Iqaluit Dress Guide for n00bs

One of the hardest things to account for when we came up here was the weather. Suzanne had done tons of research but the weather in Iqaluit is something you have to experience in order to really know about it. We simply heard “arctic” and “-30°c” and went right to Le Baron and stocked up on gear that could be used up in Grise Fiord. We experienced -30°c a few times in Waterloo and did not like it in the least. You’ll hear the term “dry cold” all too often when speaking with people who live in the north. It’s a difficult concept to explain to those who have only known “humid cold” all their lives. There’ve been many times I’d post on Facebook delighting about certain sub zero temperatures to the chagrin of my parents and southern friends. Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t suddenly developed frost armor since coming to Iqaluit. Being chilled to the bones is not a feeling I enjoy. There are days when it’s so miserably cold here that it makes you question your sanity for staying.

In the end though it all comes down to how you dress for the weather. Most homes are well suited for the northern temperatures so you only really have to concern yourself with how you dress outside more than anything else. You’ll encounter a thousand different tidbits of advice across the Net about how to dress for the cold up here. It’s all based on personal preferences, protection from the elements and duration outside. While it is wise to have gear for extreme weather conditions the truth is you really don’t have to dress much different than you would down south most of the time. If you’re not a fan of the cold in general (a) you should live here and (b) your personal arrangement of clothes will more than likely be increased.

To understand Iqaluit weather you have to be aware of two things:

  • It’s cold. Dry or humid, cold is cold nonetheless
  • Wind means EVERYTHING.

For me, I’m a person who has always preferred being cooler than warmer. I find it easier to make myself warm in cold conditions than it is to cool down with oppressive heat. The fact that I’m a big dude probably plays a big factor in that. I’m built like a young polar bear so it just figures that I’d be more acclimated to the north. The following gear guide is just a reference for how I dress any given day in this city. You’ll notice that wind conditions affect what I wear tremendously. I base my gear selections on the higher side of the numbers listed. People have different body types and tolerances for cold so keep that in mind as well. You also gain a bit of conditioning once you’ve been here for over a year. You’ll know it when you head down south and normally nice weather (like 20c) is unbearably warm for you. Anyway I hope it provides a better understanding of what to expect should you choose to come up here.

The Go To (Basic)-5°c to -14°c (no wind)
Description: Gorgeous day. Typically near the end of winter and end of Sall. Sall is what I call summer here. We really don’t get a hot summer (although as we slip further into a Maritime Climate that can change). I find them to be on the cool side of nice so we have a mix of summer and fall – Sall. Cold enough for no bugs but warm enough to frolic without much layering. The lower end of the spectrum you can wear far less. I can recall being out in just a t-shirt, football jersey and jeans on -5°c days last year. Of course as you get into the double digits I employ a bit more clothing.

Selected Gear: Jeans or thick cotton Khakis, wool or thick cotton sweat socks, t-shirt (long or short), spring jacket. Ball cap or beanie (optional), Runners or hiking boots


The Go To (Extended)-5°c to -14°c (light winds w/wind chill of -19°c or so)
Description: Still a nice day but the winds make the cold a bit more noticeable. It also affects your amount of time outside. For day long excursions you will want to dress in more layers so you can add or remove as your activity level goes up and down. If you’re just doing basic treks then it’s fine to dress lighter.

Selected Gear: Jeans or thick cotton Khakis, wool or thick cotton sweat socks, t-shirt (long or short), sweat shirt w/hood, spring or fall jacket, beanie, insulated gloves (optional), hiking or rain boots


The Go To (Deluxe)-15°c to -23°c (no wind)
Description: Very similar to the weather above but the lack of wind makes it very tolerable to be out for much longer. The air is crisp but doesn’t bite and you can feel a tingle in your thighs if you don’t have light pants on and are out for a long time. However if you layer too much you can certainly start overheating with minimal activity. You encounter days like this typically in October, November, early December and the tail end of winter.

Selected Gear: Jeans or thick cotton Khakis, wool or thick cotton sweat socks, t-shirt (long or short), sweat shirt w/hood or fleece liner, fall jacket, beanie, insulated gloves, winter boots


The Light Rogue (Basic)-15°c to -23°c (medium winds w/wind chill of -30°c or so)
Description: A lot days in Iqaluit are like this during early and late winter. The wind chill is very noticeable. This is where gentlemen start experiencing Santa beards and moustachsicles and ladies can cut through glass (giggidy). You will have the uncontrollable runny nose no matter what you wear. Your length of time outside dictates how you should layer. Again you do run the possibility of overheating if you layer too much.

