How to Survive the Frozen Tundra

Words Ali Clark | January 04, 2014
We’ve chosen the perfect pieces for you to layer in order to not just survive but be comfortable in freezing temps
Words Ali Clark January 04, 2014

The majority of the Midwest is about to experience a horrendously bitter cold front, with temps expected to drop to as low as -50 degrees windchill by Monday.  As one of the gear writers here at eMercedesBenz who’s also heading to Green Bay on Sunday to watch the Packers do battle with the San Francisco 49ers, it would be irresponsible of me not to take this opportunity to tell you exactly how to prepare for the impending arctic freeze, starting with your upper half.

Helly Hansen Base Layer

HH Dry Base Layer

The first and most important rule is this:  always start out with a great base layer.  There’s a reason your parents put you in long underwear as a kid.  Thankfully, however, base layers have come a long way over the years, and there’s no greater example of base layer technology than that offered by Norwegian based Helly Hansen (and let’s face it – if anyone knows how to stay warm in freezing temps, it’s someone living in Norway).  While Helly Hansen offers multiple options for base layers, my two favorites are the HH Dry Revolution LS or the HH Warm Freeze 1/2 Zip.  Both excel at keeping your body heat in while wicking moisture away from your body; the HH Warm Freeze adds in a merino wool construction for extra warmth.  If temps get really cold (like the game I’m going to at Lambeau Field), I’d recommend layering them both together and going from there.  If temps are cold but not arctic, pick one and go from there (both are available for men and women).

Ice Breaker Mid-Layer

Ice Breaker Fleece

Once you’ve got your base layer handled, the next step is picking a mid-layer, and I’d recommend going with a fleece.  I prefer to choose brands that rate their fleeces based on their weights, which helps eliminate having to guess how warm your fleece is going to be.  Again, I’m a big fan of  Helly Hansen’s midlayers, but another of my favorites is the Ice Breaker Legend Long Sleeve Zip that’s 100% merino wool.  Both brands’ midlayers are super warm and dry quickly, yet they’re still light weight and not at all bulky, leaving you with plenty of freedom to move.

Canada Goose Langford and Kensington Parka

Canada Goose Langford and Kensington Parka

Lastly, the final piece of gear you need up top is your outer layer.  In my case, I’m going to be sitting for hours in a stadium without partaking in any real outdoor activity.  If I was on an expedition that had the potential for varying weather conditions, I’d opt for a two-piece hard and soft shell outer layer that I could adjust as needed.  But when temps are arctic and are going to remain arctic, you want the warmest outer layer possible.  There are very few brands out there that truly offer arctic wear, but one of the brands that excels at doing so is Canada Goose.  Designed and made in Canada, Canada Goose field-tests their gear in the coldest places on earth.  Like the other layers we chose, Canada Goose uses a rating system called the Thermal Experience Index (rated from 1-5), that helps you choose a jacket based specifically on your activity level and the temperature at which you’ll be doing that activity.  TEI1 is meant for more active pursuits in milder temperatures while TEI5 is made for the harshest, coldest temps on earth.  And while Lambeau Field is going to be cold during Sunday’s game, it isn’t going to be South Pole cold, so a TEI5 jacket isn’t quite necessary – a TEI3 or TEI4 is more appropriate.  Canada Goose’s Langford and Kensington parkas (both from the Arctic Line) are  ideal choices, both for their warmth and their longer cut (which helps your mid section warmer.

That covers the upper half; now let’s look at your lower half.

This likely comes as little surprise, but the first rule (again) is selecting a great base layer, and I’d recommend starting off with one of Helly Hansen’s Base Layers.  In this instance, I’d go with the HH Warm Pants, as they’re the best lower base layer I’ve ever used.  Next, you can again opt for a pair of fleece pants as a midlayer, but I tend to opt for two layers for my lower half.  In my case, I opted for a pair of Tundra Down Pants from Canada Goose – pants that excel at preventing any wind from getting through while retaining all of your body heat.  Again, both options are available for men and women.

Finally, now that we’ve covered your main body parts, let’s focus on the body parts that are easy to overlook, yet still incredibly prone to frostbite: your fingers, toes and head.

Dakine, Sorel and Patagonia

Dakine, Sorel and Patagonia

For your fingers, the greatest gloves I’ve ever used come from the brand Dakine.  For the ultimate in warmth, I personally believe in mittens, which in my case means I’ll be wearing the Sahara Mitt, similarly available for men as the Ranger Mitt.  If you fancy gloves, the Dakine Kodiak Gloves for men and the Odyssey Glove for women are my two personal favorites.  Choosing the right boot is also important, and my go to brand for boots has always been Sorel.  While you can’t go wrong with most of their boots, for frigid temps, I recommend going with their Intrepid Boot for men or their Glam Explorer Boot.  Both styles are made specifically for the cold with a thick boot liner and heavy outsole to keep your feet up and off the ice.  And don’t forget the wool socks, with my personal recommendation being those from Smart Wool.  Lastly, to prevent my ears and face from freezing, you can’t get better than a balaclava.  Mine is the Patagonia Midweight Merino Balaclava – it’s comfortable on your skin without any poorly place stitch points – and it’s a must when temps get really cold.

After all of these pieces, there is one piece of clothing you absolutely cannot forget on game day – a little piece of green and gold in the form of a either nicely styled hat or an oversized cheesehead.  I’m going with the hat, but I’ll leave that one up to you.