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|| News Item: Posted 2001-06-29

Road Warrior: Cold Weather Footwear for SLC
Ice Age 2

By Mongo

Photo by
Ice Age 2 (2nd is a series dedicated to your survival of the 2002 Winter Olympics.)

Hummmm, where were we? Oh yeah, last month (ok, the month before that, all right already the month before that) we were talking about footwear. And because all the retailers were having clearance sales to make room for the summer stuff, (yeah, I know it's summer already!) so you should be buying stuff for next winter NOW!

"Dress in layers" you've heard it before and you're going to hear it again. Why? Because it's an effective and proven method for working in a wide range of temperatures.


The outer layer is the "protection" shell (no insulation) layer that keeps the wind, rain and snow out.

It's usually made from a synthetic like Nylon, or Polyester, sometimes a blend of the two. A coating is fused to the lining (Gore-Tex, Entrant, Hydro seal, etc.), and a water repellant finish is applied to the surface, which gives the material its water and wind resistant qualities.

Which coating should I get?

Well it depends on your activity level. If you're a hard charging shooter like Bob Deutsch and you gotta ski to your shooting location at the downhill in Snowbasin (watch out, the first step is a doozy). Hauling oversized bricks (DCS 520's) in your ski pack, you're gonna sweat a lot. You'll want to go with one of the more "breathable" coatings like "Gore-Tex XCR" or Patagonia's "EncapSil" fabrics.

It's important that the shell breathes in order to keep the insulating layer dry.

Remember that you'll loose heat via conduction, 25 times faster if your insulation layer gets wet!

Of course this extra breathability is going to cost you extra money. Figure 20% to 40% more than a similar garment made with a "poser" coating like "Entrant", "Hydroseal", or "Triple Point Ceramic"

Is it worth it? Is there really a difference in breathability?

Well I can tell you that I have (2) North Face shells, one with "Gore-Tex" the other is "Entrant" and even with the pit zips AND back vent open, I get soaked to the skin within 15min with the "Entrant" parka!

Now if all you're shooting are the "glam sports" like figure skating, hockey, or barrel jumping (Bert Hanashiro's specialty) then you can get away with the cheaper coatings, hell, the only foul weather you're going to see is walking from the bus, into the venue.


A well-built shell is going to be made of several different "weights" of cloth, sometimes referred to as "denier" The main body of the jacket or pants are usually made of mid-weight "Supplex" nylon, with heavy weight "Cordura" nylon being used in known areas of wear and tear (elbows, forearms, shoulders, butt, and knees). If you're covering Alpine events, this extra abrasion resistance will come in handy while you're crawling around on your hands and knees, working a shooting position.


Many jackets also have a "DWR" (durable water replant) finish, which makes the water bead up into little droplets and roll off the fabric. As you use the jacket and it gets dirty this finish will wear off and needs to be reapplied or reactivated. Commercial treatments like "Scotchguard" or "Revivex" are just fine. Be sure to clean and double rinse then dry the jacket before application.


Few things in life are as miserable as waiting out a course hold. When the wind stars to howl, and the snow begins to blow, a built in hood is the only way to go.

Avoid zip on zip off hoods because invariably you'll have the hood zipped off when you really need it (plus only PIB's wear zip on zip off).

A really well designed hood will have locking drawstrings, which allow you to cinch the hood tight with 1 hand.


Plastic, Plastic, Plastic! Stay away from metal zippers!

You want YKK 2 way tooth zippers for the front of the shell, this makes it easy to unzip the jacket from the bottom so you can pee, or keep the jacket from bunching up while you're in a crouched shooting position.

For pockets and vents, nylon coil zippers are your best bet. The coils are self repairing, so if you get some fabric caught in the teeth it's not a big deal.


It's best to only consider shells with pockets placed higher up (above the waistline) otherwise you can't use them while you have your photo pack on.
2 pockets on the outside seems to be the norm for most jacket designs. Inside pockets are a nice place to stash your batteries and keep them warm, one on the right and one on the left makes it easy to keep track of charged and discharged packs.


Normally if you got hot and started to sweat, you'd just unzip your front zipper. BUT what if it's snowing or sleeting?

Vents baby back vents, core vents, and armpit zips to the rescue!

Best: Pit zips run the along the bottom side of the arms and down to the middle of the torso. They feature dual zips, which makes it easy to adjust the size and position of the vent.

Good. Back vents usually run horizontally across the back with a small weather strip and also feature dual zippers.

Fair. Core vent systems are basically just big pockets with mesh linings. Open the pockets and then you're vented.

MONGO's pick of the litter.

North Face Mountain Light, 97 & 98 models $369.00 list, $229.00 or less on closeout at Cabela's or Sierra Trading Post.

CAUTION: Major design change in the 99 & 00 models, They switched from pit zips to core vents.

Without a doubt the most versatile jacket I have ever owned. A medium length cut, LIGHTWEIGHT Gore-Tex shell with double slider armpit zips for ventilation. It also features a second set of inner zippers in the front, so you can add fleece, down or synthetic, liners, to adjust the temperature range of this jacket. I've spent weeks wandering around the Arctic Circle.

Countless days huddled on a World Cup racecourse with winds gusting to 60 knots, waiting out course holds. Endured hours of torrential downpours at football games, and not once has this jacket failed me. It folds into it's own little pocket stuff sack and weighs around 25 oz.

NEXT MONTH - Middle layers.

(Mongo Johnson, a technical advisor for the critically acclaimed film "Ice Station Zebra", currently works as a "travel consultant to the stars" and lists as his clients William Shatner, PeeWee Herman and Bobby Volare.)

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