Monday, 31 December 2012

Zoey's Postcards from Salmonier

Salmonier 7After a very successful outing to see some whales and sea birds, I wanted Zoey to see other native Newfoundland wildlife. There is nothing like getting kids used to the outdoors at an early age, and it is important for them to be as comfortable on the trail as they are in front of an X-Box.

I worked at Salmonier Nature Park as an Interpreter back in the summer of '81. It was a great place to see a variety of native Newfoundland wildlife, so I thought Anne, Zoey, and I would head out to Salmonier Line and see what it was like now.

Of course many things were different at the park from when I worked there, but there were some things still the same. The changes are certainly for the better, like the wonderful shop run by the Friends of Salmonier. The shop has souvenirs, snacks, and drinks, so you can grab a bite to eat before heading out on the trail.

The most important feature has not changed: the trail is short (3 km) and is easy to walk. It has a lot of boardwalk, making it great for a little girl and her Kitty to start their hiking career.

Salmonier  9

Salmonier 8

Zoey, like her mother at that age, knows her own mind. She would not let anyone else carry Kitty or her "water bottle".

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She got to see quite a bit of the wildlife:

Salmonier 5

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Salmonier 7

Canada Geese
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Salmonier  4

Zoey took them all in with the curiosity native to a little girl. She would make sure that her Mom saw them too.

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And then she would dig in for a good long look as her Mom explained them to her.

Salmonier 1

We had a lot of fun on our little hike and I hope we can put on many more kilometers on Zoey's hiking boots in the years to come.

Many of my images from Newfoundland are available to purchase as fine art prints from my web gallery.

If you would like to read some of my other posts about Newfoundland, click here and use the "Older" and "Newer" links at the bottom to scroll through the posts.


Sunday, 30 December 2012

Keeping Warm Part 4: Wind

Staying Warm 99In my summary post on how to keep warm, I mentioned how critical is was to prevent the wind from cooling your insulator. In this post, I will look at this issue in more detail.

To look at the effects of "wind" or "draft", we need to add a bit more of technical analysis. But rather than push another equation at you, I will keep it simple. If you take a look at the heat flux page over on the Engineering Tool Box site, you will see that forced air convection will transfer 10 times the amount of heat that free air convection will. Ten times! That means that you would have to increase the thickness of your insulating layer by a factor of 10 in order to compensate for it!

In Canada, meteorologists will report on wind chill during the weather forecasts because the wind can cool you fast enough that it can be lethal if you are not properly dressed.

Wind chill, when combined with a wet insulator can be a big factor. Once during a ski race when it was about -15 C, I was neck-and-neck with a guy at the end of a mass start scramble and we were tied at the hip pretty much on the entire outward (and down wind) leg of the race. I had a wind proof shell on and he didn't. When we rounded the turn to come back, we were now skiing into the wind and he lasted only a few minutes before his wet insulation, now being rapidly cooled by the wind, started to drop his body temperature to the point where he slowed considerably. He finished the race well behind me, despite being a better skier. While he did not suffer from hypothermia, he did not look very well at the finish.

The point of that story is that wet insulation and wind can be very dangerous. Your body can lose a lot of heat if you are not careful. And you do not have to be a ski racer to be cautious about wet insulation or the wind. Damp socks can cause your feet to be cold. Wet mittens can result in cold hands. These may result in you only being uncomfortable, but they can also result in frostbite or hypothermia if you are not careful.

Fortunately, there is a solution: just don't let the wind get at your insulation layer! A good wind block is really important. If you look at many cross-country ski or winter running clothes, you will usually see a wind-blocking nylon (or other poly) in critical areas such as the chest, crotch, and thighs. In areas like the armpits or back, there usually is no wind-block material. This is to allow the sweat to escape and keep your insulator drier than it would otherwise be.

Wind block on the front:
Staying Warm 15

A different, non-wind block fabric in the pits to let cool air in and hot sweaty air out:
Staying Warm 14

You can get your wind protection for your layers in different ways.

One way is to buy jackets that are fleece / wind-block combinations. With this type of garment, there is no need to carry around an extra article of clothing. However, for colder days, you may want a separate wind-block shell to go over a layer or two of insulation.

