Layering for comfort
Expeditioner rule of thumb: You can always take it off but you cannot always put it on – particularly if you do not have it with you!
It is important to understand the principle of layering. Layered clothing is the appropriate way to dress for your days in the Arctic. By all accounts, weather in the Arctic is constantly changing and anything can happen at any time. Typically, temperatures may vary between –10 degrees and +10 degrees, as we are travelling during the summer season.
Layering is the concept of wearing multiple layers of clothing when it’s cold and removing items when you’re warm. There are three essential layers: underwear/base layer, insulation, and shell. These can be combined to achieve maximum warmth when needed, or used separately or in different combinations, depending on the temperature and weather conditions.
The first part of a good layering system is your underwear/base layer. This base layer provides you with basic insulation and pulls the moisture away from your skin. Moisture against your skin can cause chills. The type of underwear you need as your first layer in the Arctic is light-to-medium weight thermal top and bottoms made of synthetic fabrics. Wool and wool blend is also suitable. Cotton is a less acceptable fabric as it keeps the moisture next to your skin, instead of wicking it away. We recommend clothing made of synthetic fabrics, which can be purchased in any outdoor store.
Insulating clothing provides additional warmth. There are two categories of fibers available—natural fibers such as wool and down, and synthetic fibers such as fleece. Down is a great insulator, lightweight and extremely warm. This is a wonderful layer for chilly Arctic evenings. Wool is also good and has the added advantage of remaining efficient when wet (unlike down). Synthetics are widely used because they work well when wet, keep you warm, and dry quickly. Fleece is probably the most commonly used synthetic and easy to find in any outdoor store.
You need a water-proof jacket and pants. This outer layer is the final step in insulating you against the cold and wind. These layers are used to combat the elements, and in the Arctic, the predominant element is often wind. Since your first two layers are providing your “warmth” layers, this outer layer does not need to be big and bulky. A good waterproof rain jacket with a hood and pants that are breathable are preferable.