COLD WEATHER CLOTHING
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS COLD WEATHER
ONLY BAD CLOTHING!
I hate the cold! The people who live all year round inside the arctic circle have had lots of practice in the art of staying warm, they are very good at it. From the designs of their houses to the clothing they wear.
In the UK, we are not very good at it! I can honestly say that I've been colder in the UK than I have ever felt in the arctic! I've found it easily possible to wander around in a t shirt at -17c.
For a start, it's a different type of cold... It's very very dry, once the temperature drops below zero all the moisture in the air freezes. You don't get that damp cold so common in the UK. Without the moisture in the air you don't get the same wind chill effect. If your skin is wet, you cool 30% faster than if your skin is dry. If you fall into icy water your life expectancy can be measured in minutes!
Finnish and other Scandinavian houses are amazingly warm places to stay even with the outside temperature below -100c! Triple glazing is normal, the structure is usually made of timber and insulation levels of a foot thick on the walls and roof, not uncommon. All contribute to making them incredibly warm and cosy! I've never felt cold in any of them... Add to that their usual habit of having a wood fire crackling in the hearth and you will be tearing off your clothing trying to stay cool!
Staying warm while working outside is a necessity rather than a luxury. Whatever age you are, staying warm means the difference between making good decisions and bad ones that affects your survival. Extreme cold is unforgiving and deadly.
Survival is a strong word to use but not an exaggeration, there are estimated to be over 5,000 people a year who die in the UK from just this scenario;
Leaving for work on a cold damp morning, no hat, no scarf or gloves, your body starts to defend itself against the cold, the blood thickens and the arteries and blood vessels contract to conserve heat. Your extremities feel cold and your muscles shiver to try and generate heat. As you get on the train or bus your body relaxes and you start thinking of the journey tomorrow morning. You never make that journey again, as that evening, the small clot that formed in the cold of the morning gets to an essential organ and you die.
It really is that easy
It is really easy to stay warm too! This page details some of the things I've learnt from spending months in the arctic, riding a motorcycle in all weathers and just being outside a lot.
The idea is to stay warm without sweating (if you sweat, it freezes on your body and you die).
How many Layers
Three minimum, sometime 4 or more!
The clothing next to your skin. Musto used to make a high collar with a zip closing down to mid chest they don't seem to want to make them anymore but they are terrific. Long johns and silk socks. Silk liners for mitts too. Helly Hansen make some good base layer gear too.
Polartec fleece, various makes including Musto, Tog 24 and Helly Hansen. I've tried many others and every time I keep coming back to the Malden Mills Polartec fleeces. They just work everytime. Several weights of fleece are available now, 100, 200 and 300. All a couple of sizes larger than I need. I can then mix and match any combination up to 600 if I wear them all... yes I have done! Fleecy long johns too. and fleece liners for gloves
Goretex is my preferred brand name, but I've had good results with Helly-Tech too. I have heard that Goretex has problems below -30c... how true that is I don't know. If it looses it's waterproof ability at that temperature I can't say I'm too bothered by it as there isn't any rain at that temperature!
Rukka Snowmobile jacket and bib and brace overall type trousers, rubber re-inforcement in the knees and bum, good snow cuffs too. Designed by the people who live in that type of weather and know what they are doing. Mitts, Musto ocean racing waterproofs that come half way up your arm! Boots? Sorel Caribou, terrific boots, good down to -144f! Hat, rabbit skin. The classic russian cold weather design that I can't remember the name of, but it's the one with the ear flaps that tie over the head when not in use.
Fleece balaclava, Oakly full ski goggles, heat exchanger (warms the air you breath in) all extra and essential items for -20c and beyond.
That's pretty much the uniform I wear if I'm out for a night of aurora hunting. More of a personal micro-climate than protective clothing.
"If your hands are cold, wear a hat!"
If you only have the budget for one item, get the Sorel boots first! They will make you feel warmer on their own, they are that good!
Touching anything metal at that temperature with bare skin will burn you!
If you are heading for the colder climes and have any questions, please email me and I'll see if I can help.
Living and working in sub zero temperatures is
The BBC PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
WANT TO LEARN HOW TO TAKE BETTER PHOTOS?
For training, workshops or to contact me click here