In Appreciation of My Parka (ESA)

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eyglo02_dlWinters can be harsh in Iceland, particularly in the north, which has seen its fair share of snow, as early as September, this winter.

The climate is usually milder in Reykjavík. The first dusting of snow and spells of frost arrived last week and due to slippery conditions I parked my bike and walked to work.

It’s an enjoyable walk in the morning. The stars are out, the frost glistens on the sidewalk and the nip in the air is refreshing as long as I’m warmly dressed.

Which I certainly am.

In preparation for my trip for Nepal and Everest Base Camp trek in February-March, I had to gear up big time. I discovered that my closet didn’t contain a single piece of outdoor clothing and so a major shopping mission couldn’t be avoided.

Among the items deemed necessary was a down parka with a waterproof covering, fur neckline and a thick hood, which turned out to be worth every króna.

It was too warm for hiking but I’m pretty sure I would have frozen to death if I hadn’t worn it in the lodges and slept in it inside my sleeping bag.

And now my parka—which, by the way, has a name: it’s called Viktoría by its producer, Cintamani—keeps me warm during my morning and evening walks.

Soft and cozy it embraces me and the hood, albeit partly blocking my hearing and vision, is so tight that even the strongest of gales don’t pierce through it.

One of the Icelandic outdoor clothing designers has the slogan: ‘there’s no bad weather, just bad clothing’ and I believe it’s true. Wrapped in my parka, I feel invincible.

I’ve never had a down parka of this quality before and wearing it is a totally new experience to me. I used to put on layers and layers of clothes and still shiver sometimes but now I can wear a thin sweater underneath the parka and stay comfortable.

I now completely understand IR columnist Nanna Árnadóttir’s appraisal of her parka, which comes from 66° North. When it comes to quality outdoor clothing, I believe all the main Icelandic designers have done a thorough job.

Like Icelandic sheep have developed a special type of wool to withstand the fluctuating Icelandic weather, designers have developed garments that can be worn in all weather conditions. In pouring rain, my three-layer ‘shell’ (Björg) from Cintamani does the trick.

If the clothes make a man, they can also break a man. I remember stories of people attempting to hike Fimmvörðuháls to see the 2010 volcanic eruption in jeans, thin jackets and even high heels, only to be saved by search and rescue.

In Jón Kalman’s Heaven and Hell, the character Bárður forgets his waterproof jacket when heading out to sea, gets wet, develops hypothermia and dies. In his case, the line between life and death was a simple piece of clothing.

Iceland is wonderful in wintertime but rather unpredictable. Sub-zero temperatures and blizzards can either be a source of great excitement or great misery, depending on what you’re wearing.

Powder snow in ski resorts and frozen ponds are all too tempting for winter sport enthusiasts. Just remember to dress warmly before diving into the dark season.

Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir – eyglo@icelandreview.com

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.