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5 best bits of kit for Polar Travel

A packed Pulk ready for the Kingstrail, Sweden.

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing” – Anon

Many of you will be familiar with the above saying, it is often attributed to Alfed Wainright, Ranulph Fiennes, and as a Norwegian Saying! No matter where it came from, it definitely rings true. Even in the worst arctic storms you won’t feel that biting chill half as bad if you have the right clothing!

The “outdoor fashion” industry is big business, so it can be difficult to see what is useful or good, and what is just a fad

Clothing and equipment just need to work, be uncomplicated, and efficient; as well as being multi-purpose if possible.

Those of you who have booked onto one of our polar trips, or have downloaded the trip PDF’s will notice that we occasionally specify a particular make and model – occasionally this is just an example, but sometimes the item is just the best tool for the job.

Below is a small 10 piece list of kit for polar travel that we think the designers have got just right and they are “for for the job”

1. Nalgene Bottle 

The Humble 1L Lexan Wide-Mouthed Nalgene Bottle

Everyone knows these bottles, they are seemingly everywhere, and for very good reason. The humble 1L Nalgene is a must have for any expedition not just Polar trips. Why a Nalgene in particular and not another brand? – The do not break!

When I was a younger man, a mentor of mine told me this “buy a Nalgene, you will not break it”….challenge accepted! I threw my Nalgene down sea cliffs onto the rocks below, I hit it with a sledge-hammer and with an ice axe – barely a scratch! I even filled it with calcium carbide and water! (this was back when we still used acetylene lamps for caving!) Nothing would break the Nalgene; I’m sure one could melt it, but if your Nalgene is getting melted you have bigger problems than losing a bottle!

The other major plus of a Nalgene is that they are “wide mouthed” mean that the aperture on the bottle is wide enough to pour boiling water into from your stove – they’re also made out of a thick Lexan plastic which is not going to warp or melt from hot water, in-fact the bottle is just the right temperature once filled to be used as hot water bottle. The Nalgene is also the best suited bottle for a “pee bottle” for the very same reason – the top!

oh! – and they don’t leak!

If we compare the Nalgene to another bottle – say the Sigg, we can see the massive disadvantages the Sigg has over the Nalgene.

  • Metal – easier to break, dents, gets too hot when filled with boiling water, noisy, will stick to your lips when cold, and will burn your lips when hot.
  • Aperture – to small to be used safely when filling up with hot water, far too small to be used as a pee bottle!

NB: if you’re using a Nalgene as a Pee Bottle and a Nalgene as a drinks bottle, make sure they look and feel different! – Red Bottles with gaffer tape and skull and crossbones drawn on work well as pee bottles!

2. Patagonia R1 Hoody

The Patagonia R1 Hoody – the most versatile top out there!

Accept no imitations…

The Patagonia R1 Hoody has been available for decades, and has hardly changed since its inception.

What is it? – Well, the simple answer is its a “micro fleece with a hood”…but its waaaaay more than just that. The reason that the R1 Hoody has made the list and the reason that it is better than all other competitors is as follows:

  • It’s made by Patagonia – yes, Patagonia is often referred to as PataGucci, due to its price tag, and the Silicon Valley following it gets. But, Patagonia is built on manufacturing extremely good and extremely well tested pieces of equipment. Just fo that its worth the money… BUT! in addition to that – Patagonia is a super ethical company with strong environmental protection policies and support of environmental projects the world over. Also, Patagonia have what they refer to as the “Iron Clad” guarantee. Meaning that if the gear you use from Patagonia break, or even gets damaged through wear and tear, they will fix the equipment and sometimes replace it like-for-like! and they don’t always need proof of purchase! I had this very hoody (well is still do…) and it was around 10 years old when the zip gave up a couple of teeth, and the wrist warmers had worn through due to extended ski pole use one winter – I sent it back to Patagonia for about £10, they fixed everything and sent it back, and it is still very much in use.
  • Cut – The Patagonia R1 hoody is cut correctly; far too many similar products from competitors make their hoodies way to short. The R1 hoody is long enough to be tucked into layers, have a harness out over it without it slipping up etc…
  • Ninja-Mode – The R1 Hoody has a full ninja mode which can be activated at any time. The hood of the hoody is a tight fitting balaclava which you simply zip all the way up (there’s lots of other brands with similar products which have weird fandanglements (ahem…Arc’Teryx!) The other part of Ninja Mode is the wrist warmers – rather than having weird cut-into-you-skin, uncomfortable thumb loops. The R1 Hoody has longer cuffs at the wrist which extend and have a thumb loop which isn’t a piece of fishing line… Ninja Mode basically means that you can have almost a hat and gloves in once package.
  • Versatility – The R1 Hoody can be used everywhere, and indeed I have used it all over the world. It goes on every trip I go on from Polar Travel to High Altitude Mountaineering and everything between. I always have it with me.

3. Fjallraven Nordic Heater

Fjallraven Nordic Heater and some bloke… not its normal habitiat (man and hat!)

If you’re traveling in the polar regions properly (meaning, human-powered, not on a skidoo or buggering about on a boat) then getting cold during the day can actually be quite difficult. Hauling a 60Kg pulk up and down on skis (or snowshoes) for 10 hours makes you warm! As does putting the tents up, digging the pits, erecting polar bear trip lines…and so on.

However, sometimes you stop, sometime you have to stand outside in the middle of the night looking for the Isbjørn – and it gets cold! This hat is for then. It’s quite simple; if you have a cold head – pop this on and now you wont. It works in an instant, looks super cool (see above) and isn’t made of dead things.

2.34am – Svalbard – Polar Bear watch…

4. Chamonix Bin Man Gloves

Chamonix Bin Man Gloves in the element!

The Chamonix Bin Man gloves, guide gloves, lifty gloves… whatever you want to call them, are the ideal gloves for dealing with “most” situations in polar environments. There are basically a very simple insulated leather glove, and they cost around £17!

My general practice is to have around 4 pairs of gloves which i use on a regular basis when travelling in polar regions these are:

The Bin Man gloves are a pure work horse, and I have had my pairs for years. There’s a couple of modifications and improvements I have made to them. Namely – The leather comes untreated so I hit them up with a load of NikWax Glove Proof to make them a little more water resistant, and I also fix some “dummy straps” to them or “glove retainers”, and these are usually Hestra ones – just because I think its funny!

5. Brynje String Clothing

Brynje String Short Sleeve T-Shir

We have written about this fantastic technology before – HERE

Here at Exped, we love this stuff. Yes it looks bloody awful unless you some bronzed adonis. But hey that sort of bloke couldn’t hack it out there on the ice, so we’re cool with the look of the Brynje. If you want an in-depth look at these items have a look in that Blog above. Here’s a low-down of why they have made our list:

  • Super Cool – Look they look great.
  • There perfectly regulate temperature by being so breathable

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