How do loungers deal with extreme cold weather?

Discussion in 'Outerwear' started by subject101, Mar 14, 2011.

  1. Peacoat

    Peacoat Bartender Bartender

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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.
     
  2. Ace Rimmer

    Ace Rimmer One of the Regulars

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    Location:
    Philadelphia, PA
    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. lol

    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:

    [​IMG]

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

    [​IMG]

    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: Mar 15, 2011
  3. Yeps

    Yeps Call Me a Cab

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    2,456
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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.
     
  4. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    Australia
    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: Mar 15, 2011
  5. John Lever

    John Lever One Too Many

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    1,603
    Location:
    Southern England
    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. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    London, UK
    Can you move under that lot? ;)

    lol

    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: Mar 15, 2011
  7. eClairvaux

    eClairvaux One of the Regulars

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    Location:
    Monaco di Baviera
    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. UWEZ

    UWEZ New in Town

    Messages:
    40
    Location:
    Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
    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. subject101

    subject101 One of the Regulars

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    Location:
    Mennoniteborough
    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 :)

    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. Hal

    Hal Practically Family

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    590
    Location:
    UK
    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.
     
  11. Corky

    Corky Practically Family

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    505
    Location:
    West Los Angeles
    I decided to beat the cold weather by moving to Southern California.
     
  12. Mr Badger

    Mr Badger Practically Family

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    Location:
    Somerset, UK
    Thankfully, temperatures have now started to rise to a very pleasant level, but it was -9C here in Somerset on Christmas Day and below zero for most of the Winter months.

    I habitually wear Jaxon Big Apple caps in herringbone tweed, which kept my noggin nice and warm, until the winds really started to blow and then I though my ears were gonna fall off! So I nabbed myself a mid-1950s US Army MQ-1 field cap (aka a 'bunny' cap) for a few sheckels off Ebay, which kept my lugholes toasty! Here's me gurning, unshaven, during the time when our heating and hot water went kaput over Christmas! Not a pretty sight! :D

    [​IMG]

    Mostly, I layered up with an undershirt, cotton shirt, wool five-button GI sweater/wool cardigan/Cowichan, then topped it off with a scarf and lined leather gloves, and either my 1940s double-breasted Crombie overcoat or wool-lined Barnstormer, depending on whether it was actually snowing or not...

    I can see the advantage of such modern materials as Thinsulate, etc, but the styles of clothing that employ 'em — YEUCH! :eeek:
     
  13. Ace Rimmer

    Ace Rimmer One of the Regulars

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    Location:
    Philadelphia, PA
    Actually, I think Scott is a great example in support of using natural materials (for the day and age). His "opponent", Roald Amundsen, owes a large part of his success to his adaptation of the methods and materials used by the natives of the far north.

    If one goes by Roland Huntford's "The Last Place on Earth", Amundsen's party was clothed largely with furs and skins obtained from native populations in the Arctic. They obviously did not have nylon or Gore-Tex so for outerwear they used reindeer fur garments. Even so, they observed (or perhaps originated!) the basic principles of layering with loose fitting garments.

    In particular, the natives used reindeer fur jackets with the fur side facing inward. Not only does this have the benefit of trapping air on the side closer to the wearer (thus increasing warmth), it has the additional benefit of keeping the fur side dry as it was not directly exposed to snow or rain.

    Another great advantage of natural materials is that they will not melt and stick to your skin if they catch afire. While one hopes never to self-immolate during an expedition, you never know when one may spill some white gas out of a fuel bottle in one's tent while trying to boil water for coffee. lol

    Recently, two famous mountaineers recreated Ernest Shackleton's famous march across the Antarctic using only "period" gear. I'm not quite sure if they eschewed modern safety gear (e.g. crampons) but they wanted to try and recreate the event as much as possible. They made it and suffered no fatalities. To their credit, both were world-class mountaineers -- one was Conrad Anker, one of the climbers who recently discovered George Mallory's body on Mt. Everest -- so obviously it is not recommended that even moderately experienced mountaineers try a similar stunt. (N.B. empirical evidence from the discovery did not support the contention that Mallory made it to the top of Everest, thereby preserving the claim of Hillary/Norgay as the first men to reach the roof of the world.)

