Arctic Adventure Clothing Advice
So you're off to see Santa with the kids. Or maybe even on your own, you big kid you......
Or perhaps it's that bucket list adventure of a lifetime to see the Northern Lights in Svalbard or a couple of nights in one of the fantastic Ice Hotels that spring up during the winter season or maybe it's simply off skiing for that adrenalin fueled active break.
Whatever your winter adventure, there is one thing you need to do right and that is to pack the right clothing for what could be some of the coldest conditions you may ever encounter.
We don't want to be too dramatic but extreme cold is not pleasant if you're not prepared. But take the right gear and it will be a delight. The Arctic region is as beautiful as it is dangerous and if you think you've felt the cold in the UK when you get that far north it's far more severe.
The Scandinavians have a saying...."There is no such thing as bad weather.....only bad clothing". The weather can change from relatively pleasant and even feeling warm in the sun, to incredible cold in a matter of minutes, so don't get caught out.
But you can ensure you enjoy the trip by kitting yourself out with the right gear. We have a rule here at Baselayer and that is this....."Always be warm, it's easy to cool down but warming up when you are cold in that kind of environment is extremely hard to do".
Consider your body as a central heating system. Your "Core" or torso and large muscle groups, is the boiler that you need to keep stoked and fired up. We do this by eating to give it fuel and my moving to work the heart and force warm blood around the body. Even talking generates core heat!
Then your hands, feet and head......these are your radiators. When your boiler is working and is insulated well to retain its generated heat, the boiler will send warm blood around your heating system and to the radiators. If these are also well insulated, then you will keep more of your body heat where you need it.
If you need to cool down simply remove some of the insulation from the radiators and open the insulation on the "boiler"....you'll be surprised how quickly you'll lose excess heat.
The trick to regulating your body's temperature is layers. Three or four layers is the norm depending on conditions and your first port of call is a Next to Skin Thermal Base Layer for both the top half and the legs. These are a must have and choosing the warmest range is always the best option.
The most important part of your kit.....don't scrimp here, you'll regret it. But do buy for longevity not just for this one off trip. Think longer term for additional use when you get home. You have choices of fabric from Wool or Wool Blend to Synthetics but avoid cotton at all costs. If you are considering Wool next to the skin, then choose ultra-fine Merino Wool as this will be the softest option due to the type of fibres that Merino sheep produce that ensures no itchy feeling.
One rule here......don't buy cheap Merino Wool it'll be "cheap" for a very good reason. It's often from un-ethical and un-traceable sources and from lowland bred sheep meaning the fibres are harsh to the touch and very often the yarn is not pre-shrunk so it may look good initially but will very likely shrink after the first wash.
Genuine ethical Merino Wool lasts a long time without the need to wash it as it contains lanolin which is the natural oil within the fibres that eradicate bacteria that can cause fabric odours. So in principal you could easily take just one set for a week away and wear it every day without any unpleasant odour effects.
That said you may want a day time set and an evening set depending on your plans rather than sitting around all evening in the same set you've been wearing all day. Then just hang the daytime set overnight to dry ready for the next day's adventure.
Averse to wool? Not a problem as there is plenty of synthetic options out there also. Again we advise to consider the warmest options you can. Most brands use an anti-bacterial treatment in their synthetic ranges that will still allow you to wear a set for a week or even longer without washing them. Silver Ionisation or a chemical enhancement are the two most used solutions here. Odlo do a fantastic range from their Natural Plus X-Warm collection to the less sophisticated Active X-Warm Originals range which both use the Silver Ion method that stays put.
P.S. Don't forget your pants either......anything except cotton as cotton retains moisture and will get very, very cold. It's pointless getting warm then having your nether regions as cold as ice. Men's Sports Underwear or Women's Sports Underwear is perfect as they will keep moisture away from the skin. You may even want to consider some thermal boxers for extra warmth downstairs which is often of particular interest to men!
A Layer 2 or Mid-Layer is an essential addition over your base layer. Clearly these will not be next to the skin therefore there is a wider choice available. When buying a mid-layer, think about after use. You can spend anything from £30 to £200 on a mid layer from half zips to hybrid jackets and wool or synthetic options. Here too Cotton can be a consideration as the garment won't be next to the skin so is less likely to get too damp.
Your final piece is the outer layer often called a shell layer or Layer 3 and will be the most expensive purchase you will likely make but many travel companies will often provide this shell layer as part of your trip. This will usually be something like Helly Hansen, North Face or Odlo all of whom make some fantastic outer layers with superb weather defence properties and thermal properties. Little tip here....if you trawl the Net late Ski season there are always bargains to be had......
This is also true of the legs where a good pair of Salopettes or Ski Pants is a very good option. But if these are not supplied or you feel it will be too much particularly during the evenings, then a pair of Thermal Trousers is a great addition to the packing list. Wear these over a regular pair of thermal leggings and they are also very useful when you get back home too as they look and feel life regular trousers.
Golf trousers are a good source here as many brands manufacture thermally lined regular trousers for winter golf.
Now you're geared up for your body so let's deal with the rest of you. Head, Hands and Feet.....these are the most vulnerable areas as they are either very exposed to the weather or literally stand in the ice itself.
For the head where you will lose huge amounts of heat, any good Wool or Synthetic headwear will do the job but if you intend to ski or will be wearing a safety helmet for any part of your trip, avoid anything with a bobble....it's a bit uncomfortable under a helmet! There's also the option of a Face Mask or Snood. These are a good idea as they can be used across the face as well as just loose around the neck like a scarf. There are even some Baselayers with face masks integrated.
Your hands are critical and often people's biggest concern. Consider this solution as it works extremely well. Buy Wool or Synthetic Liner Gloves and wear these under a good pair of Ski Gloves or Mitts (ideal for little kids BTW). Then if and when you need to use your hands for something delicate like....drinking, you simply need to slip off your thick ski gloves and your liner gloves can stay put so your bare skin won't be exposed to the elements.
Socks.....the biggest discussion we end up having with people planning a trip like this. Again, do the "layering" trick. If you have a good liner sock either Merino Wool or Synthetic, you can over-lay these with a good pair of Heavyweight Merino Wool Socks. A good hiking sock is ideal and go for the heaviest weight you can. Remember also, the liners can be worn as regular work socks when you get back home.
However if you are skiing as well, the heavyweight socks used for hiking around won't work. You will need a Ski Sock because your boots for skiing will be closer fitting and your thick socks coupled with close fitting ski boots, will be too tight and if your feet are constricted, the blood flow will reduce and your feet will get cold. Simple rule here.....loose socks and big boots work best for keeping the feet warm. Never constrict the feet as this is what makes them cold.
For the eyes do take sun-glasses and do so for all the family including the kids. Bright sun and white snow will cause major glare and potential eye damage if you don't take precautions. You don't need to over-spend here unless you want to but a good pair of tinted Polymer polarised lens glasses will do the trick.
Finally....don't over-spend. It's easy to get carried away and we will happily supply you as much as you need and want but if you can beg, borrow or steal (well maybe not steal....) then do so. Some gear may never get used again so buying for practicality and longevity makes perfect sense.
We are here to help. We have been doing this stuff since 2003 and we kind of know our market. If you want to chat this through then just call, we'll be happy to hear from you or drop us an email and we can reply to that.
Other than that, have a fantastic time.....we're jealous already! Phone: (+44) (0) 1689 603675 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org