How Not to Freeze in Finland!

Temperatures in Northern Finland above the Arctic Circle can range anywhere from 0 to 28 degrees Fahrenheit during December through March. Prolonged periods of darkness where the sun does not rise is also a factor to consider when packing for this cold region.”

Ice Hotel

LummiLinna Snow Hotel; Finland

But don’t let cold weather deter you from taking a trip to Finland or any Nordic country for that matter during the winter months! There are so many adventurous activities such as dogsledding, snowmobiling, seeing the Northern Lights, skiing and visiting an Ice Hotel that one can only engage in during the winter months but Temperatures can vary depending on what city you plan to visit and during what month.  According to the World Atlas, temperatures in Northern Finland above the Arctic Circle can range anywhere from 0 to 28 degrees Fahrenheit during December through March. Prolonged periods of darkness where the sun does not rise is also a factor to consider when packing in this cold region. In slight contrast Southern Finland near Helsinki averages 10 to 27 degrees during the same period. But don’t worry with careful packing and planning the cold conditions of the north need not be a concern.

What Types of Base Layers to Purchase for Winter

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C’Mon Let’s go!

A good base layer is absolutely an essential staple to pack for your trip. First thing you need to know is that base layers are rated by numbers and/or weight. Item labeled lightweight or micro weight refers to lighter tops and bottoms that are good for strenuous sports like skiing, trail running or snowboarding. These items are designed to wick away moisture from your body and are breathable.  Some products use different rating systems, for example Patagonia rates their lightweight products with a level 1 or 2 and Wool products from Smart Wool or Icebreaker label them with a number like 150. Midweight base layers should be worn for moderately cold to cold conditions and can be used when you engaged in lighter sports or when you will get heated easy. Midweight can also be identified as level 3 or 200 in wool.  For extremely cold conditions as in Finland especially north of the arctic circle or if you will be outside for prolonged period of time a heavy weight item is recommended, which are indicated by level 4 or 250-260 in wool products.

The suggested base layers for cold weather are usually made from Merino wool or synthetic materials like polyester or microfiber.  My favorites are expedition weight Patagonia Capilene, which is made from polyester and is usually a little cheaper and just as efficient as wool. I think the highest quality tops and bottoms are available from Icebreaker. Their Merino wool is the highest quality and the wool is sourced from sheep in the New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Their products are breathable and do not smell even after wearing for many days. One fun feature of Icebreaker products is that you can trace where the wool comes from by entering the baa code on the tag inside the product. Icebreaker is also committed to environmental ethics and treating animals fairly.

Another factor to keep in mind is if the conditions will be windy and frigid you might want top with a higher neck line to keep the wind out, and also with a zipper to help regulate your body temperature if you are getting too hot.  Also look for a tight fit and sleeves with the thumb holes in it-which not only looks cool but also keep your hands warm.

What Types of Outwear to Purchase for Finland

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Snow Castle; Kemi Finland

A jacket or parka is the most important piece to consider if you will be spending any amount of time outside.  On the trip I booked to Finland we have 4 days in Kemi Finland where the temperatures range from 0 to 10 degrees. First thing to look at what types of activities you will be participating in. Being outside for long periods of time for walking, sightseeing or passive sports like dogsledding you should probably go with a parka or a medium length jacket. I really like The North Face Arctic Parka or the Brooklyn Jacket both are water resistant and insulated with 550 down.  Both have faux-fur hoods and inner hand cuffs to help guard against the cold arctic winds.  For the trip to Kemi I chose the Brooklyn Jacket because it is super warm and I do not need to layer many sweater and jackets underneath it.  This coat was amazing and stood up to freezing arctic winds during my entire trip.

If you are going to be skiing or snowboarding or highly active you might want to go with something a little shorter and lighter such as the North Face Kira Triclimate Jacket which is also waterproof and offer wind resistance and insulation. You should not overheat while exerting yourself in this jacket. There are some many great jackets to choose from though. I also liked the Marmot Gramercy jacket which is 650 down which has a detachable fur hood, it is surprising warm, light and easily packable.

The best thing to do is go try on a lot of jackets to see what is the best fit and style for your needs. Ski shops, REI and Moosejaw are good places to go because the employees can offer expert advice tailored to your needs.  Moosejaw, REI and The North face offer lifetime warranties on most of their products too. A couple guidelines to follow; look for wind and water resistance, high level of insulation, and brands that are specifically designed for performance wear as opposed to just fashion.

Cold Weather Boots

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Sampo Ice Breaker Cruise: Finland

Keeping your feet dry and warm is crucial to staying warm in winter especially with wet and snowy conditions.  Warm furry boots like classic Uggs or Bear Paw are perfect for cold conditions as long as there is no snow or rain. If you will be outside walking around in wet or snowy conditions look into waterproof winter boots that have a weather rating such as Sorel Joan of Artic boot that is rated for -25 degrees F and is fully water proof with a removable inner boot. This boot is both a fashionable and practical choice. For my trip to Finland I packed a warm pair of cute wedge Bear Paw boots for going out at night and a pair of practical Sorel Tofino boot for daytime and outwear use.  Ugg does make a number of waterproof winter boots as well as Columbia, The North Face and BearPaw.

Don’t Forget the Accessories

Aside from all the major items needed for your trip to Finland or any cold weather destination it is essential to pack items like gloves, hats, scarves and socks designed for extreme cold weather. Look for wool scarves and hats from Columbia or The North Face that are heavy enough to provide warmth and coverage.  Look for the hats that also have an inner lining like a micro-fleece ear band for added warmth.  Scarves do not need to be big and bulky-check out the Icebreaker Neck Chute that you can pull up or down to provide ultimate warmth. No matter what type of boot you go with you should purchase merino wool socks to wear under them. Go with a heavyweight or midweight sock to keep your feet toasty and warm. The wool wicks away moisture whereas cotton is the worst choice because it gets soggy and wet and is impossible to dry off while wearing. I like the long wool socks that you can pull up over your pants.  Lastly but still very important is gloves. I like wind and waterproof mittens that have an inner glove liner such as Swany Toaster Arctic Mittens or the Burton Gore-Tex Mittens both are rated for extreme cold temperatures.  Fleece mittens and gloves will not provide enough wind and waterproofing to be effective in such cold temperatures.

Make sure to purchase clothes and items that you will wear again once your trip is over. There is nothing worse than spending hundreds of dollars on winter gear that you won’t wear again.

Being prepared for cold weather will make your trip to Finland much more enjoyable. With careful planning and packing you won’t even notice that it is winter.

Copyright Christine Zenino

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5 thoughts on “How Not to Freeze in Finland!

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