A wind-block material is typically a really dense fabric, but you may not be able to feel the difference just by touch. An easy test for a fabric's wind-blocking ability it to try and suck air through it. If you can, then chances are you will be disappointed in its wind-blocking abilities. When I am looking for a new jacket or even new gloves, I will always pick up the article of clothing and do this quick little test. You may look odd, but this check will certainly give you quick feedback on how well it blocks wind.

Katya checking the wind-block abilities of a fleece shell:
Staying Warm 16

As with my point on layers, do not forget the rest of the body when it comes to wind-blocking! For guys, it is really, really important to wear underwear with an appropriate wind-blocking material right in front of you know what. Not much is as painful as frost bite down there! I was working the Canadian National X-C Ski Championships one year when it was -20 C. This is the coldest we are allowed to start a race under FIS/CCC rules. The moms were running around getting socks for the boys who didn't have the right underwear on. You can guess where they were putting the socks!

Men's underwear with windblock fabric in the most important areas:
Staying Warm 2

Pay attention to your hands, too. A lot of gloves and mittens do not block the wind at all, so while they may look nice and warm in the store, if you get them outside, you may find them to be very cold. Wind could very well be the culprit.

As I mentioned above, my legs do not need a lot of insulation. On really cold days (below - 15 C), I will often wear only long underwear and a pair of rain pants when I run. Even though it is not raining, the incredible wind blocking ability of my rain pants is enough to give me the extra warmth my legs need during a run.

Even if I am only walking to the grocery store at -15 C, I will often just put my rain pants on over my jeans. This is faster and easier than pulling off my jeans, putting on a pair of long underwear, then pulling on my jeans again. By blocking out the wind, my rain pants protect my normal pants' insulating abilities as well as providing a bit of insulation to boot!

For really good warmth, I will wear long underwear, fleece pants, and my rain pants. This gives me a couple of layers and a wind block. I'm usually good in this to -20 C for activities like walking to the store. For higher output activities, I will wear less.

First layer of poly long underwear:
Staying Warm 17

Second layer, cotton jeans (ugh!):
Staying Warm 18

Third layer, a windblock, waterproof, Goretex top shell:
Staying Warm 19

There are other areas where you need to pay attention to the wind.

On gloves or mittens, there are often straps designed to cut down on the amount of loose fabric. Tighten these up so that they are snug, yet do not cut off your circulation.

Staying Warm 28

Zippers let a lot of wind through, so look for covers to the zippers in your clothing.

Staying Warm 8

Staying Warm 7

Better jackets that are designed for the cold will also have a strap on the hood. This is meant to reduce the volume of the hood so that there is less cold air around your head. These same jackets often have cuffs or drawstrings in the waist. Use these to block the "chimney effect", which is the warm air exiting through your collar, only to be replaced by colder air coming in at waist level.

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Staying Warm 9

In the case of my jacket above, the wind cuff was a snap belt. In the case of my fleece, it is a drawstring. You will need to look carefully on you winter clothing to see where all of these options are. Here is a shot of the bottom of the fleece.

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The drawstring is barely visible unless you roll the cuff back. Cinch the string tight to cut off cold air from coming up under the fleece.

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As I said before, make sure you do not tighten anything too much so as to restrict your blood flow.

Sometimes you can make "wind" work for you. A really good winter jacket designed for active use will also have "pit zips". By opening the pit zips when you are active, you can get some air flow through your arm pit region, helping to keep you cool. You can then zip them closed to reduce airflow when you are inactive. Here is a shot of my jacket with the pit zips closed.

Staying Warm 4

Here is a shot of the same jacket with the pit zips opened.

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Finally, a point about shoes, and running shoes in particular: they are a lot like gloves in that they are seldom designed to block wind. In fact, the commonly used mesh siding makes for excellent ventilation to dry out your feet and let the cold air in. So while you might think that some shoes with their nice thick soles would be toasty warm, they are usually pretty cold to wear in the winter.

In summary: like water (wetness), the wind can be deadly. You need to keep your insulation blocked from the cooling effects of drafts and wind, especially if that insulator is damp in any way.

The complete Keeping Warm series is here:

Keeping Warm: Summary
Keeping Warm: Insulation Thickness
Keeping Warm: Dryness
Keeping Warm: Wind


Saturday, 29 December 2012

Keeping Warm Part 3: Dryness

Staying Warm 99In my summary post on how to keep warm, I mentioned how critical is was to keep your insulator dry. In this post, I will look at this issue in more detail.