    Today you will still find natural materials in use in modern mountaineering. Hikers (including myself) swear by Columbia Smartwool socks. Goose down jackets are still widely used as the outermost layer when one is forced into inactivity (e.g. during a belay), and in many cold-weather expedition sleeping bags. However, beyond those two natural materials the synthetics are king and for good reason.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2011
  14. Ace Rimmer

    Ace Rimmer One of the Regulars

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    Location:
    Philadelphia, PA
    I only wish that Mother Nature wouldn't invoke Murphy's Law with such frequency, otherwise I would heartily agree with you. :(

    I recall a fall trip in the White Mountains of New Hampshire about four years ago when my party started out from base with bright blue skies and warm weather. By the time we had ascended around 3,000 feet from base camp, the remnants of a tropical storm had hit the summit cone. Fog cut visibility to less than twenty feet and then the rains came. The journey down the mountain (which normally takes around three hours on foot in good weather) was not very fun.

    A scant few months ago I was doing some ice climbing (with a bit of mixed rock) in the same area (different mountain). This time Mother Nature threw a different curveball at us. We did a multi-pitch climb with overcast gray skies in the morning. By mid afternoon, we were greeted by bright blue skies and warmer temperatures ... but then the ice started to melt. :eeek:

    Not only did this cause rivulets of water to start flowing down the ice (which soaked our gloves, boots and pants) but the melting ice overhanging our heads created a mini-rainstorm. No ice fell upon us, thankfully, but it was quite comical walking back to the car with water all over our clothes ... and not a drop of "rain" had fallen from the sky the entire day. lol

    Cotton overgarments, even if waxed and windproof, will eventually soak through. Not only does this become an extreme liability because the cotton garment has then lost all insulating power, wet cotton will weigh you down. At the very least, modern synthetic Gore-Tex garments won't soak through -- and synthetic fleece, even when wet, will still insulate you against the cold.

    Personally I've been burned too many times by Mother Nature to trust cotton in any cold weather situation. She can be very fickle indeed.
     
  15. Akubra Man

    Akubra Man One of the Regulars

    You can go hi-tech with all the new fabrics which will serve you well. Another option is the Down filled coat which will keep you warm in the coldest weather. However, if you prefer a traditional or vintage look, choose a Shearling coat. While not inexpensive, Shearling will age very well and take on a nice aged look over time with wear. I live in a true winter city where January through March will often see -35 C when wind chill is factored. I have worn my Shearling coat for the past 23 years and used it to keep warm on sleigh rides and tubing runs and with a wool sweater underneath never felt a chill. My felt pac boots failed soonest and ended my outdoor time early before the rest of me was cold. Buying in off season will save you some money but expect to pay a good dollar for a quality Shearling but you can expect it to last for many winters.
     
  16. gyrobroyeur

    gyrobroyeur Familiar Face

    Messages:
    75
    Location:
    France.
    IMO cold weather is a pretext for wearing old heavy vintage clothes we love.
    For me:
    ANJ4 (eastman)
    Irvin modified (ALC)
    RN Duffle coat
    M51 fishtail parka
    Barbour Beaufort or Moorland with lining.
    Cheers
     
  17. ButteMT61

    ButteMT61

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    Sure, if you're smaller than a size 48!
    If you're in the 50-54 range (I'm 52/54) there's almost nothing. Even most of the custom shops won't do those sizes. :(
     
  18. gyrobroyeur

    gyrobroyeur Familiar Face

    Messages:
    75
    Location:
    France.
    Not totaly true: I'm sure you can find a RN duffle coat (size 2 or 3) or a fishtail (size L) that suit to you: they are huge...
     
  19. sinawalli

    sinawalli New in Town

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    Canada
    It's been -30 to -40C a few times here this winter! I wear my US Authentic A2 with a hoodie, but if I'm outside for awhile, it's the heavy duty Carhartt with a hoodie!
     
  20. subject101

    subject101 One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    223
    Location:
    Mennoniteborough
    I didn't quite catch this :rolleyes: Do you go out with an A-2 and a hoodie at -40C? :eeek:
     

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