|What Equipment do you always provide?||What equipment might I be able to ask to borrow if I don't own it already?|
|What do I need to bring?||What are your top tips for staying warm and comfortable on safari?|
|How should I layer, differently, depending on the ambient (and variable) temperature?||Other tips of the trade on staying warm.|
|What should I wear, travelling to and from the arctic?|
|Where can I park and is there somewhere to plug in my car?|
What Equipment do you provide?
The following items are available for use by each participant although you are welcome to use your own gear if you prefer (subject to our approval when we check your clothing and equipment through with you during your first evening):
|An arctic jacket and pants or arctic snowsuit.|
|NB: If our standard outerwear is too warm at the end of the season we may substitute / supplement with standard waterproofs.|
|All cutlery, pots and pans etc.|
|Thermos flasks for food and hot drinks|
What equipment might I be able to ask to borrow if I don't own it already?
We have a limited amount of the items listed below which can be borrowed on prior request. We understand that not everyone taking part in our safaris has access to headtorches, goggles etc and please don't feel like you have to buy them just for this journey but do let us know ahead of time that you will need to borrow them since otherwise we may not have them available. NB: We may also have additional gear like thick jumpers if you are really struggling to find something suitable. However, if you are an outdoors person and already have and know how to use your own, then it is obviously best to use kit and clothing you are familiar with.
|Mitts / gloves (subject to availability)|
|Winter buffs / neck protection||extra socks (subject to availability)|
|Hats of various descriptions||A Water bottle|
What do I need to bring?
The following list is a guide of things you should consider bringing for a five day safari in the coldest part of the season. Please adjust the amount you bring depending on the length of your safari and the expected temperatures at the time of year when you will be visiting!
If you are visiting in March, for instance, you are pretty unlikely to need all of the layers mentioned since the days are pretty consistently warmer than in January and February.
Remember, too, that you aren't going to really be washing or changing clothes much and the guides, for instance, will probably have just one layer of outer clothing for the whole trip. They probably won't even take a change for the evenings since they know that the more that they take with them, the more they are likely to have to help the dogs to push the sleds up the hills! Changing clothes less often than normal in civilisation is just part and parcel of life in the arctic. We understand that for those of you less used to the outdoors, you might want to use some of the layers described as your hut (night) clothing just so that you feel refreshed from the change.
Please do NOT bring addtional clothing other than that mentioned below, since you simply won't be able to carry it with you.
The guides will check your equipment at the start of the safari to see how much you have brought and to ensure its suitability. At any time during the safari, if you feel cold or unwell, please tell the guide immediately.
The following is a summarised list of what you will need followed by paragraphs in which our selection is explained in more detail. This list can also be downloaded in pdf format, here:
|Outerwear||Shoes / Feet||Core Body||Core Legs||Extremities||Other|
|Thermal outerwear Provided||Winter boots are Provided||NO COTTON||NO JEANS!||2 to 3 pairs of thin cheap under-gloves like Magic gloves||Head torch & spare (lithium) batteries|
|Three pairs of thinner winter socks||Underwear. Preferably wool or synthetic. No cotton.||Underwear. Preferably wool or synthetic. No cotton.||1 or 2 pairs of warm gloves or mittens (if 2 pairs, one of each).||Sunglasses (from February onwards) to deal with the snow reflection.|
|Three pairs of thicker woollen winter / mountaineering socks||2 lightweight wool or synthetic base tops||1 or 2 pairs of lightweight wool or synthetic thermal underwear bottoms.(Your second pair of tights can be used in the evenings / as an additional backup for super cold weather during the days).||One lightweight, eg powerstretch, hat for general use.||Goggles (available from us if necessary) are useful when the conditions are tough - less likely to be needed towards the end of the season.|
|1 pair of lightweight slippers / crocs (cheap warm Lappish slippers can be purchased here)||1 or 2 x mid-layer (eg 100 weight) fleece pullover / powerstretch tops||1 mid-warm layer powerstretch / fleece bottoms||1 windproof hat with good ear covering.||1 Travel towel (& optional bathing wear) - for wilderness saunas|
|1 warm fleece (eg powerstretch) / wool / synthetic (eg primaloft) layer top (or substitute with buffalo type clothing and a reduced base layer 'set')||One or two winter buffs (Hetta Huskies' personalised buffs can be purchased at a good rate or borrowed here). Alternatively, replace one of these with a balaclava.||Minimal first aid & toiletries (toothbrush & paste & personal meds & headache / anti-inflammatory / gastro tablets, blister protection, heat packs etc.)|
|Optional fleece vest or synthetic (eg primaloft) gillet||A sleigh bag / day sack & a leave-behind drop bag|
|A sleeping bag liner.(subject to availability)|
|A water bottle (subject to availability)|
What are your top tips for staying warm and comfortable?
