Shackleton Centenary Expedition

Dressed For The Occasion Part 2: The Head July 07 2007

As most people know, keeping the noggin warm is critical for being warm generally. If you favour balaclavas as I do, you'll need to bring a variety to cater for different conditions and so you can replace the one you're wearing when it's iced up.

Outdoor Research's Gorilla balaclava (below) is brilliant, with a detachable velcro mouth cover that hinges off when iced up, allowing you to scoff and refuel without exposing your head to the elements. It's also made from slightly stretchy windproof material, which is critical in order to avoid frostbite. I've cut out the mouth cover on mine to be able to breathe better, and to look ever so slightly more human.

Another original design of balaclava is made by a company called Psolar. It features a simple heat exchanger which uses the air you breathe out to heat and moisturise the air you breathe in. I've not yet worn it in anger (well I have, but only for the inevitable Darth Vader impressions) but if its makers' claims are true, it could be a real find.

Neither the OR Gorilla nor the Psolar balaclava are sold in the UK and had to be ordered from the USA.

If you prefer hats to balaclavas, you'll need something to protect your nose and mouth from frostbite. One solution is to sew a windproof fleece flap beneath your goggles, which seems to work well.

Whichever system you use, a fur ruff sewn/zipped to your hood is indispensable. It deflects the wind and keeps the blizzard away from your face. Wintergreen Designs can supply these.


Finally, goggles, or occasionally very strong sunglasses, must be worn pretty much all the time, to protect against both the cold and the sun. Henry suffered from snow blindness after not protecting his eyes whilst training one day in Baffin Island and was in serious discomfort. And that was during an overcast day!

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