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Cold weather training

How do you prepare your body and your equipment for exposure to extreme weather conditions and bone-chilling cold?

Getting your body (and your filming equipment) ready to face extreme cold takes preparation. So last month, laden down with photographic equipment and cold-weather clothing, we boarded a plane to Sweden to face frozen conditions for the first time. Sacha was keen to get first hand experience of flying in the ice and snow. While the ground crew were curious to see how the freezing temperatures would affect the equipment – and also to practice filming from the back of a fast-moving skidoo.

We joined an annual gathering of paramotorists in Svanstein, which is usually a local meeting but this year word has spread and plenty of international pilots joined the party. After all who could resist beautiful scenery, open skies, nightly showings of the northern lights and a reindeer barbeque?

We were lucky enough to be looked after by local paramotorist Patrick Heikkilä and his family - special thanks to his amazing grandmother who put us up on our first night.

Flight conditions were perfect and Sacha managed plenty of time in the air, as well as getting the chance to practice taking off and landing in the snow and ice. There to support us during our visit were several pairs of Bewick's swans, which we couldn’t help but think was a good omen.

It is likely that Sacha will be exposed to temperatures as low as minus ten on her flight so the right clothing is very important. We have been testing out clothing from Paramo and other paramotor brands. Sacha was most impressed by her heated gloves that, thanks to the super-battery from the team at Nirvana, really did the job. Her flying suit will be made to fit to cater for not only the extreme conditions she will face but also to ensure it fits her properly.

Into the freezer

Back in the UK and determined not to leave a preparation-stone unturned we headed to the cold chamber at the University of Portsmouth for some scientific cold weather preparation - essential if you’re flying for ten hours a day over the frozen Russian tundra.  

With skin sensors attached to fingers, face and toes, Sacha braved two hours at minus 20 degrees in the cold chamber seated in the same position she will be flying in.

When Sacha came out of the chamber the infrared thermogragy camera showed severe heat-loss to her toes - heated footwear has now been added to our equipment list. But according to technician Geoff Long, Sacha’s body withstood the cold well.

Our ground crew got some time to test their equipment too and discovered that the low temperatures affected battery life in the cameras, this will particularly affect the go-pro cameras we plan to use under the wing of the paramotor – so back to the drawing board with that one.