbers. :)

Buff, Wool Buff: https://www.buffwear.com/catalog/index.php/cPath/111
This is the best $30 I've spent for cold weather. I love these things....in merino wool. This may help with your frost-nipped lungs if you use it over your face at night. I understand your challenge with the wimpy breather-hole in the OR balaclava during sleep time. I take a buff with me any time it's cold. The merino wool versions are best.
 
#28
Ill second the googles. All should be fog treated but the best designs will be duel lensed and well vented. Not only can your eyeballs freeze, but high artic winds can blow snow and ice particles into them. The glare off of the snow can be completely blinding as well, quite literally burning your eyes. Im digging photochromic models with spherical lenses. Good clarity with minimal distortion and they adapt to changing lite conditions.
 
#29
My experience from living in Alaska:

The white "Bunny Boots" are very warm, as long as you keep your feet dry. They are technically vapor barrier boots (VB boots) so there is zero permeability; change your socks often. Also x2 on the mukluks. What I saw was that people would wear the mukluks for driving, and change into VB boots when out of the vehicle for an extended period.

I wore a thin liner glove that never came off. Depending on needs, I would wear a thick "trigger finger" liner over this that was like a mitten but with a separate index finger for dexterity. Over this I would either wear a "trigger finger" glove shell or a large army surplus insulated mitt on a cord around my neck as described earlier. I would have the mitt on and if I needed to handle something with dexterity I would shake the large mitts off and let them dangle ready for immediate use and they wouldn't get lost even in the wind or winter dark.

My 2 cents. Have fun!
 

Carolyn

no retreat, no surrender
#30
X2 on the feathered friends for all things down (jackets etc...).
Arc' teryx is the company I would count on for clothing... starting with their base layers, and building. Their long underwear is the best, doesn't stretch out of shape, machine washable and dryable...(is that a word?) But the pants: Gamma MX, add a base layer. They are just warm. Period. Add a shell if it's windy. Full zip light shell. I've got a lot of their clothing and have only replaced the MX pants one time. And I wear them sometimes daily through the 4-6 months or so of winter here in the Wasatch... I'd bet my life on the stuff. Particularly the stuff still made in Canada.
Sorry about lack of advice on the gloves. I use Black Diamond's Guide Glove, with a liner if it's brutally cold... Got to take them off for the photography though... hence the liner. I rely on hand warmers when out shooting in winter... And Sorrels underneath it all... but mine are the old style ones... made in Canada...
Hope this info helps a bit.