Antarctica Countdown 4 Days and Counting: Layers upon Layers…

For today’s update, I thought I would take you through some of the specific gear items I’m taking to Antarctica along with some fun facts about them. In cold environments, layers are key. When it is super cold or we’re just sitting around or moving slow, we need lots of layers. When we’re climbing or shovelling, we’ll be producing lots of our own heat and so it’s critical that we be able to strip down to prevent sweating or to allow the sweat to evaporate. As I make my gear choices, I have to ensure that all the various layers can fit together and still be workable/usable/comfortable.

These are my LaSportive Olympic Mons…named for a mountain on Mars I believe. They are a triple layer boot as you can see by the one that is zipped down. There is an inner boot, outer boot, and then integrated gaiter/sole. They are very lightweight for the size and I’ve never had cold feet in them (knock on wood). The sole is so lightweight that they are best wore with crampons.

When in the tent, I’ll wear these expedition down booties from Mountain Equipment Co-op. The integrated gaiter keeps the snow out if I wear them around camp. I can also take the inner boots out of my big boots and slip these down booties in to wear around camp if I need to dry out my inner boots (dealing with body produced moisture, i.e. sweat is a constant job in cold environments-one needs to dry ones boots, gloves, socks, etc at the end of most days either over a stove or on our own bodies…I tend to tuck my socks over my shoulders at night to dry them).

These are a pair of my liner/fleece gloves. They are windproof and quite dextrous. The “snotty” looking stuff is seam grip which I like to put on fleece gloves to give them more grip. These can be wore alone or under my larger gloves/mitts.

These are my “workhorse” gloves. Black Diamond Guide Gloves. They come with an inner layer and outer layer with leather palm. This allows me to dry the inners easier than if there were one piece. I can also wear them separately if that makes sense. The leather palm is tough, long wearing, and grips well. Both my mitts and gloves have keepers on them so I don’t lose them to the wind if I take them off for some reason.

These are my mighty mitts. I’ve take the outers from my Outdoor Research Alti Mitts and mixed them with the inners of Black Diamond Mercury Mitts. As you’ll see in the next picture, the BD inners are lobster claws or trigger mitts which allow you to attempt fine motor tasks without taking the inner mitts off (i.e. if I separate the layers-they velcro together). I can bring my index finger into the main part to cuddle with the others if it gets cold.

Close up view on the Mercury Mitt inner with trigger finger.

This is my tried and true shell. Mountain Hardwear Gore-tex Pro-Shell. I love it’s two Napoleon pockets for keeping things handy as well as the ventilation zippers under the arm pits. Gore-tex doesn’t tend to breathe as well in the extreme cold so some polar travellers go with a nylon taffeta with inner condensation layer instead. For the relatively short length of my trip, I think I can make this staple of my clothing fleet work. (Thanks to the NLCU for their support of my Vinson climb).

This is my GSI slightly insulated food bowl and Light My Fire sporks. I use a “baby” Nalgene bottle as a mug in cold weather that way I can stick it in my coat and that way hot drinks warm me before and after I drink them.

And like everything else, my cup and bowl layer up and nest for more compact travel.

I have layers for my sleeping pad as well. I have a Thermarest Pro-lite for women as my main pad which I will insulate from the ground with two Evazote Bivy Pads. With two thin pads, I have lots of options: I can carry one on each side of my pack, I can use one to sit/stand on in camp, and I can double them up for sleeping. Evazote remains pliable in the super cold.

Last by not least…the pee gear. I’ve traded in the classic yellow nalgene for this beaut. It holds 1.5 litres, had a wide mouth which means I can use it without a funnel in the tent, and it has a wide base to prevent those very unfortunate accidents in the tent when one’s pee bottle tips before you get the top screwed on. The Freshette is a “female urinary redirection device” which lets me pee through a fly opening while wearing a harness. Most of my lower leg layers have “rainbow zippers” that facilitate such processes but sometimes the “pee whiz” is just the ticket and it lets me write my name in the snow with the best of them!

There you have it…if you click through any of the links I’ve provided, you can see that I am a huge fan of Mountain Equipment Co-op and that I get most of my gear and clothing through them. I got my membership in 1981 or so when I first joined the outdoor pursuits club at St. Mary High School in Edmonton. It was always a thrill to drive to Calgary to shop in person at the mecca of mountain gear. Thirty years later, they are still my first choice!

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10 Responses to Antarctica Countdown 4 Days and Counting: Layers upon Layers…

  1. Shelagh says:

    Very happy to see all your warm layers to help keep you cozy. It looks as though they are also pretty well co-ordinated so you’ll be holding up your end as far as fashion too!

    • TA Loeffler says:

      Yes-I’ve got the orange black thing covered with a few colourful accents thrown in for good measure. Hoping it all works well to keep me toasty…or at least free from frostbite 🙂

  2. Sarah says:

    Great pix, TA. Even I have a MEC pack; bought it while visiting friends in Toronto. Brilliant design & construction. It’s nice to know you’ll have their capable gear to support you.

    • TA Loeffler says:

      Sarah-that’s so cool. I love MEC. Usually it’s a way to spot Canadians around the world, good to know the influence is spreading. I got a retweet out of MEC today so that was very exciting!

      • Sarah says:

        Yeah, when I was going through Canadian customs with my new pack, the officer commented on it. I thought he was pointing out that I hadn’t declared it and should have, but no, he just wanted to talk about how great MEC was. LOL

      • TA Loeffler says:

        That’s a great story…everyone loves MEC

  3. Alan Arnette says:

    Great choices MC. How about nose guard (Beko) Also chemical handwarmers for hands and to wrap around your camera for the summit? I found Vinson more warm than cold but it always changes as you know. Have a wonderful and safe time my friend.

    • TA Loeffler says:

      Hi Alan…I don’t have a beko yet…I usually make one out of tape 🙂 I do have chemical hand and toe warmers packed and usually carry the camera battery in my Napoleon pocket…I’m hoping for the warm side of things as well but the current team is reporting bitter cold…took pictures of my dressing sequence and hope to post those soon as well…thanks for the well wishes!

  4. Ray Kopcinski says:

    Great gear tips, TA. Looking forward to that summit shot . Go get ’em👍🗻
    Ray K

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