If you check the termal properties of water, you will see that water is not as good an insulator as cotton, wool, polyester, or polypropylene. Water is between 5 and 10 times worse at insulating than they are. When an insulator becomes wet, the thermal properties swing towards that of water and away from that of the insulator. The wetter the insulator becomes, the more like water it behaves when it comes to losing heat.

Think sweat: we sweat (and dogs pant) because our sweat conducts heat away from our skin and the evaporation process also absorbs heat to cool us. These processes are good enough to cool us when we overheat. Likewise, a wet insulator will also transport heat both through conduction and the evaporation process and in quantities enough that it will start to cool you instead of keeping you warm. While you may not notice the reduction in insulating properties too much during a high level of activity, you will probably notice it when you stop!

Back to the three common types of insulators: cotton, wool, and poly (either polyester or polypropylene, and they are sometimes called "technical fabrics"). How much water they can absorb is what sets these materials apart. Cotton will absorb up to 60%, wool up to 40%, polyester up to 5%, and polypropylene up to 0.02%. There is a nice summary table of water absorption here. Polypropylene is not listed in that table, but can be found in "Polypropylene: The Definitive Users Guide" on page 128.

As you can see, both wool and cotton can absorb tremendous amounts of water. When they do, their thermal properties become more like water and you can lose a lot of heat. A wool fabric can perform a bit better when wet than cotton, because it can absorb some water inside its wool fibers, but it will still not perform as well as a poly fabric. The poly's absorb almost no water and tend to dry quickly as well, and are often my first choice for dealing with cold weather.

However, poly's have other downsides not related to staying warm and because of this, some people reach for wool or cotton before reaching for poly. For example, when I am cozying up to a campfire, I will always pull on my jeans and a cotton jacket. A stray flanker or spark from the fire will melt right through any poly fabric, whereas the cotton is much more resistant to the spark.

A note of caution is important here: any wet insulator can contribute to exposure and lead to bodily harm or even death. Please learn the signs of frostbite and hypothermia and how to deal with them. Always have a back-up plan in place when outside in the cold. Carry extra clothing when possible. I always carry a cellphone with me when I run in the winter and I always run close to a road. If I injure myself, I can call for a ride.

While using an insulator like a poly means you have something that is going to perform well when wet and also dry quickly, you should protect your insulator from getting wet in the first place. Keep rain or snow off by wearing a waterproof shell on top of your insulator. This can be anything from a garbage bag to a piece of clothing with Gore-Tex or some other high-tech water barrier. These shells often double as wind barriers, so you can get a "two-for-one" with one piece of clothing. With Gore-Tex, you actually get a "three-for-one", as I am about to explain.

Perspiration is one source of wetness that many people forget about. Maybe because they cannot see it, but the effect of sweating on an insulator is the same as the effect of snow or rain.

One solution is to follow the total "vapor barrier" method. This is like wearing a garbage bag right next to your skin and under your insulator. It allows you to sweat all you want, but the "garbage bag" prevents the sweat from contaminating your insulator. If you put another "garbage bag" on top of your insulator, you will have an insulator that is probably not going to get wet nor going to cool from the wind. Just don't expect to get many fashion awards!

A much more common method to keep your insulator dry is to use poly insulators with a Gore-tex shell. The poly's can transport sweat away from your skin, not absorb a lot of the water in the process, and then let the sweat evaporate through the Gore-Tex (Gore-Tex is like a one-way mirror: it lets sweat pass through one side but blocks rain on the other).

So in summary: you need to keep your insulator dry from sweat and from rain. Technical fabrics like polyester, polypropylene, and Gore-Tex are great for this. Natural fabrics like cotton and wool are not.

The complete Keeping Warm series is here:

Keeping Warm: Summary
Keeping Warm: Insulation Thickness
Keeping Warm: Dryness
Keeping Warm: Wind


Friday, 28 December 2012

Keeping Warm Part 2: Insulation

Staying Warm 99In my summary post on how to keep warm, I mentioned how critical is was to have proper insulator thickness. In this post, I will look at this issue in more detail.

Insulator Thickness
To understand how the thickness of an insulator helps you, you should be passingly familiar with Fourier's Law, which is q = k A dT/ s . However, if you are math-phobic, you can skip this part and go to the next paragraph where I will give you a layman's description. In the equation:
q = the heat transferred
A = heat transfer area
k = thermal conductivity of the material
dT = temperature difference across the material
s = material thickness

The amount of heat transferred, q, is what will make you feel cooler. The higher the "q", the cooler you will feel.

