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Dressing for -25 to -30C (-13 to -22F)

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  • Dressing for -25 to -30C (-13 to -22F)

    Last weekend's cold spell around here (to -30C, though mostly closer to -20C) provided some opportunities for testing gear and finding out what I have which is and is not warm enough for being out in those temperatures. I'm sure those of you who live in interior Alaska, much of Canada, or the Midwest find this rather amusing but, hey, here in the Pacific Northwest the Rockies block most of the cold air. So we live a deprived life. Plus the last time it got this cold at home I missed out as I happened to be in Death Valley where it was 50 degrees warmer.

    Basically what I found is my current set of layers (thermals, fleece, down jacket, shells, nothing special gloves and liners, light balaclava, etc.) stretches to -20C. Warmer gloves, down pants, and some balaclava and hat changes should make it rather more solid. However, rather than guessing what'd be good I thought I'd ask what folks who are regularly out in -30C like to wear. I'm aware of 6000 and 8000 meter mountaineering gear, Canada Goose's TEI system, less pricey cold weather boots from Baffin, Sorel, and so on. However, it's proving difficult to find reviews which are specific about what temperatures the reviewer used what in. I'm mostly looking to be active on day trips or around town but margin for trouble (responding to an injury, working on the car, pipes, and such) is important.

    There are two things in particular I'm curious about. One is the balaclava, iced up glasses/goggles, hood extension, warm air pocket thing. My current clava doesn't have any sort of nose or mouth port so, bam, instant blindness upon breathing. This is easy to fix so far as the clava goes but I'm finding there's quite a bit of complexity around thermostatting clavas, hats, down jacket hoods, and the shell hood to avoid sweating. Seems like this inevitably involves up and down with the shell hood and consequent loss of any warm air in front of one's face. Plus none of my hoods are that deep, so the warm air pocket's not all that great to start with. Upshot is breathing starts to get kind of cold around -25C and my nose gets somewhat numb. I can mitigate this by using the clava to create a warm air pocket but then either I can't see or my eyes get cold. Not a good arrangement either way for avoiding frostbite, superficial (frostnip) or otherwise. So I'm curious how other folks deal with this. Everything I've read suggests getting a good enough seal with goggles to prevent icing is tricky at best, which is in abundant agreement with my personal experience.

    The other is footwear. I have T3s, T2Xes, and Dynafilt MLTs. Starting around -20C all of them get cold through the shells, liners, and couple pairs of warm socks. The soles and areas covered by gaiters are OK, so the issue is mainly cold coming through to the top of the forefoot and eventually getting cold toes as well. In principle warmers are an easy fix but I'm not so cold that warmers wouldn't result in sweating. So I'm wondering about more insulative options rather than chemical packs. I'm aware of boot wraps and overboots but there obvious compatibility problems between them and bindings. Cutting them away to attach to a metal heat sink otherwise known as a binding doesn't seem terribly attractive either. There's usually not that much snow where I live when it gets properly cold so, on some levels, I'd be content with more of just a walking or hiking solution. 6000 meter boots are pretty expensive but there are lots of lower cost cold weather boots whose soles have better traction than the ski boots I have. Another lower cost but more versatile option would be something like an Intuition Denali liner. I'm quite curious how other folks have solved this so please do share.
    Sierra Nevada red fox | Cascades Carnivore Project

  • #2
    How about one pair of decent socks? Seems like a couple pair of warm socks would cut off circulation, at least in my experience. I you can comfortably fit a couple pair of warm socks in your ski boots they may be too big. Also from what I've gathered talking with friends is, the MLT boots are cold.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by twest820 View Post
      Last weekend's cold spell around here (to -30C, though mostly closer to -20C) provided some opportunities for testing gear and finding out what I have which is and is not warm enough for being out in those temperatures. I'm sure those of you who live in interior Alaska, much of Canada, or the Midwest find this rather amusing but, hey, here in the Pacific Northwest the Rockies block most of the cold air. So we live a deprived life. Plus the last time it got this cold at home I missed out as I happened to be in Death Valley where it was 50 degrees warmer.

