Tuesday, November 21

How to Dress for Cold, with Weird Winter-Wear Words Explained.

In September I received an email from a reader in Phoenix or Switzerland (I can't remember which of those closely related locations)asking me to post something on what people in the Yukon wear when they have to be outside for a long time during -40° weather. It was still nice out when I got the email, and I wasn't in the mood to think about warm clothing for cold weather back then, but now my son has provided me with a photo of typical Yukon cold weather clothing, so I'm posting the answer to the question.

Here is a picture of my son and his caribou hunting partners. It was cold up there on the Dempster Highway, they had to be out for hours at a time, and this is what they wore. Should you need to inspect things a little closer, you clan click on the photo for the larger view.

As you can see--and I bet you've heard this before--the key to warmth is layers. Pile them on. They're wearing nothing unusual, at least nothing unusual for people who live where they have winter; they're just wearing more of it: tuque or belaclava (the knit or fleece hat or facemask, for those who don't know the language), mitts or gloves, scarf, hood, sweaters or polar fleece tops, long johns, parka. On the bottom half that you can't see they probably have some sort of pants with a water and wind resistant outer shell, and a large cold-weather boot, like Sorels with warm liners.

Do you want to see what I wear for my everyday cold weather activities? That's me, in the background on the left, wearing my Yukon parka. Yukon parkas used to be made right here in the Yukon, but unfortunately, you can't get them anymore. What you see there is made of heavy blanket wool with a satin liner, and fur trim (or ruff) around the hood and bottom. There's an outer liner, too, that I'm not wearing, made of heavy water resistant fabric. That outer liner is called a duffel, while the underneath, warmer wool part (what you see me wearing in the photo) is called the stroud. These were the original two piece-three way coat system that you see all the big outdoorsy brands copying now. I like my Yukon parka because I can stay warm without looking like a marshmallow--like a mini-marshmallow, maybe, but certainly not the larger, campfire roasting sort. (See more northen-made parka styles. My personal favorite is the Mother Hubbard, another two-piece system.)

Now, if I were from Phoenix or Switzerland, and I read all that, the first question that would come to my mind is this one: Isn't it really expensive to outfit yourself like that? The answer is yes, if you have to go out and buy all the stuff all at once; but no, if you've accumulated a whole large closet full of winter clothes over twenty plus years. And it's even less expensive if a good portion of what's in your winter closet was purchased at the local Salvation Army thrift store. Thankfully, fashionablility doesn't play into things when you're dressing for forty below, which means your ten year old boots and Salvation Army parka will do just fine, especially if you buy new liners for those boots every once in a while.

The second question I'd have, I think, would be, "Isn't it tiring to walk around with all that stuff on?" The answer to that is "Yes, and you can't run very fast, either."

Do you have any more questions about cold weather wear? Or any other northern-life questions?