Clothing to meet Mother Nature head on.

Review by Dr Rory O'Connor after his recent Antarctic crossing

Posted: Apr 02 2012

Here is a review by Dr Rory O'Connor on Brynje clothing during his crossing of Antarctica. The Norwegian team that Rory traveled with all wore Brynje, and Rory's kit was sponsored by Nordic Life.
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The South Pole Jubilee Expedition – Nordic Life and their Brynje clothing


Super Thermo (long sleeved top and bottoms) – the base layer which I used every day for the full 50 day duration of the expedition.  This was my first experience of using mesh as part of the layering system and was recommended to me by my Norwegian teammates. First thing to say is how comfortable it is to wear, which should not be underestimated when you are embarking on a major long duration expedition. The top has a long body length and rests around the hips. This seems odd to begin with but it does prevent any cold spots when leaning forward.  As a combination they provide excellent moisture transport which was proved duration our ascent of the Axel Heiberg glacier. This was an ascent from sea level to 2800metres with several steep sections requiring sledge relays. In strong sunshine and windless conditions the glacier was like a hothouse. Even after intense effort dragging the sledges the Super Thermos still felt dry and not clammy. This convinced me of how effective the mesh system is in keeping you dry. It really helps in thermoregulation in the cold by providing such an efficient insulating layer of air. Having experienced cold in both the Arctic and Antarctic previously I was under no illusions about the difficulty in spending time out in the cold and wind on this expedition. But I was surprised in how comfortable and warm I felt in wearing the Super Thermos in conditions that I would not have expected to be. 


Once on the plateau I added the Arctic double top to the Super Thermo top to help with the insulation. At this point I was wearing 3 layers including the outer windproof layer. Temperatures were now down to -30C with additional windchill factors. We were able to ski comfortably even at these temperatures, only adding a down jacket for the breaks to prevent too much cooling. The Arctic Double has thumb loops which were great to prevent the sleeves rolling up and cold gaps by the wrists. I wore the Arctic Double top with the roll neck. This can ride high on the neck and feel tight when fully zipped and rolled down. But partially zipped and lifted up Elvis style provides a great neck warmer in conjunction with the balaclava.
Heading to Titan dome, which was literally the highest point of the expedition at 3200meters, the cold was intense although fortunately not so windy. Time for the Arctic Double longs to go on. They do add bulk but fit very well and make you feel like it is just one layer you have on. Keeping the legs protected and warm was essential as we had been informed about the problem with “polar thigh”. This is a cold injury affecting the inner part of the thighs which crucial happens due to cooling after a long period of time. The affected tissue dies and so the skin on the thighs begins to ulcerate and break down. This has ended several expeditions for people previously and we were very concerned about it. Thankfully it proved not to be issue for us which I am sure is partly due to the effective insulation nature of the air in the mesh and awareness of the problem.
On several occasions I swopped the arctic Double top for the Polar bug. This is basically a mesh inner layer over a fleece top and still provides the same wicking performance and insulation. It has a different cut and provided somewhat better wind protection. The wicking performance was obvious in the cooler days when small ice flowers could be seem forming on the outside during the man-hauling as the moisture moved through and froze on the outer layer. These were brushed off at each stop and the fleece was quite dry in the tent at nights.

Super Thermo - windproof boxer short. Keeping the private parts safe and warm was crucial as can be imagined and these mesh boxers with a windproof panel on the front provided another level of security. Fit was great and they felt smooth and comfortable. The layers all worked well together without thick seams to cause problems under the sledge pulling harness.
Super Thermo Balaclava – The topping for all the layers which I wore on a daily basis throughout the expedition.  It provided a nice length over the neck and some coverage on the cheek – a typical frost-nip area. Very comfortable again up until the point that I was drying it too close to the stove and burnt the mesh lining.
In summary, once you have used mesh there is no going back. The tops and bottoms provided incredible insulation and were still able to move moisture. As a result I never felt my core body temperature drop and never felt damp as I have done with different materials. After 50 days of a hard expedition the clothing was still in fantastic condition and ready for the next one after just a quick wash. Mesh is king!

Nordiclife is now the official UK importer of these Brynje products. Nordiclife have been a great Company to deal with as they have a real depth of knowledge of the clothing and their application which comes from actively using them in many varied conditions. There is a passion for the outdoors and being best prepared to deal with the worst of what the outdoors can deliver. It was a pleasure to take the Nordiclife flag with me to the South Pole to show my support for them. 


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