      Basically what I found is my current set of layers (thermals, fleece, down jacket, shells, nothing special gloves and liners, light balaclava, etc.) stretches to -20C. Warmer gloves, down pants, and some balaclava and hat changes should make it rather more solid. However, rather than guessing what'd be good I thought I'd ask what folks who are regularly out in -30C like to wear. I'm aware of 6000 and 8000 meter mountaineering gear, Canada Goose's TEI system, less pricey cold weather boots from Baffin, Sorel, and so on. However, it's proving difficult to find reviews which are specific about what temperatures the reviewer used what in. I'm mostly looking to be active on day trips or around town but margin for trouble (responding to an injury, working on the car, pipes, and such) is important.

      There are two things in particular I'm curious about. One is the balaclava, iced up glasses/goggles, hood extension, warm air pocket thing. My current clava doesn't have any sort of nose or mouth port so, bam, instant blindness upon breathing. This is easy to fix so far as the clava goes but I'm finding there's quite a bit of complexity around thermostatting clavas, hats, down jacket hoods, and the shell hood to avoid sweating. Seems like this inevitably involves up and down with the shell hood and consequent loss of any warm air in front of one's face. Plus none of my hoods are that deep, so the warm air pocket's not all that great to start with. Upshot is breathing starts to get kind of cold around -25C and my nose gets somewhat numb. I can mitigate this by using the clava to create a warm air pocket but then either I can't see or my eyes get cold. Not a good arrangement either way for avoiding frostbite, superficial (frostnip) or otherwise. So I'm curious how other folks deal with this. Everything I've read suggests getting a good enough seal with goggles to prevent icing is tricky at best, which is in abundant agreement with my personal experience.

      The other is footwear. I have T3s, T2Xes, and Dynafilt MLTs. Starting around -20C all of them get cold through the shells, liners, and couple pairs of warm socks. The soles and areas covered by gaiters are OK, so the issue is mainly cold coming through to the top of the forefoot and eventually getting cold toes as well. In principle warmers are an easy fix but I'm not so cold that warmers wouldn't result in sweating. So I'm wondering about more insulative options rather than chemical packs. I'm aware of boot wraps and overboots but there obvious compatibility problems between them and bindings. Cutting them away to attach to a metal heat sink otherwise known as a binding doesn't seem terribly attractive either. There's usually not that much snow where I live when it gets properly cold so, on some levels, I'd be content with more of just a walking or hiking solution. 6000 meter boots are pretty expensive but there are lots of lower cost cold weather boots whose soles have better traction than the ski boots I have. Another lower cost but more versatile option would be something like an Intuition Denali liner. I'm quite curious how other folks have solved this so please do share.
      Well, good on ya for getting out and experimenting a little. I think you'll find that even the toughest of leathernecks don't stay out for that long in those extreme of temps. A shelter, a fire, or some kind of chemical/battery powered warmers become common interventions. There are specialized (read expensive) solutions. Down over boots for plastic mountaineering boots are one solution for feet. I've heard great things about the military spec Mickey boots too. Here's a review on heat exchange rebreather masks:

      http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/...67523683424564

      I think they're becoming more common on human powered polar jaunts.

      Be careful stretching your comfort zone. Frostbite sucks. And it only gets worse after the first time.

      Comment


      • #4
        We had an opportunity to enjoy some pretty cold air around here last week ourselves. Being just foolish enough to think it would keep the less hardy (or saner!) folk off the ski hill, naturally we went. Maybe this is weird, but I kind of like opportunities to tweak my clothing system when the risk is low - like being able to run for the cover of a lodge for hot chocolate after 2-3 runs.

        Here's what has worked: best new find this year is this lower face mask. I picked it up thinking to try it as an alternative to the neoprene things that shoot warm moist air right up into goggles/glasses, and it seems to work pretty well. It is breathable enough to actually vent as you exhale, and it kept my nose and mouth comfortable in wind chills approaching -35 degrees F. Other reviewers seem to have different experiences, but I like it. Might be worth a try.

        I am still trying to get feet comfortable in temps like that. The best I've been able to do so far is thin liner socks, merino wool ski socks, a merino Superfeet footbed, and neoprene Boot Gloves over the top. You don't have to cut much to use the Boot Gloves, just a tiny slit to attach a ski leash if you're using one. And they don't interfere with tele bindings, at least that I've used.

