Clothing and Insulation Worn in the Arctic
Learn what people wear, both modern and traditional, in the Arctic to survive the frigid weather.
Just as the diet is critical to survival in the Arctic region, so too is the clothing. It is used to protect the wearer from the most extreme conditions. Traditional clothing has included sealskin boots or mukluks, jackets which can be watertight, and fur inner and outer garments of an anorak design. Clothing is all the more important for people who travel in a variety of conditions and temperatures. One never wants to be in a position of being inadequately protected!
A hunter traditionally would rely on caribou-skin clothing. With two layers of caribou hide, the inner fur against the skin and the outer toward the air, a person could stay very warm and protected in Arctic conditions. The challenge occurs when he becomes overheated while moving in deep snow or climbing up an incline.
The IAP team members, as modern travelers in the Arctic, use a layering system in their clothing. This provides the critical balance in temperatures which they need while exerting themselves running or skiing or, in the other extreme, while resting during the lunch break.
There are three essential layers in the modern clothing system. The inner-most layer is "moisture control." The key to warmth and comfort is to have a dry layer next to your skin — this is absolutely essential. This first layer is made of a fabric which carries away or "wicks," the perspiration from the body, keeping the wearer dry. The second layer is the "temperature control" layer. This layer is for comfort and warmth and is where insulation is the key factor. Different thicknesses of polar fleece, which keeps the wearer warm, breathes, and dries quickly, are used most often in this layer. Finally, the third layer is for "element protection." This outer layer protects the wearer from wind, precipitation, and extreme temperature. The IAP team uses an outer shell and pants made of Gore-tex and a heavy parka filled with Thinsulate Lite Loft insulation. Thinsulate is a human-made product that performs similarly to down. It is extremely light-weight and maintains its warmth and loft even when wet.
The IAP team members have a very functional and effective clothing system designed in conjunction with Lands'End Direct Merchants. The team's daily needs vary widely and, as endurance athletes, they need to be prepared for not only tremendous exertion but also for periods of rest, such as waiting for one sled to cross an open lead or for another team member to chop the pressure ridges. This variety of activities in extreme weather conditions demands a system which offers a wide range of options.
The right clothing, like the right diet, allows human beings like the IAP team to travel for long periods of time in the extreme environment of the Arctic!
- Living Arctic: Hunters of the Canadian North by Hugh Brody, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1987.
- McArdle WD, Katch, FI, Katch VL.Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lea & Febiger; 1986.
For more information about the Lands' End specially designed clothing system for the IAP, you can contact them at 1-800-332-0117.