How To Layer Clothes for Winter? (Part 1)

If you’ve not been to cold countries and you’re thinking of how to layer clothes for winter, you’ve come to the right place! And you must definitely read on if you’re a Singaporean and a female.

Being from tropical Singapore, I am like most Singaporeans who don’t grow up learning how to fight the cold with winter wear. So I totally understand if you are worried and apprehensive of what to buy and wear before going to a cold country! I felt the same way before I flew to Hokkaido in winter. Moreover, women generally feel the cold more easily than men, and my body tend to feel colder than the average Asian female. Hence, what worked for me should warm you up as well!

Niseko 3 -

Photo taken in Niseko

I’ve been to extremely cold places such as Harbin, however I had bad memories of being in the cold. But the reason was because I was inadequately dress for the cold. For Harbin winter, I was on a busy business trip and stayed indoors most of the time, so I didn’t bring much cold wear. But when I was out in the open on rare occasion, I remembered my ears and legs being frostbitten. And for my road trip at Great Ocean Road, I was shivering and unable to tolerate the rainy weather during their Spring. It’s not even winter!

Hence I was apprehensive about going to Hokkaido during Winter, what’s more to ski! But because I won a ski accommodation at Ki Niseko and lessons at GoSnow, it’s not a trip my hubby and I wanted to miss. As you can see from the photos, we did make it to Hokkaido and we enjoyed the snow, the cold, and the ski because we were adequately dressed!

Winter Wear Overview

When I was researching for winter wear before my trip, I referred to this blog It’s a useful guide for Singaporeans, however, I was still apprehensive because the writer is used to the cold, and he is a guy (of a “warmer” body). But it did help me to be better prepared for the cold.

Noboribetsu Hell Valley 4 -

Photo taken in Noboribetsu

What temperatures are you expecting?

Before I move on, I’ll broadly categorise the temperatures you will face during winter. Because even though a country is in winter, the temperature differs from country to country and even in various parts of a country. Hence, the appropriate clothing depends on where and when you go. The rest of the article will be in reference of the following temperature categories:

  • cold: 1 to 15°C (likely to be Spring or Autumn in most places)
  • chilly: -10 to 0°C
  • freezing: -10 to -20°C, places with cold snaps (when temperature dip suddenly) or high altitudes like ski resorts. [First Time Skiers: What to Wear for Skiing?]
  • frozen:  below -20°C

Temperatures we experienced in Japan

When we were in Japan during, it was COOL climate in Tokyo (Mar) and CHILLY climate in Hokkaido (End-Feb to Mar) with FREEZING exception in Tomamu (end-Feb).

Weather is Unpredictable

More importantly, when you’re there, check the weather forecast for the next day and know what to expect. If a windchill is expected, which is a real killer, it’s good to wear windproof clothing. A 5°C day with howling wind might be colder than a -15°C without wind. Sometimes, you might also get an anomaly like a cold blast. At all times, you should be prepared with the right clothing for night temperatures. Even if it’s 0°C in the day, the temperature can drop to -10°C really quickly when night falls. Wrap up when the sun begins to set.

Do note: Our attire as described below is more for city sightseeing and not for camping outdoors.

Cold Climate (1 to 15°C)

Tokyo Wear

Photo taken in Tokyo

It was Spring when we were in Tokyo of 8 to 17°C. We were walking a lot in Tokyo and hence didn’t feel the cold. Even if we did feel cold, we simply headed indoors for some warmth. People in Tokyo dressed lite — spring clothing and jacket with no gloves, no beanie, and sometimes no scarf. Some office ladies even wore skirt and heels! Although they might simply be used to the cold or have some secret (keep warm) weapon we don’t know.