        I have dabbled a bit with using Capsaicin creme on toes, but am not convinced it's a smart thing to do. (Like maybe you are shor tcircuiting something very important that your brain is trying to tell you, like "IT'S TOO COLD OUT HERE YOU IDIOT GET INSIDE WITH THE OTHER SMART PEOPLE!")

        Nice to see you here, twest820!

        Comment


        • #5
          Heya, QQ! This summer's kayak excitement consisted mainly of not sinking. Purple puddles and pyros are way better; hopefully your trips have been less eventful...

          Thanks for the mask suggestion. I'm stopping by the Seattle flagship in a couple days; will check it out. I've looked at the Serius balaclavas REI sells which use a similar nose and mouth arrangement as that Gore mask. These seem like they could get too warm, though my experience with my fairly hefty fleece toque suggests probably not until single positive digits (said toque happens to be aqua, so I came *this* close to signing up as Aqua Toque 2). I'm not a fan of neoprene either but Serius' fleece lined neoprene seemed pretty decent trying it on in the store. Friends of mine who've been out climbing down to -35C use Mountain Hardware clavas quite similar to the current Airshield, which offers slightly different tradeoffs from Serius's design.

          I'd seen the BootGloves. Good to know they clearance tele bindings.

          Originally posted by QuiverQueen View Post
          IT'S TOO COLD OUT HERE YOU IDIOT GET INSIDE WITH THE OTHER SMART PEOPLE!
          That probably really is the best solution.

          Originally posted by Matt J View Post
          Down over boots for plastic mountaineering boots are one solution for feet. I've heard great things about the military spec Mickey boots too. Here's a review on heat exchange rebreather masks
          Yep, yep, and yep. I would probably go with a more modern design than the Mickeys for removable liners, lighter weight, not requiring a pump, and other conveniences. The rebreather reviews I've read come out pretty mixed due to fogging and icing issues. For -70C in the Antarctic heat exchangers with tubes which run down the arm are used. Extreme for -25C but the approach seems like it'd work better than trying to fit everything in a face mounted unit.

          Originally posted by airinwrite View Post
          If you can comfortably fit a couple pair of warm socks in your ski boots they may be too big.
          Yeah they're a little sloppy, though that's more to do with the T3 and MLT liners being packed out. These are fleece socks rather than thick wool socks and, as best I can tell, should be about optimal with regards to insulating volume versus loft for effectiveness. Thanks for the positioning data on the MLTs.
          Sierra Nevada red fox | Cascades Carnivore Project

          Comment


          • #6
            10-15 beow F is pretty common around here. Here's a couple of things I've learned.

            Mittens are mandatory. Let's the fingers warm each other. Black Diamond Mercury Mitts or something similar. Outdoor stores like Cabellas have good options for less cash. A thin liner is nice for dealing with buckles and zippers.

            One pair of socks. If your liners are right two pair is too tight. Chemical warmers if needed.

            Many layers work better than one thick layer for me. Add a second mid layer. I'll add a fleece vest. Then down liner then shell.

            i prefer a long neck gaitor and a helmet. Buff's or something like them. Those neoprene Hannibal Lecter things are awful. I pull my hood over if it's windy.

            Dark colors help by absorbing solar.

            Most of all, don't push it. If anything goes from cold to numb get in. It's easier to warm up than thaw out. Frostbite sucks and no one needs to lose a piece of flesh.

            And don't try to touch your tounge to your ski pole. ;-)
            Eshew obfuscation.

            Comment


            • #7
              Did you build a fire and hunker down with your dogs?
              "Nobody ever got my name right." - Me

              Comment


              • #8
                When it's that cold there are two major issues that I've experienced

                1-Activity level: staying active keeps the core temps up which gets the warm blood out to extremities. Sitting on a chair lift, not moving, etc. are very dangerous.

                2-Exposed skin: any, ANY, ANY exposed skin has the potential for dangerous frostbite very quickly. Cover it all, no matter how stupid it looks. One difficulty is breathing through fabric as it freezes and makes breathing more difficult. Be prepared with extra balaclavas, Buffs, etc. as they will get wet.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I was skiing in those temps last Monday. It was minus 11 F and blowing when we got out of the car at the trailhead. I wore the same socks I always wear and nothing else. jk...

