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

Don’t Freeze! How to Pack for a Winter Vacation in Iceland

“For most people, the thought of Iceland conjures up images of extreme snowy conditions and sub-zero temperatures, but actually the climate in Iceland is quite mild. Temperatures during the winter months range anywhere from 25 to 35 degrees, much warmer than that of Chicago or New York in the winter! Even so a lot of the activities and excursions in Iceland are outdoors-so packing correctly is critical to making your stay enjoyable.”

What is Winter Like in Iceland?

Reykjavik
A Christmastime holiday or winter vacation is the best time to experience what Iceland has to offer. Can you imagine how amazing it is to look up and see the Northern lights shining brightly in the night sky  or how much fun dogsledding with a team of huskies on a glacier can be?
So I suggest-brave the cold and head out to Iceland to explore some amazing adventures firsthand.

Winter Jackets and Outer Layers

Tour operators in Iceland offer a number of exciting outdoor activities such as glacier hiking, dogsledding, and whale watching or snowmobiling. Even for those not this adventurous you may spend a great deal of time outside visiting Iceland’s magnificent waterfalls, geysirs or just walking around shopping. Although the climate may be a little milder in Iceland, weather conditions may change rapidly; you may be exposed to rain, snow, sun and extreme cold all in one day. Because of this wearing wind and water resistance outer layers is the key to comfort. Look for a good winter jacket that is water and winter resistant but also has some insulation like fleece or down to provide warmth. Some coats have a weather rating that lists the range of temperatures you will be protected from. The weather rating is important-don’t assume one that provides a colder rating is necessarily better. You might actually get too hot! Keep in mind that a lot of the tours like snowmobiling or whale watching will provide a heavier outer layer for you to put on over your jacket. So if your jacket is too long or puffy it may not fit under your jumpsuit or you might get too hot. If you plan on going skiing or snowboarding you may need more of a ski type jacket which features a waterproof and windproof shell that you will need to add a base layer of insulation too.

Next it is important to purchase heavy mittens or gloves, hat and scarf designed specifically for cold weather. Wearing a stylish hat may look cute but you need to make sure these items are not just fashionable but actually designed for cold weather. Purchasing products made from wool is a safe choice for winter conditions.  Many Iceland shops sell high-quality woolen mittens, hats and scarves at reasonable rates so don’t worry if you have to buy additional ones on vacation. Tours typically will do not provide these types of items.

Winter Boots or Hiking Boots?

Depending on what types of activities you will be doing I would opt for a winter style hiking boot as opposed to a heavy duty snow boot. Most of the tours and activities in Iceland requires one to walk over rugged terrain and wet or rocky conditions. Recently on a visit to Iceland I went glacier hiking and ice climbing, for this tour snow boots or furry boots would not have been a good selection as we used crampons over the hiking boot to walk on the ice. If you do not want to purchase a pair of hiking shoes for just one day-ask the tour provider.   Most of the tour companies do rent equipment for either free or a very small price.

By far the most popular tour is the Golden Circle, which highlights three main attractions: the geysers Geysir and Strokkur, Þingvellir National Park and the massive waterfall known as Gulfoss. Although you will be traveling by bus you may be exposed to different conditions while walking around the parks. When I took this tour, the day started out sunny and mild but within a couple hours the temperature dropped and an unpleasant icy rain started, my furry boots, while good for walking around Reykjavik, got soaked as they were not water resistant. They also provided little traction on the gravel that most of the trails were made from. A good waterproof hiking boot would have been a better choice.

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Layers, Layers, Layers

One of the best items I purchased for trip was a warm long underwear base layer from Columbia. Look for a mid-weight base layer that will help you generate or keep in your own heat. It is also important if you are going to be active that the material wicks away moisture to avoid sweating-which is why cotton leggings would not work well.  Many other brands carry a similar base layer like North Face or Koppen. This additional layer underneath leggings or jeans kept me warm the entire trip. During my ten day stay in Iceland, I also visited the Northern capital of Akureyri, which is a little colder than Reykjavik by a few degrees. But there was a noticeable difference in temperature when we traveled further north to go whale watching in Husavik.  Onboard the ship, the crew provided us with warm heavy jump suits to put on over our clothes. Once we got out near the Arctic Circle the temperature plummeted and the wind increased sharply. I was happy I not only had on my windproof jumpsuit but also warm base layers to keep my core body temperature high.Akureyri

If you will be out for extended periods of time beyond a short tour you might want to purchase performance style pants with a wind and water resistant soft shell designed specifically for winter sports. These pants are lighter and less bulky than snow pants but will provide more protection than just hiking pants. The pants paired with a base layer should provide you with the comfort and warmth needed for longer activities like glacier hiking or other outdoor adventures.  Most pants carry a weather or wind rating as well, it is crucial that they are wind resistant. REI, North face and Columbia are good products to look into and their sales associates can help you pick the appropriate pants.

Wear a wool sweater! While in Iceland I bought my first wool sweater. I cannot describe how warm these wool products are. There are a number of shops selling high quality Icelandic wool products and I encourage you to wait to buy your wool sweater there.

Bathing Suit in Iceland?

Don’t forget your bathing suit. Yes seriously, Iceland is known for its hot geothermal spas such as the Blue Lagoon. The luxury outdoor geothermal spa is a destination you cannot miss and it is open year round. The pool is heated by underground geothermal springs the heat of the water rises so you will not be cold while floating around this pool for hours. Plus there are a number of public spas located in the city center and sometimes in the hotel.

Blue LagoonRemember to pack some nicer clothing as well. No matter what the weather conditions are in Iceland people tend to dress stylish when going to bars, restaurants and nightclubs. There a number of popular restaurants in the city center where dressing in hiking clothes would not be appropriate.

 Shopping in Iceland

You may also want to leave some room in your luggage to go shopping in Iceland. For all your winter or outdoor gear needs shop at Cintamani. There is a large shop located conveniently in Reykjavik’s city center. Cintimani sells functional and stylish outdoor wear designed specifically for Icelandic weather conditions.  I bought the stylish Jóna zip-up which can be worn alone or under a jacket-It is warm and looks cool. You can even purchase the items online to ensure you will have the highest quality gear designed for Icelandic conditions before you even get there!

Iceland is easily one of my favorite destinations. I would go anytime during the year. But if you need some coaxing check out the tempting travel packages offered by Icelandair. I suggest the affordable Experience the Arctic North package which includes round-trip airfare to Iceland and lodging in both Reykjavik and Akureyri. So do not let the weather deter you from visiting Iceland this winter. With some careful packing you will have a blast and stay warm!