Surviving in the Arctic can be a difficult task if you don’t go fully prepared for the cold, harsh conditions that are present in that part of the world. The best way to cope in the Arctic environment is to have the best clothes for the job, and that means wearing the right materials. Simply wearing a bunch of layers isn’t going to benefit you greatly if they’ve not been made for the purpose of keeping you warm in the cold.
Here are some of the clothing options you should consider if you’re planning a trip to the Arctic.
The Base Layer
The base layer is the layer that’s closest to the body, meaning that if you have the wrong material here then you’re likely to still feel the cold despite whatever you wear on top of it. So stay away from cotton, basically, because it won’t dry when it absorbs moisture and will leave you feeling damp and cold.
Go for something thermal or compression-based like merino wool or the more affordable polyester. The latter may be thin, but it’s extremely effective at moving perspiration from up to the middle layer, while the former feels nice and warm against the skin.
Needless to say, whichever of these materials you go for, you’ll want something long-sleeved on your top-half.
The Middle Layer (s)
Considered as the main form of insulation for your Arctic outfit, the middle layer can be made up of several layers depending on your expected level of activity and whether or not you’re someone who feels the cold easily. It’s important that however many you choose, they’re all capable of transferring moisture away from your body just like the base layer. For this reason, clothing made from wool or polyester are again very effective, as well as man-made fibres like fleece.
There are several choices that you can go for with this layer, depending on what you’d prefer. Under suits, like that which a diver would wear, can provide great warmth and provide a reliable outer layer for very short trips outside. Due to their bulky structure, though, these suits can be difficult to wear layers on top of and may hinder movement with additional clothing on top.
Instead of this, you can opt for something more traditional like a fleece tracksuit. These still provide a considerable level of comfort and do what’s expected of them, although they may work best with an additional thin shirt or jumper if you’re someone who’s more affected by the cold.
The Outer Layer
This is the layer you’re probably most used to seeing because it’s the one that goes on top of everything else. What you wear here will need to defend against the wind and snow which can become pretty harsh up in the Arctic, although it doesn’t necessarily need to be waterproof. This is because waterproof garments can affect your ability to keep warm by allowing moisture to build up on the inside.
Quilted down jackets or parkas are the best way to go as they’re thick and puffy, and it’s the air trapped inside of the coats own layers that works to keep you warm. Ski jackets can also work well provided you’re smart with your base and middle layers, just make sure that they’re big enough to cover your other layers. Insulated over trousers or leggings might be a good accompaniment to ensure that your entire body is receiving warmth and not just your top half.
Finding the right footwear for the Arctic can be hard, but it’s vital that you pick the correct thing to wear for trudging through the snow. If the boots you choose are poorly insulated, you’ll find your feet will get cold very quickly.
If your expedition is going to involve a lot of walking across the snow then arctic boots are what you want, and there are two types to choose from. You can either wear lightweight boots which bear similarities to hiking boots but have better internal insulation, or longer wellington style boots that have a fixed or removable thermal liner. For the former, be sure to check that the insulation is at least 10mm thick so that it will provide enough warmth when you’re out in the Arctic. However, if you want sufficient warmth, the latter is usually the best choice to go for, especially as a removable liner makes it easy to dry if it gets damp.
In terms of socks, a single pair of thick wool or polyester should be enough to keep the cold away. Although you can double up on this layer to increase insulation, this can end up being too tight and would reduce blood flow to your feet which would actually make them feel colder.
All these layers we’ve talked about are great for covering most of your body, but there are some parts that are still left exposed to the cold even with all of this.
Keeping your head warm is essential when you go the Arctic because it’s where you can lose up to 20% of your body heat. Having a hood on your outer layer is fairly important, but as with everything else layers are the way to go. Go for a hat made with fur or wool for the best outcome – the thicker the better.
Make sure to combine this with either a scarf or fleece balaclava to keep your face protected from the cold. The latter is preferable because it’s can either cover your face or be pulled down under your chin depending on the temperature around you.
You also need to consider how to keep your hands warm, although this can be quite difficult. Thick gloves are good, but they can make movement a problem which is not ideal if you’re going to be using your hands on your expedition. Mittens are your best bet really, especially if you choose a large pair because you can wear microfibre fleece gloves underneath. Be sure to pick a pair with big cuffs that extend up past your wrist to keep this area warm if you’re going to be riding a vehicle through the snow. After all, the last thing you want is to get frostbite on your hands.
James is a passionate scriptwriter and reluctant poet with a talent for the dystopian. His love for cold weather sports and hiking in the winter gives him the enthusiasm for writing about keeping warm.