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Astronomy by Michelle

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Keeping warm!?

My opinions are certainly much different than anyone else around.? I bet that I stay warmer though.? I've learned from many years of backpacking to be prepared and to be prepared for the worst.? The concept is to layer your clothing.? You will want to invest in quality products.? Avoid cheap brands like Columbia for important items.? REI and Cabelas, while reasonably priced, produce some very acceptable products. Dont scrimp! Here are the products that I recommend to build your cold weather observing wardrobe.


You have to start with the basics. My favorite foundation garments are expedition weight tops and bottoms from REI or Cabela's.? They come in many styles and prices.? My favorite top is a turtleneck with zipper.? No matter how well you dress, there is always some way for that draft to get down your collar. The turtleneck beats that problem. I like the men's bottoms. They seem to be more comfortable and come with an extra pocket in front.


Many folks say that the most important thing to keep warm is your head.? I say that you need to keep both ends warm!? If your feet are cold, you are going to be miserable. Get warm wool socks.? I use Wigwam work socks.? You can get them at many shoe stores.? Hiking socks by Wigwam are not the thing to get.? Just plain old Wigwam work socks.? You'll pay 8 to 10 dollars a pair.? If you can't get a really good pair of cold weather boots (moon boots), wear liner socks under your wool socks. You can get nice ones from sporting goods stores, but a thin pair of nylon socks is better than nothing.


If you've got really cold weather, don't wear canvas jeans! They have no insulative value and are heavy.? They don't layer well. You'll want to get an insulation layer, a wind layer, and then on top of that some oversized ski bibs. For the insulation layer, I wear REI polartec 200 fleece pants.? The quality is acceptable. Stay away from Columbia products in this category. The wind layer can be just about any coated nylon fabric that blocks the wind.? Some are more expensive than others, but it doesn't make too much difference.? For your ski bibs, remember that you aren't skiing.? All you need is some additional wind protection and insulation.? I use bibs purchased at Costco for $14.00.? Since I don't use them often, these work quite well.


Start with a nice soft sweater or sweatshirt over your long underwear. This layer is your air pocket layer.? On top of that, get a good polartec 200 or 300 fleece jacket. If you take regular sizes, get the tall versions.? You're not in a fashion contest, you want your backside covered if you bend over to pick up that eyepiece!

The best jackets that I've purchased are from Cabelas. They are the superior in construction to other brands (including North Face, Lands End, REI, and others). They are constructed with a dual faced fabric to help reduce cold blasts reaching your skin like no other I've seen.?

On top of the fleace jacket, wear a goose down jacket.? On top of the goose down jacket, a Gortex shell.? Both Cabelas and REI produce great goose down jacket and shell combinations. Remember to keep your goose down jacket dry.? If you must go out in wet conditions, don't get the goose down wet.? Leave it in your car if you must.? Wet goose down in cold conditions is worthless and may contribute to hypothermia.


Don't wear sneakers! What more can I say about that? You will need boots.? Observing is a very sedentary activity. Remember that cold weather boots are temperature rated assuming that you are physically active while outside. Get the biggest baddest cold weather boots you can buy.? I started with Sorrel's, rated at 35 degrees below zero, which wouldn't keep my feet warm at 40 degrees above zero.? If you can't afford good cold weather boots, use Grabber toe warmers. These disposable chemical heaters ($1.80 per pair) attach to your socks.? With good leather hiking boots, these will keep your feet warm to the mid thirties.? Rember, if your feet and head are cold, you will be miserable.
My best bet for observing boots is the Rocky Juneau & Barrow Pac boots from Cabelas. These things are monsters but they have incredible insulating value.? On a recent night of 33 degree observing, with my Pac boots on, I only required a Polartec jacket to keep me warm.? That's right, no thermal underwear, gloves, or fancy pants... just the boots and jacket. Walking any distance isn't practical.? I found the pair I purchased a bit tight at first but after wearing them for a while, they became very comfortable. They are built with 1500 grams of thinsulate material and are rated to 135 degrees below zero.? Remember, this rating assumes you are active.?? PHOTO OF ROCKY JUNEAU & BARROWPAC BOOTS