Equipment Guide

This list will assist you in selecting clothing and equipment suitable for polar expedition use. However we will need to approve any items that you bring so liaise with us well in advance.

ITEM

DETAILS / BRAND

10m of 2-3 mm cord

for making zip extensions that are easy to grab with mittens, & other uses

backpack/harness

padded waist and shoulder straps, internal frame, 30-40-litre capacity

bowl, cup, spoon

plastic, freezer safe, a lid for the bowl and cup can be handy, bowl at least 1 litre

camp seat

rest your back while in the tent. Thermarest Trekker Lounge

compass

swung for the hemisphere you are in, or universal model

face mask

neoprene is best, maximum coverage. Icetrek Guru

fleece clothing

pullover and jacket and pants, warm when wet, dries quickly

goggles

help to keep your face warm as well as protect your eyes.

GPS

hand held, to navigate with, mark 90 degrees as a memento

hand wash gel

use after toileting and before meals

ice brush

hard bristles, for de-icing outer clothing shell clothing and boots

ice screws

use as pegs for tent pitching on bare ice, store in bag, keep points sharp

insulated clothing

down fill with hood, warmest outerwear

liner gloves

useful in the tent

mittens - liner

woollen liner mittens, used under polar mitts on colder days

mittens - polar

thick wool or fleece, windproof shell, loose fitting to accommodate liner mittens

neck gaiter (buff)

a fleece or silk tube worn around the neck, multiple uses

peak cap / visor

can be bright on the eyes and also useful for keeping the fur ruff on your hood out of your eyes

pee bottle

plastic, wide mouth, screw top lid. Nalgene wide mouth

pocket knife/multi-tool

useful for a host of tasks, be sure the blade is sharp

polar boots

insulated boots, flexible sole, used in Flexi Ski Bindings, -40C rated. Baffin

pots and utensils

for cooking and serving, bring your own bowl, cup and spoon

shell jacket

full-length front zip, pit zips for ventilation, attached hood, fur ruff fitted to hood

shell pants

full-length side zips, braces/suspenders

ski bindings

Icetrek Flexi ski bindings

ski poles

telescopic, large hand loop for mittens. Leki

skis and skins

wide touring skis with metal edges and full-length skins for traction

sleeping bag - down

for icecap conditions, contoured hood, rated to -40C minimum

sleeping bag -synthetic

for damp North Pole conditions, contoured hood, rated to -40C minimum

sleeping bag liner

adds warmth and keeps sleeping bag cleaner

sleeping mat foam

additional insulation

sleeping mat inflatable

for comfort and insulation. Thermarest

snow shovel

telescopic shaft, grip handle

stove

pressure stove, for warmth as well as cooking. MSR XGK Expedition

suncream

SPF45 is preferable, lip screen is also important

sunglasses

good quality glasses, interchangeable yellow lenses for whiteout

tent

modified for polar use, 2 people per tent. Hilleberg

tent brush

for sweeping snow and ice from floor of tent

thermal clothing

base layer worn next to skin, various grades for different conditions

thermos flasks

stainless-steel vacuum flasks. Wrap tape around the outside to insulate your hands from the steel.

thick socks

2 x thick socks - dacron or wool

thin socks

can be added to thick socks to regulate bulk and boot fit, merino

toilet paper

a roll each, also useful for kitchen mopping up

underwear

How many? Personal choice Bring some wipes if you want to stay a little fresher

VBL socks

some people’s feet sweat alot. VBL’s will keep your socks and inner boots dry. More info below.

warm hats

fleece, with ear coverage. one windproof, one for sleeping

whistle

plastic, kept handy in case of emergency


SAFETY AND EMERGENCY EQUIPMENT that we carry on the ice

amphibious sleds

safe and useful for water crossings (North Pole)

climbing equipment

used for glacier travel (glaciated regions)

contact forms

details of your contacts, emergency contacts, insurers

cord reels

reels of strong cord used to set up ferries across open water (North Pole)

emergency beacon

GPS personal locator beacon

fire blankets

for use with each tent stove

firearm and ammunition

polar bear deterrent (North Pole)

insurance policies

in the event we require an evacuation or medical assistance

medical forms

your medical information including doctor contact details

medical kit

comprehensive Wilderness First-Aid kit

satellite phone

with spare batteries, communications with emergency services

spare and repair kit

for repairing or mending equipment and clothing

throw ropes

carried in small bags, used as safety throw ropes when crossing leads (North Pole)

trip wires

around tent, as polar bear deterrent (Svalbard)


