Gear Guy

How can I stay warm on Alaska’s Tat River?

I've got the opportunity to raft the Tat River in Alaska this August. My major concern—even more than icebergs and grizzlies—is that I'm going to be deathly cold the entire 12 days. I'm a small woman at 5 foot 4 and 110 pounds, with a history of frostbite and Reynaud's to boot. Advice for warm, waterproof clothing? Or should I just stick to beach vacations? Andrea Minneapolis, MN


Eh, that is a tough one. The Tat—or Tatshenshini River—is known to be rough, technical…and cold.

The Alpha SL

So layer up, Andrea. I’d start with good lightweight wool, as it has good insulation properties even when damp or wet and in my experience is a better "regulator" of temperature than synthetics. The Icebreaker Bodyfit 200 Shakra Zip Top ($75) and matching leggings ($60) are an excellent start.

Then, a good heavy but snug layer, such as Patagonia's Capilene 4 Zip-Neck ($85), an "expedition weight" layer that will be your favorite piece. In many cases, the Icebreaker and Patagonia pieces, worn under a shell such as the Arc'teryx Alpha SL ($300, made with Gore Pac-Lite) will be enough.

But for extra warmth, I like something that has fluffier insulation than fleece. Something like MontBell's UL Thermawrap Jacket ($145) which has a smooth nylon shell for easy layering, and synthetic insulation for water-resistant warmth.

Gloves are the other critical piece. Outdoor Research's Women's Gripper Gloves ($45) are a good start. Find some Mountain Hardwear Woman's Epic Gloves ($40) that fit over the Grippers. They'll give you a shell for extra water and wind protection.

Buy a couple ten-packs of Graber’s Hand Warmers ($10 a pack) as well. Just put them in your gloves for extra warmth.

I’ll let your guide recommend the best footgear. Probably going to be a combination of neoprene socks and wool socks. Take plenty of dry socks!

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Lead Photo: courtesy Arc'teryx
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