Winter Wear (me, female) 

As seen in the photo above, I wore:

  • Upper Body:
    • I wore the same down jacket as I did in Hokkaido (chilly/freezing climate). Down? More on it in my next post! Anyway, I looked out of place in Tokyo with the bulging thick jacket. Most people were wearing Spring coats or sleeveless bubble jacket. This jacket made me too warm at times when I walked outdoors. I broke out in sweat and was peeling off my layers as the day went on.
    • 2-3 tops: The number of layers depends on the material of your jacket and clothing. I wore red baggy woolen top (like the lady in the photo below) and Uniqlo’s Mohair pink top (44% nylon, 30% mohair, 26% acrylic). I might need another top if not for my thick jacket. For cold climate temperatures, you don’t really need to wear long johns. 
    • Red Woolen Top 1
    • 2-3 tops (alternative): Sometimes, I wore only a normal cotton muji long sleeve top (black) and a sweater that’s good enough in SG’s shopping mall. As seen in my airport fashion photo below :) Only 2 layers because of my thick jacket! 

Tokyo Wear 2 -

  • Accessories: Heattech scarf and normal gloves (I only needed these when the sun set or wind blew).
  • Legs:
  • Feet: One pair of heattech socks and snow boots which is anti-slip, water-resistant and padded  (I wore this because I went to Hokkaido and only brought one pair. But a simple pair of boots should do).

Winter Wear (male)

Tokyo Wear

Photo taken in Tokyo

As seen in the photo above, hubby wore

  • Accessories: My hubby who can withstand cold better than me didn’t need to wear scarf and gloves at all. (But you should still bring your gloves, scarf, etc just in case.)
  • Upper Body:
    • Normal button down shirt he wears to work in Singapore.
    • He dressed down from the thick orange jacket he wore in Hokkaido (more on that in next post), to a 4-way jacket he bought in Uniqlo Japan, stylish and value for money. It’s similar to this jacket:, with the body shell as 100% polyester and filling of 80% down.
  • Feet: One pair of heattech socks and Caterpillar boots.
  • Legs: Normal long pants he wears to work in Singapore.

Tip 1: Wet clothing do not keep you warm – when you sweat or when the snow gets on your clothing and melts. Evaporation will remove your body heat and make you feel colder. So try to get non absorbent clothing material.

Tip 2It’s always good etiquette to brush off any snow on your clothes and shoes when you enter a warm area. If not, you’ll bringing in the snow which will soon melt into puddles of water. Also, the melting snow can dampen your clothing.

Chilly Climate (-10 to 0°C)

It was a totally different ball game in Hokkaido. Here are the temperatures we faced while in Hokkaido:

We skied at Niseko and it’s different from how we are usually dressed for the temperatures – First Time Skiers: What to Wear for Skiing?

I shall not comment much on the -17°C of Tomamu, because the resort provided an extra jacket when we visited the ice village. Moreover, we were not prepared for the cold even as we walked in the resort’s indoor connecting tunnel and outdoors in the afternoon. For the rest of Hokkaido, we basically dressed more or less the same.

In Part 2, I will go into detail of what I wore from head to toe for these below zero temperatures. Just too much information for one post! 

Sapporo 2 -

Freezing or Frozen Climate (below -10°C or -20°C)

We didn’t experience anything below -10°C, except for that 1 day in Tomamu. Hence most of this section will be from research. :) The following are some pointers to add on to what is usually worn in chilly climate.

Below -10°C (or those who are afraid of the cold):

  • Hands: Thin gloves made of wool or leather are insufficient to keep your fingers warm. Best to have ski or heated gloves.
  • Upper Body: Additional 1 or 2 more layers to those worn in chilly climate
  • Head, Neck, Lower Body and Feet: The same as those worn in chilly climate

Below -20°C:

  • Hands: Good quality ski gloves is a MUST.
  • Upper and Lower Body: Wind and water-proof ski wear is the best option if you are going to stay outdoors for a while. If you are going to ski for 1 or 2 days, you can simply rent your ski wear along with the ski gear.
  • Feet: Quality hiking boots or boots with padding. Make sure they’re waterproof and not just water-resistant.
  • Head and Neck: The same as those worn in chilly climate

Travel Essentials for Winter

Other than winter clothing, here are some other items you should prepare for your winter holiday. Bring your lip balms, hand and body moisturisers because your lips and skin will definitely be dry in winter. Moreover, it’s good to bring your sunscreen and sunglasses along because the sun’s UV rays reflecting off the snow is more dangerous than on the beach.

