KEEP WARM AND CARRY ON
Get ready for the chilly new astronomy season with our guide to beating the cold
How to keep your scope and, more importantly, yourself warm on chilly winter nights.
Astronomy is a tough pursuit to dress for because there tend to be brief amounts of strenuous activity setting up, then hours of standing about. We’ve all experienced the frustration of having to abandon a potentially amazing night of astronomy because our bodies can take no more battering from the elements.
Planning is key. Wrap yourself in multiple thin layers, as this traps warm air more effectively than one thick jumper. It also means you can peel off a few layers if you get too warm, something you may need to do if you find yourself with a rapid heart rate and feeling weak while sweating – a sign, ironically, of heat exhaustion caused by wrapping up too warm. Another issue that can catch you out is wind chill, when the actual ambient temperature is not particulary low but the whipping wind lowers your body warmth.
I personally avoid scarves and balaclavas. I’ve had many a bad experience with the vapour from my breath condensing on their material, which then causes discomfort as the moisture cools next to your skin. If you have a good hat and down jacket, I find that raising the hood is good enough to keep you warm.
The following is a guide to the kind of clothing that should keep you warm on a winter’s night, but the best advice is to shop around and see what you can find. Above all keep warm, stay safe and enjoy the longer nights that lie ahead.
1 Hat Karrimor thermal hat £7.99 • www.karrimor.com A thermal hat is a good choice as it will cover your head and ears and keep them warm, but thin enough that you can still pull your hood up. I avoid waterproof materials as I find them uncomfortable when wearing them for longer periods of time. 2 Down jacket Rab Asylum Jacket £200 • www.rab.equipment/uk Down is perfect for stargazing: in terms of warmth for weight, you can’t beat it. Go with higher quality fill, as cheap down jackets often contain more feathers, which reduces their ability to trap air, lowering their insulation value. This model is warm and comfortable, with a collar you can zip up to cover your mouth and nose. 3 Windproof jacket The North Face Apex Flex GTX £250 • www.thenorthface.co.uk Make the distinction between windproof and waterproof: if you’re standing in the rain you’re doing astronomy wrong! You want material that breathes well and is comfortable to wear for longer periods of time. Consider buying one size too big so that it can fit over multiple layers. 4 Gloves Montane Windjammer Glove £45 • www. montane.co.uk It’s difficult to strike a balance between keeping your hands warm and being able to hit small buttons on your mount’s control pad. The gloves you choose will depend on how much you need to work with the more fiddly aspects of practical astronomy. These ones are designed to prevent wind chill and keep your fingers dextrous. 5 Windproof trousers Sprayway Men’s All Day Rainpant £80 • www.sprayway.com Go with softshell, which will be very wind and water resistant and great for keeping you warm. These trousers are breathable and comfortable as they are made from stretchy, flexible material. The inner lining also means they can be quickly pulled on as over-trousers or worn on their own. 6 Boots Scarpa Delta GTX Activ £220 • www.scarpa.co.uk Boots are a very personal thing. A recommendation can only speak to the quality and intended use, but comfort and fit is every bit as important as getting something appropriate for the task at hand. These come with autofit foam inserts in the heel and can be laced up to the ankle for support.