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Thread: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

  1. #1
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    Default Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    My new job will require frequent business travel to Minneapolis and surrounding area.

    In the places that I have lived during my lifetime, really really cold to me means +20F. And it hurts when it gets that cold. But I think Minnesota can see -20F to -30F. Unimaginable to me!

    I currently live in Fort Worth, Texas, and before that I lived in South Florida. I can't even imagine how to survive those temperatures.

    So I'm asking your advice. (Those of you who have lived in cold climes)

    What do I need to add to my wardrobe? And, where can I get it.

    Are their any survival items I need to carry with me when I travel there.

    Tell me anything that can help. I'm really concerned about what I don't know about this.

  2. #2
    Flashaholic* AilSnail's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    wool. and something that stops wind outside the wool.

    big enough boots for some layers of socks, with plenty room to spare.

    mittens, and a warm hat.

    If you are going around in the wild you need a flashligh, lots of fire starting equipment (see multitools forum here on cpf) and a knife and a good sleeping bag and portable shelter like a tent or something.

    stick to wool, the other stuff gets cold when wet or sweaty, that's my experience at least. wool underwear and thick wool on top of that. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img] have fun!

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    Flashaholic* flownosaj's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    Start drinking a lot of beer and eating buffalo wings now--that should add enough proprietary insulation to keep you warm when clothing fails [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img]


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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    I thought that was to gain insulation for those of us living in a warm climate. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

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    Flashaholic* flownosaj's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    Okay, seriously now [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

    the standard goes: wind and watter barrier, insulation then mositure wicking material up agains skin.

    If you want to keep warm and you're the executive style traveler, definetly invest in some trendy woolen overcoats, and some hats and gloves to go along with your suit.

    If you're just going to go casual, then start looking at places like REI for "mountaineering" or "technical outdoors" clothing. I swear by The North Face brand. I used a lot of their stuff when I used to ski and still use it when I go camping in cool weather. Overpriced at many brick and morter stores, but sometimes there are good sales.

    Thick jackets, mittens and the like can be tried on for size and good advice can be had at REI.

    -Jason

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    Flashaholic* KC2IXE's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    Wool is the old standbuy. Silk longjohns are great. Some of the synthetics are good.

    Think LAYERS. You DON'T wan't one heavy layer - lots of light to mid weight. One of the surefire ways to get COLD is to get HOT doing something then sweat. Now when you stop, you FREEZE

    And one last thing

    COTTON KILLS

    DO Not wear cotton

  7. #7
    Flashaholic* flownosaj's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    epro05--It might help us to know what kind of "business travel" you plan on doing. It will really dictate what you wear most of the time.
    You're not going to wear polypropaline "long johns" and expidetion weight gear if the most you're going to do outside is walk from the rental car in the parking garage downtown to the skyscraper 2 blocks away.
    On the flip side, I hope you're not planning on hoofing it through the snow in a wool trech coat and galoshes when you're moving from transformer to tower to do some readings. Might have to pull a Skywalker and sleep in your animal conveyance [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img]

    KC2IXE's right about cotton--stay far away from it! It will suck the heat right out of you! Ever wear a cotton shirt on a cool afternoon and get it wet--no imagine that it's below freezing *shiver*

    -Jason

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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    I guess I'll be the executive traveller. Getting from the airport to the rental car (sometimes a long walk, like in Ottawa which I visited recently). But, I'll be travelling from the MSP airport, about a hundred miles to my destination.

    I've read about gloves and boots that are electric (seems like most of them use D cells). Seems neat, but are they commonly used? And, are they worth it?

    I appreciate the comments about layers, and wool. You are speaking from experience and I appreciate that. I'll look for those items, but I'm not sure they sell that gear here in Fort Worth. Maybe I should look for those items when I'm visiting Minnesota. If there are internet sites that sell "cold weather" clothing, please let me know.

    I really appreciate everyone's advice. Keep it comming.




  9. #9
    Flashaholic* flownosaj's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    If you want online places to shop, there's a huge collection. Killerdeals.com (northernmountainsupply) or sierratradingpost.com for discount prices, EMS.com, REI.com and Dickssportinggoods.com are some good ones.

    If you want some nice stuff at a fairly reasonalbe price, I also recomend Columbia products. I've got a few of their shirts, shorts and jackets. Quality stuff without all the technical doodads of TNF and such.

    As far as electrical items to keep warm, I've never used them so I can't comment. What I can say is that if you keep your extremities warm with those little chemical heaters you'll be a lot happer after an hour or two in the cold, so it might be a good idea to get a few of those.

    I've used both the disposeable and the reuseable (must boil) and they've both served their purpose. I've had the mini ones in both boots, in each mitten and a large one in my internal chest pocket just over my heart and I stayed toasty when I was kinda non-active.