Here is the non-math interpretation:
  1. The amount of heat you will lose on a cold day is directly proportional to your body area, and the exposed surface of your body. The more surface area you have exposed (as in bare skin), the faster you will lose heat and feel cold. To warm up, you need to cover up!
  2. The colder it is out, the faster you will lose heat and feel cold.
  3. What you wear will make a difference. If you wear a trendy, latest fashion jacket made from woven metal fibres, you are going to lose heat a lot faster than if you wear a regular, wool sweater.
  4. The thicker the clothes you wear, the less heat you will lose and the warmer you will feel. Double up to warm up!

What can you control? Well, you can easily control the thickness of what you are wearing! You can easily put on another sweater or pull on long underwear. You can put on a thin pair of glove liners inside your regular gloves or mittens. You can pull a hood up over your toque (which is a Canadian word for warm hat).

In some limited cases, such as the use of mittens instead of gloves, you can control the surface area, but the rest of the factors are outside of your control.

You might think that changing your insulator makes a big difference, but when it comes to just looking at thickness, as long as your insulation layer is really an insulator (think sweater) and not a conductor (think aluminium foil), it generally doesn't. For those of you interested, the Engineering Tool Box has a list of some materials and their thermal properties here. Where the type of insulation you choose will play a factor is when it comes to wetness (water conducts heat much more efficiently than cotton, wool, polyester, or polypropylene), which I will look at in a few minutes.

So how thick is good enough?

That depends upon your personal situation; How cold do you feel? How much heat are you putting out, either through your basal metabolic rate or through your activity?

The more heat you put out, the less insulation you will need. The less heat you put out, the more insulation you will need.

Cross-country ski racers wear very little insulation because they generate enormous amounts of heat while racing. However, when they stop, they need to add insulation pretty quickly. They usually have a bag of clothes at the finish line so that they add clothes or switch clothes just after their race.

Final Push

Cross-country ski officials, the folks who run the race, tend to generate heat in bursts. For short periods of frantic activity, we need little insulation. For example, this is me on the left. Len and I are out manually grooming a corner and I am down to one thin underlayer plus the required uniform shirt (note the NEOS on my feet for better foot insulation in the snow).


For the longer periods of time when we are mostly standing around, we need more insulation and we layer up, with lots of wind block as well (note on the second photo the hoods up to block wind and protect the head and neck as well as the pads to get more insulation thickness between the feet and the snow)

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Event Offical

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When I am out taking photographs, I generate very little heat, so I need a lot more insulation than I do for my other activities.

To stay warm, you need to develop a feeling for how much insulation you need for doing various activities, no matter if it is shoveling snow, taking photographs in the city, taking photographs in the mountains, or running along a park trail.

You also need to pay attention to the different parts of your body, because some areas may require more insulator thickness than others. I find the areas where there is a lot of blood flow near the surface requires more insulation. These are my head, my neck, my hands, my wrists, my groin (where the femoral artery is) and my trunk. I need to wear light gloves starting at 5 C. Other areas require less insulation. I wear shorts (while running) until it is 0 C. I only need to cover my face (while running or skiing) when it goes below -15 C.

Changing activity means you need to manage your insulation, which you can do by wearing layers. Rather than wear one big, thick piece of clothing, you can "layer" your insulation by wearing more, but thinner, clothing.

During the oil crisis of the 1970's, we lived in a big, drafty house heated by an oil-fired furnace pumping hot water through radiators. Naturally, we turned down the thermostat to conserve our oil. Whenever I complained about being cold, my mother would admonish me to "go put on a sweater!" A great example of layering!

You can take an extra sweater with you when you go out, if you are not sure if you will be warm enough on your trunk. Then if you are cold, put on your extra sweater for an additional layer of insulation.

You can also start out by wearing two or more layers and removing layers as you heat up. If you get cold, put a layer back on. It is much better to remove a layer when you are warm, than to sweat into the layer and get it wet.