Selected Gear: Jeans or thick cotton Khakis (Thermal underwear underneath optional), wool socks, t-shirt (long or short), sweat shirt w/hood or fleece liner, winter jacket, beanie, insulated gloves, scarf (optional depending on blowing snow conditions), insulated winter boots


The Light Rogue (Extended)-24°c to -30°c (light or no winds)
Description: It’s cold but nice. Perfect example of the difference between dry and humid cold. Equivalent (in my opinion) of about -15° or so in the south. If the sun is out it’s gorgeous to just go trooping around or hop on a skidoo. Bear in mind that if you’re snowmobiling treat your wardrobe as if you’re dealing with a serious wind chill because going at moderate to high speeds will generate bitter conditions for exposed skin.

Selected Gear: Jeans or thick cotton Khakis (w/thermal underwear underneath optional) or snow pants, wool socks, t-shirt (long or short), sweat shirt w/hood or fleece liner (optional if wearing just a parka), winter jacket or light parka, beanie, insulated gloves, scarf (optional depending on blowing snow conditions), insulated winter boots


The Bear (Basic)-24°c to -30°c (medium to strong winds w/wind chill of -45°c or so)
Description: Okay. Here’s where you start respecting and fearing the cold. Once the wind kicks in at these base temperatures it totally changes the playful wardrobe choices. Now your start bundling to prevent as much wind from touching your skin as possible without turning yourself into an oven. Doesn’t matter if you’re making short treks or long, time to start dressing for the north.

Selected Gear: Snow pants (w/thermal underwear underneath optional), wool socks, t-shirt (long or short), fleece liner (optional if wearing just a light parka), light or heavy parka, beanie, insulated gloves, scarf, mask or balaclava, temperature rated insulated winter boots, goggles (optional)


The Bear (Basic)-30°c and higher (light winds w/wind chill of about -40°c or so)
Description: Once it’s past -30°c in base temperature it’s generally accompanied by SOME kind of wind. Even the slightest winds change the dynamics of the base so much. Not much change in what you should be wearing.

Selected Gear: Snow pants (w/thermal underwear underneath optional), wool socks, t-shirt (long or short), fleece liner (optional if wearing just a light parka), light or heavy parka, beanie, insulated gloves, scarf, mask or balaclava, temperature rated insulated winter boots, goggles (optional)


The Bear (Ho-Lee-Shit)-30°c and higher (strong winds w/wind chill of holy shit)
Description: No. Seriously. No. Unless you’re stuck outside already there’s no reason you should be on foot for any long periods of time in weather like this. When the wind chill is so cold that Fahrenheit and Celsius don’t matter anymore it’s brutal. People can and have died in weather like this so don’t play around with fate too much. If you have to go out, dress as if you might get lost. Better safe than sorry. These are very real temperature you might encounter on a skidoo so be very prepared.

Selected Gear: Snow pants w/thermal underwear underneath, wool socks (possibly doubled based on footwear), t-shirt (long or short), fleece liner, heavy parka, beanie, polar mitts, scarf, mask or balaclava, temperature rated insulated winter boots, goggles.


The moral of this post is, yes buying artic clothing and gear is highly advisable but no you probably won’t have to use it ALL the time. As you adapt up here you will develop your own style of layering. To each his (or her) own.

It’s hilarious waking down the street on those brutally cold and windy days and not recognizing your closest friends. Everyone is super bundled and looks the same. We’re all united in the freezing cold. I’m sure it’s a neat analogy on life up here if I chose to dig deeper into it.

Maybe another post…

Third Christmas in Iqaluit

Christmas in Iqaluit is a pretty unique experience. I’ve celebrated Christmas with family and friends in vastly different ways. From time honored family gatherings on Christmas Eve that spilled over onto Christmas day to whirlwind dinner feasts at friends’ homes. Each experience different. Each one memorable.

Two Christmas’ ago we had the pleasure of adding even more new memories to our mental rolodex. To all you young bucks out there a rolodex was a manual device for storing names, addresses and phone numbers. Yeah we didn’t have a microchip to do all the thinking for us back in the days. If you liked someone you had to actually remember their info and write that shit down. Bah… kids these days.

Anyway, back to my old man recollection…

Suzanne and I were introduced to an entirely new and utterly foreign concept of friendship. It was rough going at the start of our tour of duty here. Our prescribed housing had fallen through while we were heading up and we’d be trapped in a hotel for over a month with two, young fur monsters and a good portion of our belongings (that we couldn’t use). 7 days before Christmas we managed to get a grossly overpriced apartment to stay in temporarily. It was our first Christmas here and we hardly knew anyone. The stress of our housing situation coupled with the awe of being in a totally new environment made us feel quite isolated and alone. A very sweet couple invited us over to her place for Christmas dinner. It was a shock to us. We had only known them for less than a month and yet they opened their open to us. There we feasted for hours, talked for even longer, played games, drank the finest alcohol and were introduced to a core group of individuals who today are our closest friends up here today. It was the kind of welcoming community experience you see in sappy made-for-TV holiday movies and made a lasting impression on the both of us.

