I think that there’s no such a thing as bad weather, just wrong equipment. Knowing how to dress up for cold temperatures is crucial if you wanna enjoy your winter experience in the North.
I have an outdoor job and have a couple of principles that I follow when dressing up for the workday. Just three days ago it was -26c here and I didn’t feel cold even once even though I spent 10 hours outside that day. I also have to mention that I’m female and my blood circulation isn’t the greatest so my cold resistance is not especially good. Feeling warm during cold weather is not only a question of comfort – cold injuries are dangerous and can cause a lifelong nuisance. Face, ears, feet and fingers are the most common places for cold injuries but the whole body should be covered properly so that no heat is wasted.
It’s all about layers
It’s important to wear enough clothing not to feel cold but little enough not to start sweating. When wearing multiple clothing layers, one can always take something off if starting to feel too warm.
My first layer of clothing is thin and made of 100% merino wool. Artificial fibers can’t absorb the moisture from the skin as well as natural fibers, no matter what the package says. Only for milder weather I’m wearing technical underwear. Cotton isn’t a good option either since it cannot keep the heat on the skin. I’m using a fleece underwear set as the second layer. My third layer (and if it’s needed at all) depends on the temperature. I wear either a wool sweater or an ultra light dove jacket. My warm outdoor coat is the Fjällräven’s Polar guide parka. Even though it’s a heavy jacket with artificial fiber filling I’m very happy with it. The jacket is long enough to cover some of my thighs but short enough to enable moving easily. It also has big double pockets: for items and for my hands. A fur lining on the hood blocks wind effectively and a fur hat fits in easily. My lighter coat for milder temperatures is a waterproof skiing jacket with snow locks.
My winter pants are warm skiing pants with snow locks to make sure that no snow goes inside my shoes.
I use thin socks that have a high wool content. Some other materials are often added to keep the socks elastic. Make sure that your winter boots are not letting in water, preferably have a removable inner boot, and are one size larger than your normal shoe size so that a thick wool sock can fit in. I prefer using felt insoles with an aluminum layer on one side. In some winter shoes an insole or a thick wool sock is not needed (like in Sorel’s Glacier XT, the only Sorel shoe that I’ve been happy with). These shoes have a second boot inside with a reflective surface.
Once you’re wearing a thin wool sock + thick wool sock + felt insoles with an aluminum layer + winter boots you should still be able to move your toes. The socks you’re wearing have no heating effect if the shoe is too small!
Every evening after using the shoes I take off the insole and inner boot and lift them all out to dry overnight.
I’m always wearing inner liner gloves and outer mittens. Depending on the temperature I got different types of mittens. When the temperature is mild (less than -15c) my top mittens are traditional wool mittens that my grandma has made for me. In colder temperatures I got big and proper mittens with leather reinforcements. I also got waterproof shell mittens that can be worn on top of outdoor gloves when I’m handling liquids outside.
My mask is just a thin tube scarf made of 100% merino wool. The best idea is to have a proper mask or two tube scarfs so that you can switch when the mask gets moist. Cold creams are actually harmful for the skin and any cosmetic products that keep moisture on the skin should be avoided. I’m using skiing goggles only if it’s very cold, windy and/or snowing hard.
I got different kinds of hats depending on the temperature. Mostly I’m using a combination of an inner hat (thin, quite tight and covers my ears) and a top hat (a knit woolen hat or a fur hat). The tube scarf can be used as an inner hat as well.
And finally some tips for keeping warm besides the right clothing! 🙂
Keep moving! If you have to stay still for longer, add more clothing and use foot & hand heating bags. You can also wrap a space blanket around yourself. Finnish stores like Tokmanni and Motonet sell these items for a couple of euros. Drink warm drinks and avoid caffeine to prevent dehydration.
If you have any questions of suggestions, I’d be happy to read your comment below! 🙂