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…

Out There and Lovin’ Every Minute Of It

We’re back!

It’s been a few days since Ian and I were online at home – I still have internet access at work, but it’s work.  I can’t exactly be spending time there writing blogs and the like.  And so we waited.

We were able to attend my department’s Christmas party last weekend as well.  It was a wonderful potluck style dinner where everyone brought something and the food was delicious!  We followed the fantastic meal with dice games.  I’m telling you, I have never had so much fun at a Christmas party, and cannot imagine such games every being played in the south.  There seems to be no ego up here – everyone was involved, including the managers, directors and deputy minister.  We all sat in a circle and threw dice to see who would be able to enter the circle to attempt to win a prize.  The prizes were wrapped in various layers of newspaper and plastic bags, and to open them, you had to put on huge oven mitts, and use plastic knives to cut into the package.  But by the time one put on the gloves or picked up the knives, a new person had rolled the appropriate dice to enter the circle, and you were force to return to the circle to wait for your next chance at the dice.  There are pictures from the party in our Photobucket album, so check them out!

It's a cardboard jungle...

Things have all sort of come together up here in the past week.  We moved into our new apartment on Sunday.  Our personal effects were delivered on Monday.  We’d been unpacking for most of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and we now have the bulk of our items sorted out, organized and in their rightful places.  Our phone was hooked up on Monday.  We discovered that our satellite tv is working (so there may be an angry phone call made to Bell if they decide to charge me full price for the month that we were not using the television service).  We received our modem on Friday, and are now hooked up online and ready to go.  Like I said, things have come together.

Ian discovering one of our unexpected items...

Our packers did an outstanding job.  All along we heard horror stories of moves to the North.  People told us not to pack anything glass…not to expect everything to show up…to expect to have forklift holes in our boxes…for our boxes to just be crushed or destroyed in some way.  But I have to hand it to our movers.  Every single piece of glass arrived intact.  Most of our boxes were in perfect condition – only a couple had minor dents.  Our dresser had some minor dings at the bottom.  And the only thing missing at this point appears to be a folding step-ladder – that really would have come in handy when organizing the kitchen cupboards!  Regardless, the movers packed EVERYthing in our apartment in Kitchener, and 99.9% of it arrived with no hassles.  Even some half empty bags of chips – but to be fair, we were advised that the packers would not be packing any food items.  Uh…yeah…

We finally feel like Iqaluit’s home.

And so do the Terrible Twosome.  Brit and Jemaine can be found lounging, well…just about anywhere in this apartment.  In our bedroom, we have pushed a dresser against the wall just in front of the window, and both of the cats love to sit on it and look out the window.  I’m not sure what it is they watch – I’m sure they’re intrigued by the giant ravens…or perhaps are just as mesmerized as Ian and I are over the expanse of land that we can see from our window.  They also like to sit on the wide window ledge in our living room.  And sometimes they just sprawl out in the middle of the floor…lazily flipping a tail, or rolling around in complete contentment.  I’m glad that they’ve adjusted so well.  They quite like it here.

Brit being absolutely unhelpful in the unpacking process

Jemaine settling down in record time

 

As for Ian, he’s been in his glory, faithfully taking pictures of every sunrise and sunset he can capture.  It’s amazing how beautiful the sun can make this place.  The snow just shimmers.  And from our balcony, we have a lovely view.  We can see Koojesse Inlet at the end of Frobisher Bay from here.  Having grown up in Niagara Falls, smack dab in the middle of the Great Lakes basin, being close to water isn’t exactly new to me, but the novelty lies in seeing the water from my home.

Stunning sunrise over the Bay

There is one thing I’ve been dying to tell everyone about since Wednesday.  While sitting at my desk at work on Wednesday morning, my manager came out from his office, visibly antsy.  He had received word that his snowmobile – which had been at the repair shop – was ready to be picked up.  It was also an incredibly beautiful sunny day.  On top of that, I had only been to Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park once since my arrival, and it’s important that I understand the lands that I’ll be mapping.  So he decided that over the lunch hour, we would head over to pick up his snowmobile and then head out to the park so he could show me some of the more pertinent locations where we were attempting to obtain land ownership in order to fully protect the park boundaries.  Since Ian had never been to the park, we decided to pick him up as well, which would require the use of his other snowmobile as well.

The sun on the horizon while snowmobiling at Sylvia Grinnell...

I have never been more frightened in my life…or more exhilarated!  What a feeling it is to be on a snowmobile in Nunavut when the wind is blowing microscopic particles of snow across your face and frostbite is starting to set in.  It was cold that day.  And the wind added to that.  Ian and I were bundled up on one skidoo, following my manager on the other.  I’ve never ridden a snowmobile before, let alone driven one.  After a quick lesson, I quickly began to feel comfortable behind the wheel handlebars of the machine.  We had a few close calls – getting stuck on a massive patch of ice…reversing from the ice to then find ourselves embedded in a deep drift of snow…feeling precariously close to flipping the skidoo on some slight slopes – but we made it through okay.  After dropping off Ian, I followed my manager back to his house to drop off the second machine – up a huge set of fairly steep hills.  When you’re a beginner at snowmobiling, these are not the types of land features you want to encounter.  Especially when the slope you’re on leads to a relatively large rocky cliff over which your snowmobile and you could fall.  Did I mention it was exhilarating?  Snowmobile is currently winning in the potential transportation poll where my options also include ATV or shipping my car to the north.

It’s been an exciting week that contrasted with the winding down that was happening as we made our way to Christmas.  Ian and I wish all of you a merry one.  Be safe and enjoy your holidays!

Merry Christmas from Iqaluit!