Parka Weather

By , February 18, 2011

As usual, shortly after declaring the coming of spring, we’re experiencing a February cold snap. Temperatures have fallen as low as 9°F. High winds drop the wind chill into the -20 range, where frostbite can occur within 10 minutes. The moisture in the air, even though lower than usual, makes the cold feel even colder. We’re lowering the blinds at night to hold cabin heat, and burning through the wood pile at an alarming rate. I’ve taken to wearing a hat to bed. I’m shamelessly indulging in a second cup of coffee most mornings, we’ve had to move everything from the cool box to the bedroom window sill to prevent freezing, and—well, let’s just say that outhouse visits are brief and very much to the point.

It’s cold enough that we’ve brought out the “big guns”: our winter parkas.

Aly ready for a hard crossing in Excalibur parka, scarf, balaclava, hat, and goggles (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

Mostly, we’ve been wearing the Osceola jackets Wild Things Tactical gave us to test. We’ve found that in drier winter conditions they give us maximum flexibility of movement, good body heat management, and wind resistance. With proper layers underneath, these have kept us comfortable in 45 knot gales at 25°F, even when crossing the wind funnel Mud Bay creates. But, when the wind really starts to roar, the temperature drops further, and we need to make a crossing, we turn to the parkas that have sustained us in severe conditions for many years.

Our parkas are Excalibur brand; I’m not sure this has any relation to the Excalibur Products Group, another military gear company. We got these from a supply clearing house back in the early ’90s for about $80 apiece. We found one for Aly almost brand new at a garage sale. They’re down filled, with coyote fur ruff. When I wear mine, I feel like I’m about 5 feet in diameter; I hate going into shops wearing it, as I feel like I’ll sweep items off the shelves on both sides of the aisle! Nonetheless, the garment’s warmth makes it worthwhile in extreme conditions. The snorkel hood can be zipped almost completely closed. The pockets carry so much gear, I make some crossings without a backpack, a practice almost unheard of in our neighborhood. They’re not waterproof, but highly water resistant.

These things may be dinosaurs in the age of high tech fabrics, but when our corner of the world gets cold, we turn to the old reliable parkas for warmth.

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