1) Eat a good breakfast in the morning to keep your energy levels up but allow sufficient time for blood to circulate back around your body, away from your stomach.
2) If you need to pee – don’t hold it because you don’t want to deal with the hassle of your clothing layers. Get rid of it and you will soon feel warmer!
3) Work hard to keep your body temperature stable (by keeping yourself thinly enough clothed to not be perspiring!). We have given you tips on how to do this, throughout this section!
What are your top tips for staying warm and comfortable?
Other tips of the trade on staying warm.
Whatever the length of the safari, warm clothes are vital in keeping your core body temperature stable. We supply extreme-climate thermal snowsuits and snow boots for our multiday tours (and they can be hired for shorter tours) although some people prefer to use their own. For one-day safaris normal skiing or outdoor winter kit will generally also suffice. (In other words, the kit and clothing that you are using for moving around during the rest of your holiday in the Arctic).
Layering is key, starting from the bottom up...
As a general rule, it is wise to wear multiple thin layers of woollen or synthetic clothes rather than one thick layer since warm air then gets trapped between the layers and this in itself adds extra insulation.
Make sure that you do not have any cotton on your body at any point. ie NO JEANS.
Start with one or two sets of thermal underwear (depending on the degree to which you sweat and will need to change). These should be relatively tight to your body, thin, and a material that does not hold water but ideally, rather, wicks it away.
NB: The aim, in the arctic is to actually wear as little as possible to avoid sweating but getting the balance right is the hardest challenge for new arctic explorers like yourselves.
Wearing materials that 'breath' is very important since the worst possible thing that can happen is for a layer of sweat to build up between you and your clothing. When sweat cools here, it freezes. And moisture next to your skin pulls heat away from your body 70% faster than air so whenever you sweat and your clothes trap moisture, your temperature starts to fluctuate widely and you go into a overheat / freeze cycle. Hence, as soon as you start to feel too hot, regulate your body temperature – first by adjusting your head, neck and wrist layers and then by removing a layer of clothing. You may be surprised how little you actually need to wear, when moving around, to stay at the optimum temperature balance.
Ideally, one of your thermal tops should have a zipped or high neck, to help to keep your neck warm and to heat regulate to a degree since this is your vital layer in terms of immediately moving moisture away from the skin. One or two very thin layers of merino wool (or one thinner and one medium-weight layer) would be ideal (depending on what your choice for insulating layer is). NB: Even though we state that you should bring one to two sets of this (tops and bottoms), the second pair of thermal tights is more likely to be used as a change for the evenings / nightwear than as additional backup for super cold weather during the days, since you will anyway have a mid-layer tight to use and normally this is sufficient.
Your mid layer(s) continue to move moisture but also help to trap warm air next to your body. They - and indeed every subsequent layer - should fit easily over your base layer(s) without restricting your blood circulation / movements. Choose eg, Polartec® 100 microfleeces, powerstretch or heavier-weight natural woolen (eg merino) fibres which will keep on insulating even if wet.
You may not need both layers under your snowsuit if the temperature is warm but you will want to add layers if you happen to come in a -30 to -40C week. On warmer weeks, you can keep one set to change into as your indoor set / pyjamas and that might be more pleasant for everyone else. On colder weeks, everyone is going to be keeping all of their layers on even in the evenings so don't worry about changing clothes!
