Family Winter Clothing For Interior Alaska 


Russian River Trail 

Completely outfitting your family with winter clothing can be costly.  If you come from a cold weather area, much of the winter clothing you used there can also be worn here in Alaska.  However, you may need to wear a heavy sweater under your coat and a heavy pair of socks inside your boots.  If, as the winter progresses, your winter garments are not warm enough, additional garments can then be purchased.  You will also have had the opportunity to observe what others wear to protect themselves against the cold.


Remember that school, office buildings, stores, and apartments are warm, so make sure the indoor garments you and your family members wear are not too warm.  It is better to add a sweater if needed.  Make sure that heavy clothing can be removed when inside a building.


There are a number of things which need to be considered when buying winter clothing, such as how much time is going to be spent out-of-doors going to the car, walking to work or school, working out-of-doors, or participating in outside activities.


There is a wide price range in winter garments and footwear.  Buying a very expensive parka or other winter garments doesn’t necessarily guarantee warmth.  Some of the warmest parkas, boots, and mittens are those that can be purchased second-hand at the military surplus outlets. 


General Rules for Dressing For Cold Weather:

  1. Several layers of clothing will keep you warmer than one heavy layer, as dead air trapped between the layers and among the fibers acts as excellent insulation.
  2. To keep warmest when outdoors in cold weather, cover head, neck, hands, and feet, as well as the rest of the body.  The more skin surface that is exposed, the faster the heat escapes from the body.
  1. Do not wear sock combinations that restrict blood circulation.  Remember that cold comes up from the bottom of the boot.  Therefore, some type of insulation should be inserted in the boot to form an inner sole.
  1. Mittens are better than gloves since the fingers can be kept together for warmth.  Two-layer mittens are preferred.  Wool lining and an outer layer of leather or water repellent fabric is best.
  1. It is almost as bad to wear too much clothing as too little clothing.  Sudden chilling of an overheated body may cause colds, chapped skin, sore throat, chill blains, or even frostbite.  Avoid perspiring when out–of-doors in cold weather.  If you become too warm, loosen your outer garment a bit at the top,   but keep your head covered. 
  1. Care of clothing is important.  Dirt clogs the air space in clothing and reduces the insulation.  Follow label instructions when cleaning winter garments. 

Basic fabrics include: nylon taffeta, nylon rip-stop, and nylon packcloth.  These come in various weights, although the taffeta and rip-stop are much lighter than any of the packcloths.  Waterproof versions (fabric coated with polyurethane) are available.  Blends of fabrics are generally a mixture of polyester and cotton, with some nylon added.  These are in a tight plain-weave providing a tough, hard-wearing cloth.  Different trade names include: Mountain Cloth, Weather Cloth, Sierra Cloth, and Storm Cloth.  These fabrics make good windbreakers and may be treated for water repellency. 


The newest fabrics are micro porous, waterproof materials.  They keep a person dry while allowing body moisture to escape.  Trade names are Gortex and Klimate.


Some types of fabrics are more expensive than others.  Choose the one that will do the best job for you in the price range you can afford. 


Items to Carry in the Car


Because there is always the danger of the car stopping or stalling, extra clothing should be carried to keep you warm while waiting or walking for help.  If not properly dressed in extremely cold weather, a walk of only a few blocks may place you in danger of getting frostbite.  Check your Car


You should carry the following items in your car:


  1. A pair of warm mittens; gloves do not keep your hands warm in extreme cold.
  1. A pair of snow pants or heavy, warm slacks.
  1. Heavy scarf and/or knit cap which comes down over the ears and forehead and covers your face.
  1. Warm boots or mukluks if you are wearing light boots or shoes.
  1. A warm blanket or sleeping bag.


Clothing For Extended Periods Outdoors


Head.  The best covering for the head is a large fitted parka hood with a ruff.  The ruff can be pulled in front of the face when needed.  If the hood does not fit snugly around the head, a knit cap, which covers the ears and forehead should be worn.  Many people who ride snow machines wear some type of  face mask to prevent frostbite on the nose and face.


Hands.  Mittens provide the best insulation since they allow the fingers to remain together and reduce the surface exposed to cold air.  They should be well insulated with fleece or other lining material.  Several layers of mittens also work very well provided the fingers do not get cramped.  The mitten cuffs should be long enough so that cold air cannot get in between the parka cuff and the mitten.


Feet.  A mukluk type of boot with sufficient insulation in the bottom is good since cold comes up from the bottom of the boot.  The boot should be at least mid-leg in length.  If the snow is wet, a boot with waterproof qualities should be worn.


Body:  A well-insulated parka is the best choice for warmth.  The parka should be large enough so that movement is not restricted and heavy undergarments can be worn.  Knit cuffs located in the sleeves prevent cold air from blowing up the arm.  People who do a lot of snow machine riding may prefer the snow machine type suit.


Legs:  Wear warm underwear and snow pants or a snowsuit.


Think Safety:  Keep in mind that Alaska winters are dark and often accompanied by ice fog.  Bright colors such as blue, yellow, or orange-red show up best under these conditions.  Also, by stitching reflective tape to the back and front of your parka, you can be sure that you will be seen by motorists.  Reflective tape is available in a variety of colors.

Don't forget the baby.Clothing For Infants

Many people spend more money than necessary on winter garments for the infant (a child who is not yet walking).  The infant is out-of-doors very little.  An ideal type garment would be one designed like a sleeping bag with an attached hood.  No boots or mittens would be needed.  If additional warmth is needed, the child can be wrapped in a blanket.  A scarf can be put over the child’s face for a short period of time while he/she is carried from the car to the house.



Back to Surviving the Cold in Alaska.