Most of my friends think I’m nuts. They’re probably right. The fact is I love cold weather, at least in reasonable doses. And the colder the better. Dogsledding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are my preferred sports activities.
Photographically, there are advantages to cold. The landscapes are pristine, the air crisp and clear, with no crowds to deal with. I remember once photographing the northern lights for five hours in Yukon Territory in Canada’s north with the temps at -30 to -40F. I loved every minute of it!
I find that most people hate the cold for a simple reason; they are seriously underdressed. I could care less how I look in the great, frigid outdoors. I layer up, using a turtleneck underlayer with long john pants, polypropylene, wool or fleece second layer, and outer layers of down, wool cap and windproof hood and pants. I wear two pairs of socks, an inner sock of silk and an outer one of wool. At extreme temps I insert a disposable foot warmer.
But the bane for cold weather photographers is, and has always been, hand coverings. Do you wear gloves for their flexibility and dexterity, but with far less warmth? Or do you go with mittens, with their inherent better warming, but with less flexibility and dexterity? For years I have battled with the two alternatives. Now the battle has been settled and, at least for me, there is a clear winner.
Heat 3 Mittens
Enter [Heat 3 Smart Mittens] (http://www.theheatcompany.com/en/gloves), a revolutionary hand covering that I have been testing for the past couple of months. The Heat 3 combines an outer layer of a feature-filled ingenious mitten for exceptional warmth with an inner layer of glove for dexterity. For photographers I cannot possibly think of a better system.
The Austrian manufacturer counts amongst its customers various military and special forces units. So their products have been tested under real world, trying conditions. The hand protection is like nothing I have tried before and, I have to say, I probably have more gloves and mittens than Imelda Marcus had shoes (okay, that last boast is a slight exaggeration… I think).
Here’s what I like about the Heat 3 mittens. First, the outer shell is waterproof and windproof. It has a zipper pocket to hold hand warmers, which any landscape or wildlife photographer will appreciate.
The palms are made of full goat leather for a phenomenal grip and added warmth. Four ounces of Primaloft are added to boost warmth.
The mitten shell extends far up the wrist to keep that part of your body warm and protected from snow. There is an elastic drawstring at the wrist and another at the forearm. Finally, there is an elastic band that attaches to one’s forearm to prevent the mittens from dropping onto the snow and/or getting lost. Every winter photographer will realize what a nice feature that is, since we typically take off and put back on our mittens at least a hundred times a session. And that’s only the beginning of the Heat 3’s utility.
Inside the mitten is an integrated, thin fleece glove. The Shell has a zipper on the palm side that allows one to remove four fingers when you have to work your camera controls. One of the fingers has a silver fabric coating that allowed me to use my iPhone and access my CamRanger controls.
I am still in awe of how the designers thought of everything. I have used mittens before that allow fingers to come out of the shell, but then the mitten flap keeps getting in the way of glove operations. Not so with the Heat 3. The mitten flap secures to the back of the mitten with a magnetized snap that couldn’t be easier to use.
The thumbs have a flap on them that secures with Velcro and allowed my thumbs to come out of the mitten shell. The thumbs also have silver fabric. These features alone justifies the price of the mittens, IMHO. In fact, just to prove my point, I typed the last two paragraphs with the mittens on and the gloved fingers out.
In using the mittens I found a time and heat saving tip that turned out to be useful. The pocket on the back of the mitten that holds the warmer is quite roomy. I found that I could store a spare battery in there, saving me the inconvenience of digging through my snow pants to my inner pockets where I usually store my spare batteries.
The mittens come in many colors and sizes and sell for about $200USD. If you are an outdoors winter photographer you’ll thank me for recommending them.