It is important to have at least one thicker fleece (eg Polartec 200 or 300), thicker woollen jumper or synthetic layer (Thinsulate® / primaloft) with you to add extra insulation if you get cold. Please note that it is extremely difficult to be able to predict whether you will actually need this layer since your outer clothing is very warm. However, if it is a cold week, you will appreciate it. Synthetic fabrics might be your best option for this layer unless you are a dye-hard wool fan, since they dry faster and have a higher warmth-to-weight ratio. Classic fleece's main drawbacks are wind permeability and bulk (it's less compressible than other fabrics). However, you do NOT need anything with a windproof layer in it - you get your windproofing from your insulating outer layer or your shell and adding a windblock material to an under-layer will just trap sweat.
One thing that we do recommend (eg instead of an extra mid or base layer), is that you consider a fleece / powerstretch / down or synthetic (eg primaloft) gillet. Lightweight fleece gillets can be worn mid-layer or thick down ones as a substitute outerlayer when it isn't too cold. We find them really useful since they don't restrict you as much as wearing an additional standard layer and the freedom to move your arms more freely whilst maintaining your core temperature is quite a big bonus. You will see our guides utilising gillets in a number of different ways to help regulate their body temperatures!
We have chosen to issue snowmobile suits rather than down clothing because of the long periods of inactivity, followed by short but intense periods of activity which are common when driving a sled. The other advantage of snowmobile jackets is that their outer fabrics tend to be more robust than those on down jackets and subsequently, they stand up to wear and tear from the dogs better. The disadvantage over a shell and douvet combination is that they are heavier and less flexible when you start to get too hot.
Your standard outer layer’s function is to repel the elements whilst allowing, at the same time, the escape of moisture from your body. In warmer temperatures, shells made of breathable waterproof fabrics like eVent(R) are ideal since they protect you from the wind (and rain or snow) and allow sufficient sweat to escape that your under layers can remain dry (rather than driving you into a wet/cold cycle). In late Spring, this will be the only outer layer that you will likely need when actively driving the sled. However, when stopping for breaks on the multi-day safaris, you will also want to have an additional insulating layer made out of down or synthetic insulation like primaloft to exchange for your shell /to put on top of all of the rest of your clothing to trap warm air whilst you are stationary. And, since you will need to wear this thicker insulating layer of outer clothing constantly during colder months, we tend to issue the snowsuits season-round.
People often neglect the need to keep their legs warm in favour of multiple layers on their tops. And, whilst t might be OK to pop to the supermarket wearing a douvet thrown on top of your normal fleece and a pair of jeans, if you are going to be outside in the arctic for any length of time, you also need to protect your legs from the inclement weather.
Hence, we recommend bringing two pairs of bottoms of different thicknesses (eg one thermal and one powerstretch) which can be worn underneath the sallopettes we will issue either separately or simultaneously as needed. The second can be worn as hut clothing / pyjamas at night, if not needed in the day.
Please note.....Jeans (cotton) are NOT OK!
Can I use my own clothes / a pertex-pile-type system?
If you want to wear your own outer clothing rather than using our thermal sallopettes and jackets, then you will a) need to persuade us that they are good enough and b) that you are experienced enough in sub-zero temperatures to be able to judge that, and c) have both decent insulating layers, a breathable shell, douvet jacket (or snowmobile jacket) and waterproof pants or sallopetes of reasonable thickness with you.
NB: Some of our clients are used to operating with Buffalo / Montane etc pertex-pile systems. If so, then you are likely used to being in the outdoors and you know how your body performs in such systems so don't feel that you have to change what you are used to, to follow our advice. Just ensure, please, that you bring sufficient base layers since the arctic might still be a tad chillier than you are used to!
If you are lucky, and the weather is 'warm', you might be fine in this kind of system even without our insulating outerwear on top for the majority of the trip - but we will likely give it to you anyway 'in case' the temperature really drops. Please note also that we cannot guarantee that the pertex will stand up to dog paws which jump up to greet you!
