As the Nordic Winter is starting to appear, I tend to get questions from the northern parts of the world about equipment. And Geographic Journal asked me the other day, what ten items of kit I would pick to bring on a Polar Expedition like the Siberian one, executed 2004-05. After a bit of thought, I picked these 10:
1. Thermal underwear, since it keeps your warm even when damp. Incredibly important to pick the right one’s! Probably the most important item for such an Expedition! Termo Original of Sweden produce the best of all thermal underwear that I’ve tried throughout 20 years of exploring. They don´t itch, they’re very durable, comfortable and they keep you warm. Even in Siberia!
2. Axe. Since fuel like petrol just doesn’t work at all when temperatures continuously stay below -50 degrees Celsius, which they do 24 hours a day during Mid-Winter, an axe to supply firewood is essential. Fuel will work, if you sleep with the petrol bottle inside the sleeping bag all night!
3. Matches/petrol. Lighters don’t work at all, matches and petrol needed to get a fire going quickly. There’s no time for mistakes.
4. Boots. We brought three varieties. And we didn’t pick up one single frostbite on our feet! Mainly because we never stood still, but also due to the right choice of equipment. Our ski boots were handmade by Crispi and named Top Expedition (www.crispi.it). When staying in settlements we used great boots from The North Face (www.thenorthface.com ) called Baltoro 400. In the tent we used Russian felt boots called valenkis. Uncomfortable for walking, but very warm and worked well as camp boots.
5. Down jacket. We used The North Face 800. It did the work, but needs to be far bettered. For example, far too small pockets, and biggest size to small. We did have the biggest size they had, but when extremely cold, your movements are slow, clumsy and fingers are normally incredibly stiff, so everything has to be bigger and simpler.
6. Down sleeping bag. We used The North Face Inferno Endurance, their top of the line bag, but comfort temperature is only -40 degrees Celsius, so we also brought a TNF Snowshoe and both worked good enough together. During Mid-Winter our sweat froze on our backs, under armpits and so on and it took 8-10 hours to thaw up in the sack.
7. A compass/maps. I’ve used Silvas Expedition 25 compass for years and it never fails and it worked very well in the extreme cold. www.silva.se Good maps are essential.
8. Good head gear and the same applies to balaclava and facemask. Our major problem. We used wool balaclavas, the TNF balaclavas and Top Hats and we had a facemask made, but none of them worked properly. In combination with each other, relatively good, but not perfect. But the hood on the down Jacket and the Gore-Tex Jacket from the TNF,was sufficient during rest.
9. Working outfit. We had the perfect combination here. The 3-layered TNF Mountain Jacket Summit Series and their Apex Randonne pants never failed us!
10. An assortment of good gloves. We had a variety of gloves. Everything from thin fleece gloves, wool gloves to heavy down mittens, but they didn’t last the full winter.