Arctic and extreme cold weather gear

Scott Brady

I have a new project we are working on that includes some extreme weather travel. We have done a fair bit of research, but I do not consider myself an expert on cold weather clothing. For those of you who live and operate in extreme cold, I would love some feedback.

Note: Base layers are addressed in our personal bag. These are only the cold weather modifiers to the kit.

Cold Weather Bag: Redoxx Safari Beanos PR5.5

Arctic Parka: Down, extreme condition, -50C rated | Canada Goose Heli-Arctic, 66 North Thorsmork

Base layer- legs (light): Light base layer for active | Mtn. Hardwear Integral, ArcTeryx EON SLW

Base layer- legs (med.): Insulating, warm | 66 North Vik Tights, Mtn. Hardwear Power Stretch

Technical Arctic Pants: Waterproof, windproof, full zipper | 66 North Glymur W/ eVent ArcTeryx Kappa

Technical Balaclava: Face and lung protection | still researching brand

Arctic Sock: Medium weight, tall, wool | SmartWool PHD Nordic

Arctic Boots: -60C rated minimum | Baffin Control Max or Endurance

Down Bootie: 650+ down filled booties | Various brands

Arctic Gloves: Extreme cold weather glove, add liner | Mtn. Hardware Typhon, ArcTeryx Gothic liner

What I am hoping for a few suggestions on are the gloves, as the challenge is the balance between dexterity and warmth. Operating gear, cameras, etc.
The balaclava is also a tough one. I used an OR balaclava on my last trip to the arctic, yet still frost-nipped my lungs
I am increasing the performance of the footwear considerably, as the North Face boots I used on the last trip were garbage.

We will be in temps as low as -60F

Thanks in advance for any thoughts and help.
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Expedition Leader
With OJ's love of the classic equipment - I think you should go "native"

In siberia most workers still wear natural furs and woven natural fiber wear, we at least they did last time I was there - just before the soviet block broke down....mind you their probably all wearing TNF by now :cool:


I have not yet found gloves that work well down to -30 (C) let alone colder so I use either Canadian Armed Forces arctic mitts (the white ones with the wool liner and the fleece patch on the back) in combination with wool liner gloves or some two fingered "gloves" I found at Canadian Tire intended for use by snowmobilers (also with wool liner gloves). It would seem that to be warm enough, gloves end up too bulky to have any real dexterity. I simply pull off my mitts and let them hang by their retainer cords (paracord through the sleeves just like when I was a 2 year old) when I need real dexterity to operate a camera or the like.
I still use Canadian Armed Forces style Sorel boots that I special ordered from the local hiking store. As long as i can dry the liners out every night they work well.
For the Parka, you really can't go wrong with the Canada Goose line, they seem to have a suitable Parka for every outdoor job or adventure requirement.:coffee:


What's "extreme cold" entail, you say -60 but what about wind conditions? Expected duration in the environment? What tasks do you expect to complete?

I spent 3 years on an icebreaker and my experience is that when you put all your gear on and get outside, all you can do is walk around. It's all too bulky and cumbersome to effectively do anything.

There is a Seattle company called Feathered Friends, I would go there for your down. They can make anything your heart desires. As far as shells go, E-Vent is nice, ArcTeryx is certainly nice enough. Make sure you size it so that your shell doesn’t compress your down layer. Base layer, I go wool. It wicks well, doesn’t get clammy, holds off odor for a while. When I'm out in the cold for days I never take my base layer off so that comes in handy. Boots, make sure they have removable liners. Throw them in the bottom of your sleeping bag so they don’t freeze. Gloves are hard, mittens are much warmer but don’t have dexterity. Gloves with sleeves for charcoal warmers are nice, having some additional heat for extended periods is nice, lets you use a thinner glove for a short period of time. The most important item you missed or didn’t include was goggles. I have had my eyes start to freeze before and that is something you don’t want. Get the best you can with anti-fog coating. They will eventually fog no matter what, but at least you can try to hold it off.

I'll look around see if I can't find the National Science Foundation Antarctica Program clothing list, that’s all tried and true.


Down Booties

What would be your use for down booties? In my experience (mostly winter ski tours) down booties are useless. Perspiring feet don’t play well with down.


Scott Brady

What would be your use for down booties? In my experience (mostly winter ski tours) down booties are useless. Perspiring feet don't play well with down.

Down booties are for in the sleeping bag, in the tent, in a cabin, etc. More like slippers.

Hill Bill E.

Oath Keeper
For boots, I like my Rockys for extreme cold, as long as I'm moving around some. (do not have removable liners)

If I'm more stationary, then I like my Ice Kings with removable wool liners.

With any footwear, it's imperative to dry them out overnight when possible. With boots that do not have a removable liner, you can stuff old newspaper inside, or small bags of dessicant. Hang them up high (upside down above the barrel stove or fireplace works great for me) if you don't have a boot dryer.