For example, if I am carrying my camera gear in my backpack and I'm meeting someone for a coffee before we shoot, I will immediately start to "de-layer" as soon as I go inside. I do this because I know I have been generating lots of heat carrying my gear, possibly even getting my insulation damp from sweat. De-layering not only allows me to not overheat and to not sweat into my insulation while inside, but also to let my layers dry more quickly than if I had not de-layered. If I didn't do this, I would be nice and toasty on the way to the meet-up, but as soon as I stepped outside for the shoot, I would start to freeze because my layers would now be wet (or even only damp). What the frack? I was warm on the way down!

If you only have one layer, then your options to regulate your heat loss is very limited and you are much more likely to sweat into it than not.

Here is an example. You can see I am wearing three layers in this photo: a turtleneck poly shirt, a poly fleece on top of the turtleneck, and then an insulated jacket. I could easily add more layers by wearing a thin poly undershirt, and/or a thicker fleece sweater between the top shirt and the jacket.

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When I talk about layers and insulation, I am not just talking about sweaters or jackets. The "thickness" and "layer" principles apply to your hands, feet, neck, head, and every other part of your body. I have already mentioned that I often wear thin "liners" or kids gloves under my regular gloves, but I also will wear a really thin hat under my normal hat, or, wear a hat and if I am cold, pull up my hoodie over it. Pulling up a hood also helps insulate your neck.

One great little piece of gear is a Buff. They are thin pieces of insulation that can be used as an extra layer:

On your neck:
Staying Warm 26

Up over your face:
Staying Warm 25

Around your neck and head:
Staying Warm 24

Around your neck and head under a toque:
Staying Warm 23

Worth a special mention, I think, is wearing gloves just as you start to get cold hands. I find many people complain about cold hands between 5 C and 0 C because they think it is too warm to wear their big, heavy winter gloves. For many people, those thin glove liners are just the right thickness to wear in this temperature range and they roll up nicely into your pocket so you don't forget to bring them along!

So don't forget to apply this thinking to all parts of your body where you get cold.

I mentioned surface area above, and in particular mittens versus gloves. Mittens are much warmer than gloves because they have a smaller surface area that is exposed to the cold. The trouble with mittens is that you lose the dexterity of your fingers while wearing them.

However, mittens work especially well for me when I wear the glove liners I just mentioned. By wearing them under my mittens, I can whip my mittens off, do some fine finger work (taking pictures, waxing skis, etc.), and then pull them back on without getting too cold on my fingers.

Glove liners or thin knit gloves:
Staying Warm 33

Mittens on over the glover liners:
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The final product (note the draft strap on the wrist):
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A special comment for photographers: depending on how cold it is and how long I am shooting, I may upgrade my glove liners to gardening gloves or cross-country ski gloves. They have more insulation and typically are more "grippy" which helps when fiddling with camera parts, yet are still thin enough to fit inside my large mittens for when I am not actually shooting.

You need to watch out for compression of your layers because compressing an insulator reduces its ability to keep you warm. Compressing a layer reduces its thickness, meaning more heat will "leak" out. Socks in particular are prone to compression on the underside of your foot, so you may need thicker socks than you think. Be very careful not to go with too thick a layer, though. You may restrict blood flow, and restricting blood flow will cause all sorts of problems!

If you cannot put on another sock, then take a look at your shoes or boots. Many shoes have thin soles and you will lose heat through them fairly quickly. If you have to wear dress shoes, try putting on overshoes, like the NEOS I mentioned in an above photo. I use NEOS over my hiking boots when I am standing around on the snow. I find that extra layer of insulation is just enough to keep my feet nice and warm, and I can easily de-layer if I go inside. I also use them when I am heading to a formal function and wearing my dress shoes. They keep my feet warm and toasty and it is very easy to pull them off when I get to where I am going.

Wear is another issue you need to watch out for. Gloves and socks are particularly prone to wear and you can end up feeling surprisingly colder than you thought you would feel.

So in summary: the thicker the insulator, the warmer you will be. You just need to remember to cover-up everywhere, and not just your trunk.

The complete Keeping Warm series is here:

Keeping Warm: Summary
Keeping Warm: Insulation Thickness
Keeping Warm: Dryness
Keeping Warm: Wind


Thursday, 27 December 2012

Keeping Warm

Staying Warm 99My dance photography project, Postcards for a Dancer, involves taking photographs of dancers outdoors. The photo on the left, for example, was taken in December during a heavy snowfall. Outdoors, particularly in winter, is not the usual place for many dancers to engage in their art, although my opinion is that dancing outdoors is encoded in our DNA.