All in all, unless you really live or work outdoors in a similar climate or have taken part in similar tours with your own clothing and are totally familiar with how to use your own kit optimally in an arctic environment, it is probably just easier to use ours. However, on the flip side, if you have a functioning pertex pile etc outdoor closet - don't feel the need to go out and buy new gillets, powerstretch etc just for this safari....your existing outdoor wardrobe can definitely be made to work in combination with what we offer!
More information about your footwear
On our longer trips we will provide you with snowboots to use for the mushing itself but if you have something like winter crocs etc and / or hut booties to use outside of safari time, you will probably find the whole experience more enjoyable. Finnish people don't wear shoes indoors so on the cold cabin floors, slippers make a big difference and when you just pop outside to collect water or firewood or to take a dog to pee in the night, you can sometimes get away with quick-use winter crocs, for example.
When choosing your boots from us, choose them several sizes too large and make sure that they are also wide and high enough for your foot once you have several layers of socks on your feet. You should wear base layer socks that move moisture outwards, and one or more layers of natural fibre, eg woollen, socks or socks specific for Arctic use. Make sure that each layer leaves room for your toes to move so that blood can circulate freely or your feet will start to feel cramped and cold. You may feel a little clumsy in them on warmer days when you are wearing fewer sock layers but you will definitely appreciate them when the temperatures drop below -40C.
Just as with your clothing layer, you need to make sure that the insides of your boots always remain dry. Make sure you have enough socks with you to be able to change the socks, if need be, during each day of mushing (eg if you get wet feet!). Water transfers heat up to 25 times more quickly than air so having wet or damp feet is even worse than having squashed feet although both put you at added risk of developing frostbite.
If you have removable inners, always remove them as soon as you go indoors and hang them up to dry by the stove. If not, open the boots as wide as possible to allow warm air to dry inside them.
If you want to use your own footwear, make sure that you test them on day 1 of your safari (when you still have the option to swap to ours, back at the farm in the evening). What makes us hesitate most about accepting personal footwear as suitable is that most people buy their own shoes 'to fit' vs a size or two larger, as is needed for allowing air to circulate whilst wearing more socks than normal.
If you have unusually large or small feet (or there are children in the group), please let us know your size requirements ahead of time or we may not have footwear to fit!
• One of your three pairs of winter sock combinations (thinner and thicker pairs) should be kept within reach as a spare, in case of wet feet in the sleigh and one can be used in the evenings in the huts. If you also have a couple of good, thick, plastic supermarket bags to hand in your sleigh (keep your spare socks in them!) then, if your first pair of socks get wet, you can put your new pair on and then isolate them from your wet boots by putting the plastic bags in between.
• Ensure that your socks are big enough when worn in double layers (thinner sock closest to the skin – no cotton and ideally with a high wool content). Tight socks restrict the blood flow so it might be worth buying one pair one size up from your other socks in case you have to wear more on an exceptionally cold day (your boots would have to be big enough, however, to make this worthwhile).
• NB: Some of the very thick, more fleece-like socks that you can get reasonably cheaply from sports shops vs outdoor shops can also work really well and would be fine as the pair you will save as your emergency backup.
• 1 pair of slippers / crocs (to wear in the huts in the evening) - as light weight as possible! NB: We have accented this in red font, since you can buy warm Lappish slippers very cheaply in our souvenir shop if you wish.
Keeping hands warm
The choice between gloves and mitts on a not-so-cold day, is personal. Some people prefer to use mits, because they are warmer, and others, gloves, because of the added dexterity they offer. When it gets colder, however, we recommend that everyone swap to mitts so it is good to have both to hand.
If you happen to own only one or the other, that is fine - don't go and buy new ones just for this. You will be able to borrow your back-up pair of warm gloves / mits from us.
You will, though, need some practical pairs of inner gloves with you so that you can harness and unclip dogs from the teams. It is unlikely that your winter gloves will give you sufficient dexterity to do this. For this reason, we state that you should bring the 2-3 pairs of magic gloves. These definitely do not need to be expensive since they are anyway likely to get ripped by the lines or torn by the dogs but you need to be able to clip dogs onto and off leashes, harness them etc, whilst wearing this layer of gloves - and, interestingly, we have found that magic gloves often work better than so-called technical inner gloves for this.
