Gear and Tech

Another windy day, but with smaller hills to climb and some decent downhill at times, we were able to move forward at a good pace. By late afternoon, the wind shifted to our back, and we felt like we were being pushed along a moving river of snow. It’s hard to describe the movement of the snow in the wind here but it variously takes on qualities of water or sand, in nonstop motion across the rolling surface of the land, sweeping around rocks and into every open crevice, including our jackets and pulks.
We thought today would be a good time to introduce some of the key gear and technology we bring with us on the trail. Gear that includes fiberglass sleds (pulks), windproof shells, heavy duty parkas, mukluks, and an awesome bivy-based sleep system. Technology that includes solar blankets and batteries, a wireless BGAN (broadband global area network) that allows us to connect to the internet from remote locations, satellite phones, InReach Explorers, cameras, and laptops.
Our pulks, or fiberglass sleds, are the perfect size to fit everything we need to carry with us on the trail. Lightweight, at about 32 pounds per pulk, they measure just over six feet long by about 2 feet wide. We each wear a harness that connects to the pulk via a rope system. We can easily detach ourselves from the pulk using carabiners, and even attach multiple rope systems to a single pulk if we need extra pulling power up a steep slope, for example.
For outerwear, we switch between lightweight but windproof shells and heavy duty parkas, depending on the weather and situation. While we’re in motion, we tend to wear lighterweight layers, to prevent sweating, but when we stop to eat lunch or set up camp, we typically pull on our heavy parkas to stay warm, especially in the strong wind here.
Our mukluks are our boots. We wear Steger Mukluks, which are made right in northern Minnesota back home. You might be surprised how warm they can be. They are constructed to be flexible and breathable, so that our feet don’t sweat and so that we can flex our feet as we ski or snowshoe, which helps keep them warm.
Our sleep system consists of a sleeping bag (or sometimes two, one inside the other, for really cold expeditions), a foam sleeping mat, and a lightweight air mattress, all tucked inside a bivy. Our bivys are handmade, constructed of a durable waterproof fabric. They zip open and we keep all the other sleep items inside. It makes it easy to transport our sleep setup, and saves us time as we don’t have to roll and unroll our sleeping bags and such every day. Also, in a worst case scenario, we could sleep in the bivy if we had no shelter.
We spread our solar blankets across our pulks each day as we head out on the trail. They plug in to a small battery pack that we tuck into the pulk. The sun then charges the batteries as we travel across the land. The angle of the sun, how low or high it is on the horizon, and the number of hours of daylight impact how much the batteries will charge each day. Last year, when we were farther north in the Canadian Arctic in April, we had almost 24 hours of daylight, the sun was high in the sky, and our batteries filled quickly with power each day. Here in Iceland in February, the sun sits low on the horizon and is out for maybe nine hours a day, so we are finding that it is difficult to charge the batteries much each day.
These are just a few key items we bring with us into the field. They help keep us safe and allow us to deliver our adventure learning program to you, sharing photos and videos from even the remotest wilderness areas. As we write, we are preparing to set up the BGAN so that we can upload this report and some stunning photos from the day.
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