Getting the clothing right during a visit to an ice cave is crucial. Who wants to be distracted from the majesty and beauty of their surroundings because of cold feet? With temperatures in most glacier ice caves typically around -10°C, it’s important to dress appropriately. This guide to what to wear in an ice cave will ensure that your attention can be completely focused on your surroundings. Here’s what you need to know before setting out.
Thermal undies and warm outer layers
The trick to staying warm is to dress in layers. There’s a scientific reason for this: if you wear two thinner layers rather than one thick one, air will be trapped between the two and this air acts as an insulator. It will also help you move more freely. You’ll also feel warmer if the base layer is a snug fit and what you put on top is slightly looser. Make sure the base layer will wick moisture away from the skin. Avoid cotton, as you’ll need something thermally more efficient – try merino wool for instance, if you’re keen to stick to natural fibers. Fleece leggings for under your trousers will be a boon.
Waterproof trousers and jacket
You need to ensure that any moisture like rain, sleet or snow stays on the outside. Avoid jeans – when they get wet, they stay wet and you’ll soon feel very cold. Waterproof trousers and a good quality waterproof jacket will keep the wind out and keep you snug and toasty. Look for elasticated cuffs to avoid draughts. Test how comfortable your chosen garment fastens at the neck and try out the pockets to make sure they’re going to be large enough once you have your gloves on.
Be aware that bulk isn’t the best indicator of heat retention, so talk to the store representative about how warm a coat will keep you before you make your purchase. Many travelers swear by a goose or duck down jacket; the former is lighter and warmer. Fill power is measured on a scale from 400 to 900; the higher the number, the warmer you’ll feel. Synthetic equivalents are available if you prefer.
Gloves, hats, scarves, and socks
Don’t forget your extremities. Heat escapes from the top of your head so most important of all is a well-fitting hat. When choosing socks, wool’s a good option, but many people opt for a double layer with a silk sock beneath. As before, cotton isn’t the best choice. Think carefully about covering your face, perhaps swapping a scarf for a snood, especially if you’re snowmobiling at speed to reach the ice cave. Gloves too are crucial. Look for a pair made from materials that will increase thermal retention and keep your fingers warm and dry.
You’re likely to arrive in hiking boots, simply because their thick soles help keep your feet warm and a good pair will also be waterproof. Be prepared to change, however as many tour operators will issue studded boots or those with even thicker soles. They know the conditions so trust their judgment. If they suggest you’ll need crampons, you’ll need crampons. Bear in mind that if you wish to keep your hat on under a helmet it will need to be thin enough to fit. Specialist gear such as a head torch, ice axes, and safety ropes will also be provided should they be needed.