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
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.
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
-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.