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Thread: How do loungers deal with extreme cold weather?

  1. #21
    Call Me a Cab Peacoat's Avatar
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    Next to the body a thick polypropylene long sleeve undershirt, such as the Expedition weight from Cabelas, then a wool shirt, followed by a Polar Fleece vest from LL Bean. Top it off with a wool, or Thinsulate parka. On the head a wool watch cap. Wool socks with insulated boots and gloves. If the wind is up, a wool scarf, a balaclava or an insulated leather triangle for the face.
    Nothing matters much and most things don't matter at all.

  2. #22
    One of the Regulars Ace Rimmer's Avatar
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    In short, if you sweat you die. Layer using multiple loosely fitting garments of synthetic, breathable insulation and keep a windproof/waterproof shell handy. Practice thermal management religiously and you'll live. Fashion has no place in the wilderness when your life is at stake. Unless you place ultimate importance in leaving a well dressed corpse for rescuers to find, that is.

    Most natural materials are wildly inappropriate for true cold weather use. You may have heard "cotton kills". This is very true, because cotton retains moisture (from your sweat or the atmosphere). Wet and cold is a perfect recipe for hypothermia. Synthetics such as polyester will wick moisture away from your skin and also have the benefit of insulating even when wet. Only a select few natural materials (goose down, wool) are appropriate for cold weather for this reason.

    Multiple layers allow you to practice good thermal management. If you feel yourself starting to sweat, take off layers immediately. Vents in both jackets and pants are mandatory because they permit usage of these items while allowing water vapor to escape. Pants or jackets without vents should be stricken from your shopping list.

    Your windproof/waterproof layer stays in your backpack until you encounter rain, high wind or if you have to stop for an extended period of time (e.g. it's your turn to belay your climbing partner). Despite what they advertise, Gore-Tex does NOT breathe well. Thus, it stays in the pack until you need it.

    Layers must be loose, not tight. This permits airflow, so your perspiration dries faster and does not soak through your insulating layers. A base layer can be skin-tight if you so desire, but everything else needs to be loose to permit airflow.

    Layering also applies to your hands. Frostbite will attack your smaller extremities first. Big puffy insulated gloves are useless in these situations, because your sweating hands will soak the insulation -- and they take forever to dry. Better to buy a nylon shell glove and at least two pair of fleece liners. The nylon shell can be used to fend off severe wind or if you are climbing on ice to keep water out. In normal conditions you can wear the liners without the shell so your hands breathe and do not sweat. If you are forced to use the shell and liners and your sweat soaks the liners, just swap them out for a dry pair of liners.

    Make sure you protect your feet as well. Toes are extremities that are easily lost to frostbite. Mountaineering boots are usually plastic with a removable insulating bootie (again, a layer) with enough room in the boot so that you can wear polypropylene liner socks to wick away sweat. They're also stiff enough so you can use crampons without getting blisters. Wear a boot that is too tight and you'll restrict bloodflow to your toes, which means you'll get colder faster.

    You lose a lot of heat through your head. Again, this means a breathable hat (fleece or wool) is required, and one that covers your ears is mandatory. If you get caught in the rain or if high winds are present, you break out your windproof/waterproof parka which has a hood that keeps your head dry.

    I also recommend carrying a breathable fleece neck gaiter so you can protect your neck and cheeks. I will take a windproof balaclava if high winds are anticipated; it stays in the pack until needed. Windproof neck gaiters are not recommended during strenuous activity because if you've got it up over your mouth then it funnels your exhaled breath up onto your sunglasses or ski goggles. When you are on a mountain surrounded by snow, you do not want to have your eye protection fog up on you because you'll end up ditching your glasses. Snow blindness is very painful and you should be wearing eye protection to fend off falling ice or rocks as you climb. Ski goggles will protect your eyes from extreme wind but they stay in the pack until needed.

    Fully buttoned up, you might look like my colleague here ... this was taken during a winter assault on Mt. Washington a few years ago:



    (the next photo is after the whiteout lifted so you can actually see the rest of Tuckerman Ravine behind him)



    Last, did you know you lose a lot of water through your breath in cold weather? Your respiratory system warms and moisturizes the air as it gets taken into your lungs and you exhale. Each time you take a breath, you are losing water. Stay hydrated and you'll be better off. Make sure you keep your internal furnace fueled by snacking on energy bars as well. Your car won't run without gas; the same goes for you!

    Sorry for the long winded post. I'm still learning things myself, even after all this time in the woods. There are too many times I've seen a lot of instances of people using/wearing the wrong gear and for the wrong reasons. Stay dry and you'll be fine!
    Last edited by Ace Rimmer; 03-14-2011 at 07:43 PM.