In any case, the dancers I shoot need to be warm and safe and I have been talking to them so much about my "tips on keeping warm" that I thought I would write up a blog post and save myself some air.

I have experienced a lot of cold situations over the years. I have spent over 38 years with cross-country skis on my feet and in both my coaching certification (Level 2) and my officiating certification (Level 3), we spent a good amount of time studying the cold and learning how to deal with it. When I took my medical first responder course, we spent time learning how to deal with the side effects, such as frostbite and hypothermia. Seeing both sides of the cold issue and being a naturally technically inclined problem solver (I am an engineer) has lead me to stay pretty current on ways of keeping warm.

No matter if you are a photographer going out to shoot, an athlete continuing training through the winter months, a dancer working with me on my dance project, or someone just wanting to stay warm on the way to the store, I hope this blog post will give you a start in thinking about how you can stay warm.

Despite all of the changes in technology over the years, being cold has always come down to the same three issues. It didn't matter if I was ski racing at -32 C, walking to the store at 0 C, or taking photographs at 5 C, if I was cold it was because:
  1. My insulating layer was too thin or I didn't have one to begin with.
  2. My insulating layer was being cooled by the wind (or a draft).
  3. My insulating layer was wet.

Many times, it was a combination of all three.

With that said, it is probably obvious that to stay warm you need to do one or more of the following:
  1. Have the right thickness of insulation.
  2. Block the wind (or draft) from cooling your insulation.
  3. Keep your insulation dry and make sure that it performs well when wet.

Putting it all Together.
Many people start with a "three layer" approach: a thin base layer (which is the "underwear" layer right next to your skin), a thicker mid layer, and then a wind-proof, water resistant Gore-Tex (or similar fabric) shell as the top layer (or a top layer with insulation).

The links above are to general product lists at Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), which is the best outdoor gear store on the planet. I am not sure how long the links will stay valid, so if you come across a broken link, just go to the main MEC web page here.

You can modify this approach to suit your needs. Add layers if you need to. Combine the wind-proof, water-resistant shell and an insulator layer by using a good "winter" coat if you want. Put a poly layer under your jeans if that's what works for you.

The secret is to identify what the issue is (or are) when you get cold. So as you design your own system for staying warm, remember to look for any and all of the three items I listed at the beginning:

  1. Is my insulation too thin?
  2. Is my insulation being cooled by a wind or draft?
  3. Is my insulation wet?

Let's put these three rules to use by looking at an example. If your hands are cold, then consider:
  1. Putting on a pair of gloves if your hands are bare (I usually put on a thin glove liner when it is 5 C. This surprises a lot of people because 5 C is well above freezing, but that is when I start to feel cold in my hands.
  2. Adding a layer, such as a glove liner or a kid's glove underneath your regular gloves.
  3. Adding a wind block, such as an over-mitt.
  4. Changing your gloves for ones that incorporate a wind block, such as downhill ski gloves.
  5. Changing your cotton gloves for wool gloves, since wool doesn't get as wet as cotton.
  6. Changing your wool gloves for polyester or polypropylene gloves, since they retain next to no water.
  7. Changing your gloves for mittens, since mittens loose less heat than gloves.
  8. Taking off a layer if your hands are sweaty and wet (this is a common problem for me when taking photographs. When I take my hands out of my mitts to use my camera, my hands are damp and they get cold quickly). Of course you need to replace any remaining wet layer with a dry one.
  9. Doing more than one of the above, or even all of the them!

That's pretty much all you need to know and you can stop reading right now if you want.

However, if you want to understand the three rules better, then you will need to read the rest of this series of posts:
Keeping Warm: Insulation Thickness
Keeping Warm: Dryness
Keeping Warm: Wind

More Information.
This is also a good time to point out that I did not cover other important items, such as using chemical or electric warmers. Likewise I did not cover related issues, such as the need to stay properly hydrated (no less an issue in the cold than in the heat).

I encourage you to treat this post only as a primer in learning how to stay warm. You should further your knowledge by reading books such as The Secrets to Warmth by Hal Wiess (ISBN-13: 978-0898866438).

A good on-line store for gear is Mountain Equipment Co-op, which is where I pulled examples for the layers above. They have excellent background information on how to buy gear as well as having top-notch gear at good prices. To buy something you will have to join, but I think the fee is extremely reasonable.