One part of the body frequently overlooked as being important in heat regulation are the wrists. Many folk who live in the arctic wear wrist warmers when outdoors. At the very least, make sure that your mid-layers cover your wrists well and extend fully over your arms / that your gloves are long enough to ride high above your wrists for the same reason.
What should I wear around my neck / across my face and on my head?
For those of you used to being in cold places or in the mountains, you are no doubt familiar with the adage, 'if you have cold feet, put a hat on'. If they are still cold, add another!
In practicality, we try to teach to have all clothing done up against the elements and to first concentrate on having a good layering system for the 'gaps' between the body and head, between the arms and hands, and the head itself. Once you have a system in place, you can then regulate heat using layers of these and then by removing the clothing layers whilst also keeping at least one hat on your head, to avoid a sudden temperature swing. You will certainly feel colder, faster, if you don't have a good system for protecting your neck, head and face from the cold and we never allow folk to drive our sleighs unless they are wearing a good hat. There is a serious condition called 'Ice cream head' which can lead to in fainting when no hats are used - and this is clearly dangerous for the dogs. :)
Incidentally, having said all of the above, the myth about loosing most heat through your head than any other part of your body, is just that - a myth. It can be traced back to erronous interpretation of a semi-scientific study by the US army in the 50s. Clearly you will loose more heat through your head than through any other part of your body if the rest of your body is well covered and your head is bare. However, it is generally only around 20-30 percent or so of total heat loss. It is worth noting, however, that the relative proportions change with both exertion and with the ambient temperature - since head heat loss is linear with temperature (the lower the temperature, the higher the percentage of heat lost through the head. When exercising at about a work rate of 50% of aerobic capacity, head heat loss falls to less than half of heat loss at rest. It also changes if you are in water rather than in air.
All of that interesting stuff aside, you will likely need to alternate between two different thicknesses of hat to give you maximum temperature regulation potential. One should be lightweight thermal or woolen, in a material like powerstretch or wool for use when there isn’t a strong wind. It should still, ideally, cover your ears AND the top of your head.
The second should be thicker and more windproof for more extreme conditions and ideally be able to be put on top of the other hat if need be. Top layer hats with fur flaps, work well out here too since the fur doesn’t tend to freeze up. We have thick fur trapper-style hats which you can borrow from us if you only have normal winter beanies with you.
You will also need something to cover your face and and balaclavas / buffs enable you to cover as much skin on your face as possible on the more extreme days. We recommend merino or polar buffs which close off any open areas on the neck well and don't get too solid when being breathed through, during the day. Hetta Huskies' personalised winter and summer buffs can be bought from us at good prices.
A lightweight travel towel / small towel - so that you can have a sauna / shower, when possible, during the safari.
A headtorch with spare batteries. NB: When it comes to selecting headtorches / spare head torch batteries, it would be ideal to choose a headtorch with a battery pack that can be warn within your clothing to preserve the life of the batteries. However, in reality, we all use simple petzl tikka-style torches for the sake of ease, so no worries if this is all you have - your batteries just won't last as long. Lithium batteries will keep their power far longer than standard batteries and are worth the extra money in this environment.
One very small personal first aid kit / one within your group. This should include any continuous-use medications that you need (eg asthma medications - and please let us know if you need medications and what for!) as well as heat packs for hands and feet, antiseptic / moisturising cream (in case of frostbite / cracked hands or feet), lip balm, throat lozenges, diarrhoea treatment (Imodium), painkillers and anti-inflammatory tablets, plasters and blister treatment. NB: Water-based cosmetics and creams can freeze on your skin so oil-based versions are preferable. You will also need sun protection from January onwards.
Toiletries. Please bring a very minimal amount - eg toothbrush, toothpaste and roll on/stick deodorant.
Optional Extra Items
Remember that whatever extra weight you take with you, you will need to compensate for by pushing or running more behind the dogs.
• Most people want to record their experience on film but please consider the extra battery needs due to the temperature and the fact that it is pretty hard to take good photos with exposed hands when the temperature really drops. Hence, if you are in two minds as to whether to take a big camera or a point and press, the latter might be more practical in many ways.
