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Old 03-02-2009, 07:51 PM
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Larry Ball Larry Ball is offline
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Default Staying Warm (Caution: long winded post)

Spring flying is just around the corner. Are you ready? Some of the best and highest soaring opportunities are to be had in the early spring, along with some of the coldest. Normally I spend the first part of the spring season in the mountains of eastern WV, where ground temperatures are in the upper 30ís (if Iím really air horny) to mid 40ís. Since it is a foot launch site, there is generally some wind involved which brings in wind chill factors. Not only do you need to be dressed for ground temperatures while waiting to launch, you also need to be prepared for air temperatures at altitude. On one XC flight I had last year, my flying buddy and I spent over 30 minutes at over 10,000 feet with the temperature showing between 8-10˚ F on my vario. Luckily we were prepared for these extreme conditions and had a wonderful 2 hr + flight. This can also affect your comfort during towing operations. It may not be the very safe to go ahead and put your hands in your bar mitts or zip your harness up to stay warm during tow as the need for a quick release or emergency landing may arise.


Over the years of trial and error, I have come up with a few things to keep warm that seem to work for me. A few of our members have asked me about the bar mitts and gloves I use during the season, so I thought I would pass along this information along with a few other tips that I have accumulated over time.


First and for most, is to be prepared for colder than forecasted conditions. Forecasters are seldom right, taking into consideration wind chill factors; it could be colder than anticipated. I have a draw string mesh storage sack that I keep 2 pair of polypro long under wear, extra shirt and t-shirt, extra socks, different types of gloves, toboggan, balaclava, and ski balm ready to go flying at a moments notice. At least you have the option of putting on another layer if needed if you have it with you. When done flying I put these items back in the bag, after they have been washed if need be, and keep them in the closet beside my harness bag, radio bag, maps and other hang gliding related paraphernalia so they wonít be left at home on my next flying trip.


The biggest mistake I see a lot of pilots do in cold weather is they wear to many cloths while setting up and preparing to fly and make their bodies start sweating, which is absorbed by their cloths. Then when they go to fly they become chilled because their cloths and body is wet. I will usually either try to cool down and air out before I fly or (most commonly) I will change my socks, my cotton t-shirt, add a layer of polypro underwear (top and bottoms), long sleeve cotton shirt, long sleeve cotton turtle neck, and if its really cold maybe a light flannel shirt and then my fleece wind-stopper jacket or light flight suit


Typically it is the face, feet, truck and hands that suffer the most. The face can be kept warm by wearing a ski mask or balaclava , which I prefer because I can pull the face part down if I get to warm. Also I use a face and lip balm, Bonne Bell Weather Proofer, to help protect exposed skin from wind chill and burn. Full face helmets are available with adjustable face shields that raise and lower to help keep the face protected from wind chill factors. Unfortunately there is a down side to these items. If you wear glasses, the warm air from you breath being redirected by the material can cause your gasses to fog up, even with anti fog on them, and you will have to adjust the protective device to allow a little cool air in to counteract this. Of course growing a beard can also help protect your face.


The feet are not as bad, for me any way. The mistake most pilots make in this area is that they wear their boots/flying shoes in the vehicle to where they plan to be flying. Since we normally adjust the heater in the vehicle to the comfort of our less covered upper body, our feet in our heavy flying boots and socks, begin to sweat. Then, they walk around for a few hours, setting up the glider, walking back and forth to launch accessing conditions and cause our feet to sweat more. Because we are in the vehicle and moving around, our feet feel warm even though they are wet, even your boots can become wet on the inside from your sweat. Since your feet are not very active when flying, they quickly become cold. The cure, ride to the flying site and maybe even sit up the glider wearing a light pair of boots or tennis shoes. Then, change shoes and socks before you go to launch. This way you will start off with warm dry feet. Isometricly flexing the legs and feet will help move warm blood into lower extremities also.


The trunk can suffer a similar fate. Wearing your polypro long johns, extra shirts and turtle necks, other cold weather clothing, etc., while riding to a site and setting up the glider will cause you to sweat. Even though most polypro advertisements will claim to wick moisture away, they can only do so much. And where does this moisture go to? To the layer just above it, and will sooner or later become cold and reduce body core temperature. The cure, do not wear cold weather clothing in the vehicle or while actively setting up the glider and preparing your gear. Change your t-shirt, and cool down/dry out before you fly. I usually change t-shirt and cotton long sleeve shirt before I fly. This way I will usually have a dry shirt to put on after my flight. I donít care how cold it is, I will always be wet from sweat after I land. Landings always make me sweat. At least Iíll have a dry shirt to put on even if my pants are wet. Remember to layer as I described earlier.


