A more physical challenge for a photographer in cold conditions is the simple logistics of using a camera with gloves on and this will be largely dependent on the camera itself. Few cameras can be properly handled with mittens on. A few more with thick gloves but many can be used with thin gloves to some extent. Fiddly little buttons and menus will always be a challenge though and most camera phones will not work with normal gloves on.
I use a thin pair of fleece gloves that can be worn inside my mitten system and stay on when my mitts come off. This gives me the dexterity I need to use the camera and also prevents cold injury caused by contact with metal equipment in such a cold environment. You can see the type on the right of the picture above.
Of course, camera equipment is an extra burden to carry on expedition and how much you are prepared to carry will be a measure of how you are travelling and how much your photography means to you. For me it is often a major reason for me to be in the wilderness in the first place so I usually pack at least two cameras, sometimes three.
A compact camera with a small sensor cannot compete with a larger sensor. Usually that will mean a larger camera. The main disadvantage of smaller sensors is increased digital “noise” in low light. In most work this is not a huge problem but photographing something like the Northern Lights is a challenge for any camera, let alone a compact.
I tend to use a good quality compact for most of my day to day shots, saving my DSLR with it’s large sensor for more serious landscapes and specific low light work. Such low light photography usually requires a tripod and although I have looked at many clever gadgets promising to replace one, I have yet to see one capable of supporting anything heavier than a shirt pocket compact. This is an annoying gap in the market that I cannot believe is beyond the skill of a good engineer.
I have a medium weight tripod (Manfrotto 190) that I usually take with me or if I can rely upon a few stout branches being available I lash up a wooden tripod and tie on a bracket with a decent ball and socket head on it. Not as flexible but much lighter to pack.
Weight restrictions on flights are a pain when it comes to carrying your gear. I am always reluctant to throw any of my kit, apart from the tripod, into checked baggage as it is almost guaranteed rough handling on the way. I usually chuck all the compact, heavy stuff into the pockets of the coat I am travelling in, because it is never weighed, while the rest of the cameras and lenses go into my hand luggage.