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(Un)dressing for the weather

Posted: July 20, 2013 - 10:05am

Here’s another item to add to your “You know you’re an Alaskan” list: You know you’re an Alaskan if you no longer know how to dress for pleasant weather.

I discovered this trait this summer. I think I first became aware of it after Memorial Day weekend, when people were coming to work sunburned after being outside all weekend. “I didn’t expect it to be that nice,” they would say when asked why they didn’t pack sunscreen, but I’d be willing to bet that if the weather had been less than pleasant, say 40 degrees with a cold rain, they would have had the perfect gear for it.

I think I first realized that I had acquired this trait during a June mountain bike trip up to Crescent Lake. I dressed for the ride just like I normally do — moisture-wicking base layer and a shirt made of some sort of performance material. Since it was warm, I figured I’d go with just a lightweight, long-sleeve shirt as an outer layer — no need for the heavy fleece or the rain shell, right?

Turns out, I didn’t really need most of the rest of the layers I was wearing, either. We had to stop about 20 minutes in so I could strip down to my T-shirt, prompting a comment from one my fellow riders that was something along the lines of whether I realized it wasn’t February.

I had a similar layering dilemma last weekend, when I took part in a bike race that started at Sheep Mountain on the Glenn Highway, out toward Glennallen. The temperature at the starting line was 75 degrees, the sun was shining and there was hardly a breeze to speak of. I sorted through the duffle bag full of cycling clothing I had brought, looked at my wife (who likes to give me grief over my acquisition of cycling gear) and commented, “I don’t even need to wear a base layer today, do I?” Heck, I even pulled off the tape I had used to cover the vents in my cycling shoes — keeping my feet cool has never really been an issue for me while riding around here.

In general, I’m no longer equipped to handle the warmer temperatures we’ve been having. Outside of my workout clothes, I only have a couple of short-sleeved shirts anymore. And I’m down to one pair of nice shorts. Waiting around for a sled dog race to finish at ten below zero? No problem, I can dress for that. Cross-country skiing on a crisp winter day? Got that covered. Bike ride in the low 40s with a cold headwind coming off the inlet? I’ve got the perfect gear for that, too.

Sunny and 75 degrees? Apparently, I’m clueless.

It seems like I should remember something from growing up with the hot and muggy summer weather on the East Coast, but that was back in the olden days, when “layering systems” included cotton T-shirts and cotton sweatshirts, with some nylon mesh thrown in. Definitely not as many choices as there are these days. In fact, it’s hard for me to muster too much sympathy for people who complain about having to go outside in any sort of weather — it seems there’s a scientifically designed technical fabric for every activity in every condition (including, apparently, 75 and sunny).

While I’ve enjoyed all the sunshine, I am looking forward to the return of our more typical Southcentral Alaska weather this fall, and some nice snow this winter.

In the meantime, does anyone know where to get some sunscreen?

Reach Clarion editor Will Morrow at will.morrow@peninsulaclarion.com.

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