    I've heard two trains of thought on the heaters: 1-they re-warm the blood going back to the core, making you feel warmer which is good. 2--I've also heard that when used in the extremities, they open up the blood vessles, in effect loosing body heat to the surrounding area. Not crucial when playing in the snow, but in a life or death situation with little protection from the elements I guess cutting off blood to an extremity would be better than dropping into hypothermia--but I doubt a wise CPFer would find himself in a situation like that 'cuz we're always well prepared [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]

    -Jason

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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    well.. living in northern maine, we have very long, cold, icey, snowy, windy winters..
    blizzards will completely cover our cars in snow.. compliment it with some nice sleet or rain.. and then the temp will drop to -60ºF with the wind chill..
    nothing is worse than loose snow and 85mph winds! and then getting up to find 3 inches of ice caked onto your car and maybe even have your tires frozen to the ground haha.

    my reccomendations:
    jacket: thick wool and layers underneath.. or, my personal preference, down! 650-fill down!
    underlayers: i like a thick sweater, again, wool if possible..
    and i don't really care for long-johns, so this will lead me to my next suggestion..
    pants: try to fine something lined.. chamois or flannel lined pants are warmer than long-johns.. or so it seems to me..
    boots: definitely look on the internet, at a company like Cabelas or REI and look for a pair of boots that will cover your ankles.. and check for temp ratings.. they'll typically tell you the lowest temp the boots will effectively provide warmth for.. i reccomend boots at least rated for -60ºF.. 'cause it can be a pain in the ass to wear huge thick socks..
    don't forget to bring your shoes with you to change into at the office tho..
    also, keep your ears covered.. i prefer a skullcap.. but that's just me..
    gloves: you can usually find a warm pair of gloves very easily.. find something waterproof if you can.. and something lined with Thinsulate..

    and i'll also note, this is just me telling you what you'll need to know for worst-case scenario.. i doubt you'll need to go to the lengths i've presented, but i will say BE PREPARED! i don't know if 'Apolis is as extreme as it is here, i somehow doubt it is (we have horrible luck), but you'll probly have trouble adjusting at first, since you're used to such milder conditions..

    so again, be prepared, and look around for good deals.. don't be afraid to sacrifice style for comfort either.. if a wool jacket doesn't cut it for you, don't hesitate to get a nice bulky parka, haha.

    goodluck with your adjusting
    -Ryan

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    I grew up in SW Minnesota and unless you are actually working outdoors a good ski jacket, along with a warm hat and gloves will be all you need 99% of the time. The MN natives will let you know if there is extreme weather in the forecast.

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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    I don't like to go heavy on the synthetics like polar fleece paired with nylon shells, because to me they tend to actually telegraph cold ( I am also quite sensitive to synthetics they make me sweat and itch). I heard that alot of our soldiers in Afghanistan that packed all polypro, synthetic fleece and Gore-tex froze their butts off at night, some to near hypothermic condition and had to be warmed up by medics using the good old issue wool blankets ( I get itchy with wool too but will suffer it for warmth)

    . I like silk long johns best because they keep you from overheating indoors but insulate really well in cold weather and they're comfy too. Everyone is correct about layering too.

    If you are worried about getting stranded, grab one of those compact mylar "Space" survival blankets or bags for around $3-6 and throw it in your baggage, I hear they can save your life.

    TSG [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]

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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    I lived through a lot of Minnesota winters. There is a misconception that it is -30F all the time. It usually never gets that cold in the metro area. Maybe it will get down to 10F to -10F. The main thing is to have a good hat that can cover your ears, and have a jacket with a hood. The wind is what makes the cold temps dangerous.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    Wool and lithium batteries.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    Thanks everybody for your advice. Quite a few good tips here. I appreciate it.

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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    [ QUOTE ]
    chumley said:
    ... The main thing is to have a good hat that can cover your ears, and have a jacket with a hood. The wind is what makes the cold temps dangerous.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Second that. Major heat loss occurs through the head and nothing beats a good insulated hood with adjustable face flaps, especially when its windy.

    Brightnorm

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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    I can't comment on the great north temps. but can say here in the deep south there are a few things we do when it gets extra cold.

    1. We wear socks with our Topsiders.
    2. We put on our longest short pants.
    3. Tank tops are replaced with short sleeve shirts.

    Actually, after spending a week 100 miles north of Brunswick Maine in Feb. many years ago and sleeping under the stars for 3 nights at -12 degrees (no wind chill) I came to this conclusion. It's head, especially ears, hands and feet. Keep those warm and everything else is easy. The best shoes/boots, gloves and hat and all is well. Two years ago I got a North Face Jacket and have never worn it with the liner zipped in but it is very impressive.