                  I did wear the same socks I always wear, a mid weight base layer, another layer of knit gym shorts that came down to my knees, kneepads of course, my usual mid layer of Marmot dryclime, down sweater, neck gaiter, hard shell, and knit cap. I wore lighter skinning gloves on the way up--Black Diamond Kingpins. We each carried a thermos of hot tea. We stayed in dense timber most of the day so were out of the wind. At treeline there were ice crystals suspended in the air and the wind was gusting to maybe 30 mph. We stopped to put on our helmets and warmer gloves on before reaching treeline and once we popped out of the trees it took about 15 seconds to decide that was it. We skied straight back to the car. Good snow and a fun tour. We kind of expected it wouldn't last long.

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                  • #10
                    I don't really have a ton to add except that I've found Intuition liners to be MUCH warmer than the regular Garmont ones. Since switching to the Pro Tours, I have not really experienced much cold feet problems.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      It was -22 F at my house last week and luckily there was an inversion at the local area, so temps up there were more like -15 F to zero. With2' of powder last week, I had to make a go of it.

                      Here's the run down on my layering scheme:
                      5 torso layers - capilene long sleeve shirt, Outdoor research thick fleece top, Sherpa hoody jacket, down vest, and hard shell gore tex jacket.
                      hands = BD mercury mits with gloves underneath and handwarmers.
                      feet = Merino wool liner socks inside stock Garmont liners. My feet were barely warm enough, but I did make it all afternoon.
                      head/face = OR balaclava, ibex wool hat, ski helmet, goggles with homemade nose cover.
                      skis = lots of blue wax.
                      brain = coffee in the am, post ski beer in the base lodge.

                      I also put an exta set of goggles and baclava in my pack in case of ice up. The only bad set-up was the clif bar in my backpack - frozen, hard and inedible.

                      I made it from 11 to 4 without having to change anything out, so all was functional.


                      I highly recommend the homemade nose cover. I had an old crappy pair of goggles and duct-taped a small piece of plastic from a tomato box and added it to the goggles. The drawn on pig nose is an added option. It's survived two days of powder skiing and if it fails, I'll just add some more tape. The only modification I might make is to glue a small piece of fleece fabric on the inside to prevent cold plastic on noseClick image for larger version

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ID:	80747. It works great until you wreck and get snow wedged under it.

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                      • #12
                        I must be warmer than most folks, last week with -12F and windchill to -35F I was comfortable with just some lightweight wool long johns and and DNA ski pants on bottom and a superfine wool t under lightweight zip neck with Dryclime windshirt and Eider ski coat on top. With a wool cap, BD descent gloves with toe warmers stuck in the palms. Single pair of wool socks and Tx Comps. My face was just a bit cold, just a touch of frostnip on my cheeks and the tip of nose, not as bad as a sunburn even. I was even comfortable on the lift. The day before was -6 and my feet were freezing in my downhill boots, but everything else was fine in the same getup.

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                        • #13
                          I really think the main thing with freezing cold temps are base layers that help get rid of sweat, that the subsequent layers on top to keep that sweat moving, and then packing on the insulation.

                          Same with feet. Like someone said, if you can get a few pairs of thick socks inside your boots, they don't fit right, and your going to be colder because your feet are going to sweat immediately, and then freeze immediately. You should only need one good pair of socks inside ski boots no matter how cold it is.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by jrkul393 View Post
                            I really think the main thing with freezing cold temps are base layers that help get rid of sweat, that the subsequent layers on top to keep that sweat moving, and then packing on the insulation.

                            Same with feet. Like someone said, if you can get a few pairs of thick socks inside your boots, they don't fit right, and your going to be colder because your feet are going to sweat immediately, and then freeze immediately. You should only need one good pair of socks inside ski boots no matter how cold it is.
                            I wear liner weight socks as my ski socks. I would ski in nylons but my wife thinks that is weird.
                            "Nobody ever got my name right." - Me

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                            • #15
                              Many thoughts on this as we had a good week of very cold, but I need to go to bed. Headlamps with a senser to adjust based on field of view will dim out from breath fog. BD Mercury mitts will pack out over time and lose a lot of awesome.

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