Monday, February 20, 2006

Cold Weather Gear

Article published Feb 19, 2006
Out in the cold? Take some of this stuff

*By Stephen Regenold*

Special to the News & Record

In early February, I participated in the Arrowhead 135 Ultramarathon, a
self-supported 135-mile race through Minnesota's remote North Woods. I
rode
a bike down the snowy Arrowhead State Trail and spent two days outdoors
in
temps as low as 19 degrees below zero.
Along the way I put several pieces of cold-weather gear to the test.
Here's
a quick look at what worked, and what left me a bit, er, out in the
cold:
• Heat Factory footbeds: The Heated Footbed is a $10 shoe insert from
Heat
Factory (www.heatfactory.com) that has a chamber under the toes to
insert a
small air-activated footwarmer pouch. Heat slowly rises from the pouch
to
keep your toes toasty, or so the theory goes. During the Arrowhead 135
Ultramarathon I used Heated Footbeds in a pair of bike shoes, along
with
neoprene shoe covers and thick wool socks. During the coldest parts of
the
race my feet were quite numb and cold. That said, I do believe the
Heated
Footbeds made a difference.
•Psolar balaclava: Though I felt like Darth Vadar in this black face
mask,
the HX Helmet Balaclava from Psolar Inc. ($42, www.psolar.com) was
tremendously effective against the cold. The company's unique QXtec
module,
a filter that sits over the mouth to let you breathe naturally through
the
balaclava, kept me warm and kept my face dry. Invented by Lee Bagby, a
mechanical engineer, the heat-exchange breathing module has a special
desiccant-coated plastic filter that, according to Bagby, grabs
moisture out
of your breath and warms the plastic. This warmth is then transferred
to the
air as you inhale.
• CamelBak winter hydration pack: The CamelBak Scorpion is a winterized
hydration pack insulated in key areas to keep water from freezing. Its
hose,
which has a neoprene covering, snakes through one of the pack's
shoulder
straps, and CamelBak (www.camelbak.com) built in a mesh pocket in the
strap
to accommodate an air-activated hand warmer pouch. This keeps the hose
warm
and prevents freezing. Because of the extreme cold encountered on my
big
bike ride through the woods, I wore the $60 Scorpion underneath a shell
jacket. For the most part the system worked. Without a hand warmer next
to
the hose, however, the nozzle quickly froze up.
• OR Water Bottle Parka: To keep my extra water supply from freezing, I
used
a Water Bottle Parka from Outdoor Research ($17, www.orgear.com). The
closed-cell foam insulation kept my water from icing over for several
hours,
though the brew was slushy by day's end. The OR Water Bottle Parka
weighs
3.2 ounces and holds a standard 0.5-liter water bottle.

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