This post grew out of a conversation between Wick and Sanjay about an upcoming job Sanjay has in Poland and Germany. As I know very little about extremely cold working conditions (anything under 15 degrees F or so, it's fortunate that Wick does. We have a few other readers and contributers who are used to this kind of cold. Please send in any suggestions or posts you have on the subject. Thanks, D.
I got to talking with Sanjay Sami today about working in the cold. He’s going to be on the German-Poland border in January and February, and is looking for tips on how to stay warm in that kind of winter climate. There are two things that really affect us on set in the winter. One is staying flexible enough under those layers of clothing to keep moving and doing the work that we do without sweating so much that when we do come to a standstill, we’re freezing in our own sweat. The other is of course staying warm while we’re just standing around waiting for anything to happen.
The main thing is to dress in layers, and adjust your coverage according to how hard you’re working. This can’t be stressed enough, and I think most of us understand it in the abstract. This should extend to wearing double or even triple layers of socks, with the ones nearest your feet being thin and chosen for their ability to wick sweat and condensation away from your skin and into the next layers. Same thing for underwear, both tops and bottoms. I’m a fan of silk for those first layers. It seems to adjust best to the body temperature and exterior temperature changes, removes moisture quickly and dries quickly too. After that, I prefer wool over cotton for the next layer, and finally a wind-blocking outer shell, something like a Carhardt coverall or two-piece Thinsulate snow pants and jacket. Also always keep your head warm and your ears covered - wear a hat or a balaclava. I picked up an arctic expedition hood with a zippered face cover several years and that’s been my salvation several times. It’s made with Thinsulate and so is an excellent wind block, and lets me adjust the amount of coverage I want or need pretty much as I please. It also doesn’t interfere with radios, and I can keep my nose covered without fogging my glasses.
Footwear is a tough one, especially for dolly work. Again, you have the “standing around vs moving around and controlling a dolly at the same time” problem. I’ve settled on some regular insulated boots (Thinsulate again) that are big enough to accommodate the extra layers of socks, and for extreme weather, I got some LaCrosse “Frankenstein” boots that are supposedly guaranteed to –70 Celsius. I have never really been happy with any solution for footwear, and get chilly feet no matter what I do. Fortunately, once I got the LaCrosse boots, they seemed to have the same effect as carrying an umbrella – once I had them with me, I didn’t worked outdoors in heavy snow or extreme temperatures again. Or at least for a few years, then the magic wore off in Poland.
Gloves are of course another weak spot. I generally prefer some wool rock climbing gloves, with all five fingers open, and another glove or better yet, a mitten, over that.
Another thing is to be aware of the warning signs of hypothermia, frostbite and dehydration. Read up on them in any first aid manual, if you’re not sure what warning signs to look for in yourself and in others.
I never really had any experience with pocket warmers, or electric socks, or any other fancy gadgets, and am curious if anybody has recommendations or advice with that sort of stuff. The one thing I will say is that cold will suck the life out of batteries, like the one in your phone. Carry it on you, in an inside pocket, so it doesn’t freeze and dump all it’s data while sitting in your car or backpack in the truck.