CR 05:83-90 (1995)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/cr005083

Comparison of traditional and manufactured cold weather ensembles

Oakes J, Wilkins H, Riewe R, Kelker D, Forest T

ABSTRACT: Inuit elders stress the importance of wearing caribou skin clothing for winter trips. Although laboratory tests for thermal insulation values of clothing are extensive, caribou skin clothing is rarely tested. The purpose of this research was to compare the thermal comfort of caribou skin clothing, military winter issue clothing, and northern expedition clothing using experimental and ethnographic methods. To collect the experimental data, each subject wore the ensembles in an environmental chamber designed to simulate travelling on a sled pulled by a snowmobile in the Arctic winter. Skin temperatures and comfort ratings were analyzed using analysis of variance and multiple regression methods. Ethnographic methods were used to collect 'traditional' knowledge from Inuit elders. Findings indicate that the average skin temperature and comfort ratings dropped significantly less (p < 0.05) when wearing the caribou skin ensemble compared to changes observed when wearing the military or expedition clothing ensembles. There were no significant differences between the military and expedition clothing ensembles. Inuit elders use years of field experiences as a base for their recommendations to use caribou skin clothing for long-term protection for sedentary individuals exposed to a cold winter climate. They also point out the advantages of specific style features and materials for cold weather clothing. In conclusion, the combination of laboratory tests and traditional knowledge has given 2 distinct perspectives which provide a more holistic answer to cold weather clothing needs for people travelling during the Arctic winter.


KEY WORDS: Cold weather clothing · Inuit clothing · Skin clothing . Caribou clothing · Contemporary cold weather fabrics · Scientific and traditional knowledge · Thermal comfort


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