Finally, you should also take a look at what people who play a lot in the winter wear. If you have a high metabolic rate and/or do a lot outside, then backpacker, running, and x-c ski stores are loaded with great clothes. If you have a low metabolic rate and/or do not do that much outdoors, take a look at stores that sell to snowmobilers or downhill skiers. They wear some of the warmest clothing I know of.

By increasing your knowledge, you can then make your own decisions as to what trade-offs to make in terms of comfort, cost, and warmth to suit your own needs.

My thanks to Mel (who hates winter but lives in Norway anyway) for listening to my early explanations on how to stay warm. Those conversations were the basis of this post. Thanks also to fellow photographers Polina and Katya, who were kind enough to review my first written drafts and who took many of the illustrative photos above. After the review, and a nice mug of hot chocolate, we braved -16 C temperatures to get my picture in my December running gear (Christmas lights and a Santa hat)! After all, it is only fair that I do what I ask my dance project partners to do, which is to pose in the freezing cold!

Staying Warm 94

If you are curious about the ski photos, you can read about my Olympic adventures here.

The complete Keeping Warm series is here:

Keeping Warm: Summary
Keeping Warm: Insulation Thickness
Keeping Warm: Dryness
Keeping Warm: Wind


Saturday, 22 December 2012

Postcards from Home: Whale Watching

Whale Watching 5I saw a couple of small whales on my Spout Path walk. It brought me back to when I was growing up, watching the whales as they would come in close to shore to feed during the capelin scull. Anne grew up on the Prairies, with nary a whale to be seen. So I figured it would be good to take her and Zoey on one of the touristy "whale watching" boat tours. I hit the Tourism Newfoundland's website of recommended service providers and picked O'Brien's out in Bay Bulls.

Since I was already in Bay Bulls, where I stayed after my Spout Path hike, O'Brien's was nice and close. I booked an early morning tour, thinking to beat the crowd coming out from St. John's. When I woke up and looked out the window, I was happy to see a nice bright sky. The blue bottles in the photo are a couple of Quidi Vidi Brewery's Iceberg beers that I used to rehydrate myself after my hike.

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O'Brien's operates out of Bay Bulls where they have a great facility on-shore for people waiting for their tour departure. Kids can play around and their parents can browse in the gift shop.

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Our boat was the Atlantic Puffin, the sister ship of the Atlantic Whaler.

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When Anne was little, we used to hike in the Rockies. She was always the first to see any animal or interesting sight. It looks like Zoey takes after her mother because just out of the harbour, she spotted something and wanted her mom to "wook".

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In this case she spotted a traditional Newfoundland fishing boat. We were too far away to tell for sure, but it looked like these guys were jigging for fish. In Newfoundland "fish" is cod, whereas all other "fish" go by their actual names.

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Besides whale watching, the O'Brien's tour also takes you to see the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. The reserve is made up of four islands: Gull Island, Green Island, Great Island, and Pee Pee Island. Our destination was the largest of the four: Gull Island. We were still a couple of kilometers away from Gull Island when we ran into flocks of birds, many flying just above the water's surface.

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The Reserve is home to North America's largest colony of Atlantic Puffins, with some 500,000 of them nesting there during the summer. The puffins share Gull Island with other species of birds, notably kittiwakes and murres. There was a research group on the island and their tent gave me a way to show the scale of the bird colony.

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We were able to get in close to the island and Zoey watched the bird activity with fascination.

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After coming around the southern end of Gull Island, we made haste north to see if we could spot some whales just off the shore from the Spout Path.

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As we were heading north, we met another tour company heading back in. I can see the attraction of the little speed boats, notably that they are fast, but given the changeable nature of Newfoundland weather, I think we made the right choice in picking a larger boat with a cabin.

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The whales were getting ready to head south, so we were not sure if we would spot any. But before too long, we did manage to see a couple of small whales feeding very close to shore, just off of the Spout. Their pattern was pretty regular:

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Wave Good-Bye.
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Leave Footprint.
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After spending about an hour watching these guys, it was back to Bay Bulls and around the same light that marked the end of my Spout Path hike.

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I would recommend the whale watching / bird watching tour not only to tourists visiting the Island, but also to locals. It is well worth the money and the time.

Many of my images from Newfoundland are available to purchase as fine art prints from my web gallery.

If you would like to read some of my other posts about Newfoundland, click here and use the "Older" and "Newer" links at the bottom to scroll through the posts.