We’ve visited Iceland in March and Canadian Northwest territories in February. What compels two California gals to travel to places that are not only cold, but damn cold? Well for one thing, we don’t like crowds, so we often travel ‘on the shoulder’ season when weather can be less than ideal. For another, in the cases of Iceland and Canada, we were seeking something specific, northern lights. And even though it was cold, and in the case of Canada, it was really really cold, we still would do it all again.
This travel tip is to help keep you warm in case you too decide to be crazy enough to wander into the cold, sub zero temperatures of the world.
Depending on the humidity/rain/snow, there are different needs to staying appropriately warm but all of them involve trying to stay as dry as possible. There are of course the basic clothes to keeping warm and depending on the temperatures, you have to adjust. But in all case, layering your clothes is the best way to go because you can add or subtract as needed. Plus, I’m not really fond of big bulky clothes so layering works much better for me.
A basic clothes kit for cold weather if there is going to be snow on the ground or if weather conditions are pointing towards snow would include a long sleeved tshirt or cotton shirt, a water proof jacket and water proof pants. Even though we are well past snowboarding age, we found our insulated snowboarding worked really well.
I also like to use my silk long underwear because they are thin but warm. You will also need good moisture wicking socks and insulated boots. In Canada our boots were good down to -20F, but once we went to minus 28 and then down to minus 40, the boots weren’t enough. Mittens vs gloves: While a bit awkward, mittens are warmer than gloves because all of your fingers are together to preserve the heat. Plus, when your fingers are separated by a glove, it is more likely that frostbite will occur. If you find yourself in a cold environment and realize your hands are cold, go find some mittens. You won’t regret it. Thick socks and silk underwear complete the first layer.
We had planned for up to minus 20 (what a crazy thought that was!), and we brought hand, toe and foot warmers with us. At first we put the handwarmers in our coat pockets, eventually moving them to our mittens while we also had toe warmers at first on the bottom of our feet and eventually added them to top and bottom. It was so cold in Canada that we couldn’t tell if the warmers were even working. It wasn’t until we returned to our room at 2 a.m. each morning and put the warmers in the foot of our bed which warmed us up quickly to fall asleep.
Lastly, keeping our face and heads warm was imperative, most especially in sub zero weather. Cathy and I are both allergic to wool so that can leave us in a bind trying to find something to keep warm. If we use a cotton or synthetic face covering, it gets wet from our breath, completely defeating the purpose of keeping warm, so we have found that fur is a good solution. Using scarves or baklavas to keep our faces covered did not last long in Canada, nor in Iceland, though it was okay in Norway, probably because it was not as cold as the other two locations. Cold can be deadly so it is important to respect the weather conditions and dress accordingly.
And once you return to your room, regardless of where you are in the world, some blueberry tea is the key to getting warm from inside out!