Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Cold and wet

Date: Jan. 24
Mileage: 50.5
January mileage: 652.1
Temperature upon departure: 35

Today I had the perfect shot lined up. A small window of sunlight had broken through the clouds and cast filtered sunlight directly on the Mendenhall Glacier. The result was a blaze of blue so brilliant that it looked like it had been painted on by some overzealous Technicolor artist, flowing indiscriminately from ice to sky. I rode my bike a ways down the trail where bikes weren't allowed, pulled up next to the lake, and unpacked my Camelbak. I removed my camera from its four ziplock bags, pointed the viewfinder at that idealistic Antarctic scene, and click ... nothing. I had left my camera battery at home. I was pretty upset about it. Really. I had a pretty serious sulk going on. I nearly just turned around and went home right there. But then I thought better of it. And I rode for three more hours. And all was right with the world.

Today was a wet day. A wet day. If it were actually scientifically possible to make water any wetter than it already is, that was today. Last year, I dealt more often with very cold temperatures - down to negative-double-digits with wind chills down to negative-kill-me-now. But I have to say, mild cold and wet is a very different problem. A more vexing problem, in many ways. Anyone can eventually figure out how to stay warm in the dry cold - wearing a lot of layers can often be enough. But once you're wet, even 10 layers of polar fleece aren't going to change that fact.

I think I have finally come to a decent solution. It's not about staying dry, because that's impossible. It may be possible for 30 minutes. It may even be possible for an hour, if you have a good rubber suit. But for 4-5 hours, no way. That water is coming in and up and back out from every direction, complete inundation, for hours on end. So, I ask myself, how do people stay warm when they go swimming in cold water? Therein, I'm much closer to a solution.

One of the best things I've done is minimize the layers. The less soggy layers you can get away with, the better. I bought these polar tights from Nashbar, and they're all I wear beneath my 'waterproof' rain pants, which really just serve as wind blockers. For my feet, I finally purchased a good pair of Neoprene socks - NRS Titanium .3mm socks. I wear those with a thin pair of liner socks, a small pair of track running shoes and my Neoprene booties. The double Neoprene layer is toasty. I could swim all day in that. On my torso I only wear a thin liner shirt, one fleece layer and a plastic shell. It's entirely plastic but has vents under the arms, which, of course, just let tons of water in. But it also seems to do a good job of keeping heat it, and blocking wind. Then I wear a thin fleece balaclava ... they're as warm wet as dry, I think. Today, I tried those "handlebar mitt" pogies. I started with thin gloves but had to go down to bare hands because they were so warm. I actually hadn't been able to keep my hands warm in the wet weather yet, even with Neoprene kayak gloves, but the pogies work like a dream. I rode for a little more than four hours today, and they managed to stave off nearly all of the water. The fabric works like tent fabric, I think - it won't leak through until you touch it, and they're so big and loose that they make a little tent over my hands.

In short, after five months, I think I have found my wet weather solution. And it's a little closer to a wetsuit than I'd like to admit.


  1. I meant a 1000 yesterday when I said 800!

    I always shoot the camera before I go anywhere.

  2. Thanks for sharing the waterproofing techniques! I'm particularly interested in the neoprene socks.

    I'm embarassed to say I've lurking for awhile now at your site, and am hesitantly tagging you with a meme.

    Tell us 5 things about yourself. (Details at my site)
    If you're NOT into the whole meme/sharing thing, just let me know and I won't bother you again (I promise I'll post more comments, though). But it's kinda interesting to read and provides more fodder to write about. Not that you need any more fodder--your posts are wonderfully well written and interesting already.

  3. If I lived there I would no doubt be one of the hopelessly drunken you swerve past on your way out of town.


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