USE OF FABRICS and OTHER MATERIALS in extreme cold

ITEM

COMMENT

aluminium

strong and flexible, less so in extreme cold, becomes brittle

carbon fiber

structurally very strong and rigid, unaffected by extreme cold

cotton

natural, not recommended, saps heat when wet and slow to dry

down

natural, superior warmth to weight, doesn’t tolerate moisture, used as insulation in sleeping bags and insulated clothing

felt

natural or synthetic, often used in boot liners, warm but not particularly strong

fiberglass

not suited to extreme cold

fur

natural, typically wolf, used commonly as a ruff around the hood, creates a micro-climate around the face, typical ruff is 5cm wide and 70cm long wrapped around the rim with long (guard) hairs on the outside.

Kevlar

structurally strong and rigid, not ideal in extreme cold

leather

strong and flexible in extreme cold, rigid if it gets wet and freezes, heavy, difficult to dry

merino wool

excellent base layer material, not as smelly as synthetics but not as strong, Socks wear out quickly.

nylon/acrylic/polyester

synthetic, hard-wearing, fast drying, lacks the warmth of fleece

polar fleece

synthetic, warm and fast drying, used in clothing and headwear

polycarbonate

not suited to extreme cold

polyethylene

strong and flexible in moderate cold, HDPE better (kayaks), UHMWPE is best for strength, flex and glide in extreme cold (Flexi ski bindings).

polypropylene/Capilene

synthetic, used in base layer (thermals), socks and glove liners, fast drying and wicks moisture

shell fabrics

synthetic, windproof fabric used in outer garments, waterproofing not important in high polar environments, Gore-Tex not preferable as it doesn’t breathe fast enough, tape sealing of seams not important

steel

structurally strong and rigid in extreme cold. Any metal will sap the cold from your body, particularly fingers, metal objects eg. ice tool shafts, thermoses etc., should be insulated with tape to avoid frostbite

synthetics/Primaloft

synthetic, warm and fast drying, excellent in damp conditions, used as insulation in sleeping bags and outer clothing

titanium

structurally strong and rigid but becomes brittle in extreme cold

Vapour Barrier Liners (VBL’s)

VBL’s are used to prevent perspiration from entering your sleeping bag, clothing and boot liners. Must be made of plastic, like strong garbage bags. Stitched nylon VBL’s don’t work well enough. Bring VBL’s for your feet; supermarket bags are fine, make sure they have no holes. Not really required for sleeping bags or hands on shorter expeditions.

Velcro

usually works well in cold so long as it is kept free of snow

Windstopper/Windbloc

synthetic, windproof fabric used in gloves, hats and some clothing, takes a while to dry if it gets damp,

wool

natural, used in clothing, warm but it takes longer to dry than synthetics and is less strong.

zippers

waterproof or water-resistant zips are too stiff in extreme cold, larger teeth are better, add extensions to the zip sliders for ease of use


OPTIONAL EQUIPMENT you may bring (but will make your sled heavier!)

accessory carabiners

handy for hanging things on your harness, in the tent etc

alcohol

enough for a nip each night if you like, decant into an unbreakable flask, not glass

camera

most cameras are OK in the cold, compact are better, take spare batteries

compass

balanced for the hemisphere you are in, or universal/global model

GPS

hand held, to navigate and to mark 90 degrees as a memento

hand and foot warmers

chemical warmers in case you really feel the cold on your digits. Also useful for electronics

iPod and headphones

for use in the tent, take a battery recharging device if you intent to use it a lot

