How to dress for extreme cold part 1 - Layering and sweat...
Dressing for extremely cold temperatures is something we have been trying to understand and master for a long time. The risks associated with being in such conditions are considerable and if you are not prepared it could result in loss of limbs or in worst case scenario, loss of life.
Most people know the basics of how to dress for the cold. The system that everyone uses is known as "layering" whereby we add or remove layers of clothing to control our body temperature. It's the same as putting on a jumper and a coat in winter, getting hot and sweaty from running around or playing in the snow and wanting to remove the coat to cool down. Whilst this does work and is safe in temperatures close to 0C, sweating poses a massive issue once you enter the world of extreme cold.
Layering is somewhat centred around the issue of sweat. If we had only one layer of clothing on and we got too hot and started to sweat, the clothing would in turn get wet and freeze whilst still on our body. This would be catastrophic for us. So once we start to heat up, the layering system allows us to remove small amounts of clothing to try and maintain a relatively stable temperature and prevent this issue. As we get colder, we can add layers to warm up again.
There are a few things that are important to understand about how our body works. Firstly, it is important to understand that our body is constantly "sweating" when we are warm. There isn't a sudden switch that we flick on and produce sweat. Instead it's easier to think of it as a constant and slow process which gets sped up as we produce more body heat. We also know that we don't sweat equally across our body. We have certain areas which are always naturally warmer and they tend to sweat before anywhere else would. For example we know that our armpits will sweat before our stomach.
The next important step is understanding that "sweating" is a mechanism which our organism uses to try and cool the body down. This means that when we are sweating we are radiating heat, which has to go somewhere. The best way to think of this is if you get into bed when your room is cold. The bed will initially feel cold but your body radiates heat which in turn warms up the blanket, the matrass and the pillow. After some time we start to feel warm under our blanket and at some point we may even think our pillow is too hot and uncomfortable. So we turn the pillow over to the cold side (one of the best feelings on Earth).
When we talk about layering in clothing, more isn't better. You can't just put on 100 shirts and think that they will keep you warm. Instead each layer is designed for a purpose. The internal layers generate a blanket of air around your body. As your body radiates heat this blanket of air is warmed up, which in turn allows you to feel warm. The layers closer to your body are designed to be very effective at creating this blanket or air and keeping it warm. The external layers however are designed to prevent the freezing cold air from coming in contact with your body. So all of your clothes function as a system.
Understanding this system very important because until very recently this is what everyone referred to when dressing for extreme cold. The differences in clothing were preferences in material, brands and what suited the individual best. However, everyone used the same system of layering. That all changed when the IceIndigo Artic Suits were invented.
Read on in part 2...