Training year round is the norm for us, I guess that goes back to my Navy days. As we begin the cooler months we have several classes laid on and some in areas it might get a little chilly so now would be a good time to talk about cold weather gear.
I can remember one class in WI several years ago where we got hammered by a cold front. You would have thought folks from that region would be good to go, but many of them where the most ill prepared. Mother nature doesn’t tolerate stupid very well, so bundle up, but be smart about it.
The best system I have found is a micro climate strategy, which basically means you are using a layering system of zoned garments that work together to regulate your body temperature to maintain thermal neutrality while protecting you from the elements. We can break the zones garments into base, insulation and outer layers. Your base is worn against your skin to reduce evaporation, your insulating layer worn on top of the base to reduce conduction and your outer layer worn on top of it all to protect you from the elements such as moisture and convection. What you need to realize is there is no single piece of gear that is going to do all of that. As your activity level changes so too does the individual pieces of your layering system.
To conserve the most energy the base layers must do an excellent job of wicking moisture away from your body. Form fitting allows it to do a more efficient job. I am still pretty old school when it comes to my base layer and I run with a wool material. I used just about every big name manufacture in the business, but the ones that have done the best job are Arc’Teryx’s Rho LTW line. I can remember chopping up my first Arc’Teryx climbing harness; converting it to climbing harness/gunbelt for VBSS way back in the day. They cut their teeth in the climbing industry and have done a great job of innovating and producing performance attire that performs.
You have to be really smart about your insulation, as your activity level changes it has to adapt and about the only two things you can do is vent or remove it. Sometimes removing it isn’t practical for a variety of reasons, so being able to vent is a big deal. If you cannot purge the heat you are putting off, it will eventually turn against you. Constantly regulating your system is what keeps you warm and dry. I have used a lot of different insulation pieces, a lot is going to depend on the temperature. One thing you will have to do is determine what each pieces is breaking point is as far as temperature goes. I know that my middle weight insulator is good to about 30-40°, below that and I need to go to something heavier. You will have to do something similar for your comfort level. For those conditions I love the Atom LT Jacket, it is probably one of the most versatile pieces I have in my inventory. As for an outer wear piece, I love the Alpha LT Jacket. As a Goretex outwear it will protect me from moisture and wind, keeping me dry and warm. It’s venting abilities allow me to keep track with the weather around me and has become a staple in my kit.
The thing about all the gear listed above is that in the performance of my duties I have to travel a lot. I still have to weigh my gear to keep it below airline baggage limits and not only is this stuff good at it’s job, but lightweight. Like anything quality is pricey, but when you’re freezing your ass your kit is priceless.