Favorite winter gear
|Bella Vista Trail|
I wear the vest over my base layer and pile any insulation layers I'm wearing over it, then thread the tube beneath one arm and up through the vest so it rests firmly against my collarbone. This way, the valve is easily accessible, even with mittens, but still well-protected from the cold. Last month in Alaska, even when we were outside for nine hours in minus 30 degrees, I had no issues with ice building up in the valve or tube. In fact, the water only cooled down to a tepid 60 degrees or so, which tasted wonderful (drinking ice water when it's extremely cold outside is about as fun as choking down hot coffee in 100-degree heat.) Two liters is plenty of volume for the Susitna 100, which has checkpoints about every twenty miles. The only drawback to this system is that I have to remove all of my insulation layers and the vest to refill the bladder. But in the case of going inside a race checkpoint, I usually do this anyway.
|Sierra Designs Gnar skirt|
It's a fact of nature: Women are built to carry more body fat than men, and this fat is concentrated in specific regions of our bodies such as butts, thighs, upper arms, and breasts. Fat is an insulator, but it doesn't insulate itself. When core temperatures drop, our body constricts blood flow to extraneous tissue — in this case, the junk in the trunk. And because fat doesn't generate its own heat the way muscles do, no amount of movement is going to warm it until blood flow returns to normal. Butts that get cold, stay cold. (Note: This is not a scientific explanation, just a theory.) But either way, just like fingers and toes, these parts need extra protection in order to stay warm when the body gets all stingy with heat distribution. Enter the down skirt.
I was not a convert until recently. But it makes so much sense. It snaps around your pants for easy application outdoors, and provides just the right amount of insulation exactly where you need it, while still allowing plenty of room for moisture wicking and movement. I have only used it running, but I believe the shorter skirts would be equally useful on a bike.
|VaprThrm high-rise sock|
Vapor barrier socks: The concept of vapor barrier is simple — conserve heat by blocking evaporative heat loss. A completely non-breathable fabric creates a kind of micro-climate for the body part it's wrapped around, trapping moisture and heat in the thin layer of air between the fabric and skin. The jury is still out on how well vapor barrier systems work for jackets and pants, but I love my vapor barrier socks. I use the RBH Designs insulated sock on top of a pair of moisture-wicking Drymax socks and a pair of fleece socks. I believe the Drymax socks hold moisture away from my skin, the fleece both insulates and wicks moisture, and the vapor barrier contains moisture and heat so ice can't build up inside my Gortex shoes. I have no idea if that's what's really happening, but consider this: I finished the Susitna 100 last year, and trekked 90 miles in three days this year using this system without a single blister or cold feet. And I've had frostbite in the past, which makes my toes especially susceptible to the cold. So I think I'll stick with this system.
So there you have it, four pieces of gear that I may never give up (of course, I'm always waiting for something better to come along.) And just in case this post made you feel overly chilled, I have more photos from my mountain bike ride today:
|Picking up speed on the Steven's Creek Canyon trail.|