It was cloudy and I warm...
Posted 17 January 2013 - 11:09 AM
At the cost of becoming preachy, I've been a winter hiker my whole life, and I was a ski bum for 3 years in a long-ago part of life.
I listen to the Eskimos first and foremost with
- adequate head warming gear. Often a thin, wind-block fleece headband completely covering my ears, then a warm fleece hat over that. Really. Ever seen those big Russian flap caps? Those are WARM.
- polypro (i.e. newfangled synthetic) long johns - maybe most important! These come in different weights - my "expedition weight" set is almost always too warm.
- Regular pants, Insulated pants, Windblock pants depending how cold & windy. Heck - I put on my ski-bib-overalls in the harshest cold.
- wool or fleece shirt/sweater - (or two!)
- Hooded shell-parka that goes to hips A waist-length ski-jacket/work-jacket ain't cutting it. You want a gore-tex, or similarly waterproof-breathable shell. As an example, I have a Patagonia "Storm" Jacket. There are knock-offs of this jacket that work just fine, though Patagonia is one of the few guaranteed-for-life companies. The point is, you need a jacket that seals up your core heat. A big puffy down jacket of that length is fine, too, because we're seldom doing astro in the rain, but they're a bit bulky to get around in. Also, the jacket in question should have a hood, for one more nod to the Eskimo proverb.
- Gloves/Mitten combo - here's where I'm still figuring, because astronomy presents issues due to the need for gear-handling and manipulations. For me lightweight polypro gloves possibly fingerless (I actually use gloves with an inch cut from the index fingers and thumbs.) Then, if it's really cold, or I can watch something for a while in the current eyepiece, I put on the magic mitts of warmth. Something like these, with an insulated fleece inner, and waterproof/breathable outer shell, and a cuff that cinches a few inches up OVER your jacket's sleeve. Again, roomy is better than tight! But these mitts are too thick to work thumbscrews and the like.
After dressing like the above, many people find their feet aren't cold anymore, because their whole self is so toasty.
That said, for feet - all the good advice above:
- one thin pair silk or polypro sock
- one pair thicker, warmer socks
- boots that have *!* plenty of room *!* for the heavy socks you're wearing! Squeezed feet are cold feet. Insulated boots are awesome, but the not-tight part is MOST IMPORTANT.
WORST CASE - the flat, little chem-warmer-packs, one on the top flat part of each foot (inside your boot on top of your sock), is an absolutely wonderful feeling for cold feet. As is one pack in the back of each glove.
Overkill? For me, in cold weather - there's no such thing as overkill.
Posted 17 January 2013 - 11:29 AM
Posted 17 January 2013 - 03:56 PM
At the cost of becoming preachy, I've been a winter hiker my whole life ...
Me too. And I do use much of the same clothing, because why buy two different garments when one will do?
However, the requirements are quite different. Winter hiking is a hot activity; getting too sweaty is a constant threat. But then you get super-cold if you stop for long. So you need clothes that are incredibly adjustable -- and can also cope with the inevitable sweat when you don't adjust them quite enough.
None of this is an issue for astronomy. At worst, you just leave off your outer layers while setting up, to avoid getting hot. But once you're actually stargazing, getting too hot is hardly ever a problem. Certainly nothing that can't be coped with by removing your hat and unzipping your jacket.
For instance, I find that cotton long underwear is great for astronomy -- and cheaper and more comfortable than synthetics. But it's a disaster for hiking.
And I would never wear a waterproof shell for astronomy, except on a backpacking trip where it was the only shell I was bringing. So-called waterproof-and-breathable shells tend to do neither job very well. And they're expensive and clunky. And who does astronomy in the rain?
In fact, I don't wear them for winter hiking, either. Not unless it's forecast to rain or I'm planning to climb waterfalls. A thin uncoated nylon shell works just as well and is much cheaper, lighter, and more flexible.
I don't find big, puffy down jackets clumsy at all; quite the contrary. Because down is infinitely compressible, a down jacket is much less obstructive than the same warmth in any other garment. Three or four thick fleece jackets under a shell would probably be just as warm as my expedition down parka, but I would barely be able to move in them.
Also, there's no substitute for a down jacket with a good hood. Warm hats under wind shells are OK, but down hoods are heavenly.
Dressing in layers is fine for astronomy, and it's a good solution for people who already own several suitable garments that can be layered. (The problem is that to do this really well, the outer layers need to be one or two sizes bigger than the inner layers.) But a single warm layer works every bit as well -- unlike for active sports.
Here's what I wear:
On my head, a pile hat under a down hood. Add face mask on really cold, windy nights.
On my torso, a cotton turtleneck under a pile jacket under a down jacket. I usually wear a shell over that, but mostly because it gives me another pair of pockets. When I'm wearing my expedition parka as opposed to my regular one, I have to skip the shell. No normal shell fits over a jacket that thick.
On my legs, lined bluejeans (I wear these all the time in the winter) under homemade insulated pants. When it's really cold, add long underwear.
On my feet, either Mouse Boots or the warmest Sorrels. Thin socks underneath, for comfort and sweat absorption, but not for warmth.
On my hands, open-palm windblock pile mittens with chemical hand-warmers inside. If its super-cold add down mittens. But it's impossible to manipulate anything smaller than binoculars while wearing those.
Posted 17 January 2013 - 04:52 PM
Since astronomy is sedentary, this rule of thumb is useful: dress for temperatures 20° colder than what the actual temperature is, e.g. if the temp is 30°F, dress for temps of 10°F.
