Toyota recently took me to Rovaniemi, a city just inside the Arctic Circle, to drive its latest sports car, but while there I thought it would the perfect opportunity to test out some high-tech cold weather clothing.
We got in touch with our favourite brands and boy, they didn't disappoint. While exploring the frozen landscapes I frequently saw temperatures as low as -15ºC, knee deep snow, and sheet ice, but I managed to stay toasty thanks to the smart clobber.
I really put this kit through its paces; dog sledding, hiking, and even staying in a hotel made from ice.
Here's a my choice of gear to take on a trip to the Arctic Circle, starting at the top and working down:
Hat: 66North Surtsey
People used to think 50-percent of body heat is lost through the head, we now know that's not true (it's actually around 7-percent), but a decent hat is still vitally important. I went with the Surtsey from 66North, it's really thick, and made from percent acrylic with an inner wind-stop headband.
£30 | Buy it from 66North
Eyewear: Dragon Alliance MountaineerX
Sunglasses aren't only for the summer, they offer crucial eye protection in snowy landscapes as well (where bright sun can reflect off the snow hitting you from all angles).
Any old pair of Ray Bans wouldn't do, I wanted something tailored to the job. The MountaineerX shades from Dragon Alliance were a perfect fit, with leather sun shields to stop side glare, an anti fog coating, and hydrophobic treatment on the lens to make moisture bead and run off. They did a cracking job, and look great as well.
£135 | Buy it from Shade Station
Neck: Buff Polartec Neck Warmer
Scarfs are so old fashioned, a Buff is the evolution of neck protection. This Buff features classic Polartec fleece and is an ideal lightweight/high performance item of clothing. If the temperature really drops, it can be pulled up over your mouth and nose for full face protection.
£22.99 | Buy it from Amazon
Thermal base layer: Odlo Evolution Blackcomb
An award-winning baselayer, no less (it scooped the ISPO Gold award in the Baselayer category), Odlo's Evolution Blackcomb uses Greentec fabric, with 38% recycled polyester.
A three-dimensional circular knit technology is deployed in 'the exact areas where these functions are most needed', so body heat is maintained, while more moisture is moved away from sweat-prone areas.
£65 | Buy it from Amazon
Jacket: Musto Evolution Arctic Pro Parka
This parka is inspired by Arctic explorers and designed to withstand the harshest weather conditions. The Evolution Arctic Pro is constructed from a two-layer Gore-Tex fabric with Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating and insulated with Primaloft Gold to provide exceptional warmth.
Prismatic, glow in the dark, reflectors mean you'll stay visible in the worst conditions. I love this coat, it's incredibly warm and looks great as well.
£649 (currently £390) | Buy it from Musto
Gloves: Picture Organic Lofter
To protect my hands I chose the Lofter gloves from ski-brand Picture Organic. Made from 50-percent recycled polyester and insulated with Thinsulate, these gloves trap body heat but don't adsorb water. They're also environment friendly, using DWR which is PFOA PFOS free.
Pants: Rohan Merino Union 150 Trunks
Cotton is the devil when it comes to cold weather, it adsorbs moisture and doesn't provide any insulation. So when it came to choosing underwear I went for these technical trunks from Rohan.
The Union 150s are made from a blend of merino wool and polyester, offering a great combination of insulation, quick-drying and anti-bacterial properties. The Union 150 trunks are extremely comfortable, delay the onset of sweating, an have a resistance to the build-up of odour (very useful on a trip where washing/changing clothes isn't an option).
£25 | Buy them from Rohan
Mid-layer bottoms: Patagonia Nano-Air Light Pants
Like wearing a duvet wrapped around each leg, these trousers are a real lifesaver in cold conditions. The Nano-air Light Pants are warm (40-g FullRange insulation), breathable and waterproof, and work well as a mid-layer or worn alone. They look great and they're super effective.
£130 | Buy them from Patagonia
Trousers: Mountain Equipment Prophet Pants
These highly protective, seam-sealed and ultra-light insulated trousers are designed for mountain climbing in the very worst conditions, so they certainly kept me warm in Rovaniemi. The Prophet Pants are packed with PrimaLoft Gold insulation, the bench mark when it comes to synthetic insulation, and features a Gore Thermium shell for extra protection.
Socks: Rohan Cool and Cold
These thick technical socks kept my toes warm with a blend of coolmax polyester and merino wool. There's a reinforced heel and toe for durability, as well cushioning for comfort.
£16 | Buy them from Rohan
Boots: Cat Stiction Hi Waterproof Ice+ TX
And finally, making sure I stay on my feet and not my arse, these Stiction boots from Cat Footwear.
These boots feature Vibram Arctic Grip soles, a technology that delivers traction on all surfaces, even sheet ice. The sole is activated by freezing temperatures, and the thermochromatic lug turns from white to blue at 0º celsius, so you know it's working. Honestly, I didn't slip once, and unlike studded soles you don't have to remove them indoors.
Constructed with a waterproof leather upper, EASE midsole, and Thinsulate lining, I found them incredibly comfortable and warm.