We recommend that if you do have with you items that use batteries, a) make sure they can be used in extreme conditions (check your user manuals), b) keep them as warm as possible - preferably close to your body and c)make sure you are adequately insured for loss or damage to your goods, including theft. Crime is relatively un-heard of but please don’t take chances. We do not accept any responsibility for theft, loss or damage to any of your goods.
NB: PLEASE NOTE that you won't be able to use a selfie-stick whilst sledging so there is little point in bringing one! Both hands have to be constantly and securely 'attached' to the handlebars when driving a sleigh. Similarly, go-pros must be securely attached to your own body (and, for the sake of the others in the group, please have this organised ahead of time to avoid holding the rest of the group up, on the start line!) vs the sleigh, unless by prior agreement and on a non-detachable / adjustable mount.
We have seen too many clients on multiday safaris loose sleighs unnecessarily because they start to feel comfortable enough to play around with clip-on sticks or go-pros in their hands and we want to try to reduce the risk to you and the dogs.
• You may bring a book and a game / MP3 player etc if you really need it (but this is extra weight for you and the dogs to push around the tour so please don't bring too much and everything you bring will require spare batteries!)
• We would recommend bringing a spare pair of prescription glasses or lenses with you, if needed, in case your main pair gets broken. There is no-where up here.
• Swiss army style pen-knife. (Locally-crafted knifes are seen on the belts of all locals, particularly mushers who may need to free dogs quickly from tangled lines. It will be possible to purchase one whilst here but it might be best to have your own to hand for the safari itself).
• Small sewing kit.
• Drinks bottle (bearing in mind that it will need to be able to be filled with hot water at the start of the day or it will quickly freeze and that, if it is very cold, it is not going to be usable anyway - but that in warmer weather, it can be nice to have a colder drink to hand than the hot water reserved for teas and coffees in the communal thermos flasks.
What should I wear, travelling to and from the arctic?
Don't worry about having exceptionally thick gear for the arrival and departure travel days. Any decent winter jacket / douvet will work fine. Similarly, normal shoes are fine for moving around in airports, hotels, and to and from cars and shops. We use slip-on shoes and jeans - basically normal clothing - with a douvet on top, for instance, when popping to the shops. (Slip-on clogs are particularly useful in Scandinavia since you have to take your shoes on and off upon entry to any house.) Hence, if you only want to bring one pair of shoes, then you can get around here quite comfortably with normal trainers, or winter crocs that you can also use as hut booties. Having said that, if you have a free day for optional activities built into your program, you may want to have your own heavier weight boots with you for snowmobiling or snowshoeing (ours are not good for the latter).
If you can, use a soft-sided hold-all, sports bag or backpack as your main luggage since it is easier to place beneath the benches in our kota when you head out on your tour. If you use a large non-mouldable case, try to leave it, rather, in your hotel's locker-room, please. We can supply ikea-type bags or binliners for the gear you need to leave behind at the farm if you don't have anything suitable.
You will also need to bring a large enough day-sack to fit the gear you want to take into the sleigh with you during the safari. Remember that you will be wearing most of the things on the list so you should really only need to have a very small bag of extra gear going with you on safari.
If you are used to wearing a back-pack, you can obviously wear one whilst mushing but some people prefer to have nothing on their backs since this adds to the physicality of the experience as well as disturbing your centre of balance.
Where can I park and is there somewhere to plug in my car?
We have a reasonably big yard, with designated areas for staff parking, but please park efficiently since yours might not be the only tour of the day and we also get large buses and delivery trucks coming into the yard.
We do have meters that you can connect your car to, if you have your own cable and you are either taking part in a longer tour (eg over 20km) or if the temperature is extremlely cold (eg below -30C). The plug-in units have timers and run for a maximum of 2 hours so if you are on an overnight tour and need to pre-warm your car, you will need to arrange that with us and to hand in your keys.
Unfortunately, since our heating posts are on timers, it is not possible for those with camper vans to stay overnight.