We were never really the super social types back in the K-dub. We weren’t douches mind you. We had a very small but tight network of friends that we were very dedicated to but we never really went out of our way to welcome new ones into the fold. After that first Christmas in Iqaluit it opened our eyes to the fact that not everyone is “out to get you”. There are legitimately good natured people out there who genuinely care for other people’s well being. People who don’t care about creed, color or sexual preference. People who can just treat people like people. It was a hard concept to swallow at first but after weeks, months and now years of unwavering friendship I am a true believer.

Trust me. I’m not saying Iqaluit is some sort of Utopia. There are bad apples, nutbars and assclowns just like anywhere else in the world. It is a true community though no matter what. A place where people band together during tragedy and help their fellow residents. A place where people go that extra mile to help out friends in need. A place where people will get together and party for the silliest reasons. A place where a cynical African American/Puerto Rican/Italian artist from New York and his sarcastic Polish/German Canadian geographer wife can hang out with a Japanese/Brazilian professional photographer and his Indian R&B singing architect girlfriend on Christmas Eve and sip on egg nog loaded with a generous portion of maple whiskey chilled with ice cubes chiseled from an iceberg while feasting on a traditional Indian style meal.

Only in Iqaluit folks.

Thank you to everyone who has made this the most depressing, stressful, enlightening, mind blowing, unforgettable, humbling, exciting, motivational, joyous, and most of all remarkable time of my life.

Happy Holidays people!

Happy End of the World / Pre-Christmas with a side order of Toga Party 2012!

Happy End of the World / Pre-Christmas with a side order of Toga Party 2012!

Two Years Down…

Ian and I haven’t blogged on here for almost a full year.  Sorry about that.  I guess life’s been keeping us busy.  We’ll try to update with a year-end summary (though, here are some pics in case we fail at that).

But until that happens, you should all know that two days ago marked an important anniversary for us.  That’s right…on November 22, 2010, we began our new life in Iqaluit and I honestly don’t think that either of us knew what was in store for us, or if we’d make it to see two years here.

I’m proud to say that we have.  We’re going into our third winter, about to celebrate our third Christmas in the arctic.  Despite some bumps along the way, we’ve truly prospered personally up here.  It’s been an amazing journey in an amazing place and I don’t think we’d hesitate to do it again.

We’re also now considered to be some of the old-timers up here these days.  Only in Iqaluit, huh?

Skiers on Frobisher Bay, February 25, 2012

Department of Environment IQ Day – Snowmobiling and Ice Fishing northwest of Iqaluit, April 2012

Kobo Town on stage at Alianait Arts Festival, July 2012

Just a typical Iqaluit going away bonfire, July 2012

Suzanne showing off the immense pieces of ice on the tidal flats of Koojesse Inlet, August 2012

The Prince of Monaco visiting the Iqaluit Community Greenhouse, September 2012

Sunrise in Kimmirut, Nunavut, October 2012

Water and Wind

It’s been an exciting couple of days for Iqaluit.

And by exciting, I mean, no…not really.

First there was the major water main break on Thursday evening near Inuksuk High School.  It caused such a disruption that the city shut down on Friday in an effort to conserve the little water that was left in the reservoirs.  We made national news.  Apparently someone even heard about it in New York City.  Wow!

Water was back to utilidor users by Friday evening, but there’s been a boil advisory since then (which has been lifted as of 1:00 PM EST today).  And those who have their water trucked to their homes are lucky if they still have any – though I’m reading of many people who have run out.  Word was that the water was being tested and the trucks would be out to deliver it to homes that needed it today.

Then…this happened…

Yup…sustained winds of 60 km/hr with gusts up to 80.  The building’s shaking and the ravens are in a tizzy.  On the bright side, at least the temperature’s gone up to -23° C!

So…perhaps it has been an exciting few days in Iqaluit…but nobody said that was a good thing.

Merry Christmas from Iqaluit

Hard to believe this is our second Christmas in Iqaluit.  And while we’re definitely missing all of our friends and family back home in the south, we’re also pretty happy to be here at home.  It’s amazing how quickly one can get used to the quiet and general serenity that seems to settle over this city at certain parts of the year.  Christmas is no exception.  With so many of our friends up here deciding that they’d head out-of-town for the holidays, there’s only a few of us left to hold down the fort.  And that’s fine by us.

