How to dress like a dog musher
How can you stay warm in the winter? Learn from the dog mushers! They spend hours outside in extremely cold temperatures, and know all the best tricks for how to stay warm and comfortable both when moving and standing still.
Dress in layers
The secret for staying warm is to dress in layers. Two thin layers can actually be warmer than one thick layer, as the air between the layers serve as thermal insulation. To achieve this effect, it is important that the garments you wear do not sit too tight.
Dog mushers will dress in a three-layer system consisting of a base layer, a mid-layer and an outer layer.
The base layer
The base layer is next to your skin. The purpose of the first layer is to wick away moisture and help you stay dry. Therefore, the choice of material for your inner layer is essential.
For the base layer, as well as your underwear, you should avoid cotton and other materials that absorb moisture and take a long time to dry. Most dog mushers prefer to use wool - a natural material known as nature’s own performance fiber. The use of wool has a long tradition in Norway. Wool is highly breathable, and regulates the body temperature in both cold and warm temperatures. This material can even absorb moisture without becoming cold or feeling wet, and is odor-resistant. In addition to these unique properties, sheep wool is a sustainable material.
The mid layer
The main purpose of the mid-layer is to retain body heat and keep you warm. This layer can be adjusted to add warmth and protection, depending on your requirements.
Our mid-layers are split into two categories; first mid-layer and mid-outer layer.
The first mid-layer can be used next to the skin or as a mid-layer for added warmth and protection. Products like our Racesuit fall into this category; it’s used more used for skijoring than dog mushing.
The mid-outer layer adds warmth, with a protective shell. In more extreme conditions, these can be used as a mid-layer with a pure outer shell on top.
Down or synthetic insulation is commonly used for the mid-layers. the Trail isolator jacket, for instance, is insulated with PrimaLoft® Gold Insulation Active, offering excellent breathability and warmth. This jacket was developed specifically for handling dogs, with an extra protective shell over your arms, shoulders and chest.
Get your mid-layer:
The outer layer
The outer layer offers a protective shield against the elements, such as wind, snow or rain. This layer can also provide extra warmth.
Dog mushers alternate between standing still on the sled and kicking to help their team of dogs. This demands functional and versatile clothing to prevent getting too warm or too cold. Changing clothes while on the sled is not really an option. Therefore, clothing that offers ventilation and easily regulates temperature is essential.
Together with five-time Iditarod winner Dallas Seavey, the Tundra anojakka was developed. The Tundra anojakka is a thermo-efficient long anorak that traps heat inside. The design draws inspiration from the Inuit. This anorak meets all the musher’s needs for warmth, ventilation and freedom of movement in one piece.
- The anorak has become one of my favorite pieces of gear. It started out as just a wind block layer to go over your parka, but then we added some insulation so it adds that extra 10 degrees of warmth to the parka system you already use. It’s made long so that when you sit on your sled, it reaches over your knees and then you can cinch up the drawstrings along the bottom to close it up. The hood seals up around your face and it’s incredibly warm. It’s like wearing your sleeping bag while mushing! Now I use it on everyday runs, even if it’s not cold. Instead of using a parka, I can use this layer with a light wool or jacket underneath. The anorak has drawstrings along the side so that i can pull it up to my desired length. Then you can pedal and ski pole alongside your sled. It also has drawstrings along the back so that you can cinch it up to fit nicely around your waist. There is a large kangaroo pocket in front for dog booties or whatever other gear you want to have easily accessible. This anorak has become one of the most versatile pieces of clothing that I use every single day while mushing, Dallas says.
As he says, the Tundra anojakka can be used separately, or in combination with a down jacket. Nothing beats down as an insulation material in very cold temperatures!
For the legs, insulated bib pants with the possibility to regulate temperature are preferred. Arctic buksa are durable, functional and warm pants developed specifically for dog mushing. These pants are insulated with PrimaLoft® Silver, a synthetic material known for its low weight and outstanding insulation capabilities in all types of weather. Aramid fiber reinforcement on the knees, seat and on the inner side of the leg makes them withstand wear and tear. Arctic buksa is water repellent and highly breathable. You can easily regulate the temperature with the help of the two way water resistant zippers on the legs. These also make it easy to put on or take off the pants.
Get your outer layer:
- Tundra anojakka anorak
- Arctic jakka pro down jacket
- Arctic jakka pro+ down jacket
- Arctic buksa bib pants
Keep your head, hands and feet warm
The more of your body that is covered up and protected from the cold, the warmer and more comfortable you will be. However, keeping head, hands and feet warm can be a challenge!
Let’s start with how to keep your hands warm. Gloves are practical when handling dogs, but when holding on to the sled with cold wind blowing on your hands, gloves alone will not keep you warm enough. In cold temperatures, you are advised to add expedition mittens on top of your gloves. The mittens will keep your hands warm in temperatures far below -20°C /-4°F, while still being easy to take off if needed. When choosing gloves, look for something warm, durable and with high dexterity so you can use them easily when clipping the dogs on and off the lines or giving them food. Wool liners can be used for extra warmth.
To keep your feet warm, you can also use the layering system. Wool socks are a good choice for your base layer, as they will keep your feet warm and dry. If your socks get wet in cold temperatures, they quickly loose their ability to keep your feet warm. You can add a layer of thicker wool socks for extra warmth. Make sure you have insulated shoes that are not too tight. A tight shoe will restrict your blood flow and make your feet feel colder, and the insulating layer of air will be compressed.
A headband will keep your ears warm, but to keep your head warm in cool temperatures you should choose a beanie. For extra warmth and protection, add the hood of your parka or anorak. Your neck, and sometimes even your face, should also be protected. A multiscarf is ideal for this. You should also bring goggles or sunglasses to protect your eyes against sun, wind and the cold.
Get your accessories:
3 pratical tips for staying warm in the winter
- Adjust your clothing along the way to avoid getting too warm or too cold. If you know you will be moving and generating more body heat, make sure to ventilate or take off a layer or two to prevent sweating. Staying dry is essential in cool temperatures! If you are taking a break, add your warm layers immediately and zip up to conserve as much body heat as possible.
- Make sure to eat and drink enough, preferably something warm. Your body needs to burn calories to produce heat.
- Move! If you start to get cold, move your fingers and toes. If that is not enough, walking, jogging or jumping will help you get warm again!
Don't let freezing ruin your adventures
Non-stop’s product developer, adventurer and dog musher Sebastian Plur Nilssen has first hand experience with how your equipment can make the difference between success and failure.
Already at the age of 12 he had his first experience with freezing. Sebastian was all alone on a midwinter expedition at the Polar plateau with his dog Felix, suffering through a very cold night.
- I froze for hours. That was the first time I realized how the equipment can affect your experience.
The expedition gear he used back then was poor quality, but as Sebastian obtained better quality gear and more experience, he could enjoy the trips more. That also allowed him to push his boundaries and conquer his fears.
- The difference between a successful and a failed expedition often lies in the tiniest details.
The passion to always improve and develop functional, durable gear was born at this moment. Since then, Sebastian has been on several multi-day expeditions and sled dog races in the Arctic region. This has given him first-hand experience with the challenges you can face in extreme weather and how your gear can make a difference in life and death. Together with some of the World’s best dog mushers, he has developed gear for active dogs and their owners for more than a decade.