Outside the wall

Dan and Sarala’s blog from Hohhot

Inner Mongolia versus the Pacific Northwest: A year in outerwear

12 Feb 2015

This one’s for those of you who like to think about weather in terms of the gear needed to combat it. Over the past six months, we’ve had to dust off some outerwear that we rarely or never use in Seattle, while some Seattle staples have had a much briefer season here. We’ve illustrated with pictures of Sarala, since Dan’s outerwear all looks the same (more and more layers under a black Northface ski jacket).

Windbreaker with hood, lightweight boots: Seattle 6 months, Hohhot 3 months

In Seattle, this coat is good for the mild fall and spring that make up about half the year. It excels in chilly weather with light rain. Those thin leather boots are good for most of the year, too. In Hohhot, the coat only worked for about six weeks in fall. It will presumably get more use in spring when it’s windier. The boots had a brief season as well because their soles were too thin once the ground got cold.

The giant pile of white things is styrofoam insulation. The picture was taken during the process of adding a layer of it to the outside of our apartment building.

Wool overcoat, medium-weight boots: Seattle 3 months, Hohhot 3 months

In Seattle, this is my winter coat. In Hohhot, it works for late fall and early spring. These insulated boots do better in Hohhot than in Seattle, as they aren’t properly waterproof. I left the wellies in Seattle.

The curly deep-fried potato on a stick is a street food of which I was right to be suspicious.

Down puffer coat, snow boots: Seattle 0 months, Hohhot 3 months

In Seattle, this coat is completely useless. I overheat in it at temperatures above 30°F (-1°C). Actually we have seen people wearing puffer coats in Seattle, but this we can neither understand nor explain. Likewise, the hat and boots pictured with it are too warm for Seattle at any time of year. In Hohhot, they have been worn nearly every day in December, January and February.

This sandy picture wasn’t taken in Hohhot, but on a recent trip to the far west of Inner Mongolia (more on that later).

Umbrella: Seattle 9 months, Hohhot 3 months

In Seattle, locals say that umbrellas are for wusses. Sarala, not a local, keeps one stashed in her desk in case of downpours; Dan is resigned to occasionally getting soaked. In Hohhot, the rainy season runs from June to September, when it’s too warm to wear a raincoat. The rain tends to be sudden, violent, and rather mud-like due to dust in the air. We both used umbrellas, and they also came in handy to shield against the scorching sun.

As you can see, Hohhot has a wider temperature range than Seattle, and the temperature extremes last longer — months instead of weeks. So far, we’ve been well prepared, and the lack of precipitation has been a nice change of pace (398 mm a year vs. Seattle’s 950). We’ll see how our gear holds up when the spring dust storms arrive.