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Arctic Blast 2001

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Animals of the arctic can survive because of their heavy coats of fur or thick layers of fat, but humans do not have that same natural protection. Inuit people living in the Arctic regions along the coastline of Alaska, Canada, Russia, and Scandinavia traditionally used sealskin, caribou, or polar bear fur to keep warm during the long cold winters.

Inuit women are very skilled at preparing the hides and sewing the clothing for their families. Two layers of caribou fur - an inner layer against the skin and an outer layer that faces the cold air - can keep a hunter warm in the most extreme conditions - even an Inuit hunter who has to lie on the ice for hours waiting for a seal to appear.

But, traditional clothing would be far too warm for the team to wear because the team members are very active, whereas if you were hunting for seal and lying on the ice for hours it would more be appropriate. The team members skiing, running, chopping ice, setting up camp would easily overheat if they wore thick fur clothing. Instead, our team uses a layering system of modern clothing.

"Layering," as the word implies, means wearing multiple layers of clothes when it is cold and removing them when you warm up. It is also important to remember not to overdress. This will cause you to perspire, making your clothes wet, and you become chilled faster. There are three essential layers:

1. Long Underware. This is the layer that is in direct contact with skin; therefore, the material must be able to wick away moisture. Tight fitting underwear made from polypropylene or similar synthetic material works well.

2. Insulating layer.  The next layer is usually fleece or wool. Fleece also wicks away moisture and unlike to wool, it dries quickly when once wet. If the weather proves to be extremely cold, the team will add additional layers of fleece or perhaps even a light down jacket.  The first layer plus the second equals the Inner layer.

3. Shell.  The outer layer or shell protects the team from wind and snow.  Gore-Tex, Supplex, or similar material is excellent. Even in extreme cold, it is very durable and windproof. In these conditions,  perspiration will condense on the inside of the jacket stopping the evaporation process. The team members simply brush off the ice at the end of each day to restore it.

These three can be combined to achieve the amount of warmth when needed either for inactive or cold periods, or used separately depending on the temperature, weather conditions and activity level.

We wear Mukluks on our feet which are very warm. The bottoms are made of moose hide with a durable, flexible rubber sole.  This allows your foot to move (every time you take a step the foot actually bends) -  increasing your blood flow so your feet are toasty warm no matter the temperature. Also since it is hide, the boots  breathe, allowing "sweat" to escape so your feet stay dry, an important part of staying warm. Finally, they are less than half the weight of traditional "pack" type boots.

Tips for staying warm
-70 % of your body heat is lost through your head. Once your head is exposed, and cools off to a certain degree, your body's natural reaction is to "shut down" blood flow to your extremities i.e. your hands and feet. In other words: put on a hat!

-Body heat does not come from the outside. But from the inside. It is your blood flow that keeps you warm. If you are cold you have to increase the heat production from the inside = increase your blood flow. Clothing is simply just an insulating factor!

-Think of your body as a car. Gas and oil. Gas is food, oil is a liquid. Without enough food to burn, you become cold. Without adequate amounts of liquid you simply seize up! Sounds simple, but as everything else in the wilderness, it is more extreme. The arctic air is very, very dry and it is easy to become dehydrated.When it is cold it does not seem natural to drink, as when it is very hot & humid, though it is actually even more important.


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