How do people dress for the extreme COLD in Alaska?
In the winter of 2008, we ran into a NASA researcher on his way to Poker Flats. We were amused to observe his scientific curiosity in action. At nearly 50 degrees below zero, he extinguished his cigarette in the snow, then pulled it back out to examine it. His mouth turned up a huge grin as he proudly analyzed the fact that the snow was SO COLD and DRY that it snuffed out the cigarette without melting the snow and wetting the paper. He was so tickled by this that he repeated it numerous times, thinking of the bragging rights he'd have upon telling his friends back home in Texas.
Alaska's extreme arctic temperatures can be great fun to boast of having endured to friends back home. However, they can turn deadly in minutes, for those who venture out unprepared.
But don't let that keep you indoors!...simply dress appropriately. Some things to know:
As anywhere cold, layers are best--just be sure to remove outer layers as you get warm, rather than waiting until you break a sweat which can be disastrous.
Whenever possible, warm your gloves and boots before going out. And remember--cold in makes for cold out! Always put only warm hands and feet into gloves and boots.
A fur ruff on a parka is the best bet for keeping your face warm and dry and are used by many of the long distance dog mushers.
Pac boots and wool lined boots are a favorite. NOTE: when purchasing boots, mind the temperature rating. The number shown is often a rating when in motion, not a rating for being at rest/stationery. Some labels will differentiate between the two. Pair that rating with what you plan to do while in your boots.
A balaclava underneath your (coat's) hood it is a good way to guard the tender skin of your face while allowing for easy breathing. They are lightweight and fold up small enough to throw in your pocket.
Mittens will keep your hands warmer than gloves. For a practical source of warmth during your stay, as well as a keepsake to show off back home, pick up some fur mittens! Beaver mittens are great.
As far as socks, natural is better than synthetic. Wool socks breathe and provide great warmth. Synthetic socks, especially when you're doing something active, can make your feet sweat.
Many tour companies will hook up with an outfitter to take all the guesswork out of gear needs. Check with yours to see what they offer. If they don't offer anything themselves, they can surely give you contact information for an outfitter in your destination location.