Layering Clothes for Winter (Part 2)
If you’ve not been to cold countries and you’re thinking of how to start layering clothes for winter, you’ve come to the right place! And you must definitely read Part 1 and this post if you’re a Singaporean and a female. In Part 1, I shared important tips to fight the cold in winter, what to wear during cold climate of 1 to 15°C and below -10°C, what other travel essentials to bring for winter and my verdict of Uniqlo Heattech.
When we were in Japan, it was COOL climate in Tokyo (Mar) and CHILLY climate in Hokkaido (end-Feb to Mar) with FREEZING exception in Tomamu (end-Feb). What’s the difference between cool, chilly and freezing climate?
Chilly Climate (-10 to 0°C)
In this post, I will go into the details of what to wear for chilly climate of -10 to 0°C. I will share what I wore from head to toe, along with some other recommendations. I highly recommend you to read How To Layer Clothes for Winter? (Part 1) before moving on with this post. :)
Compared to Tokyo, it was a totally different ball game in Hokkaido. Here are the temperatures we faced while in Hokkaido:
- Sapporo (City Area): -9 to 1°C
- Tomamu and Ice Village (Ski Resort): -17 to -1°C
- Noboribetsu (Onsen Town): -5 to 7°C
- Niseko (Kutchan) (Ski Resort): -7 to 2°C
We skied at Niseko and it’s different from how we are usually dressed for the temperature – 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.
Head & Neck
Woolen Hat / Beanie
There’s studies that show that we lose heat fairly evenly across all exposed areas of our bodies – and the head is no different. However, the head is more sensitive to cold and hence it’s still good to get a woolen hat or beanie.
An average priced hat most probably keeps your head as warm as the expensive ones. For the latter, you are just paying more for the comfort that might be negligible. For ladies with long hair, you can consider woolen hats where you can tuck your hair in, in case the hair gets in the way of your jacket zipper like it did to me.
Image Credit: huffingtonpost.com, pinterest.com/pin/308989224403731484
Ear muffs are not critical. We didn’t have to wear ours during the trip. The cold bites the ears, however, you can pull down your woolen hat or beanie to cover the ears or wrap your scarf upwards to cover your ears and mouth. I pulled down my hat and put on my jacket’s hoodie to cover up my ears and head. However, if you don’t want to wear a hat or your jacket does not come with a hoodie, ear muffs will come in handy. Some wear ear muffs for fashion purposes.
Invest in a scarf! It keeps you warm and doubles up as a ear muff or face mask. Your neck will feel the cold once the temperature drops to a single digit, especially when it is windy. Like woolen hats, spending more money on an expensive scarf doesn’t mean it will keep your neck warmer.
I wore a heattech scarf. Is Uniqlo heattech any good?
Mask is good to shield your face from the cold air and wind. We saw a lot of people wearing face masks in Japan. It could be because they want to keep out the germs in the air or some other hygiene purposes. In any case, I bought a packet in Japan, and put the disposable face mask on when it’s cold. It helps to keep the cold away! Especially when it’s windy. You can easily buy disposable face masks from a range of choices at Japan’s convenience stores.
Upper & Lower Body
Thermal Underwear / Innerwear (Base Layer)
I have always thought that thermal underwear is a must for cold countries. But there are advocates who don’t like to wear them, unless it’s below -10 degrees. According to them, most tourists will not stay outdoors for a long period of time, but in heated indoors of about 23 degrees. In this case, the thermal underwear might make you uncomfortable, itchy and sometimes develop a heat rash.
Regardless, my hubby got Uniqlo’s heattech thermal wear because it was going on sale – for S$26 per set. It’s a very thin and lightweight garment that supposedly absorbs the body moisture and generates heat. It’s not itchy like the typical woolen long john. I didn’t get this thermal underwear because I tried it years ago and it didn’t kept me warm. But it did keep my friend warm during her Korea trip. And my hubby actually recommend it, but not for super cold countries. If you must you should get their “extra warmth” series to fight the cold.
