Are you planning a trip to Finland? Whether it is a road trip in Lapland or city sightseeing, you need to be prepared for what to wear during the winter. I had the same worries many years ago, before my very first trip to Finland. I’m from a warmer country (Hungary), where -5°C is considered very cold. I hardly could imagine how -20°C or -30°C feels like. In the Nordic countries, life still goes on despite the freezing temperature. You can’t just curl up on your sofa for the whole winter and stay indoors. You would miss the snow and the northern lights, to mention a few. I will share the clothing tips that helped me survive my first (and every) winter in the Nordics.
Ps. : You can read more about the best winter jackets here.
Table of Contents
- In Finland, life does not stop when the temperature goes below 0°C
- Best tips for winter clothing
- Socks and boots for winter
- Gloves and mittens
- Scarves and balaclava
- Hats, caps, and ushanka
- Face creams
In Finland, life does not stop when the temperature goes below 0°C
Believe me, Finns spend extended times outside, even during the winter. They need to go to work, school, shopping, and a vast number of them spend hours of free time in nature too. They can’t just stay indoors when the weather is freezing. And if they CAN do it, we can dress up properly too!
Side note: If you do a sport more actively (cross-country, ice-skating), then you will need obviously much less clothing than doing more static activities such as downhill or slow skating. Listen to your common sense.
Best tips for winter clothing
Wear more layers – especially if you don’t have proper winter gear
I’ve heard from my mom – and probably so you did – since my childhood to wear more layers. As a kid, I hated when I had to wear more than a t-shirt, sweater, and jacket during the winter. This has changed from one day to another during my stay in Finland.
If you don’t want to get a totally new wardrobe for your holidays, you can do the best thing to wear several layers. Combining a thinner and a thick sweater or taking on tights and trousers on top of each other makes a lot of difference. Or two pairs of trousers. Or basically anything you can fit comfortably in. Even three layers are fine if the temperature goes below -20°C and none of your clothes are suitable for Finnish winter. It is better to feel weird than get sick on your first day.
During my first winter in Joensuu, I often took 2 pairs of tights and my jeans on top. Double socks and double sweaters under a down coat. Later on, I invested in better winter gear. 🙂
One of the best materials for winter is wool. I think it is not necessarily the most comfortable, but it indeed makes a difference. If you have any at home, don’t hesitate to bring them along.
If it fits your budget, will you be visiting other Nordic countries in the winter or just staying for a longer time in Finland? Buy a few new items for your winter wardrobe! Don’t get cold during your vacation. Wool is a basic choice for us during our everyday life here in Rovaniemi too.
Sport (and I mean skiing) clothing is also a good option. Don’t be shy wearing your downhill skiing pants and jacket in the city – Finns do as well if they plan to stay outside for a longer time and it is around -10°C or colder. I have purple and black as well. Should I get a pink one too? Hard to resist!
Socks and boots for winter
You may have the warmest jacket and trousers, but you will constantly feel cold if you don’t wear proper caps, gloves, socks, and shoes. You can easily get cold from your limbs and head, so make sure they are not cold.
Important to get warm boots. Mines are a size bigger, so I can wear thick socks in them. Actually, two pairs, one of the woolen, one is normal, so my feet won’t be itching from the wool. You can see Finns doing the same. Merino wool socks are the best. Do you need a pair?
Gloves and mittens
Mittens. I started with simple skiing gloves, but during my first field trip in -28°C in January, they turned out to be insufficient to wear them longer than 10 minutes if I can’t keep my hands in my pockets. They should do in warmer weather, but they are not to best if you plan to grab something. I have tried several combinations of millions of gloves and mittens. The one that worked best for me is to have thinner, tightly fitting gloves (in my case, leather gloves with fur inside), and then I can pull a bigger mitten on them.
This way, if I needed to open the lock on my bikes, get a tissue out from my pocket, or check my phone, I could do it in the gloves and don’t need to expose my hand to the freezing temperatures.
Scarves and balaclava
Scarves are practical, as you can hide the rest of your face from the wind easily. If you do winter sports or ride a snowmobile, then a balaclava will be your best friend.
Hats, caps, and ushanka
Probably you already suspect my suggestion: wear two of them. I think the inner cap and a warm-fury one on the top can give you a hot feeling. I prefer the ones that can cover my face too. On windy days it makes a lot of difference. The Russian originated ushanka is also a popular choice. There are such cute ones. Like these! But you can be less fashionable and more practical as well.
For longer exposure to the cold, I recommend you buying a winter face cream. It protects your skin from frost and damages (at least a bit better) than just simply going outside. I always use them when we go cross-country skiing, and I just wear a smaller cap.