Photos taken on the Samsung Note8
I spent a good two weeks in subzero temperatures this month – one week in Helsinki, which saw me in -4 to -14 degree temperatures, and one week in Hokkaido, which saw me in 0 to -12 degree temperatures with blizzards and thus, wind chill. Ugh, wind chill is the worst. Anyway, dressing for subzero temperatures can be a bit daunting for people who have never been to mad cold places (aka me), so I’m thankful that my friends gave me a lot of advice before my trips because I was super warm and toasty in Helsinki! And now here I am passing the advice on. Tada. (Hokkaido is a bit of a different story because I was snowboarding there, so I’ll write a different post on that next time)
What to do before your trip
– Is the country going to be snowing? If yes, you need a beanie so snow doesnt fall on your hair and melt and re-freeze.
– What is the “real feel” temperature, not just the actual temperature?
– Is it going to be windy, or just dry and cold? Wind makes a huge difference – this is why a -2 day in Hokkaido felt a lot colder than -10 in Helsinki.
– Is the temperature staying solidly around the high negative temperatures, or will it hover around zero? This makes a difference to footwear – if the temperature is slated to move around 1 to -2 degrees or so, chances are the snow might melt and refreeze, making the roads very icy and slippery to walk on.
Apps like Weather Underground will give you this kind of information. I programme mine to give me a weather update on my Note 8 every morning and also display real time temperature on my lock screen through the day, so I always know whats up. Im not sure if the iPhone can do this, but I’m sure theres an app for it somewhere..
The key to dressing in cold countries? Layers
I was super duper toasty in Helsinki, and pretty proud of myself too given that it was my first legit winter. Dressing for the cold is kind of like working with building blocks, one atop another. Here’s what I wore everyday:
1.Your heat tech layer
Heat tech: Uniqlo
Leggings and a scoop neck top – I got these from Uniqlo. Uniqlo has several heat tech lines, the normal one, the ultra warm, etcetera. I have stuff from each line, but honestly I dont see a huge difference between them. You want to make sure these are tight, or at least fitting, or else it starts to trap air and make you colder. If not fitted right, too many layers can be a bad thing!
2. Your normal clothes layer
Top: Her Velvet Vase
Skirt: Pomelo Fashion
For me, that’s a sweater and a skirt. Everyone calls me crazy for wearing a miniskirt in winter, but I have my reasons! I do wear jeans (with heattech leggings under), but in snowy countries the likelihood of stepping in snow is pretty high, and then the bottom of my jeans get wet and dont dry easily, which can be a pain. With a skirt and thick leggings, at least the leggings dry easy, and the outfit looks cute. I also lose most of my heat through my torso, so for me I do ok in a skirt, though if its an extra cold day I’ll wear two layers of leggings.
3. Keep your neck warm with a snoot or scarf!
A snoot is just a round scarf that’s joined end to end. I got mine from a random shop in Taiwan, and it’s pretty good at blocking wind. I wear this while skiing/snowboarding too!
This means a beanie or earmuffs. I find earmuffs cute but hard to wear if youve got long hair, so what I do is put my hair up in a ponytail if I’m wearing them. A good thing to do is also to check for snowfall during the day, and also evaluate your itinerary to see if you’ll be going in and outdoors a lot. You dont want snow to fall on your hair and melt when you go indoors, then refreeze when youre outdoors again, because that can be mad cold! In which case, it’s probably better to wear a beanie.
Get long socks and snow boots. Snow boots are super important especially if the temperature is going to hover around 1 to -2 degrees, because roads are super icy at that temperature. Most of the time in Helsinki, it was more like -10 to -14, which meant I was just dealing with snow and not much ice.
I also recommend high cut boots that are water resistant, because if you get low cut boots and snow gets in and melts, youre going to be very miserable with cold socks. This is especially relevant if you might be trudging through parks with thick snow and not just walking on city pavements.
I got Timberlands because there was this buy two for fifty percent off promo in Singapore over Christmas, and I had no problems walking around in both Helsinki and Hokkaido. Another brand you can look at is Moon Boots, which some of my friends have and swear by!
6. Heavy Duty coat
Coat: Passed down from a friend
Your coat will be what’s blocking out most of the wind, so get something warm and not just fashionable. When deciding on a coat to bring, it’s probably good to see what your itinerary is as well. I have this heavy duty wool blend coat, which is really warm, and also a waterproof jacket with fur lining, for days with heavy snowfall or if I think I’m going to be jumping in snow. *IF YOU THINK YOURE GOING TO BE JUMPING IN SNOW BEAUSE YOU ARE EXCITED ABOUT SNOW, GET A WATERPROOF JACKET* This wool blend coat is great for city life and all, but if it gets wet, it takes forever to dry. I think the same is true for most big coats, so just take note.
And you’re done!
Here are some outfits I wore throughout the trip:
Basically my body always has three layers – heat tech, sweater/top, coat. And then a scarf. If youre super scared of the cold, you can wear 2 layers of heat tech.
PS. Dont just wear layers, wear the correct layers
I made the mistake of wearing a flowy skirt once, and it was MAD COLD even though I had ultrawarm leggings underneath. This is because the flowy material caught the wind and kind of just kept fanning around my legs, making it even colder. Ugh! Dont be like me. I was miserable!
Okay, I think that’s it. I also suggest bringing a pair of sunglasses, because snow reflects a lot of light and it can be very bright in snowy cities. Ditto with your sunscreen, even though its cold you’re actually getting a lot of UV reflected onto your face. So layer up on the skincare too!