Knowing that I’m going to ski, a friend recommended merino wool thermal underwear as base layer. It’s a premium wear made from a special breed of sheep with finer fibers that make it softer and thus not itchy as compared to regular woolen long johns. It is also warmer than synthetic material, dries quickly, and does not absorb odors.
Icebreaker is well-known for its broadest selection of New Zealand merino wool base layers and outdoor clothing. But it’s super expensive. Hence I borrowed a Icebreaker hoodie and a pair of leggings (underwear) from a friend. Verdict? I love it! If I am going to another cold country, I’ll probably invest in a set of icebreaker merino wool base layer. :)
Layering (Upper Body)
It is important to layer up at least three layers for below zero temperatures. When layering up, it’s still important to cover your head and hands. And remember to keep your layers toilet friendly! However I usually have 4 layers on me because I tend to feel cold.
Typical layers* (my hubby style):
- Long Johns/Thermal Underwear (you should wear unless you have a really good layers and jacket)
- Wool top or T-shirt (Try to avoid cotton**)
- Merino wool or Fleece cardigan (you may omit this if you have good long johns or jacket. Or if you’re not afraid of the cold)
- Outer winter coat/jacket
- Long sleeved half turtle neck wool top
- Merino wool long sleeve hoodie and/or Red baggy woolen top (shown above under cold climate)
- Uniqlo Fleece cardigan
- Outer winter coat/jacket
* For layering of clothes for winter temperatures above 0°C or below -10°C, refer to Part 1.
**Tip: Your first layer matters, whether a long john set or t-shirt, try to avoid cotton as it does not wick away perspiration. That means, when you perspire, the base layer gets wet and the moisture becomes icy and you will feel cold. Wool and polyester are better choices.
Winter Coat / Down Jacket (Upper Body)
I used to wonder why people would wear the “bubbly” kind of jacket over the trendy trench coat. But I’ve since learned that the wonders of a down jacket. Down are small, fine feathers found close to a bird’s skin, duck and goose (latter is more expensive). A down jacket keeps you warm and yet are light and not too bulky. Note that not all “bubbly” jackets are filled with down.
Here are some tips for choosing a down jacket:
- Filling: Make sure the “bubbly” jacket you are getting is really what you want. They can be filled with either down or synthetic insulation. One might prefer the water-resistant synthetic. But personally, I’ll go for down. Here’s a comparison guide: sierratradingpost.com/lp2/down-vs-synthetic-guide. For those getting from taobao, do note the misleading words: 羽绒棉 (referring to synthetic materials) and 羽绒服 (down). But just to give you more assurance, search for those with 白鸭绒.
- Amount of Down (refer to the jacket’s information label):
- There’s usually a ratio or percentage of down and regular feathers. The higher percentage of down, the better the insulation and quality.
- Down Weight (充绒量)
- Down jacket’s fill power – Higher the fill power, the better the insulation, the lighter and more compressible it is. Compress the jacket, it’s good if the material bounces back to its original position fast enough.
- Not losing Down: When purchasing, be sure to inspect the material to ensure that no feathers or down is poking out of it. Otherwise, you’ll be losing a lot of feathers. To be sure, compress the jacket to see if the feathers will poke come out.
- Outer Shell: Nylon and polyester usually form the outer layer of a down jacket. Best if the jacket has an extra layer laminated onto the fabric for water resistant purposes.
Photo taken in Sapporo
Tip 1: For ladies, get a 3/4 length winter coat that covers your butt. It gives you more warmth by covering more body areas, namely your butt. Moreover, it’s a good cover up when I wear leggings with a long top to cover my butt. Also as seen in the photo, with my jacket short, my long top was longer than the jacket and that didn’t look nice on me. :P
Tip 2: When you go indoors, take off your outer layer. Otherwise, your body will be too warmed up indoors and you will get super cold when you head outside again. See what the locals do when they stepped inside and follow!