Heat Pad -

How about heat pads? I wore either good quality gloves borrowed from a friend or heated gloves bought from Japan’s convenience store, but sometimes it’s not enough for my stay in Hokkaido. So the heat pad came to the rescue! Hubby didn’t need to use them as often as I did, whereas I used them mainly for my cold hands. I remembered the heat pad helped me greatly when I was freezing while queuing in the cold for Sapporo’s Garaku Curry. My frosted fingers found warmth holding on to the heat pad.

So heat pad is good just in case your winter wear cannot withstand the sudden cold or when you had to be out in the cold for a long period. Heat pad is like an item in your first aid box, good to have but not always necessary. Coincidentally, heat pads are good for treating injuries such as sprained ankle. Thus, there’s no need to buy so many heat pads, re-invest the money for better quality winter accessories, like gloves, scarfs and beanies.

Tip: If you are going to Japan, you can buy ‘beauty’ products from their drugstores (they’re everywhere), such as Biore sunscreen and horse oil moisturiser. This will help you save money because of their tourist tax free scheme and luggage space to buy more!

Drugstore -


We wore quite a bit of Uniqlo heattech stuff. Were they useful? Yes and no. Personally, it didn’t seem like there was a difference between heattech pants and normal pants. Or probably I was expecting too much from heattech–it simply doesn’t work well alone. Oh we did feel the heat from the heattech clothing… when we were in heated indoors! But it defeats the purpose of wearing heattech if we didn’t feel the heat when we were out in the cold but only when we were warmed up indoors. We supposed Uniqlo heattech works on the principle of trapping heat.

HOWEVER, having said that, I might have to layer more clothes on me if not for the heattech. If you really must try, I will recommend Uniqlo heattech for COLD rather than CHILLY climate. For heattech thermal wear review, refer to the corresponding section in my next post.


We went for Uniqlo because it’s relatively cheaper than most proper winter wear in Singapore. It seemed like a waste to spend so much on good quality winter wear just for one trip. However, it’s important to get them for superb insulation in the cold. So if you rarely go to cold countries, a great alternative is to borrow from your friends and family! Moreover, you can always buy cheaper or more fanciful winter wear in the country you are visiting.

You might feel cold when you first arrive at the winter country or when you stepped out of your heated hotel in the morning. Don’t worry but give yourself time to get used to the sharp temperature change. You should get used to the cold after a while. Hot drinks and soups help too. Note that you’re likely to feel cold when you are unwell, hungry or tired, so eat and rest when necessary. If you are still cold, observe the locals or ask them what they are wearing. Go buy or borrow them if possible.

Regardless of the low temperature, you will feel warm and comfortable if you are appropriately dressed for the weather and activity. Suit up and enjoy your winter!!

p.s. See what to wear from head to toe in below 0°C in Layering Clothes for Winter (Part 2)

If you have other questions or suggestions, comment below or on our Facebook Page or Instagram. Bookmark this page > Overview Itinerary: Hokkaido and Tokyo (Winter/Spring 2016)

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9 thoughts on “How To Layer Clothes for Winter? (Part 1)”

  • Hello! Is it okay to wear 1 heattech innerwear and overlap with 1 heattech outer turtleneck? Im worried that it will make me unconfortable inside heated indoors.

  • Hi. I’m going to Japan in dec/Jan for 2 weeks. Does it mean I have to pack 2 weeks of daily supply of thermal innerwear? That would really cost a bomb.. if not how would you advise? Or how often I should change one set to another, say 2-3 days?? Lol. Thanks in advance!

    Ps: sg Female here 🙂

    • Hello Jing! Actually it all depends on your comfort level. :) Usually you wouldn’t sweat much so you can definitely re-wear . As of how often you change it really depends on your preference. Or best if your accommodation has a washer and you can wash them.

    • Otherwise you can wear one set and air it while wearing another. Alternating the set. Hope you find an arrangement that works!

      • Hi Christina! Thanks for your very quick reply and the tips! Will definitely consider that in my planning

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