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    Flashaholic* AilSnail's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    [ QUOTE ]
    COTTON KILLS

    DO Not wear cotton

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Cotton is the best wind-stopper in my experience.
    Just don't ever use it for one of the inner layers.

    I forgot to mention compass, and to keep spares of everything important (within reasonable limits).

    Like they said, many thin layers are more versatile than fewer thick ones. Don't overdress when walking or working so that you sweat out all your clothes.

    Regarding down jackets: I have not used them, but I know that 1: down is the best of all insulators for its weight when it is dry, and 2: when it is wet it is a disaster, mainly because it can't hold the loft or fluffiness.

    Regarding Space blanket: I carry one of these, but mostly for experimentation. The danger with these are that they are not breathing, so if used as a sleeping bag your clothing will become wet from you sweating, which you always do. I have tried to make a suit out of a space blanket with duct tape to wear under the clothes, but it did not seem to get much warmer.

    In the norwegian winter I use a woven wool jeans, thin wool sweaters, cotton windproof jacket with hood, adding as necessary: wool scarf, thicker wool sweaters, long wool underpants, wool hat, wool mittens with cotton outer mittens, and thin cotton windproof jeans. I haven't yet found good winter boots but I get by with military boots and skiboots. Many experienced outdoor people swear by goretex or similar outer layer in stead of cotton. Hope this helps.

    Regarding "wicking inner layer": This is probably a complicated issue, but I have heard that if you wick away the moisture from the skin then you will only sweat more, leaving even more condensation in the outer layers.

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    Flashaholic* ksbman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    If all you are doing is going from your car to the hotel or office and not really doing much outside you won't need to dress much differently than you do for winter back home.

    But, you should have a bag in the car with some extra clothes in case you get snowbound while driving.

    I can't wear a lot of heavy clothes in the winter because once I get to where I'm going (if it's inside) I'm sweating my ass off. I don't even wear sweaters unless I'm staying outside.

    In the winter I keep in my car (clothes-wise): snow boots, extra socks, long underwear, heavy mittens, scarf, stocking cap, neck gaiter, and a heavy winter jacket. All just in case I have to start walking or bundle up in my car awaiting a tow truck or whatever.

    What I wear in the winter, unless I'm staying outside, are my normal late Fall/ early Spring clothes: medium weight jacket, gloves, and stocking cap. I'll wear GORE-TEX/Thinsulate shoes if it is wet outside.

    Most all my winter clothes (except socks) are the various synthetics as opposed to wool. They are less bulky than wool and just as warm, in my opinion. I work outside at night and in the winter the only time I get cold is when I have to work with my gloves off.

    Sierra Trading Post and REI are two of my favorite on-line places for winter accessories.

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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    I agree with the layer principle, that is what I used most of the time in the winter. But for extreme cold, nothing I have tried beats my thick, heavy, down jacket. On the downside if it is more then +20 degrees, it is too warm. Of course a nice hat and hoods are nice as well for windbreaking purposes and if somebody knows a pair of gloves that can keep my hands as warm as a nice pair of mittens during extreme cold, then please post.

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    Flashaholic doubleganger's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    I seldom have to deal with colder than zero degrees. For me, along with everything that has been said about head, hands, and feet, the most important thing is to stay dry. I have a waterproof/breathable parka shell that I really, really like. It sheds rain but is breathable enough that I don't get soaked by my own sweat at normal activity levels. I can layer underneath it if necessary. I think I read somewhere that it doesn't work as well in extreme cold, but anytime rain is a possiblilty I don't go out without it.

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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    Great advice everyone. Thanks. I'm learning a lot from all of you.

    On the thermal underware subject, I've surfed and read about Polypropolene, Capilene, Thermax, Thermastat, and others.

    What's best? Any favorites?

  23. #23
    Flashaholic* Phaserburn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    Good advice above, epro05. As a suggestion, you might want to look at the LLBean and Land's End catalogs/websites. They carry everything you need, and you can do it from where you're sitting right now. They have the outdoors covered (especially Bean) and a wide range of good layering materials in wool and most others for dress or dress casual (especially Land's End). Eddie Bauer is also a good pick and with just a touch more style. I guarantee you'll find what you need. If you're still not sure on something, call them, and they'll tell you what you need. I like them both, because they are #1 in my book for Customer Service. If you get something you aren't happy with for any reason whatsoever, or even just changed your mind, they'll take it back, no questions asked. Anytime. I've returned things after sitting in a drawer from last Xmas close to a year ago and no problem. You pay a bit more than you might retail, but you get better quality clothing and peace of mind. And, if you're like me, you get to avoid going to the mall!