Layering (Bottoms; Lower Body)
Typical layers* (my hubby style):
- Long Johns/Thermal Underwear
- Long pants that are water resistant or dry easily^. Try not to wear jeans especially in places with snow. The melting snow on the jeans will be hard to dry, making you cold.
- Merino Wool Thermal Underwear
- A few options:
- Leggings with inner lining (as seen in photo below)
- Heattech Leggings + Heattech Pants
- Heattech Leggings x 2
^Tip: 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.
*For layering of clothes for winter temperatures above 0°C or below -10°C, refer to Part 1.
Hands & Feet
Wear your gloves! Better still if it’s waterproof or water-resistant because wet gloves might make you colder than not wearing them. It could get wet because of:
- Snow melting at our warm touch. After you touched the snow with your gloves, the snow sticks to them. The snow then melts when you enter a warm place. So make sure you brush off any snow from your gloves before you get indoors. Again, I shall mention wet clothing makes you cold.
It is important to keep your shoes and socks dry in cold weather. Hence, wear water-resistant or waterproof shoes to prevent your socks from getting wet from the rain or melting snow. Wet socks means wet, cold and uncomfortable feet. However, most shoes are not 100% waterproof, unless you get rubber boots.
“Water-resistant: able to resist the penetration of water to some degree but not entirely.
Water-repellent: not easily penetrated by water, especially as a result of being treated for such a purpose with a surface coating.
Waterproof: impervious to water.” – Hzo.com
But your footwear must be at least water-resistant to guard against melting snow. It melts even at -10 degrees:
- In urban areas, you might accidentally step into a water puddle and get your shoes wet. Water puddles at freezing temperature? Urban roads and pavements are often gritted. This means a mixture of rock salt and grit is poured over the surface to lower its freezing point, which in turn stops ice from forming and melts existing ice or snow into a watery slush.
- Your feet at a body temperature of 37°C are warm enough to heat up your shoes and melt the snow a little as you walk through ankle deep snow. Your shoes will be wet.
I bought a pair of water-resistant boots with a little elevation (made me taller), padding on the inside and anti-skid soles. It was one of my best winter wear buys! More importantly, it’s comfortable to walk in. :) I wore it through the 10 days in Hokkaido and Tokyo. However, I was a bit on the kiasu side to get this pair of boots because my feet get cold easily and I didn’t want to slip on the ice and snow. Even well-trained locals slipped from time to time!
If you want to invest in a pair of boots, research and get the right one that’s suitable for cold or snowy conditions. Don’t get the ones for the tropics and deserts.
But if you don’t want to get a pair of special footwear just for one-time wear, you can always wear your existing shoes, trainers and boots. To test if they can cope with the wet weather, wear your shoes and socks into the shower and give your shoes a good splash. Wait a minute or two. If the pair of shoes doesn’t absorb water and soak through, it is good to go! If you’re going to a country with snow, buy anti-slip pads and attach them to your normal footwear. It will give you a better grip as you walk. You can easily buy them at Japan’s convenience stores.
Photo taken in Otaru (near Sapporo)
Caution: Keep a lookout as you walk and don’t stepped on the ice, or even walk over it. Walk around the ice. You can usually find ice at the edges of a building where melting water from the roof drips onto the pavement. It also happens when the temperature hovers around 0°C (e.g. 3°C in the day when the snow melts, then -2°C at night when the snow refreezes into solid ice).
Tip: It’s always good etiquette to brush off any snow on your clothes and shoes when you enter a warm area. Kick the shoes against the edge of a wall or pillar to remove snow underneath. Or use your hands. If not, you’ll bringing in the snow which will soon melt into puddles of water. Also, the melting snow can dampen your clothing and shoes.
Even with my padded boots, I wore two pairs of socks throughout my time in Hokkaido. 2 out of 4 pairs I brought along for the trip are Uniqlo’s heattech. Hubby wore only one pair of socks, alternating between his normal socks worn in Singapore and heattech.
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