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Warm Feet

28 January 2021

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Every now and then I get some work advising people on what clothing to wear for extreme conditions. This has included film companies, TV, such as the Discovery Channel, as well as people heading off on extreme holidays. Often the advice you give is to first get the person doing the asking to reconsider the question. When someone asks about his film crew, who are heading to Siberia in winter, having sleeping bags that go down to -60 degrees, you first have to ask them some questions; like have you ever camped outside (the answer is often no), do you know how cold it is inside your fridge’s freezer compartment? Answer: -18° C. You point out that you should do what the natives do, both in dress and custom, and you will notice that non of them camp out at -60 degrees C. Generally my focus is on hands, feet and face, as the rest of the body can be more easily protected, and sometimes I talk about equipment, such as you need indoor and outdoor cameras, and that auto is your best friend when wearing huge mittens (and watch your eye does not stick to your camera’s viewfinder!). I once put a film crew in a freezer set at -30 deg C to demonstrate what it would be like in Alaska, and even though I forewarned them, no of them put on the heavyweight kit I had on offer, but just fleeces, the odd stylish French silk scarf, and tiny wool gloves. Within 60 seconds they were banging on the door to be let out, and within another, when I let them out, they got the lesson, returning to the fridge looking like they had on EOD suits. Footwear is an easy option, and again, look at what the locals wear, which tends to be a cross between US military rubber ‘Bunny boots’, pack boots (Baffin etc), and mukluks, where are far superior to both, due to being very light, flexible and soft, and highly insulated. Hands are also easy, just mitts both thick, and mitts that are thin, and forget the gloves (Inuit hunters didn’t wear gloves). Face wise, the buff does a good job, as well as neck gators (use a 2 later system, with a close-fitting wool one under a baggy fleece one). You can also use various face masks (UK army winter mask is very good), or go high end with a Cold Avenger one.

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