In the outdoor world, the word “extreme” has been overused to the point of being laughably cliche. That said, there are products that merit the title. Take the gear Eric Larsen schleps with him on his polar expeditions, where he faces negative-50-degree temperatures, open water, and powerful winds. The equipment he carries with him—designed to save his life—needs to be as extreme as the conditions.
Whether you’re gearing up for a trip to Antarctica or just interested in what technology is capable of, here are five of the warmest, strongest, most insane pieces of gear on the market.
Stearns I950 ThermaShield 24+ Drysuit ($1,500)
Most immersion suits are certified by the U.S. Coast Guard to keep the wearer warm for up to six hours. Stearns, on the other hand, claims its I950 ThermaShield 24+ will keep a person alive in freezing water for more than 24 hours.
The company managed this feat thanks to a new innovation that circulates the swimmer’s breath throughout the suit, which helps keep her extremities and core warm, even in 32-degree water. The suit looks bombproof, with design details such as integrated rubber boots (rather than just neoprene), removable gloves, and an inflatable pillow for in-water neck support.
Helly Hansen CTCP Winter Felt Pack Boots ($250)
You probably own, or have at least heard of, waterproof hiking boots. Well, these beasts go well beyond that, with a carbone upper that’s resistant to oil, diesel, and other chemicals. Oh yeah, they’re also resistant to electric shock. The Helly Hansen CTCP Winter Felt Pack boots are rated to negative-100 degrees Fahrenheit thanks to 400 grams of insulation in the body and an insole with a built-in frost plug.
Unless you work in an Alaskan oil field or as a Canadian construction worker, you likely don’t need such a burly boot. But it would make one hell of an upgrade to your footwear closet.
Nemo Canon Down Sleeping Bag ($1,049)
With a negative-40-degree temperature rating thanks to its 850-fill-power down, the Nemo Canon is one of the warmest bags you can buy. I had the pleasure of sleeping in the Canon (which costs about as much as one of my mortgage payments) without a tent on a single-digit night in the Sierra Mountains. I promptly started sweating bullets.
Thankfully, the Canon has two large zippers that run from the chest to the knees (Nemo calls these regulating thermo gills) that I was able to adjust to dump heat. The stovepipe tunnel hood kept my nose from getting frostbite but still gave me enough breathing room that I didn’t feel claustrophobic.
Arc’Teryx Theta SVX Jacket ($750)
The Arc’Teryx Theta SVX, with its 80-denier face fabric, is built from the toughest Gore-Tex material on the market. On top of being extremely durable, the jacket was designed for nasty alpine conditions thanks to its brimmed hood, tall collar, and thigh-length cut. It’s expensive (half again as much as our 2015 Gear of the Year–winning shell from The North Face), but it should last you the rest of your life.
MSR XGK EX Stove ($160)
Polar explorer Larsen recently relied on the MSR XGK EX stove during a 52-day expedition where temperatures regularly dipped below negative-40 degrees Fahrenheit. “We used it for five hours per day, every day, and did not have a single problem,” Larsen says. The XGK is so burly and so easy to fix that he stopped bringing a backup stove on expeditions. Why carry the extra weight when one device works 100 percent of the time? “You can throw it against a wall, run over it with a semi truck, then cook your dinner on it,” Larsen says. “It is easily my most reliable piece of gear.”
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