Gloves with dexterity? Hard to find for temps below -20* F

I usually wear a pair of thin gloves inside my choppers, and remove my choppers as needed. Having them corded as mentioned assures not loosing or misplacing them.

I use choppers made from moose hide, and extra heavy wool inserts. The inserts can be had in varying quality, the heavier the better.

Here's a pic for those who may not know what choppers are:

Having a spare set of boot liners and inner mitts for the choppers is good, it allows time for the other sets to dry.


Extreme weather pants

Hi All

I live up here in Minnesota and bike all year long. I can absolutely recommend the Rail Riders lined pants ( They have a nice assortment of pockets and they stretch enough to comfortably ride a bike or do anything else you need to do.

I provide medical support in the winter by bike for various nordic and running events and have worn these comfortably to -10 without a base layer.

Hands and feet -- that is another issue.

For feet -- this is what many of us who spend a lot of time outdoors up here wear ( I have had frostbite so my feet are more susceptible to cold and these are about the only thing I can wear in very cold weather. In fact, over about 10, they are too warm.

Hope this helps.

St Paul


Expedition Leader
I camped out (in a metal trailer) on the North Slope and Beaufort Sea (300 miles north of the Arctic Circle) for 6 months one winter some time ago. 40-60 below pretty much every day. The only warm boots that worked were the air-bladder Army surplus rubber type, we used to call them "bunny boots" because they were white and made your feet look huge. But they would keep your feet warm enough no matter what the temperature. Any Army surplus store in Anchorage has them (or used to).

Hands are a different story. Your fingers are natural little radiators, so you need mittens not gloves for warmth. I needed to use my hands so I tried multiple layers of silk and wool liners under sheepskin gloves, but I still froze the outside fingers on both hands at various times. If I were going back, I would use heavily-insulated mittens for the outer layer and adapt as much equipment as possible to mittens (larger straps for ski/trek poles, etc.).


I like your list so far. I would like to add my 2 cents.

I agree 100% on the mukluks. is a good start. I would also recommend a mukluks that has 2 sets of liners, so you can swap them out every other day. I found the " bunny" or " Mickey mouse" boots previously discussed problematic. Because they are made of rubber, they couldn't breath. That is fine when standing still on snow, but when active my feet would sweat, get wet, then bad day.

I am VERY particular about my hands in cold weather. The SF community now has a 7layer system issued to them. If you can find it, get it. If not they can be reproduced in parts. I use a thin glove that never comes off as my base layer. It is much like a flyers glove. High dexterity, and breathable. I then have a " trigger" or " finger" mitten that uses a thick liner ( again 2 liners are better for swapping out) these mitten also have the index finger that can be used when total dexterity isn't necessary. I usually only isert my finger in there when needed, until then it stays with the rest to keep warm. Outdoor Research makes them.

Good luck.
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Norwegian Army School of Winter Warfare Gear / Clothing PDF

Below is a link to a PDF from the Norwegian Army's School of Winter Warfare, I attend a 6 week Norwegian Winter Warfare course in the late 1980s. Historically the Norwegians have proven themselves experts at Winter survival. The PDF has a lot of great information! I can tell you that with the correct clothing and gear you can thrive in the cold. As a friend of mine from Montana says, "there is no such thing as cold weather, just bad clothing."
I think in "Layers" for all Winter clothing requirements! Good luck! 6-81-2 (E) Instruction in Winter service Personel Clothing.pdf

matt s

For boots the BEST I have ever owned are a set of Baffins -100 rated with closed cell foam insulation. Amazing boots. I have had other pack boots before and none compare. Worth every expensive penny.

I would also suggest looking into Carhart arctic wear, the bibs in particular. This is the stuff that the guys working on the North Slope wear. I have done all the high tech stuff and after freezing myself on a few -20 trips snowmachining I finally broke down and got them. They are fantastic, and being heavy weight cordura exterior they are great for climbing in and around dirty rigs etc. My only regret is not believing those who bragged about them for so long. They do meet your requirement of full side zippers too.

Love to hear more about the planned trip, although I expect that will come in time in another thread. Good luck!


I find this to be timely. We are planning a dogsled trip for 2013 (nothing big, just 3 days in preparation for a 7 day trip up to Moosonee) but I noticed the last time that some stuff worked and some stuff didn't.
Of the stuff that didn't seem to work, velcro is high on the list. Is it just me or does velcro suck? I have been removing the velcro on all my clothing (and installing snaps) because velcro is seriously noisy while hunting and seems to stop working when it gets cold, wet and then frozen.Has anyone else had issues with velcro in extreme cold or is it just me?:coffee:


Expedition Leader
Of the stuff that didn't seem to work, velcro is high on the list. Is it just me or does velcro suck? I have been removing the velcro on all my clothing (and installing snaps) because velcro is seriously noisy while hunting and seems to stop working when it gets cold, wet and then frozen.Has anyone else had issues with velcro in extreme cold or is it just me?:coffee:
No, it's not just you. When it gets wet and frozen (even with just condensed breath, which happens in minutes) it gets clogged and is useless.