by Carmel L. Mooney
We all know that preparation is everything, particularly when traveling to climates of extreme heat or cold. Being properly prepared in harsh winter climates means the difference between an enjoyable trip and one of misery and discomfort.
Such was the case on my recent trip to Quebec City, Canada, and also to the Hotel de Glace outside of Quebec City where extremely cold temperatures warrant an extra dose of caution and thorough preparation.
While visiting the beautiful and picturesque Canadian city of Quebec, I was able to fully enjoy six days of being subjected to the elements outside for ten to twelve hours a day, partly because of the outstanding quality of REI’s Midweight Polartec Power Dry Zip-T and their Activestretch top.
Both were of superior quality, and by far the most comfortable, warm, yet breathable, base layer tops I have ever experienced. REI did not pay me to rave about these tops, but I can honestly say they are the best I have ever worn. With daily temperatures hovering around single and negative digits, daily, I was amazed how they were comfortable with every activity from tours, to extreme snowshoeing, hiking, and more. Both can be worn alone or used as a base layer. I wore them both ways with perfect success.
I also liked the REI Activestretch Half-Zip Top’s thumb loops for keeping the sleeves in place while partaking in winter sports. They added warmth under my gloves and were comfortable.
Staying at the Hotel de Glace was an unforgettable experience where temperatures remain constantly in the 20s. My overnight stay’s success is owed in large part to North Face’s wonderful Light Tights and Light Crew Neck.
Both top and bottom provided me not only the thermal protection I needed but also combine breath-ability and moisture transport, both crucial to a comfortable visit to the Ice Hotel.
Since I was traveling for a week and wore them numerous times for daytime activities as well, I appreciated the odor and stain-resistant wicking, and quick-drying properties. They are designed for medium to high-intensity activities in cool weather and they far exceeded my expectations. Being ultra-thin, they did not add bulk to my daily clothes such as jeans or powder pants.
My piece de resistance and staple of my trip was North Face Interlude Print Jacket. Since North Face knows their stuff when it comes to winter, (they sponsor the Hotel de Glace and even have a store there) I found this jacket to be the best winter jacket I have ever used, and for numerous reasons.
First, I was comfortable every single day of my extreme weather trip, no matter what activity I was engaged in. Walking in heavy snowfall, its waterproofing proved invaluable. The breathable HyVent® 2L fabric was wonderful! I can honestly say, I have never had so many compliments from strangers on any jacket.
With its futuristic solar print, it was an attention-getter and stood out in the crowd. My fellow travelers commented, in a good way, that I was always easy to spot.
This snow-thirsty jacket is coupled with different amounts of insulation on the body and sleeves which gave me warmth where I needed it most. It has many features which took several days to discover and figure out although I came to enjoy them all. Fortunately, I didn’t need this one, but it features a Recco® avalanche rescue reflector.
Another bonus is a helmet-compatible fixed drop hood. I especially liked the rotated pit-zip vents, and handwarmer polyurethane zip pockets. The wrist accessory pocket with goggle cloth was handier than I had anticipated as my sunglasses fogged from the cold, constantly. Extra features include an internal media security pocket, internal goggle pocket, snap-back Powder skirt with gripper elastic, and pant-a-locks. All in all, I could not have been more pleased in any regard. This garment is a winner in every conceivable way. And this is my non-paid, honest opinion.
Traveling to any harsh climate requires extra planning, forethought, and high-quality outdoor wear. In my most recent severe winter weather journey, these items made all the difference in allowing me a high level of comfort and a wonderful trip.
Carmel L. Mooney is a travel columnist, author, and radio talk show host. She is the editor of Road Trips for Couples.