Polar Bear Blog

Cold weather wildlife and polar bear photography. What to wear.

Gloves. Mask. Camera. Charles "Chas" Glatzer ready for action at Seal River Heritage Lodge.
Gloves. Mask. Camera. Charles “Chas” Glatzer ready for action at Seal River Heritage Lodge.

by George Williams

Canon Explorer of Light Charles “Chas” Glatzer and his Shoot the Light clients will be joining us for the 11th time this November for the Polar Bear Photo Safari at Seal River Heritage Lodge, and after years of experience photographing polar bears, wildlife and northern lights in harsh conditions, they know just what to wear.

We send a clothing and packing list to all guests on our polar bear photo safaris, but Chas also sent us some suggestions of his own below, which include specialized must-have heat layer photography gloves.

A warm paw at the right moment can mean the world. Charles Glatzer photo. Seal River Heritage Lodge.
A warm paw at the right time can mean the world. Charles Glatzer photo. Seal River Heritage Lodge.

Layering is the Way to Go

The key to maintaining and regulating core temperature is wearing wicking base/mid layer garments with a wind/water proof outer shell! Today’s high tech materials offer a plethora of lightweight highly compressible materials such as PolarFleece, Primaloft, Polarguard, WindPro, and Coreloft to meet your thermal requirements. Gore Tex, Epic, and Event shell fabrics offer breathability, wind resistance, and are also waterproof.

Base Layer

Moisture wicking under garments like power dry, silk, or merino wool are best, and having zippers, snap tops, or buttons at the neck is in Glatzer’s opinion a must for venting and maintaining comfort under exertion.

NOTE: Do not wear cotton shirts with or without wicking garments, as it will totally defeat the purpose of layering. Cotton becomes wet and stays wet, zapping valuable energy and dropping your core temperature.

Mid Layer

A polar fleece, down, or synthetic jacket and pant is the way to go. Again, breathability and wicking properties are the key to regulating core temperature. If you plan on hiking with a pack, down would not be a good first choice, as it can crunch up against your back, and it will get wet and stay wet. Your mid-layer should preferably have a hood.

Outer Layer

Good breathable waterproof  Gore-Tex, Epic, PreCip, HyVent or similar outer jacket and pants are two of the most important pieces of clothing you can own. Get the jacket one size bigger than you normally wear so that you can layer clothing underneath. A built in companion hood is also important.

Socks and Boots

Sorel XT, Baffin Impact, or Steger Mukluks boots are recommended. For wet landings in cold temperatures I use Arctic Pro Muck boots. Wool socks made by reputable manufacturers such as Patagonia and SmartWool will wick moisture away from your feet, keeping them warmer as a result. Silk sock liners add additional comfort. Placing chemical toe/foot, and hand warmers in gloves and boots will extend comfort in extreme cold conditions, especially when remaining in one position for long periods.

Gloves

Having mitten shell gloves with liners is a plus in these cold temperatures. The ultimate cold weather photographic gloves are the heat layer system gloves we distribute and sell here. Great emphasis is placed on functional details. The system is incredibly versatile as the mitten can be used fully closed, providing the ultimate in warmth, or opened with the liner glove fully or partially exposed, allowing for full freedom of movement, and dexterity. Thumb and index fingers with silver fabric enable use of your LCD camera and touch screens. Read more about these uniquely functional cold-weather gloves below.

Heat Layer System Cold Weather Photography Gloves. Click image for more information.
Heat Layer System Cold Weather Photography Gloves. Click image for more information.

Heat Layer System Gloves

Heat Layer System Photography Gloves. Options that work.
Heat Layer System Photography Gloves. Options that work.

Originally designed as gloves for special forces, these unique cold-weather gloves feature a heat layer system that has proven to be extremely popular among not only cold-weather photographers, but also among guides and anyone who requires both protection from the elements along with advanced manual dexterity.

“They’re the best cold weather gloves you can get for photography,” said Glatzer. “They offer extreme warmth and dexterity. Everybody in Yellowstone was wearing them and your guide Andy MacPherson says they’re the best gloves he’s ever worn. The National Geographic photographers are wearing them too.”

Indeed, the list of ambassadors for the specialized gloves is growing and already includes Glatzer as well as Clipalps.com founder Roberto Moila; professional photographer Dennis Stebner; Swiss landscape and nature photographer Tobias Ryser; extreme sports star Hardy Brandstoetter and sports and advertising photographer Markus Rohrbacher.

Evangelists for the gloves also include landscape and commercial photographer Laura Oppelt; Paris fashion, food and travel photographer Solli Kanani; champion snowkiter Oliver Palmers; nature photographer Dr. Nicholas Roemmelt; author and photographer Stanley Leroux; biologist and photographer Christoph Kaula; military and special forces photographer Tom Weber; the paragliding Flying Sisters Doris, Julia and Angi; and the German national curling team Jentsch.

Quite an impressive list!

Designed for ease of use, especially in the case of photographers, the unique heat layer system in the gloves ensures warmth while providing the ability to easily operate your camera or touchscreen.

The first layer are liner gloves that are available in a range of fabric choices to suit different temperature needs. The second layer is a shell mitten available in fabric and leather or full leather. The polar hood is the third layer, adding an additional layer of warmth that is both wind and waterproof, which works especially well for outdoor photographers, adventurers and snowmobilers.

From Lofoten to Patagonia to New Zealand, Canada and the northern United States, photographers are using these specialized gloves to capture some of the most beautiful cold-weather images in the world, and that includes polar bears. Will one of your images be next?

We hope so!

He has his own gloves. Charles Glatzer photo.
He has his own gloves. Charles Glatzer photo.

Suggested Cold Weather Clothing and Gear Manufacturers

The clothing manufactures below are the top of the line including Arc’teryx, Patagonia, Mountain Hardwear, The North Face, Marmot and Mammut, many of which offer lifetime warranties on gear. Please feel free to contact Shoot the Light for specific clothing or gear recommendations.

Cold Weather Clothing and Gear Links

Charles Glatzer Cold Weather Photo Album – Seal River Heritage Lodge, Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge


Charles “Chas” Glatzer is a Canon Explorer of Light, a prestigious group comprised of the most influential photographers and cinematographers in the world, each a master of their creative specialty. Chas has been a photo leader with Churchill Wild for 11 years and has been to all our lodges, but he has an affinity for Seal River Heritage Lodge and Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. An avid fly fisherman, Chas recently joined us for Wading Wild at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge and he will be back for our upcoming Polar Bear Photo Safari at Seal River both this year and next. You can connect with Chas on Instagram @charlesglatzer, on Facebook here or on his Web site at ShootTheLight.com.


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