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How to Keep Warm?

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The subject “how to keep warm” has been the title of many articles written since 1971 when I first read the booklet by Gerry Cunningham titled How to Keep Warm. Other people have written books on the subject as well as the many articles that I have written which can be found in the archives of my web site. So what can I now say that is new? The new is basically a definitive layering system that works very well.

Get rid of as much moisture that your body is producing as fast as you can is the surest way to start the process of staying warm. I say staying warm because nobody leaves the house cold and then goes into a cold environment. You dress with what you believe will keep you warm once you leave the warmth of your house, etc. Sounds like quite a task. However, it is easier than you think. All of the individual pieces of clothing that you are wearing must have one characteristic in common; they must be vapor permeable and if so even if some layers happens to be made of material that can absorb moisture such as cotton, wool or silk it will not have a negative effect or be detrimental to staying warm. In the October 2014 newsletter I wrote about what it takes to keep your feet warm. The same process applies to what you wear over the rest of your body. The only difference is that you do not wear conventional socks made of wool. But with respect to clothing items such as shirts and pants they can be wool or cotton.

Since I started selling insulation materials to skiwear, snowmobile suit, companies that made sleeping bags and general outerwear manufactures I have had ample time in the out of doors to find out what does and does not work. For years when I went skiing starting about 1960 I found that I was cold when I rode the chairlift after each run down the mountain; why? Because I was wearing underwear that was close knit which stifled the moisture that was being generated as I skied. The moisture was trapped between my skin surface and the long underwear I was wearing. I was not the only skier to experience getting a chill riding the lift, we all did and that situation still exists to this day. That all changed for me when I learned about fishnet underwear. The fishnet underwear that I make is made from nylon yarn which does not absorb moisture! If you were to lay the fabric flat it is 1/8 of an inch thick and if you were to measure the holes created by the knit they are 3/8th of an inch in diameter. The size of the holes is very adequate to allow the moisture while it is a vapor to move away from your skin surface, and the thickness of the fabric is adequate to keep the second layer of material that the garment is made from, from touching the surface of your skin. It is important that the second layer as well as all additional layers be lose fitting. This second layer will help to create a warm layer of air surrounding your body. The heat from surface of your skin is moving away from you but the air space that is created by the fishnet underwear and the second layer trap that heat in the space that has been created. If you were wearing a close knit first layer the moisture trapped in the fabric as well as the fabric would be absorbing the heat produced. Since there is this space your heat stays put and the more layers of lose fitting clothing you are wearing the more difficult it is for the trapped warm air to get away from you. If you find that you are over heating the easiest thing to do is open your neckline i.e. the zipper of your outer garment and the excess heat will quickly vent. That is why the fishnet underwear is sometimes referred to as ventilating underwear. You now know why I have always referred to the fishnet underwear as the most important first layer of clothing that you can wear, period, when the temperature is 32 degrees or lower.

The second layer I believe should be wool or cotton. I have heard over the years as many of you have that cotton kills, and if this were the case I wouldn’t be here today. When I was lost in the mountains above Gunnison, Colorado I was wearing a cotton shirt and jeans, however they were worn over the fishnet underwear so they were not touching my skin surface. Further the outerwear garment I was wearing was my Fossil Ridge parka with the L-12 Lamilite insulation, the same as is in the Antarctic parka. As you can see in the picture that was taken of me prior to getting off of my horse and going into the cook’s tent to get some food the exterior of the parka is white in color which was frost. Virtually all of the moisture I had been generating for 3 days was migrating through the layers of clothing I was wearing and condensing on the outside of my parka. On my legs I was wearing my leg jackets. They are insulated with the L-6 Lamilite insulation. In addition to these outerwear garments I was wearing my Joe Redington Muk Luks that kept my feet warm even though I had water inside of them. (When I came to streams I chose to walk through them rather than try to jump from rock to rock.) My cotton shirt was basically dry. Had I been wearing any fleece fabric garment I can assure you there would have been some moisture trapped in it. The fleece fabric is not as vapor permeable as a woven fabric and it is for that reason I recommend a shirt or sweater versus fleece in any layer. Also consider the fact that all of the fleece materials that are currently manufactured are made from polyester. Polyester does not absorb moisture so it cannot be wicked away from you. When moisture builds up inside the clothing that you are wearing it becomes a conductor of the heat you are producing. Hence the importance of wearing clothing that allows for moisture as a vapor to move through your clothing.

I use the same basic materials for the outerwear I make that I use for sleeping bags. When you are in a sleeping bag and your body is at rest it is important that the moisture you are producing migrate through the materials specifically the insulation. We know from years of use that the Lamilite used in sleeping bags does just that, it does not inhibit the movement of the vapor out of the bag. With my clothing I use lower weights of Lamilite so the moisture will move very easily through the materials while still a vapor. If the movement of the moisture as a vapor is stifled it will condense and now you have water droplets in the fleece and the only way you can get rid of them is to dry the garment in a drier.

Depending upon the actual temperature will determine if you wear my Lamilite liner vest of jacket. Then over either of them you can wear the Barron Grounds parka or Antarctic parka. I recommend the Barron Grounds parka for a low of approximately -20 degrees F and the Antarctic parka when the temperature goes lower. On you’re my legs the leg jackets over whatever pants you are wearing to -20 degrees F and for colder conditions the Antarctic bib. For your hands I recommend my mittens exclusively. When the temperature goes below 30 degrees mittens are the only hand wear that will keep your hands warm. I do not recommend thin liners such as silk liners. The reason is simple; the silk absorbs moisture and it will be retained next to your skin surface and second when you separate your fingers they cannot work in concert to keep the one next to each other warm. When there is no barrier separating your fingers they warm each other not the barrier. I have a variety of mittens that have proven to perform in temperatures as low as -70 degrees F. for your feet, the Lamilite socks, Lamilite leather boots to about -10 degrees F add the over boots and your good to – 30 degrees F and the Joe Redington Muk Luks also to -70 degrees F.

The winter of 2013/14 was very cold as was predicted by the Farmer’s Almanac. The coming winter again according to the Farmer’s Almanac is expected to be colder. I believe them since we are already experiencing colder than normal conditions earlier than what has been estimated as normal throughout the northern tier of the globe. So it will be in your best interest to be prepared.

I have seen all through the spring and summer editorials in the trade publications about this company or that company showing “new insulations” that work miracles. Don’t be fooled by the “hype” that is beginning to appear about these jackets. They will only be efficient in south Florida in July.

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