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3 important items for cold weather clothing

3 important items for cold weather clothing

Keeping warm in freezings conditions comes down to many things, one of which is of course kit.

I can talk about kit for hours on end but I wanted to note three important items of clothing that I think are essential for polar conditions.

You’ve obviously got the really obvious items, like a good breathable windproof jacket and warm but light down jacket but here are some things that you might not have given as much thought into…


  1. Insulated shorts

This is one for the Ladies! These have saved my ass.. Quite literally!!! (This tends to be a lady problem due to our thighs and bum shape being different to guys.)

Bergans 3/4 shorts

Bergans 3/4 shorts

On an arctic expedition many moons ago, I could not understand why at the end of each day, I would get into my sleeping bag and try to sleep but would be unable to warm up my bag due to the huge blocks of ice that were indeed my thighs and ass! They weren’t in pain but the entire surface was frozen solid and these bad boys are not easy to warm up! This is a big problem at night and quite literally sucks the energy out of you. My life changed when I discovered that insulated synthetic down shorts were a thing! They come to just below the knee, full zip so easy to get on and off during the day and are super light so that not packing them doesn’t even enter my mind now. I go for Bergans brand. I put them on anytime whether it be on breaks, at the end or start of each day or even wear them on the mega baltic days. Trust me - they are an easy solution to keeping the whole of you warm!


2. Mittens

Down mitts, frozen hair, don’t care!

Down mitts, frozen hair, don’t care!

We all know how important it is to keep our hands warm in minus temperatures. The problem when you’re on expedition is that there’s often so many fiddly things to do and sort that you end up taking gloves off to do things. For me, mittens are my life line. I treat my mitts with huge care and always know where they are, and make sure they are never near water or fire. The key features I look for in mittens are: Easy to get on: When your hands are cold, getting tight gloves/mitts on is near impossible. Your hands become useless. You need to know that you can get them into the mitts with no worry so go for a size bigger than you think. Yes, this limits what you can do when wearing them (I’d recommend differently if we were talking climbing expeditions) but in my opinion as long as you can do basic manoeuvre and grip, then that is good for these. Make sure that they have a cord attached so that you can loop them around your wrist and if they don’t have that, make your own. Then, you can easily whip them off and on to do the fiddly things. What material you choose to go for varies for what environment you are in. In arctic conditions I go for down - it’s dry so I don’t need to worry about getting them wet but their weight to warmth ratio is fantastic. I wear RAB expedition ones.


The team before setting off - all in Brubeck

The team before setting off - all in Brubeck

Often overlooked, base layers are your first barrier after the skin and will control sweat enormously. You want something warm but breathable, cool but comfy. There are many different brands of course, I’ve found that Brubeck base layers work well in the arctic. They retain their shape so that they remain close to the body, trapping the air and being wool they avoid smelling which your team mates will be thankful for! (Remember you probably won’t take these off on expeditions shorter than 2 - 4 weeks!) There’s a range of shapes to go for but if you are going to polar temperatures, the high neck is a great way to maintain that core heat. By keeping the blood in your neck warm, the rest of you will find it easier to keep toasty!

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My Top Kit Picks for the Cold

My Top Kit Picks for the Cold

We spend so much money and time trying to get the perfect kit to try and make a hard expedition that little bit easier or those photos a little more trendier.

Here's a couple of my top picks from my recent Denali expedition. 

Rab 1200 Expedition Sleeping Bag. Rating: -35C (RRP: £770)

A pretty penny indeed but this bag became my safety net. At first glance it seems over bulky but this is a brilliantly thought about feature. It's not heavy for the warmth it provides; weighing in at 1850g. 

Made for cold weather, it works best when wearing clothes otherwise there is too much empty space and in those temperatures you simply can't warm up. It has enough space for a full down suit just in case the temperatures get wildly life threatening. On a few EXTREMELY COLD nights on Denali and when up in the high Arctic in January, I had to wear my Rab Expedition down jacket inside it for the entire night. The combo worked together brilliantly and probably saved my life. The foot compartment is spacious enough to not only allow for big down booties to be worn inside but also so that you are able to fit the many objects you need to stop from freezing during the night. I put gas canisters, my liner boots, socks, gloves, water bottle, suncream, toothpaste, batteries and pee bottle inside. Somehow the bag's space means that you can still sleep comfortable even when sleeping amongst so many uncomfortable objects!! Other great features include the awesome hood (you can pull the cord so that only your mouth is exposed to the cold air) and the fact that because it is hydrophobic down, it drys quickly.

Every morning on Denali I would wake up with ice all over the area around my mouth on the bag and once the cooker is on this ice melts and wets the bag. However time has gone by and you've packed up for the day ahead the bag has pretty much dried itself so thankfully no packing away wet. Pretty neat. 

