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 Planning an extreme trip to Yellowknife, Canada 
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Joined: Thu Sep 12, 2013 6:18 am
Posts: 3
Location: Washington, DC
Post Planning an extreme trip to Yellowknife, Canada
Hello there
Totally new to the message board but looking forward to contributing. My friend and I are hoping to go to Yellowknife, Canada in January or February. It's way up in the Northwest Territories and is known for getting amazingly cold in those months (average lows at night are often around -20F). We're somehow (perhaps stupidly) hoping to be able to accomplish some nighttime timelapse of the aurora borealis.

We're not complete morons and are both fairly capable with cameras (both of our jobs involve photography/videography), but we have little experience in such extreme conditions. I'll probably be bringing my Nikon D7000 and may buy a Stage One as well. We've read up a bit and have an idea of what we need to take into consideration and bring with us (heat packs, zip lock baggies, etc)., but I was just curious if anyone had any firsthand experience with this level of cold temperatures and if we're in over our heads. And has anyone ever been to Yellowknife? Any tips?

I know there are a couple posts of people discussing cold temps, and I do know how to search the forums, so hopefully no one will yell at me because I wanted to introduce myself anyway!

Thanks!


Thu Sep 12, 2013 6:38 am
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Joined: Wed Nov 23, 2011 12:22 pm
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Location: Winnipeg, Canada
Post Re: Planning an extreme trip to Yellowknife, Canada
jasontcox wrote:
Canada in January or February.... average lows at night are often around -20F

Welllll, I'm sure it gets colder than that, and more than "often" ;) Ok, so -20F is -28C, which actually isn't too bad for an overnight low, believe it or not. Hell, that's often the daytime high temperature. And when you factor in even the slightest breeze, it'll feel more like -40C to -50C. It really is hard to explain that kind of cold! Yes, you'll want to make sure your camera gear doesn't freeze but make sure you invest in some really good outerwear so that YOU don't freeze before it does - boots especially important, feet in snow for long periods. And eat lots of poutine before you go, build extra fat reserves ;)

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Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:50 am
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Joined: Wed Nov 11, 2009 10:45 am
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Location: Merritt Island, Florida, Estates Unitas
Post Re: Planning an extreme trip to Yellowknife, Canada
I'll second that. Don't underestimate the need for really good arctic jackets, gloves, insulated and waterproof boots and thermal underwear. Don't be embarrassed to put on two or three pairs of jeans even if it makes you look like the Michalin tire guy. Being comfortable in the cold is more important than it seems when going out the door. you can get in a lot of trouble in just a short time outside if you're not overdressed for it.

Either get chemical handwarmers to tape around your lens, or dew heaters. You can put extra handwarmers in your boots and pockets. Even good gloves are rarely enough. Occasionally sticking your hands in jacket pockets with some handwarmers helps a lot.

A soft paintbrush or something like that is good for dusting snow off your gear before bringing it inside. When outside, in such cold, it doesn't get wet and sticky, it just dusts off like powder. If you bring it inside, it immediately gets wet, sticky and messy.

Bring larger batteries for the dolly than normal. Cold greatly deminishes a batteries capacity. A handwarmer taped to each side of the battery can help. I buy cases of handwarmers on ebay.

If by chance, you can get Russian army cold weather suits, they are awesome! You wouldn't know its cold except for your face freezing off.


Thu Sep 12, 2013 10:11 am
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Joined: Thu Feb 18, 2010 4:47 am
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Location: St Gallen, Switzerland
Post Re: Planning an extreme trip to Yellowknife, Canada
A one-piece down suit as commonly used on Everest is my suggestion for keeping yourself glad you`re there and not wishing you were somewhere else further south. Always worth a try on Ebay for second-hand from some guy who`s not going back there.


Thu Sep 12, 2013 12:52 pm
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Joined: Wed Nov 23, 2011 12:22 pm
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Location: Winnipeg, Canada
Post Re: Planning an extreme trip to Yellowknife, Canada
Mountain Equipment Co-op is a great place for all sorts of outdoor gear/clothing. And if you're planning to be out and about in your own vehicle, make sure you have an emergency kit in case of car breakdown or bad weather - Get Prepared. If you do have trouble, always remember that the people who leave the vehicle are usually the ones that freeze to death. Yup, cold can be scary!

sciencelookers wrote:
You wouldn't know its cold except for your face freezing off.

And always remove your cold-conducting metal nose ring and/or any other face hardware ;)

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Thu Sep 12, 2013 2:21 pm
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Joined: Thu Sep 12, 2013 6:18 am
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Location: Washington, DC
Post Re: Planning an extreme trip to Yellowknife, Canada
Hi guys
Thanks for all the tips and help! We're totally looking forward to this trip, but yeah, the extreme cold is making us a bit nervous. But it's obviously been done before so I'm sure we'll be fine. Like the paintbrush tip.

