Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How to stay warm

There's an adage hereabouts: "There's no such thing as 'too cold'; there's only 'insufficient clothing'."

I've come to realize that there are four main lines of warm clothing tactics in Fairbanks.

1) The REI/outdoorsy thing. The high-tech stuff. This is what I started with when I first moved to Fairbanks, with an insulated jacket, ski pants, and warm boots from Sierra Trading Post, which definitely has the outdoorsy/sporty vibe.

Pros: Lightweight, packable, breathable, and water-resistant or waterproof. Industry trend turnover rate is so high that you can almost always buy last year's top quality model for half price. Although possibly in a bizarre color that didn't sell. That's why I currently am sporting bright pink.

Cons: Delicate fabrics that snag easily, not generally easy to wash (often require special care). The jackets tend to be short, to allow skiing and snowboarding movement, when I'd really prefer a longer jacket for walking around in freezing temps.

2) The Native thing. Furs, skins. Mostly obsolete, except in small doses (parka hood trims, gloves, mittens, boots, hats).

Pros: Super warm.

Cons: Super heavy. Super expensive and/or laborious.

3) The Carhartt thing. Preferred by folks who do blue-collar work outdoors. Kind of perfect for Interior Alaska because we have so little wind and moisture that the lack of wind-proofing and moisture-proofing is not a problem.

Pros: Cut for sloooower movement than the REI stuff, so the sleeves are longer, the waistbands are higher, the jackets are longer. So it's consequently better for deep cold, when all exposed skin must be covered. Very durable. Machine-washable and dryable with ordinary laundry soap. Stains are invisible. You can use your pants as a napkin. The more beaten-up and worn the clothes get, the more comfortable and warm they are.

Cons: When I wear my 'Alaskan tuxedo', I feel like a brown Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. However, I get major Alaska street cred.

4) The Macy's/Nordstrom thing. Not that we have either of those stores, but you get the idea. Back in the heady days of the oil boom, Fairbanks did indeed have a Nordstrom, so the wealthy wives of the oilmen could look nice. Today, there are still folks in town whose vanity trumps comfort. Pretty, business-dress-worthy things. Long, dress-length coats. Leather shoes that don't have lug soles. Nice hats instead of knit toques.

Pros: They look nice. I'm not gonna argue there. I'm content with my lot in the looks department, but I'm surly not winning any beauty pageants in my clothes!

Cons: You'd get a less friendly reception in my rural neighborhood. You'd also fall down a lot due to lack of traction on your shoes. :)


Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

And Bunny Boots to go along with teh Carharts!

flying fish said...

Totally overdressed today for 11 degrees in the sporty/carhartty combo pack that is Cabellas + last years colors of Patagonia!

Good descriptions, so true!

TwoYaks said...

I wouldn't say old school stuff is obsolete. It's just a lot of work, and you can't go to the store to buy it. Not a lot of people have the know-how anymore, either. Nor would I say it's super heavy. Some good reindeer pants are lighter than a comparable pair of carhart bibs.

If you have the materials and the knowhow, for most daily use things, a well done parkie is the champ of warmth vs weight. It's just those two 'if's are pretty big ifs these days (which makes me pretty sad!)

That said, I do the Apocalypse design thing, because a) they're warm, and b) they're tough enough to endure the huge amount of abuse they go through. Oh, and c) Alaskan made. :)

Arvay said...

TwoYaks, point taken!