Páramo Torres Medio Insulated Jacket (RRP: £210)

For temperatures as cold as the Arctic or high altitude mountains, this jacket acted more of a mid layer than an outer layer which is what it is ultimately designer for. I didn't take this jacket off on Denali. I slept and climbed in it. It is surprisingly breathable considering it only has the main front zip for venting. At first I wasn't sure on the fit of it as it isn't exactly athletically fitted like it's competitor jackets but instead has a long, wider cut. This actually proved very practical because when climbing with hands above my head or pulling my sled, it wouldn't ride up meaning my torso was always kept warm. The hood is great at keeping the elements out and the feel of the jacket is very cosy and comfortable providing a little bit of luxury for hard environments.

I definitely recommend this jacket but just remember to take extra layers if you are going in temperatures below -5C and for temperatures lower than -15C never forget your expedition down jacket as that is when they come into their own.

Note: It looks like the women's version of this is no longer available.

Lowe Alpine Cerro Torre 65:85 (or 75:100) Rucksack (RRP: £200)

On cold expeditions your bag needs to be able to fit a lot inside it. Usually if you're in the Arctic, Antarctic or on an Alaskan expedition you'll also have a sled behind you too but the bag will be just as important. I use this bag because of it's simplicity and comfort. It's heavier than some bags of the same size (the 65:85 comes in at 2.75kg) but this weight is due to the structure it provides. When packed well the weight is piled high rather than side to side making for more balanced weight distribution. It has a useful extendable front lid for when you are filling it to it's max but will also pack down small for lighter trips. It has two sizeable side pockets, a hip pocket on both hip straps and a front pocket which is big enough to put a map in. 

MSR Reactor with 2.5L Pot (RRP: £180)

Everyone thinks that gas doesn't work in cold temperatures and high altitudes. However if it is looked after it can out perform liquid fuel. The Reactor is so efficient that no heat is lost (a down side if you are looking to heat up the tent whilst cooking but great for saving fuel). You do need to keep the current gas warm when you are not using it so that would mean keeping it in your sleeping bag at night and wrapping it in a jumper in your bag during the day. It's a fragile stove so when not using always pack away. Even though this sounds like a lot of faff compared to liquid fuel it really isn't when you consider with liquid fuel you have to pump it, clean it and avoid getting fuel all over the tent and fingers. The Reactor us so light and fits easily in a pot. As a back up, always take another stove e.g a Pocket Rocket. 

Gear that works

Gear that works

Don't you just love it when your outdoor gear simply works? I do. The Patagonia Expedition Race and my adventures after the race in South America put me in some of the toughest conditions for outdoor kit.

Unlike the pristine Arctic wilderness where the snow keeps kit clean and the dry air prevents things from disintegrating, the Patagonian wilderness is primarily damp, cold and windy. The weather can turn from beautiful sunshine to the most ferocious storm imaginable. Gear is vital here and with a good tent, a good stove and a good sleeping bag, you can't go too far wrong.

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One piece of kit worth mentioning is the OMM Mountain Raid 1.6 Sleeping Bag. Sleeping bags for me, are one of the most important pieces of kit. I am very particular about which I use as the idea of not being able to sleep because of being too cold is too terrible to think about - especially in a race scenario or a long expedition.

I've often taken big sleeping bags whether it be down or synthetic depending on how wet the destination is. Buying the OMM sleeping bag took some bravery. I read its weight and size online and I couldn't believe that something so small would allow me to sleep comfortably in the Patagonia conditions. I bought the bag anyway, prepared to sacrifice comfort over weight and size for the race scenario.

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I didn't sacrifice or compromise anything at all. After the first night of the race and over 48 hours of being awake (we hadn't slept during the build up!) I was exhausted. We stopped for the night and I got off the bike/fell off the bike due to the high winds. I realised just how exhausted I was. My body couldn't keep its temperature and I was becoming cold very quickly. I was scared that I would remain cold all night due to buying such a tiny sleeping bag... The bag kept me warm for the night (well as long as we allowed ourselves to sleep!) and I was suitably impressed.

I used the bag again and again when traveling around more of Patagonia in Argentina as well as Chile. We had some very cold temperatures but the bag continually kept me warm and was one of the lightest things in my bag.

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I cannot recommend this sleeping bag enough so if you're looking for a bag that'll keep you warm and take up almost no space in your bag and weigh very little - this OMM Mountain Raid 1.6 Sleeping Bag is the bag for you! Check it out here: https://www.theomm.com/product/mountain-raid-1-6/

See more gear in action on my Instagram - @lucysheps . Until now I've kept my Instagram a secret!  https://www.instagram.com/lucysheps/