Coming from Australia where we wear shorts all year round you don’t really give much thought to a winter wardrobe.
Over the last decade in an effort to survive I have learned a few tips from the locals. I hope these pointers help you stay warm and make the whole winter experience a tad more pleasurable.
Where and when to buy
Dressy outdoor clothes can be purchased from Department stores like Stockmann or Sokos. Professional outdoors shops like Partioaitta or Varuste sell the high end outdoor clothes. Run-of-the-mill sports stores like Intersport, XXL, Top-Sport and Budget Sport usually stock the mid to low end clothing.
The cheapest time to buy winter gear is after Christmas if you can hold out that long. Most of the Department stores and sports stores run discounts from 30-70% on many winter clothing items. The coldest months are January and February so make sure you are well dressed and prepared. Below are what I regard as the must have items for a nordic winter.
Gloves and a Beanie (knitted cap)
Gloves and a beanie are a good start. All of the above mentioned stores stock them but a little known secret is that hardware stores also stock very good quality gloves and beanies for a very reasonable price.
Many of them are fluorescent yellow or orange which is a great idea as visibility for motorists is so poor at times anything you can do to be a little more visible is a good idea. You can get Gloves starting at €5 and beanies for about €10.
Look for the snowflake icon on the gloves
which means they were designed for winter. The best material for the inside is Thinsulate as it creates a good barricade to the outside cold and keeps warmth in.
There is always a lot of raving about Gore-Tex but it tends to be over priced and unnecessary unless you plan to be continuously throwing snowballs on a warm day.
The next must-have gear is a set of thermals. The fleece type are the best. You can wear them on multiple days without washing because they go over the top of underpants and shirts. You can buy them from any sports store and are usually on special for around €20 – €30 if you can buy them at the end of season.
They are especially good if you are playing sport as they breath well but really keep body heat in.
The zip at the front is especially useful to open them up if you need a little more air. They also have a high collar to keep your neck warm.
Speaking of necks, an incredible luxury is a woolen neck warmer. They are a lot better than scarfs because they keep the heat in better and don’t dangle everywhere.They are also less likely to get caught on things which can be dangerous if participating in sport.
The absolute best boots for being out in the cold are Sorel boots. I cannot say enough good things about them.
They are rated to -40°C, completely waterproof, super warm and have really good grip. The whole inlay of the boot can come out and be washed.
Because feet don’t sweat much in winter wearing socks in them is also optional which makes them very convenient to take on and off.
They come in a few different colors and styles. The boot is also quite wide so it makes it very easy to walk on snow without sinking too deep. They retail for about €150 but I have got them several times half price at the end of season.
Outdoor Waterproof Pants
For the outdoor pants I would once again avoid Gore-Tex. Apart from being super expensive, generally the pants have minimal insulation and tend to transmit the cold through more than other materials. You should be able to find quite a few options in most sports stores for between €50 – €100.
Ensure they have taped seams and will go over your boots. The ones with the draw string top are good.
Full ski pants can often be a bit of overkill as they are bulky and a little harder to move in. Thermals under lighter waterproof pants are usually good enough.
Last but not least is a good quality jacket. Jackets usually start at the sports stores for around €150 and go up from there. Insulation is the main consideration and a bit of wind or waterproofness is an added bonus.
If you can afford it I recommend getting a high quality Finnish or Canadian made jacket like the Joutsen in the photo. A jacket like that will set you back €600 – €700 but you will never be cold again and they last for years. They are made of Arctic Goose feathers which keep you toasty warm and breath really well.
For the more price conscious you can also check out the jackets from the hardware store for outdoor workers which will set you back about €100. They are well insulated, waterproof and tough. Also second hand stores are a good place to find quality jackets that withstand the cold.
Don’t be afraid to get fluorescent or colourful jackets. The Finns always buy black and will probably hate you for wearing bright colours in the winter but as mentioned earlier it really helps with visibility. If you get a black jacket be sure to buy a yellow vest or at least some reflective strips for when you go out walking.
Be warm and be safe and enjoy the winter!!