The shell layer takes
the direct battering from the elements. It should be at
least windproof and preferably waterproof too (but see below
in very cold temperatures). Antarctica is the windiest place
on earth, so don't skimp on this or imagine that you
can get by with an outer garment that is "pretty windproof".
Antarctica does proper
Proper biting - gets
through every nook and cranny - straight to the bones -
Some garments such as duvet
style puffa jackets have a wind-proof outer nylon layer but are not
waterproof. This has the advantage of making the garment
softer, pliable and comfortable and of also reducing the
Water-resistant or water-repellent
are fine if you will not use the garment in extended
wet conditions or and will have the opportunity to dry it
out between uses. In cold conditions, waterproof is not
necessary as there's not a lot of liquid water about!
500 / 600 / 700 fill down?
What does it all mean? The
number is a measure of "fill power". This
measures the amount of space taken up by one ounce of down.
Take one ounce of down, compress it and then release it
- on release the down will expand and fill up a certain
volume. The volume it occupies is measured in cubic inches
and is the down's "fill power".
if a jacket is said to have "550 fill down" for
example, it means that one ounce of down in the jacket will
fill 550 cubic inches of space. The higher the number,
the higher the quality of the down - generally.
As well as down quality, the fill power is what gives
the down its insulating properties. The more the fill power,
the warmer the jacket - generally.
Generally? It also depends on
the amount of down in the garment too. A small amount of
the highest quality down won't necessarily be warmer
than a larger amount of the next grade down.
Waterproof shell jackets
Waterproofing has come on leaps
and bounds in recent years due to the development of new
light-weight, soft waterproof fabrics that all importantly
are now breathable. Old fashioned coated nylon is now only
found in the cheapest of garments and is to be avoided.
Materials such as
that being waterproof no longer means that the inside of
the garment becomes damp and clammy from perspiration. New
ways of using the material mean that the outer surface remains
soft and pleasing to the touch.
A fully waterproof shell is
not required for very cold climates and is not appropriate
in that the breathable characteristics become less effective
at very low temperatures. For coastal and maritime Antarctica
in the summer such fabrics are ideal and I unequivocally
recommend the use of an outer layer garment that is made
in such conditions. This also has the advantage of
being useful in the less cold, but often wetter conditions
in everyday life back home, so the garment continues to be very useful
for many years to come. Gore-Tex is also an excellent
windproof barrier too and in appropriate conditions (above
about -15°C / +5°F in my experience - though my
Gore-Tex jacket is several years old now and the fabric
has advanced since then) performs excellently.
See all Gore-Tex jackets -
Choosing clothing for cold and extreme
The ankles, wrist and neck
area should also be covered with no chance of exposing bare
flesh when stretching, reaching or otherwise moving around.
A scarf of some kind around the neck makes all the difference
to losing warm air that can be "pumped" out by
even small movements.
Dressing should follow the "layer principle".
The number of layers can be adjusted according to how cold
the temperature is and the activity of the wearer. A three
layer system is most typical: