DISPATCH: Check Out the Extreme Cold Gear That Keeps the Triple 7 Team Warm in Antarctica

January 6, 2023Jenna Biter
Triple 7 Expedition: Antarctica

Skydivers exit a Twin Otter airplane over Union Glacier Camp, Antarctica. Photo by Adam Ungar/ALE (Antarctica Logistics & Expeditions).

Keep up with Coffee or Die Magazine’s complete coverage of the Triple 7 Expedition's world-record attempt to skydive on all seven continents in seven days while raising money for Folds of Honor, a nonprofit organization supporting Gold Star families.

Logan Stark had an unusual reaction to his first skydive in Antarctica, where the temperature was minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit, give or take, at jump altitude, roughly 2 miles up.

“Jump 1 is complete,” Stark said in a text message to Coffee or Die Magazine. “Warmer than expected.”

The practice jump was the first for the Triple 7 Expedition team at Union Glacier Camp, Antarctica, on Wednesday, Jan. 4.

Stark, the vice president of branding at Black Rifle Coffee Company, is one of the team’s nine vets attempting to skydive on all seven continents in seven days. If the expedition succeeds, the group will create a world record for the fastest time for a jump team to skydive on each continent.

Triple 7 Expedition: Union Glacier Camp, Antarctica

View of the clam tents at Union Glacier Camp, Antarctica, as a cloud moves across Mount Rossman. Photo by Christopher Michel/ALE (Antarctica Logistics & Expeditions).

As the team hops around the globe, the members hope to raise $7 million for Folds of Honor. With that amount, the nonprofit organization could provide 1,400 scholarships to the families of fallen and wounded veterans and first responders.

Black Rifle Coffee, which is a sponsor of the trip, is the parent company of Coffee or Die.

Stark said both he and Jariko Denman, a producer at the coffee company, had arrived in Antarctica with extensive cold-weather gear.

“Jariko and I were actually a little over prepared on the clothing front,” Stark said. “We’re a little warm during free fall and canopy flight.”

‘Frosty the Snowman Gloves’

"Warm," of course, is relative in Antarctica.

“We were both over-layered, gonna drop some for the next jump,” Stark said. “But it is absolutely necessary to not have any skin exposed.”

Triple 7 Expedition: Antarctica packout

Triple 7 jumper Jariko Denman's Antarctica loadout ready for inspection by an Antarctica Logistics & Expeditions liaison in Punta Arenas, Chile, January 2023. Photo by Jariko Denman/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Before flying to Union Glacier Camp on Jan. 3, Denman walked Coffee or Die through the gear that jumpers brought specifically for Antarctica's severe cold, most of which they’ll ditch for the rest of the expedition.

On his hotel bed in Punta Arenas, Chile, the jumping-off point for travel to Antarctica, Denman meticulously arranged all of his “Antarctica-centric” gear for final inspection. There were four pairs of gloves, including one set with built-in battery-powered heaters.

“So, we’re jumping these battery-powered gloves because our hands have to remain warm, obviously, so that we can pitch our pilot chute, execute emergency procedures if necessary, and also grab our brake lines to steer our parachutes to the ground,” Denman said. “But we can’t have big, giant Frosty the Snowman gloves, so the only way to get dexterity and warmth is to throw a battery pack in there.”

Denman also packed multiple pairs of heavy socks and several layers of Arc’teryx coats and pants, which, when worn together on Wednesday's practice jump, proved too warm.

But while Denman was prepared for the cold, he hadn’t considered another key environmental factor in Antarctica: the light.

‘I Would Have Just Brought Sunglasses’

Triple 7 Expedition: Nick Kush and Mike Barker

Nick Kush and Mike Barker wear their hand-painted, full-face Triple 7 Expedition skydiving helmets during training in Coolidge, Arizona, December 2022. Legacy Expeditions photo.

Even though the Triple 7 jumpers have full-face skydiving helmets, they’ll wear goggles, similar to those worn by skiers, under their helmets in Antarctica.

“If I had not been going to Antarctica to skydive, I would not have brought goggles, right?” Denman said. “It will freeze up, fog up. I would have just brought sunglasses.”

But he quickly learned that goggles are required at Union Glacier Camp. One of the team’s local experts explained that brightness and UV rays at the camp are both extraordinarily strong.

“He’s like, ‘Yeah because you can really fuck up your eyesight down there,’” Denman said. “I guess because everything is covered in snow.”

In Antarctica, snow and ice blanket the ground, and UV light reflects off those surfaces. If the light bounces back to unprotected eyes, people can go snow blind. Like sunburn for the skin, the condition temporarily inflames the eyes.

“There’s also a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, so the UV rays down there are just gnarly,” Denman said. “So even the space behind your sunglasses, if the light can get into that, it can fuck you up.

“So you have to wear goggles unless you have like wraparound glasses,” he continued, “which, look at those pictures of guys like in the ’70s with those glasses with, like, leather shrouds around the edges, and I always thought that was some fucking expedition guy fashion shit, but it’s actually necessary.”

‘Restart the Clock’

The team hopes its first official jump in Antarctica will come Monday morning, right before they fly to Santiago, Chile. But George Silva, the expedition’s operations manager, told Coffee or Die that the team is trying to squeeze in two, maybe three skydives this week in case the Jan. 9 jump runs into weather issues.

Every time the team completes a jump, one of the members will send a text message back to Silva. “And I’m going to go ahead and start the clock,” Silva said. “And when they jump again, he’s going to send me that again. I’ll restart the clock.”

Triple 7 Expedition: Logan Stark, Arizona training

Triple 7 jumper Logan Stark comes in to land during a training camp at Complete Parachute Solutions in Coolidge, Arizona, December 2022. Legacy Expeditions photo.

The world record attempt begins on the last jump they complete before flying out.

“This is our fallback jump as we hope to jump on the morning of the 9th which is also the day we fly back to Chile,” Stark said about the jump on Wednesday. “Weather is looking good the 7th, but 8th and 9th is iffy.”

After jumps in Antarctica and Chile, the expedition team will head to Miami, Florida, followed by Barcelona, Spain; Cairo, Egypt; Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates; and Perth, Australia.

Once off the clock, the team will make a final celebratory jump in Tampa, Florida.

Black Rifle Coffee Company, which owns Coffee or Die Magazine, is a sponsor of the Triple 7 Expedition.

Read Next: DISPATCH: Triple 7 Skydiving Team Faces Weather, Crevasses in Antarctica

Jenna Biter
Jenna Biter

Jenna Biter is a staff writer at Coffee or Die Magazine. She has a master’s degree in national security and is a Russian language student. When she’s not writing, Jenna can be found reading classics, running, or learning new things, like the constellations in the night sky. Her husband is on active duty in the US military. Know a good story about national security or the military? Email Jenna.

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