Editor’s Note: While You might have summer on your mind, now’s the perfect time to put your plans together for winter shooting.
Recently, I went on a 2 1/2 week trip to Iceland and Norway during the winter season. Upon doing my research of the historic weather reports for those areas during that time of year, along with looking at the current forecasts, I was able to get a good idea as to what I should expect. I also had lots of conversations with fellow adventure photographers who have been to these areas about recommended accessories to keep me warm and my gear safe.
During my trip, the temps ranged from -4C to about 3C, with wildly changing weather patterns. We’d have rain for ten minutes, then gale force winds for 30 minutes after that only to get pelted with hail an hour after that. Fortunately, I was more than equipped to handle those rather harsh weather conditions and I’d like to share five of my favorite accessories to consider if you are heading off on such an adventure trip.
1. The G-Drive ev ATC by G-Technology
I suspect that many of you reading this could relate to the tendency of wanting to protect your gear almost more than your own body. When I travel, I always do a nightly import of my photos taken that day on my laptop and immediately make a backup to an external SSD drive (the G-Drive SSD, also by G-Technology), which always comes with me. To ensure that the precious data stored on my backup volume remains safe, dry, and intact, I encapsulate it within the G-Drive ev ATC, which stands for All Terrain Case. Fortunately, the G-Drive ev ATC comes bundled with a shockproof 1Tb drive already, so it’s ready to rock right out of the box, but I opted to swap it out for my faster SSD.
Rated to be shockproof, dustproof, and waterproof, it is an ideal solution for anyone who needs to take their data on the harsh trail with them. I never, ever head on a trip without mine.
2. Minus33 Merino Wool base layers
When you’re out on a shoot in freezing locations, it’s so critical to keep your body and core warm while also wicking away any sweat moisture that may happen as you exert yourself on a hike. Of all the research I did, the best solution to achieve this to wear a merino wool base layer. Another bonus of wearing merino wool is that it naturally combats bacteria that causes stinky odor ,so it’s not uncommon to get 2-3 days of use on a single pair before washing them would become advisable.
During my trip, I wore boxer briefs and upper/lower long johns all made of merino wool by Minus33. While there are lots of companies that make merino wool products, the research that I did on Amazon and other sites stated that Minus33’s products were of high quality and they were priced much more reasonably than other brands.
3. Arc’Teryx Theta AR Shell & Kyanos Atom LT Mid-layer
There is nothing quite as miserable when you’re standing in frigid temps and you’re freezing cold and/or soaking wet from snow or rainfall. It’s a surefire way to ruin a shoot and it’ll put you on the fast track to a cold, the flu, or pneumonia, amonst a variety of other potential ailments. So, when I researched how to best protect myself from the elements while keeping myself warm, the solution was clear: I needed a good mid-layer and shell.
The mid-layer is typically worn on top of your base layer and is usually a jacket made of down feathers or a synthetic blend. The primary purpose of this layer is to keep all the heat that your body is generating sealed up, warming your core. The primary caveat to this is that this layer is not very waterproof, depending on the material. That’s where a shell comes in. Your shell is the outermost layer and is usually pretty thin and light. It should also be exceptionally waterproof and windproof. That is the goal of the shell. Your base layer warms you and keeps you dry, your mid-layer keeps the warmth in and the shell keeps the external elements out.
Now, if there is one thing that I absolutely wanted to ensure, it was that I could keep myself warm, dry, and comfortable. That is why I chose to invest in the Arc’teryx Kyanos Atom LT mid-layer and the Arc’teryx Theta AR shell. When you research these products, know that you’ll probably punch your display when you see what they cost. They are most certainly not cheap. However, if there is one thing that I learned while on this trip, it is that these products are worth every single penny. They are very thoughtfully constructed, fit really well, and, most importantly, do their job impeccably well. There absolutely are other options that are less expensive but in the end, I chose to go with Arc’Teryx and I don’t regret it for a second.
4. Kahtoola MICROspikes
On one of the days during the Iceland leg of my trip, we stopped to visit Svartifoss, a beautiful waterfall. Normally, you could cut out a good chunk of the distance by driving to a little parking area and hiking the rest of the way. However, because of the extremely cold temps and ice everywhere, we were forced to park at the base and make the 1.5 mile uphill hike. Normally, that wouldn’t be a big deal. The only problem was that the entire path was covered in a thick sheet of hard, slipper ice.
Thankfully, I was advised to buy a pair of MICROspikes by Kahtoola, which slip right over your boots. Once your wrap the rubbery body over, your boots will now have a bottom surface made of little metal spikes held together by chains. These microspikes, my friends, are a godsend. I saw more than a handful of other tourists slip all over the place during my hike but I was able to advance without issue. The microspikes made walking on sheets of ice as natural as walking on gravel pavement.
5. Outdoor Research Gaiters
I’d never worn gaiters before, so when I went to my local REI to buy a pair, I didn’t have quite the idea of what I was looking for. I was just told to buy gaiters to protect my lower legs and feet from getting wet. When a helpful sales person showed me to the selection of gaiters, I immediately understood their importance. Gaiters act as a front line of defense to prevent excess water or snow from getting inside your boots. Typically, there is a loop that sits below your boot and a little clasp that hooks to your shoelace. From there, it’s just a matter of wrapping the gaters around your booth and pants. They typically come up to your lower or mid-calf.
I purchased the REI brand of gaiters but I cannot recommend them at all because after the second day, part of the stitching on one of them ripped and exposed the outer layer. However, one of my friends who I was traveling with had a pair made by Outdoor Research that seemed to handle the rigors of the trip much more effectively. I’ve since return the REI brand and have replaced them with this brand.
So those are five recommended accessories for any of you thinking about taking an adventure photography trip to extremely cold areas. If you have your own recommendations for gear, leave ’em in the comments section!
Additionally, I work for Sony as the Alpha Team's Social & Content Strategist and am a member of Sony’s Artisans of Imagery program. I also contribute regularly to Photofocus, Lynda.com and a variety of other online and print publications.
Admittedly, I have [not-so] tiny obsessions with long-exposure photography, neutral density filters and fisheye lenses. Basically, my passion is helping others help themselves with their pursuits of photography.
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