Iridium GO modem

send/receive emails and photos, Gmail, blogging, phone calls

Iridium phone

bring your own to make personal calls

TIPS

buckles

operate all side-release, ladder-lock and other nylon/acetal buckles at home with your mitts on. If you can’t get them to work at home they won’t work on the ice.

dressing

because you’ll be active during the day, it will be unlikely that you will wear anything more than a couple of fleece pull-overs and a thermal top under a windproof jacket. If you get cool, or when we stop, your insulated jacket will go over everything, including your windproof. Avoid tight fitting clothing. Even your base layer should be quite loose. Lots of pockets is good, even in fleece jumpers, handy for all sorts of things. Inside the tent you will be warm enough to get by without gloves and your warm jacket. Each person is different but all find that the temperature in the tent is warm and comfortable.

eating

the food may not always be to your taste but you must make a point of eating and drinking as much as you can. If you do not eat or drink adequately you will feel the cold much more, hunger and dehydration are two of the of the biggest contributors to hypothermia.

electronics / batteries

extreme cold will have a negative effect on electronics. Lithium batteries work best, all other battery types do not hold their charge very well in extreme cold. Small digital still cameras can be kept warm in a pocket but keep it in a sealed bag or case. This prevents perspiration ice forming on it when it’s in your pocket. A camera brought from the cold into a warmer tent will fog up instantly. Always keep it covered until it reaches the ambient temperature before using it. Remember, the smaller the buttons, the more difficult to operate. Take plenty of spare batteries.

personal hygiene

consider bringing some personal hygiene items. There won’t be any running water and warm water is at a premium. A quick-dry wash cloth can be used for washing yourself but bear in mind that if not dried adequately it will freeze. An alternative is using wet wipes kept in a container next to your body. Talc powder can help too. Disinfectant hand-wash is available for each tent. Use it after toileting and before cooking/eating. For toileting, if it’s yellow, we’re pretty mellow; if it’s brown, bury it down (and away from the tent). Find a pressure ridge to get out of the wind. Use a pee bottle inside your sleeping bag, it’s easy and makes a good hot-water bottle. Ladies can use a FUD (Female Urination Device) - Google it!

rest stops

we usually ski for 60-120 minutes then have a break. Breaks are usually between 5 and 20 minutes, depending on the cold. Your insulated jacket can go over everything, including your backpack. Keep your skis on during shorter breaks, take them off for lunch. Drink and eat during every break or you will feel the effects of hunger and dehydration. We travel between 6 and 8 hours every day not including rests.

sled packing

You will be allocated a plastic sled. Pack the largest and heaviest equipment, including food, at the bottom, spreading the weight evenly over the base of the sled. This helps balance the sled and minimizes annoying capsizes. The sleds come with a snow cover and compression straps for securing the load. Items required during the day can be slipped under the cover or carried in your backpack. Large but lightweight items such as sleeping pads can be carried in your backpack to maximize room in your sled if required.

sleeping

you must use 2 mattresses under your sleeping bag. Your sleeping bag will keep you warm in the coldest temperatures, so long as you use it properly. Slide into the bag liner, close the zipper, adjust the neck baffle so that it sits above your shoulders, place your head in the hood and tighten the drawcord. This will prevent cold seeping into your bag and warmth from escaping. Be sure to stay on your mats.

steel

steel items must be insulated where possible. Even with gloves and mittens on, fingers can become frost damaged when handling cold-soaked steel. Wrap tape around your thermos flask and any other steel items you may have.

teamwork

look out for your team mates. Check their faces for frost exposure or injury every time you talk to them. There are lots of little jobs to do - tents, filling cooking-snow bags, cooking, cleaning, getting over pressure ridges, constructing rafts to cross leads - so pitch in. If the person ahead of you is struggling to get their sled over a bump, give the back of their sled a push with your ski poles. The person behind you will do the same.

zips

add extensions to all your zips, about 5-7cm is good, even longer on the ones you will use often, ie. main zip on windproof jacket etc. Extension tags should be a different colour from the rest of the garment for easy identification. Make sure all zips are working well, a broken or malfunctioning zip can be disastrous.

Contact us if you have any questions.