We were able to do some last-minute grocery shopping yesterday, and didn’t get trampled in NorthMart.  I have it on good authority that it did get quite a bit busier after we had left, but still – it’s no comparison to trying to even manoeuvre through the city streets in Kitchener-Waterloo anywhere near Christmas Day.  We even went to the post office to check one last time on our mail and drop off a Christmas card to Jordan and the rest of the staff there.

And by the way, we have had Christmas snow since October 1st.  *snicker*

Needless to say, it’s been a relaxing Christmas.  With no one to visit until after Boxing Day, Ian and I have been just taking it easy…phoning relatives (or just about to)…opening some gifts and hanging out with the cats.  Who by the way, have likely eaten an entire bag of Christmas treats already.

We have several engagements to attend to this week…a Norwegian brunch at our friend’s place…a couple of potluck dinners…Christmas games…and then eventually, New Year’s Eve will creep up again.  Haven’t heard anything about fireworks yet, so our plans are still up in the air.

In any case, we hope that all of our friends and family are enjoying as relaxing of a Christmas as you possibly can.  We love you all and miss you dearly.  Hope to talk to you all soon, and then see you sometime in the new year.  Well, perhaps not the new new year…but you know…spring, summer-ish.

Safe travels to you…and Merry Christmas to all…and to all a good night!

Our wee Christmas tree

Iqaluit – A Year later

Didn’t think I’d have to write this post so soon. I guess that adage about time flying comes into play here. It’s not all fun and games though. We’ve had our fair share of stressful moments but as a whole I rate the experience thus far a strong B.

I feel really fortunate for living here and getting an opportunity every Canadian person should experience. This place does have its drawbacks like any city but when you factor in all of the components it’s one of the most intriguing, stimulating and interactive places I’ve ever lived – and this is coming from a guy who spent 20+ years in NYC. What more can I say about our Year One Anniversary other than yet another list of random observations I’ve made over the past year. Whether you live here, thinking about coming here or want to live vicariously through us, this is for you:

  • The people I’ve befriended up here are enough to keep me in this city for as long as humanly possible. I’ve never met such welcoming individuals in my life. I’ve said it time and time again, you definitely get a feel for a real community here. People really do go above and beyond the call of duty and in turn the infectious reaction is to do the same. Pay it forward means something here.
  • There’s a huge Twitter and Facebook presence up here with lots of useful group pages. Great way to stay in the know about matters up here and abroad.
  • I never expected to see so many cars. Even in the short time I’ve been there the population of cars has grown quite a bit. It’s something you don’t really think about when you look at this place from abroad and hear about our handful of paved roads but you have to remember this city is deceptively big and there are a lot of hills. Not everyone wants to shell out $6 per cab ride to get from place to place all the time. The Cavalier Crusher will be making its northern journey next sealift.
  • I miss many things from the south: family, friends, pop in a bottle, trees, real high-speed internet, paved streets, fresh fruit, fresh candy, the Bulk Barn, LCBO, our garden, normal winds (not this demonic gale force sustained crap up here)…
  • There are so many musically gifted people around here. It’s as though every other person I know can sing, play an instrument or is in a band of some sort. This city is a hotbed for undiscovered musical talent. I’ve probably seen more concerts and live performances than I did for the past decade down south. Truly amazing.
  • I’ve completed an entire year without completely wiping out and putting my well padded ass on the ground. Sure I tried to headbutt my apartment building and bloodied myself but I never hit the turf so my record is intact. Here’s to the next 365.
  • Figures I’d have to come to the arctic to find some gamers. No not video gamers. I’m talking old school pen & dice. I came out of the dungeon and people are noticing. Sure it’s super geeky but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  • There is absolutely no time to blog – for us at least. You could see it for yourself as we became more and more integrated into community activities and volunteering, blog posts became a rare sight. There is just so much to do up here it’s ridiculous. If you’re a person who wants to keep busy you’ll keep busy. Even you’re a person who doesn’t want to be involved in everything you’ll still have a full calendar. After a year of being pretty much all over the place I’ve learned that one has to pace oneself. It’s real easy to get swept up in the euphoria of being a volunteer, making friends and helping the community but trust me when I say I catches up to you.
  • Operation Outbreak is coming along well. We’ve successfully infected several households with dominoes gameplay and it is rapidly becoming a pastime here to the point where people own their own sets now. Course we’ve been infected in return by new games as well. Beware family and friends of the south.
  • I’ve been shocked by how many people contact us for advice. Regular Joes and Janes like us who find our blog, read our stories and want to know some more information about the city, its people and how things work up here. It’s quite flattering that people would ask a guy who hasn’t even explored the whole area yet for advice but I’m willing to share what I do know. It’s like I said at the top of the post this is a place all people should get a chance to experience at least once in their lives and I’m more than happy to help bring people in. I’m contemplating adding a business resource index to this blog. I found it hard to know what’s available when we first got here so I figure it may be a great tool for others looking to invest some time here. How and when that actually gets done remains to be seen. I’m on Northern Time now folks. ;p