  3. #23
    Call Me a Cab Yeps's Avatar
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    Was this about expedition wear? For that I wear synthetic wicking long underwear, sock liners, wool socks, quick dry pants, long sleeve breathable wicking shirt (this one actually, by sheer coincidence, looks good too), fleece sweater with high, zipper neck, wicking breathable ski mask, and a brimmed hat (Last time I needed this gear I also needed sun protection, also thin, wicking glove liners and outer shell gloves. Throw a shell jacket on top of that and we are good to go, with enough flexibility for changing conditions. Yes, I have worn a weather resistant hood underneath a brimmed had. Great combination for effectiveness. The kit is completed by glacier glasses, summit pack with emergency gear, ropes and harness, ice axe, sturdy boots and crampons.
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  4. #24
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    Ace, you've just answered why it is I stay away from nature as much as possible.

    I'd rather die than wear colourful nylon.
    Last edited by Seb Lucas; 03-15-2011 at 01:58 AM.

  5. #25
    Practically Family John Lever's Avatar
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    I work out doors all year round. I need natural light to be able to work with colour matching and the open air to be able to bleach furniture. Some of the time I am very active other times I am stationary for an hour or more.
    I couldn't survive without thermal longjohns, insulated rigger boots with thick socks and most of all a thermal hat. I usually wear three old sweaters and an windcheater.
    My rule is a warm head and warm feet.

  6. #26
    Incurably Addicted Edward's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ukali1066 View Post
    It's all about layering, long sleeved shirt, jumper, quilted liner, wool coat, with a blanket lined Swedish army leather knee length coat ontop, fur cossack hat, sturdy boots with 2 pairs of socks, jogging bottoms under your regular trousers....
    Can you move under that lot?

    Quote Originally Posted by Seb Lucas View Post
    Ace, you've just answered why it is I stay away from nature as much as possible.

    I'd rather die than wear colourful nylon.


    I wouldn't advocate taking any risks with safety i that sort of extremity of weather, but I do think the notion that natural fibres or vintage-type equipment has no place is rather dogmatic. I mean, people seem to have survived well enough with it in generations past - Scott of the Antarctic not withstanding.
    Last edited by Edward; 03-15-2011 at 06:19 AM.
    If in doubt - overdress.

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  7. #27
    One of the Regulars eClairvaux's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by subject101 View Post
    What modern apparel do you like for extreme cold weather? I never discarded modern clothes. I've been in a couple of dangerous situations because of cold weather, so I'm pretty aware that you don't want to be messing around with extreme cold.
    In extremely cold and windy conditions, I wear a Talus Cold Avenger mask, or even the Baclava variation under a helmet, both with googles. I seal off the neck with a Merino neck gaiter. As for clothing I resort to an arctic down parka when temperature drops below -10 C. The layering consists of either high-tech fabric or (merino) wool, but stay away from anything made of cotton in the layering, as those items will get wet and then cold. There are some traditional cotton out shells though that can offer a considerable level of protection. See Empire Canvas Works or anything made of stotz etaproof/Ventile, a serious alternative to Polyurethane-membrane-employing materials, such as Gore Tex ProShell, GT Performance, GE eVent or similar.

  8. #28
    New In Town UWEZ's Avatar
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    Here in Mongolia the most extreme temperature that I faced was -45 oC during night. At these temperatures I wear a wool cap, my 23 year old B-3, fleece shawl, cashmere sweater, jeans, silk longjohns, camel hair socks, boots with insulating insole and löbster type handgloves. With this gear I did already some 6 hours dog-sledding w/o any problems. Of course some whiskey or vodka help to warm from the inside in moderate portions as well.

  9. #29
    One of the Regulars subject101's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yeps View Post
    Was this about expedition wear?
    Any experience is welcome I guess the most common situation for most of us is whenever we have to go from home to work under extreme conditions. However, you can get stuck on snow when driving back home in the middle of road. Then you're out in the wilderness

    Quote Originally Posted by Ace Rimmer View Post
    In short, if you sweat you die.
    Amazing post, I have learnt a lot. In fact, one of my main issues with synthetic layering is that I start to sweat pretty fast. First time I came across the 'thermal management' concept.

  10. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by subject101 View Post
    ...it's all about layering and not about heavy coats.
    It can be about either. It not only depends on the exterior temperature, but on the length of time you will be out and the degree of activity you undertake. Expeditions demand specialist clothing, but there's nothing like a big heavy coat for (say) watching a winter game when one is outside for a long time but is relatively inactive.
    With respect to "cotton kills" as expressed in another posting on this thread. Cotton undergarments are clearly undesirable when there's exertion in cold weather because of the sweating problem, but windproof cotton overgarments are great in cold dry conditions - ask any Norwegian. The thread mentioning Grenfell Cloth and Ventile is very informative on this point.

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