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Winter Clothing for Ops

Greg Kubik

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Given the recent cold front that has forced most of the U.S.A. into winter, I've had a few shoots outdoors and am reminded that I never did find clothes that I thought were the best for cam ops.


I have generic base layers for skiing but as an operator in the sports world you are not moving any where near the amount as a winter athlete since we frequently have to hold a shot steady for an extended amount of time and don't have the ability to move around and warm up.


Also, I am looking for a good pair of tight, not bulky gloves that can keep your hands warm but still allow you to operate a camera on your shoulder.


Any advice on base layers, mid layers, and gloves?

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Though i'm in LA now I recall quite a few cold winters. I find Under Armor thermals to be fantastic. For hands; I didn't use gloves while operating-- but instead had a nice jacket with plenty of hand warmers in the pockets and between shots I'll throw it on, and stick hands in there. I always, honestly, found my feet colder than my hands-- and used of course foot warmers.

Layers are important; but when you're operating you generally want mobility. For me this was generally good thermal clothing and a good fleece jacket-- perhaps with a waterproofed layer for wet work. Often though I'd wind up being down to my thermal on some shots when I had to move-- of course I'd never "delayer" longer than necessary.


Also, drinking lots of warm beverages. I used to have a nice thermos which we could loop around the tripod with good hot-chocolate.

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I'll second Stuart's footwear recommendation. I walk everywhere so shoes are important, but they are anyway - they're more or less the only item of clothing that I spend any serious money on. I have two identical Berghaus fleeces which I bought a very long time ago and which remain presentable and can be worn between shirt and coat for extra warmth. Otherwise, just layers, but I find no reason to invest in specialist layered clothing systems. A T-shirt, denim or checked shirt, fleece and coat are adequate for all but the most severe conditions. In extremis, snowboarding outerwear can be pulled on over the top, but the UK rarely gets that cold.


Otherwise, the sort of gloves worn by British military aircrew are pretty good. They're pretty much just white leather gloves, but very soft and simultaneously quite warming. I have never used the green nomex type worn by a lot of other air forces but they always come off as a bit noticeable and gauche to me, and I have the fashion sense of a pebble. The white ones are more or less the only gloves I've ever come across that don't overly impact ability to manipulate small switches and the like.


That said I am going to be in Toronto at the end of next March, and I'm not quite sure what to expect.




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I should preface that I am based out of North East Ohio (cleveland - pittsburgh area) and I personally am very sensitive to the cold. I don't work well when I'm cold and here, during the winter, it can go from 30 degrees one day to 5 degrees the next with windchills bringing that down another 10 degrees. I'm not saying this is the worst condition you could be in but it is annoying.




I've found the information in the article above to be immensely helpful. It addresses layers needed and the proper fabrics to use and the importance of STAYING DRY! Which was a saving grace to someone like myself who is sensitive to the cold and would always wear cotton layers without knowing any better.




Having cold feet really effects my performance on set. Normally I would have to bundle up 2 pairs of socks and a pair of cheaper boots and still be freezing by the end of the day. These boots have allowed me to stay warm with even just 1 pair of cotton socks in some cases (though I whole heartedly recommend Merino fabric socks). I'm not boot expert but I did enjoy seeing how thorough the article went into their testing.


Also I've heard a great recommendation for when you have to pull your own focus consisting of a wool-based glove liner inside of thick water proof gloves and when you're not rolling, ditch those and tuck your hands into wool mittens that are buried in your coat pocket with a couple hand warmers in each. I've found hand warmers in your main gloves a bit cumbersome when you have to pull your own focus or make adjustments.


I think the biggest thing too is to always be moving to take your mind off it. On a recent shoot the myself, the gaffer and the 1st ac could all be seen doing jumping jax while waiting on 1st team when we were too far from staging to leave set.


Hope this helps.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • Sustaining Member

Although they aren't cheap, I have been purchasing wool blend socks from a local outdoor store. Fortunately they seem to last forever as opposed to the cotton tube socks I usually wear. I often double up and wear the cotton socks inside and the wool ones over. The new wool blends are quite comfortable worn against the skin though. They also have the added advantage of remaining warm when moisture builds up. I have like six pair that I have had for many years and they still look like new.

Growing up in New England, wool clothing was readily available, but now that I reside in Virginia I have found it almost impossible to find wool shirts in the local department stores. It's a shame because wool is still one of the warmest materials to use for winter clothing. It also outlasts cotton by a long shot. I have 20 year old wool flannels that are still in use. As for manmade materials, I used to do a lot of video work for cold weather divers and they swore by the Patagonia brand thermals.

Again, these are not cheap but last forever and keep you warm without the bulk that cotton long johns have. As others have said, good shoes/boots are probably the most important. If your feet get cold you will be miserable.

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  • 1 month later...

WoolRich makes a so called tactical parka that is an awesome component for a self made system. It has a multitude of pockets in side and out , both Velcro and zipper closures, internal elastic restraints in pockets for stuff you don't wish to drop and it is windproof water proof. It is light enough to wear at 50 with out sweating. I then use a variation of a full fleece hoodie, a fleece vest, a sweat shirt, a m65. Field jacket, a puff parka, a puff vest under neath it to adapt for the given situation.


I just love the flexibility it provides me, and I am very sensitive to heat so I need cooling all the time even in the snow

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  • 3 weeks later...

Technical base layers, merino wool in particular, are tight fitting, light and very warm. On top it's layers of fleece, goretex trousers and jacket, a light down jacket and a truly thick one. Ideally there should be a camera truck close by so quickly switching clothes is easy.

I've also started collecting different types of shoes, from gore tex trainers all the way to sorel boots. The sorel boots are lifesavers when it's an entire day outdoors in the cold.

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  • 5 months later...




Hey Greg, from Texas...snowy as?

It would help if we all knew what kind of weather conditions you had to work in. All I could read was....probably standing on a snowy skifield, and the sun is shining.


Knowing what the worst possible conditions might be on the day, that will determine what gear you should have with you. Without doing that you have to accept risk.

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  • 4 weeks later...

When I'm doing outdoor shoots on cold days, I go to my backpacking and mountaineering kits... so:


The best bet for staying warm AND dry is wool and synthetics. For outer layers I prefer not to use GoreTex or Event these days, because they tend to get too hot. I prefer to wear an extra layer of wool or similar as an insulating layer and an outer layer of softshell or Pertex or similar fabric. I've had great results using one of the Eddie Bauer/First Ascent BCS200 rain jackets, as well as a crazy light Outdoor Research jacket made of a Pertex fabric. I always take at least one of those on mountaineering trips.


I've been using a pair of Windstopper fleece gloves that enable me to keep my hands reasonably warm and still be able to operate a camera (it worked with my 4x5). For extra warmth when I'm no operating a camera I have GoreTex overmitts. Operating a camera with those on doesn't work well, but they're easy to slip on and off, so they've worked well for me on winter camping trips when I'm out in the cold and wanting to set up a shot with a 4x5. Pop the overmitts off, get the shot, slip the overmitts back on.


Layers are very important though; if you start to sweat, you need to cool off before you soak your base layers. When trekking one of the first things we tend to do before even setting camp is to get out of the wet base layers and put on dry layers + puffies (down, usually) to stay warm, plus good down puffies pack down to incredibly small bundles and weigh next to nothing, so they're easy to drag along pretty much everywhere. :)

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