I use much of what Tony listed. I have a pair of flannel lined jeans that I wear for astronomy almost year round. It can get cold here in the mountains at night in the summer time--using my rule of thumb, 50° feels like 30° after an hour or two of standing around.
I use the felt-lined boots mentioned above for cold nights (35°F or less)--we call them felt-pacs around here. Your feet will not get cold in these things (but they are kind of clunky).
For cold nights I also use insulated coveralls. Get the kind that have zippers up the sides of the legs--you can take them off and put them on without having to remove your boots.
I usually sketch when I observe so I use fingerless carpenter gloves and chemical hand warmers.
I have a hand muff thingy that buckles around my waist that I can put my hands in to warm them up (NFL quaterbacks have something similar they use for their hands). This is where I keep my chemical hand warmers.
Sometimes I can't sketch with any gloves on at all--but I just stick my hands in the muff with the hand warmers and they warm right up.
It does take some time to suit up for cold weather but I hate for a clear night to go by even if it is cold--there seem to be so few clear nights here.
Posted 17 January 2013 - 08:29 PM
Well I did say big down coat works too. It makes me feel too space-manny, but I bow to greater experience. To active outdoor astronomy, I'm a newcomer, relative to sweaty outdoor pursuits.
...why buy two different garments when one will do?
You're absolutely right that cold weather astronomy is different from active pursuits.
However, the requirements are quite different. ..I would never wear a waterproof shell for astronomy, ...
In a shell's defense, my "Pata-Gucci" shell may not keep me totally dry in a very sweaty situation (i.e. its "breathe-ability" can't keep up), but it breathes plenty for astro work, and it's an excellent outer layer, with 4 good pockets. I stand up for that coat!
But I may start looking around for a good down coat. As long as it's not too puffy.
Edit: 2013-01-18 - I do sometime put a nice warm down vest underneath the shell, too.
Posted 18 January 2013 - 09:25 AM
...It does take some time to suit up for cold weather but I hate for a clear night to go by even if it is cold--
Yes! That's it! If you waste a clear night, you tick off the clear sky gods.
It's like every time it snows, we have to get right out on skis or showshoes, or the snow gods go away mad.
Posted 18 January 2013 - 10:20 AM
For that reason, if you're prone to sweating under your cold-weather gear, or you live in an area where it's humid or prone to dew, you may want to consider making your next coat purchase of the synthetic variety. I know I will!
Posted 18 January 2013 - 10:37 AM
Down is the No. 1 insulator for cold -- with the caveat that if it gets even the teensiest bit wet, it loses all of its thermal capabilities. For that reason alone, he sold me on a synthetic bag ...
"Even the teensiest bit wet" is an exaggeration. I once spilled a full cup of water on my down bag, and it soaked it up with little sign that the event had ever happened. Down can soak up a mighty lot of water before it gets really wet!
It's true, however, that when down does get genuinely wet it's pretty useless. I definitely don't recommend sleeping out in the open (not in a tent or shelter) in a down bag when it's raining. Been there, done that ...
Synthetic bags can be really amazing in this regard. The downside is that they're much heavier and less compressible. So a synthetic sleeping bag that's adequate for real winter conditions is almost prohibitively heavy and bulky for backpacking. Fine for car-camping, though.
Synthetic-fill jackets are OK, and tend to be cheaper than down. They're a bit more restrictive because of the lack of compressibility, but that's not a huge deal. Getting wet isn't an issue for astronomy -- even a heavy dew doesn't really dent a down jacket's warmth. But price might be an excellent reason to go synthetic.
Just remember, thickness = warmth and warmth = thickness. Advertising and salesmen to the contrary, all warm garments are bulky and all bulky garments are warm.
Posted 18 January 2013 - 11:04 AM
The downside is that they're much heavier and less compressible. So a synthetic sleeping bag that's adequate for real winter conditions is almost prohibitively heavy and bulky for backpacking. Fine for car-camping, though.
They must have come up with a new synthetic material, because the guy let me see the difference between a down bag and a synthetic bag with the same temperature rating. The synthetic was lighter and about 2/3 the size of the down bag when both were crammed into their stuff sacks. That's what ultimately sold me ... better insulation in all types of weather and smaller and lighter. I have a 1990s-generation down bag of my own and, holding the two, my son's bag feels like a Nerf basketball and mine like a traditional basketball!
Posted 18 January 2013 - 11:26 AM
They must have come up with a new synthetic material, because the guy let me see the difference between a down bag and a synthetic bag with the same temperature rating.
Has it occurred to you that the temperature rating might be more honest in one case than the other?
I've never yet seen a sleeping bag that was as warm as its rating, but the difference is much bigger in some cases than others.
Posted 18 January 2013 - 11:45 AM
Posted 19 January 2013 - 10:50 AM
Posted 19 January 2013 - 04:25 PM
All that said, if I get up and go out at 1am to winds that are still howling I look up, acknowledge the awesomeness before me and go right back inside!
Posted 20 January 2013 - 11:00 AM
My sleeping bags come with names like LaQuinta, Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn, Hilton,.....and they are comfortable...and the wetness is from the nice hot shower you just took.........
AKA bed bug roach hotels
Posted 20 January 2013 - 06:03 PM
And, if you have either a down or polyfill sleeping bag, don't keep it in the stuff sack it came in, store it in a larger cloth bag of some sort, even a pillowcase will work. Keeping the fibers/feathers totally compressed for a long period will stop them from fluffing them up fully when you need them.
Posted 20 January 2013 - 07:08 PM