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    Phaserburn,

    I'll check them out. I don't like going to malls either. Thanks for the advice.

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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    [ QUOTE ]
    epro05 said:
    Great advice everyone. Thanks. I'm learning a lot from all of you.

    On the thermal underware subject, I've surfed and read about Polypropolene, Capilene, Thermax, Thermastat, and others.

    What's best? Any favorites?


    [/ QUOTE ]

    I just went through the coldest winter of my life. I used Smartwool long underwear (midweight, also called traditional weight), and it performed superbly. Used it down to 20 below, and over a month straight during which it never hit +20. Wicks extremely well, since it hugs your body, and is warm. I've also used Capilene, but have not been as impressed. You can get it discounted at sierratradingpost.com a lot of the time. Great site by the way, and so is reioutlet.com.

    Also, I used a midlayer of Northface microfleeece (a sweatshirt really), which was a mistake, but all I had, followed by a Polartec 300 thermal pro jacket from EMS (great stuff), and a Goretex-alike nylon shell for the outer layer. Stay away from microfleece, it doesn't breathe well, and as mentioned above breathability is VERY important. It's a great compromise as a single layer, but it has no place in my 3 layer system - wicking/insulating wool, insulating/breathing fleece (use Polartec, don't settle for less!), waterproof breathable shell.

    For socks, I use Smartwool sock liners (you read right) followed by Polartec 200 fleece socks (Acorn socks, also available at EMS). I have tested this against other combinations, and find that it works best. The sock liners are tightly woven on the inside which contacts your skin very well, increasing wicking. The fleece lets moisture pass through and insulates well. More breathable than a Smartwool hiking sock on top, and insulates just as well.

    Oh, have you guessed by now that I like the Smartwool/Polartec combination? [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]

    For your head and hands, look seriously at Gore Windstopper and Polartec Windbloc. Again, accept no substitutes! I could tell stories, but won't belabor it.

    One last thing. Plan ahead, and periodically check sites like sierratradingpost.com. I bought more Smartwool from them in July, and saved a bundle.

  26. #26
    Flashaholic* Lux_Luminous's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    A few things to remember:

    1. Layering

    2. Layering

    3. Layering [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]

    Really, layering is the key to both warmth and comfort!

    Also, proper foot and headgear are most important.
    Most body-warmth is lost via an uncovered head. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/crazy.gif[/img]
    If your feet, head and hands are warm you'll feel great!

    (did somebody actually say "a SureFire way to stay warm"?)
    (an Arc LS in each pocket would be a good method of handwarming)


    "Lux" [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink2.gif[/img]

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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    I would encourage a second cell phone or a spare battery. Don't rely on a car battery; it might be why you need the cell phone in the first place. If you get stuck, STAY in the car, never leave the car unless going to another car or you can see a house to walk to. We always keep an old cell phone with a lithium 6AA adapter. Remember Inactivated cell phones can always call 911. We also keep a 24-hour candle, lighter, a blanket and some candy bars in the car. You just never know.

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Need cold weather survival advice. Help!

    [ QUOTE ]
    tsg68 said:
    I don't like to go heavy on the synthetics like polar fleece paired with nylon shells, because to me they tend to actually telegraph cold ( I am also quite sensitive to synthetics they make me sweat and itch). I heard that alot of our soldiers in Afghanistan that packed all polypro, synthetic fleece and Gore-tex froze their butts off at night, some to near hypothermic condition and had to be warmed up by medics using the good old issue wool blankets ( I get itchy with wool too but will suffer it for warmth)


    [/ QUOTE ]

    Actually the reason that many soldiers got so cold, is that some units brought ONLY their GoreTex parkas and pants, and their polypro shirts and bottoms. Nothing else. Add to that the fact that they weren't acclimated to the cold. Ft. Campbell can still be warm in the first few weeks of October, at least warmer than the mountains of Afganistan. The only units in the Army that get the fleece are Special Forces (most often called the Green Berets), and I probably the Ranger Regiment. Normal units [like the 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)] were never isued it. All they had were polypro, wool (maybe acrylic) sweaters, Gore-Tec, and field jacket liners (polyester batting).

    Listen to the advice about layering. I like thinner moisture wicking layers against the skin and I love fleece as a mid layer. Gor-Tex or a similar material is great as the outermost. If you are talking being outside in -20 degrees, then a thicker base layer, and/or mid layer. Maybe one of the down parkas would be a good choice. Gore-Tex might not be needed if it's not raining though. For snow all you really need is water repellant, just brush off any loose snow when going from outside to warmer areas. One very important thing is to wear a hat. A warm hat is said to be the equivalent of a light sweater. Make sure to keep your ears, nose, and cheeks warm. They can freeze easily since the skin is very thin.

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