Lastly, the hands, this has been the hardest part of me to keep warm. Once my hands are frozen, I have to land. The problem is they are more exposed than the rest of the body. The need to keep dexterity in the hands while flying means we canít wear bulky, thick insulated gloves. Also, the lack of tissue and fat around the fingers allows for heat to be transferred from the fingers and hand faster. The cure, removable bar mitts with wool lining with a thin pair of insulated gloves. I prefer gloves that have some kind of added gripper texture to the fingers and palm to provide added ground handling authority. I canít tell you how many times I struggled with down tubes sliding in my hands while trying to get to launch, let alone while trying to launch. Also, the increased grip has led me to relax more on the base tube while flying allowing me to fly longer with less fatigue. An added bonus with the increased grip is decreased muscle strain which decrease the symptoms of lateral epicondylitis and carpal tunnel syndrome which has begrudged me in the last few years.


Gloves; what kind, how thick, insulated or not, grippers or not, leather or fleece and wind stopper material or not, etc.? There are thousands of types of gloves that may work for the individual pilot. It mainly depends on how much money you want to spend and personal preference. But for me, the key is expected ground and low altitude temperature. The need for thin, high dexterity gloves are a must when changing VG setting, operating push to talk(PTT) buttons, and GPS and vario settings while in flight. I have three different types of gloves I use during the flying season. The first is a light pair of non-insulated gloves with the gripper finger and palms which I use for warm weather when the need is just for added dexterity and the occasional protection when you get unexpectedly high and youíve removed your bar mitts for the summer. The 75-80˚+ F range. The next glove I use would be for the 50-75˚ range along with my bar mitts, where most of my best flights have accured. Still thin with gripper fingers and palms with a light inter layer of fleece. For anything below 50˚ I will wear some kind of wind-stopper glove that has some kind of gripper material in the palms. I like the Outdoor Research WINDSTOPPERģ Gripper Glove .


Again it all depends on personal preference and how much you want to spend. I personally like the gripper style gloves for improved dexterity and grip during ground handling and launch, add to that less fatigue during flight, combined with a good pair of bar mitts, makes for a winning combination. Taking the extra effort to be prepared, change your cloths and have diferent types of gloves may seem like over kill, but it will pay with a big flight some day.


A note about PTT finger buttons. I have a narrow strip of Velcro that I use to attach the PTT wire to my wrist so I can remove the PTT button from my finger when I put my hands into the bar mitts. It dangles outside the bar mitts when not needed and all I need to do is pull my hand out bend my wrist, pick up the PTT and transmit and then let it dangle again till needed again. This way you donít accidentally have the PTT depressed when you place your hands into your bar mitts and wonder way you canít hear anybody talking on the radio, which will not make you a very popular person in the LZ later.

Second note, if you have a good way of staying warm during a cold day of flying, let us know.
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Last edited by CHassan; 03-03-2009 at 07:10 AM.
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Old 03-03-2009, 11:20 PM
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Looks like you covered all the bases in one post.

The only thing I could add is for those with hands that are ultra sensitive to the cold I found stuffing "hot hands" hand warmers into my bar mits helped. They nestle in the front secure enough you don't have to worry about them falling out. Even when foot launching.
Only got to try it once for about 15min air time but my fingers stayed warm.
You can buy them at wallmart. They last for about 7 hrs after opening the package and their heat peaks after about 3 hrs. though they never get really hot.

Maybe they should call them "warm hands" instead.
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Old 03-04-2009, 08:08 AM
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I wonder if there would be any chance of a chemical burn to your hands if the plastic bag that contains the chemicals got a hole or crack in it from someone accidentally stepping on your bar mitts in the setup area while you were waiting on launch conditions to improve and leak into your bar mitts. I have had things happen to my gear in the setup area while I waited to launch. A lot of gliders around, a lot of pilots, family members, woofos and even dogs walking along a crowded setup area, sxxt happens. Be sure to check every thing before you hook in, wouldn't want to realize a problem after you launch.

Like I stated before, fingers and hands transfers body heat rather fast. Especially when in direct contact with a metal surface such as a aluminum base tube. I place a rubberized tape around my base tube where my hands grip to add to my gripping power and to help keep my hands off the metal surface. Its the non-skid tape they use in bath tubs and showers
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Old 03-04-2009, 09:41 AM
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Steve555 Steve555 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Ball View Post
I wonder if there would be any chance of a chemical burn to your hands if the plastic bag that contains the chemicals got a hole or crack in it
They're pretty safe (I wouldn't eat them). Its actually a fuzzy little cloth bag and they're made for stuffing into shoes, gloves, between layers of clothes...stuff like that. After looking at their website it appears they have more products than I originally knew about.

Check it out HotHands.

Last edited by Steve555; 03-04-2009 at 09:47 AM.
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Old 03-04-2009, 10:30 AM
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Michal M. Michal M. is offline
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Lot of good info here, thanks guys. I'll move the thread into our knowledge base (Safety & Know-how) and make it sticky, so it's well archived and easier to find in a distant future.
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