I could prattle on and on with more tidbits but duty calls. I have to work the desk at Atii Fitness soon so once again, life has intruded upon my coveted blogging time.

Thank you people of Iqaluit for your warmth, generosity and patience in accepting us into the community. Now that we’re official I suppose that makes us Iqalummiut as well.

We are hellbent to get a Zombie Walk going in Iqaluit and Horror Movie Nights at some point in the near future so you may soon regret welcoming us into your arms so willingly. >:)

Love, peace and hair grease folks!

So what’s there to do up there?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked this question.

My answer for you is this…

Really?  I haven’t had time to blog since JULY and you still think you need to ask me this???

Okay, truly, here’s the goings on of the summer/autumn/early winter for me (yes, it started snowing in September and accumulating in October, so autumn came and went in name only):

  • At the conclusion of Alianait (in early July!), things slowed down a bit.
  • We had Parks Day at Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park – beautiful day and lots of fun!
  • We battled mosquitoes…evil, gigantic, blood-sucking beasts.  In Nunavut, mosquitoes are like succubae, taking not only your blood, but your soul and spirit as well.  So that’s a tad bit dramatic, but I digress…
  • We battled 24 hours of light (22 hours of sun up).  Yeah, you’ve all heard my gripes about that, and I’m ecstatic that we’re heading back into the dark season.  The night time is the right time…the freaks come out at night…and all that.
  • We had SO MUCH lettuce that grew in our greenhouse plot.  I’m sure we could have had fresh salad every day if we wanted too.  Radishes, beans, peas and herbs also grew quite nicely.  I have a bunch of tiny carrots as well that I need to cook up soon.  I LOVE the greenhouse.
  • We saw many of you on our vacation to southern Ontario in August/September.  Miss you all already, but it was great to see you while we could.
  • We volunteered at another Alianait concert in the annual concert series – was great to be back in town and active with the arts community.
  • Mass Registration came and went and saw me and Ian representing the Iqaluit Community Greenhouse Society and Iqaluit Humane Society respectively.  It was a great success for both groups AND for us, as we signed up for more and more activities.
  • After about two weeks back in Iqaluit, I headed back down to Ontario for meetings as the Nunavut rep for the Canadian Council on Geomatics.  Truly excited to be a part of such a nationally represented council.  Made some fantastic contacts and hope to see good things for data acquisition for the territory in the near future.
  • My return to Iqaluit went right into a week of GIS training with a number of other GIS users from across the territory.  There is a surprisingly higher number of us than I thought – and I can only assume that number will grow as technology in the north permits.
  • With training/meetings/annual leave out of the way, it was time to settle into a more relaxed pace.  Ha!

So what are we involved with now, you ask?

Ian’s now an official board member for the Iqaluit Humane Society (which I’m sure he’s mentioned in his discussion of the contest the IHS is involved in – go and vote!).  He’s also going to be starting broomball shortly.

I started volunteering at Atii Fitness Centre last week, and Ian will be starting this weekend.  The centre is completely volunteer run, so all volunteers can use the gym for free as long as they volunteer ten hours a month.  It’s a great deal, and yet another way to meet people up here.  We both also are hoping to sign up for the Archery club in town…that’s right.  Archery.  Both Ian and I with bows and arrows…frightening!

I have also signed up as a volunteer with the Girl Guides of Canada.  Tomorrow night I will be leading my very first Pathfinder meeting.  Yikes!  I’m very nervous, but it’s a small group of girls, and I’ve been assured that they are really wonderful to work with.  Also, the other new Guider will be back in town in November, so I’ve only got a few weeks to be on my own as a leader.  Can’t wait though…should be a great experience!  I remember having lots of fun as a Brownie and Girl Guide.

So I hope that I’ve brought you all up to date with us…let you know that we haven’t fallen off the face of the planet (at least me since Ian’s posted a couple times) and hopefully we’ll be posting more frequently in the near future.  Hopefully.

But don’t hold me to that.  Iqaluit’s a busy place if you want it to be.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way!