Antarctic Life

A frozen outlook on life on the ice

Wednesday Walkaround Week 3: Clothing Layering

Halley VI, Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica 75°36'36"S 26°16'14"W

Temperature: -18.6°C

Wind Speed: 14 kts ENE

Now that winter has started to set in properly, I thought I would share with everyone how I personally dress for going outside. Everyone on station does things slightly differently, however I have found for me, the classic layering system works best for my own personal comfort.

Some of the kit is BAS issued (Baffin's, down jacket, Paramo smock, gloves and all 8000m gear), however most are my own.

Base Layer

This layer is comprised of 260 IceBreaker merino wool long-sleeved top and bottoms with a pair of thick Bridgedale socks. I cannot stand wearing synthetic base layers so although we have some issued, I never wear. Others however swear by them.

Fleece-layer

This layer is comprised of a CragHoppers fleece top, and a pair of Craghopper thin fleece-lined trousers. This layer is usually completely omitted in warm (above -15) temperatures. Depending on how cold it gets I will sometimes wear a Snugpak down soft-shell. 

External Layer

The outermost layer consists of a pair of Vikafjell salopettes (for the summer months I wear light Paramo salopettes) and a Paramo Aspira II smock with either a pair of Guide Rab gloves, Black Diamond Extreme mitts (my own), or bear paws. For my face I will almost always wear an expedition Cold Avenger hood and mask with or without a standard trapper hat. In summer it is simply a standard beanie hat +/- a buff. Nothing in this kit is particularly fancy or ultra-expensive but is practical and crucially adaptable. 

Outer-most layerNote: Boot gaters worn outside of salopettes for display purposes, normally these are tucked under my salopettes, forming a double-gater

Believe it or not, when working hard outside, even in -30°C temperatures, you can work up a sizeable sweat! It is therefore important to ensure that you can take layers off if getting too hot to avoid getting too cold once you cool down again (wet clothing can freeze). For my feet, depending on what I am doing it is a pair of Baffin's (everyday use), 8000m La Sportiva's (a double-boot system for climbing or in the field) or my Alfa North Pole Extreme GTX ski boots (fitted with Intuition Universal liners) - all keep my feet nice and warm throughout.

Eye-wear

Eyewear is either an Oakley skimask with pink-tinted optics or Julbo glacier glasses. Because Antarctica is so dry, fancy textiles like Gortex are simply not required down here, just a simple wind-proof layer. I only wear thin inner gloves (without outers) when using my camera, otherwise I just use only outers. 

 The three items I simply could not do without and would bring to a (cold!) desert island, would be my Vikafjell salopettes, Paramo smock and the Cold Avenger mask - I cannot fault them. We do have Rab 8000m expedition down jackets and salopettes which I rarely use unless just throwing something on to nip outside to take photos, and even then I would normally only take the jacket and throw on my Vikafjell's ontop of my jeans. 

For camping however I do use the 8000m sleeping bag and booties (without socks) for inside the tent. On the warmer days in summer I have regularly worn normal trousers and if the sun is out and there is no wind, simply a tshirt - it really is that warm!


Next week I will discuss who is left on station over winter and what their jobs entail. As ever, leave any questions in the comments below or on twitter.