Travelling to a winter wonderland, visiting Santa Claus, and (gasp!) catching those elusive Northern Lights sound enchanting and a dream come true for most; what is definitely not enchanting though, is freezing one’s butt off. Here is The Travel Annex’s guide to the right gear to stay nice and toasty in below 20 degrees Celcius weather while you are riding that one horse (or reindeer) open sleigh.


1. Base layer or thermal underwear
cold-base-layer Extreme weather dressing is all about the layers. The base layer is the layer in contact with your skin and is normally tight-fitting. You can choose from different materials but wool is the best — though probably the most expensive — as it is designed to keep you dry, helps to regulate your temperature better, and doesn’t smell.

2. Mid-layer/s
For your next layer, you may want one or two items (two is best for maximum warmth). The best fabrics for the mid layer would be wool and fleece, though fleece is better if you are planning to do more active stuff. Ideally the layer should go up to your neck and not leave the base layer exposed. For the more fashion conscious, you may want to note that this is the layer others will get to see as you will take your jacket off when you head indoors.

cold-jacket 3. Jacket
If you are going to splurge on only one item of clothing, the jacket should be it. The outer layer must be snow and wind proof, and breathable to let heat and moisture escape. Windproof fabrics such as Windstopper and Goretex are good buys. Insulation is key hence down jackets and jackets filled with synthetic fibres are good too. A ski jacket works well too, as the outermost layer.

4. Pants
You may want to layer your pants too, if you plan to be out in the open for some time. A combination (after the thermals) of a pair of fleece pants and a pair of waterproof ski pants would be more effective in keeping you warm than a pair of jeans.


5. Headgear
cold-headgear You lose a lot of heat from your head so it is best to have it covered up at all times when outside. Covering your ears too is a good idea (but not to the extent that you can’t hear anything). An Arctic hat with ear flaps would be a good choice.

6. Scarf and neck gaiter
A thick scarf is handy but a neck gaiter (a tube you pull over your neck), preferably one made from fleece is even better, especially if you are planning activities such as skiing and snowmobiling.

cold-mittens 7. Gloves
It is recommended to layer your gloves or buy a pair that comes with glove liners. One reason for the extra warmth, another for not exposing your bare hands to the elements when taking photos. The inner layer should optimally be a pair of thin gloves (an ideal pair would have little grooves on the thumb and index finger for using your smartphone), and on top of them, winter mittens, which keep hands warmer than gloves.

8. Footwear
cold-shoes-919720_1280 You will need a pair of boots that are insulated and waterproof. Snow boots are best but if you are not planning repeat visits to extremely cold countries, walking/hiking boots can work too. The shoes/boots should be at least one size too big to accommodate the thick socks and heat pads, if used. If your feet feel really tight inside the shoes, you will feel cold soon. You may also want to bring a pair of flip flops if you plan to hit the saunas and indoor pools.

9. Sunglasses
Even though the sun may be out for only 3 hours a day in winter, sunglasses are a must to prevent glare from the snow and ice, and from developing snow blindness. High UV rating is advised.


10. Lip balm
A heavy-duty, very moisturising one is preferred. Go with an oil-based lip balm as a water-based one accelerates frostbite.
Bonus Tip: Buy at a local supermarket or pharmacy upon arriving at your destination as that would likely be what the locals use.

11. Non-water based moisturisers
Harsh winters are especially… well, harsh on the skin so moisturisers and hand lotion are must-haves. However, you should not moisturise before heading out, or if you have to, apply the minimum an hour before heading outdoors; ensure that your moisturisers are not water-based. By all means, pile on the moisturisers on both hand and body before going to bed.

Where to Buy

If you have sufficient time, ordering online can be cheaper and offers you better options. Aliexpress is good for bargain buys while Amazon stocks a great variety, including specialty brands. The North Face (Marina Square, Ngee Ann City, and ION Orchard) stocks hardy winter gear for outdoor activities, and Colder (Plaza Singapura and other outlets islandwide) offers good and functional staples. Decathlon stocks a small but budget-friendly range of ski-wear that is worth checking out. Daiso is a great stop for portable heat packs to put into pockets or in shoes, and vacuum bags to compress bulky clothing so they fit into your luggage.