Dressing for Cold Weather

Cold weather requires considerable care in dressing. The secret is to use loose layers of clothing, leaving lots of room for air pockets to trap heat where it is wanted. Never underestimate the penetrating power of the cold - you may be able to walk about at -20° C at home, but you will be much less active during an eclipse and the cold will penetrate after an hour or so. Wear thermal underwear, pants and an outer covering (skidoo pants or even carpenter's coveralls) on your legs. A good winter jacket, preferably down-filled, will keep you warm above, but layers of undershirts, shirts, and sweaters, covered by a winter coat will do. Big friends with large ski jackets will help here, but ski wear is not suitable by itself to handle the low level of activity when observing in the cold.

Feet deserve special attention, but the technique is similar to other parts of the body. Use layers: socks, woolen work socks, down or woolen booties, then a large pair of winter boots to cover it all. Try to keep it loose if possible to trap warm air and allow your feet to move and warm up. Don't neglect the underside of your feet - pick boots with a good thick insole to block cold coming up through the bottom.

Gloves should be thin to handle the small parts of the telescope, but your hands will probably be cold nevertheless. Thin gloves under a larger pair of mitts work best. Mitts with one or two fingers (usually sold in hunting shops) are warmest, and fingers can easily be extracted from the mitt to adjust telescopes and cameras. Watch out for cold metal surfaces on eyepieces and mountings. More than one eyelash has succumbed to contact with an eyepiece, and exhalation in the wrong direction can fog an eyepiece for several minutes. Keep a spare one warm in an interior pocket just in case.

Heads and ears should be covered, but a simple scarf will do if more substantial clothing is not part of your regular wardrobe. Hoods are better, but they will probably be pushed back out of the way during the eclipse so have a thin toque or other covering for the critical moments. Be prepared to take a few minutes before second contact to jump about and warm up so that you are prepared and warm enough for totality. You might look a little foolish flapping your arms and running about, but the warmth it generates will do wonders for your comfort during the critical moments.

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