Viewing the Aurora Borealis Safely


The polar regions are the harshest environments on the planet.
If you do not take measures to keep yourself warm - the weather here could kill you very quickly.

Wear The Right Clothing.

The most important principle of cold-weather dressing is to trap warm air close to your body.
The best way to trap this warm air is with multiple layers of clothing.
Three or four thin layers are much better than one or two thick layers.

Your first layer should be full-length underwear. Cotton long-johns are cheap, easy to find, and will do the job.
There are lighter (and more expensive) alternatives, and these are worth considering if you plan to be participating
in any strenuous outdoor activity. Mountaineering or skiing underwear is designed to wick sweat away from
your skin and prevent you from becoming wet from your own perspiration.

It is vital to cover your whole body evenly.
There is no point wearing five layers on your top half - and just a pair of jeans on your legs!
Your body will lose heat from any area that is not properly protected.  
Pajama pants make excellent mid-layers, as do track-suit pants or joggers.
Your neck and head are major areas of heat loss, so hats, scarves, masks and hoods are essential.
Two hats are better than one - a thin cotton or synthetic skullcap with a thick wool hat on top is ideal.
You can also cover your face with a ski-mask. Good synthetics are best for this.
Cotton or wool will absorb your breath and it will quickly turn to ice.
Ski goggles are also a good idea - even your eyes can freeze here if the wind-chill is strong enough.

Overlap the ends of your clothing to stop the wind from entering.
Tuck your first pair of socks into your long-johns, your second pair of socks should overlap the ends of your long-johns,
and your third pair should overlap the ends of your trousers.

Protect your extremities!
Fingers, ears, toes, and noses are the first things to drop off from frost-bite.
Good footwear is vital. Always boots - never shoes.
Moon boots are very good - but make sure they are proper moon-boots and not just "fashion" accessories.
Your Boots should be big enough to let you wear heavy wool socks over your two pairs of regular socks.
Better to have boots that are too big than too small.  Good circulation is crucial - so don't wear tight boots!

Keeping your fingers warm is not easy if you are taking photographs of the aurora.
Thin gloves  inside loose, heavily insulated mittens are the best way to go.
Only remove the mittens to take your picture, and then put them on again quickly.

The wind is the real killer here.
It can reduce the temperature more than you could possibly imagine.
So you will need a wind-proof outer layer. It is best if it is also waterproof - and it should be made from a fabric that "breathes".
Gore-Tex or similar allows your perspiration to evaporate, but it does not allow the wind or the rain to enter.


One - Eat like crazy!
When you are outside, the only heat available to you is generated by your own body. The correct clothing will help store that heat -
but to create it in the first place, your body needs fuel. You burn a lot more calories in these cold conditions,
so don't worry about your waistline! This is about survival -  you have the best possible excuse for pigging out!

Two - Drink plenty!
Dehydration can be a serious problem here. You use a lot of water just breathing in dry winter air.
And extreme cold suppresses your thirst reflex, so you don't think about drinking.
When your body starts to dehydrate, it conserves fluids by reducing circulation to the extremities, so your fingers toes and ears will drop off
The best thing to drink is water at as close to body temperature as possible. Drink plenty of water before you go out.

If you find yourself in a survival situation -
DO NOT EAT UN-MELTED SNOW - no matter how thirsty you feel.
Snow uses so much body heat to melt, it will induce rapid hypothermia and make your problems FAR worse!


Always plan for the worst case scenario.
If you go out on foot - plan what you'll do if you get lost. If you are in a car - plan what you'll do if you break down.
Think through the chain of possible events and be prepared for problems.  
Also, tell somebody where you are going and what time you expect to be back.
Take a survival kit with you - a sleeping bag, a space-blanket, some water, some food, some matches
and a candle are essential. A mobile phone is a good idea too!

If your car breaks down - stay inside! It provides a dry, wind-proof shelter.
And the rescue services can spot a car far easier than they can spot a person on foot.
If you wander off into the wild, you could become part of the permafrost and nobody will find you for a thousand years!
They will dig you up in some future era, perfectly preserved, and put you on display in a museum,

Hopefully you will never be in a survival situation.
Such emergencies are extremely rare.
With a little planning and common sense, your nights under the Aurora will bring you nothing but pleasure!
Viewing The Aurora Borealis / Northern Lights Safely
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