We're obviously trying to travel light and we'll obviously pack warm, but do you think there's any significant issue with renting cold weather clothing the moment we get there. There's a couple places that advertise renting out parkas, winter pants, facemasks, glacier boots, etc. Sounds better than shelling out a boatload of money for an outfit I may not need again for a long time and have to take a whole extra suitcase for. Yay or nay?

Thanks again!


Tue Sep 17, 2013 5:37 pm
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Joined: Thu May 09, 2013 6:24 am
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Location: Bloomington, IN
Post Re: Planning an extreme trip to Yellowknife, Canada
Hi jasontcox,

I spent 10 days in Yellowstone last year, around New Year's eve. Maybe not as extreme as where you are going, but still pretty cold (-20F at night). In my opinion, the hardest part is to keep your feet warm. It might be a good idea to rent some super warm shoes. Try to take at least one size bigger than your usual shoes. If they are too tight, it will prevent a good blood circulation and your feet will feel cold very quickly. Also, it is a good idea to invest in some good/warm socks.

For the rest of the clothing, during the extreme cold shooting, I was wearing:
- 3 layers on my legs (a silk base layer + a synthetic base layer + my mountaineering pants)
- only two layers for the top (a synthetic baselayer + a really worm down jacket).

I don't want to advertise, but most of my clothes were from Edie Bauer First Ascent and I must say I was extremely happy with it (especially the Peak XV down jacket).

Concerning the gloves, I would recommend using two layers: a pair of thin gloves that will allow you to manipulate your camera + a pair of super warm mittens. Just take off the mittens when you setup your camera and put them back asap.

A very important rule: do not wear cotton! Never... If it ever gets wet with the sweat (which happens if you have to run or do any type of physical effort when you carry/setup your equipment), it will not dry and that will make you feel terribly cold. Stay dry, at all time!

Also, don't forget to bring a good thermos easy to use and drink plenty of warm fluids.

I guess you also know that the batteries in your camera will not last as long as they would in the warm. Keep your spare batteries in the warm (inside your jacket) and you can also 'resuscitate' a little bit of the dead batteries by warming them a little bit inside your jacket.

I hope this helps.

jf

PS, if anyone wants to see Yellowstone under the snow: https://plus.google.com/photos/118049621269056730056/albums/5830143623513855889


Thu Sep 19, 2013 10:56 am
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Joined: Mon Oct 21, 2013 8:12 pm
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Location: Vancouver BC
Post Re: Planning an extreme trip to Yellowknife, Canada
Sounds like some good advice so far. I get to Yellowknife often for work. Actually I'm in Yellowknife right now. The winters do get get cold here. I shot some Northern Lights time lapse sequences last March. It was getting to -30C on a few of the nights. The little hand or feet heating pads don't do much when it gets really cold. The best way I found so far is heating coils and a small 12 volt battery. I use the 7ah batteries which don't weigh that much and can last many, many hours. My brother ordered the heating wire off the net so I'm sorry but I don't know the details on that at the moment. What we did was to grab a bunch of the pocket dividers from old camera bags. We lined one side (the inside) of these liners with the wire and form fit them to fit around the camera body. We then did the same for a piece that wraps around the lens. That worked rather well but I must say after 3 hours in -30, the camera was still working but it was very cold.

Personally I haven't needed to ever use a plastic bag when thawing a camera and I've froze a few solid. I just leave it in the camera bag in the hotel room over night.

As far as cold weather gear, yes you should have some but when I was shooting the scenes I was sitting in a nice toasty vehicle. We see a ton of Japanese tourists all wearing the same rented cold weather gear. Actually kind of funny. I assume they are mostly on the Aurora tours. I've often run into the bus late at night. I assume you guys are after the Northern Lights? There are a number of good places north of the city you can go. One of the most popular places is a chain of lakes. Everyone just drives their cars and trucks out onto the frozen water. It's crazy to see cars out on the ice at 3AM on a week night. If you punch this into Google Earth you will see the start of the chain of lakes. 62°32'53.95"N 114°21'46.33"W Also Great Slave Lake will have an ice road cleared. It doesn't go all that far but the good news is you can get away from the city lights. Also if you are after the northern lights then there is a good website http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast ... 2013/03/24 The forecasts are fairly good. There's also an app for Iphones.

Here is a link to the video I shot last March. It was shot around Yellowknife and Hay River. http://youtu.be/GzaDgxYdpOQ

Good luck and I may see you here!

Dan


Mon Oct 21, 2013 8:56 pm
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Joined: Mon Oct 21, 2013 8:12 pm
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Location: Vancouver BC
Post Re: Planning an extreme trip to Yellowknife, Canada
So... how was the trip? Get any good shots?


Sat Mar 22, 2014 11:25 am
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Joined: Tue Mar 18, 2014 6:21 am
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Post Re: Planning an extreme trip to Yellowknife, Canada
That silence.....it's disturbing....


Sun Mar 23, 2014 10:08 am
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Joined: Wed Nov 23, 2011 12:22 pm
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Location: Winnipeg, Canada
Post Re: Planning an extreme trip to Yellowknife, Canada
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Tue Mar 25, 2014 6:42 am
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