Dress me for winter in Scandinavia

After a years-long battle I have finally agreed to spend Xmas with my husband’s family in Denmark. I was born in the Caribbean and have, so far, avoided visiting any countries during cold weather. My coldest yet was Denmark and Northern Italy in early November. We also went to Philly in early December in what weather people called an unseasonably-warm period.

So anyways. I own a quilted jacket with hood. My boots broke because of years of non-use, so I threw them away. I own a couple of sweaters and that’s it. I need to buy enough clothes for a month, it can’t be too much because there is little chance I will get to use them again in years. It can’t be too expensive for the same reason. Bear in mind that the temperature in Sweden (which we’ll also visit) can get well below zero.

So… what should I buy? Where? (Has to be online).

Having absolutely no clue about female clothing, I’ll just mention what I usually wear in the winter here in Denmark.

Pretty much the same as in summer, except long pants, a coat and gloves.
I will probably wear something like this most of the time when outside: sneakers, jeans, t-shirt and a long coat over it all. Of cause I’m a pretty simple dresser.

December isn’t usually that cold in Denmark, perhaps around 0c +/- a few degrees. Depending on where in Sweden you’ll be visiting, it can get much much colder than that.

I would echo this. The west coast of Sweden is washed by the gulf stream, and is much warmer than the other parts of the country. I have been to Gothenburg in December and it never got below -2C. Further north or east is a different story.
I wore pretty much the same clothes in Sweden that I wear in LA, just a bit more of them.

Yup, what svrider said. Denmark can be windy, but very rarely gets down to Arctic-chill temperatures. In Sweden, well, there’s a world of difference between Malmö and Luleå. Whereabouts will you be?

I am a preschool teaching assistant so I spend a couple hours outdoors most workdays, regardless of the weather. (If it gets down to -10C we keep the little heathens indoors, but this is a rare event in Greater Oslo.) My work clothes look like this:[ul][li]long woolen underwear and wool socks - I like the Ulvang brand if you can find those[]whatever I intend to wear indoors, usually jeans and a turtleneck or similar[]a fleece pullover[]wind-proof overalls and an anorak, or sometimes the quilted coveralls the job provides, though I prefer a two-piece[]hat, gloves, and if necessary a scarf[/ul]If you will be spending time in cities, and not playing in the snow, this is more than you will need. You can certainly drop the woolen undies in Denmark and probably in Sweden, assuming you’re just going for short walks in the city. The overalls and fleece pullover are also going to be, well, overkill, and you can certainly swap that anorak for a more stylish winter jacket or coat. A woolen peacoat, for example, is both warm and classic.[/li]
One big warning: wet cotton is nobody’s friend in winter weather. It stops insulating altogether, and it holds the moisture against your skin where it will just make you feel worse. Wool is still the superior fabric in cold, wet weather; synthetics like polyester also do a good job. Also, wool can be hung up to air and worn again, unlike cotton, so don’t think you need to have a new set of woolen undies for each day.

Hope that helps!

No advice but just wanted to say, I hope you have a great time. :slight_smile:

I’ll second the comment that wool is your friend. If you can afford it, get wool or fleece garments and make sure that your topmost layer is not going to “let in” the wind. (No wandering around with knitted stuff as your topmost outerwear! You’ll regret it if the wind picks up.) Make sure that your socks are nice and warm (wool or a wool-synthetic blend are best), and that you’ve got good shoes for walking about in a potentially snowy area that’ll protect your feet from slush. Also, make sure that you’ve got a good pair of gloves that’ll keep your hands warm. I prefer wool-lined suede or leather when I’m traveling someplace cold. Also, you might want to see if you’ve got any hats or scarves in your collection; a warm head and neck can make a big difference between “kinda cold” and “toasty warm”.

If you’re still used to tropical climate weather, you’re probably going to have to do a little bit of compensating for not being used to the cold by both clothing and warm food and drinks. In a pinch, when you’re just a wee bit chilly in your clothes and you’re not going to be out for hours, a cup of hot tea will warm you up for a little while.

These hardy types who think that 0 Celcius is not cold are to be firmly ignored. I am a delicate hothouse flower who immigrated to the Netherlands (and I now think that 0 Celcius isn’t cold, but I remember when I thought it was) so let me give you the benefit of my first winter in Northern Europe.

Leave your wide pants and wide sleeves at home, they only let the wind in. You want to wear nothing wider than jeans or khakis. Both jeans and khakis are fine, you wear them with nylons under them or (if you have tactile issues) knit stockings or long underwear. But nylons are as warm as the other options when worn under pants and are also cheaper.

The best socks are (believe this or not) those cheap ass socks you get for free on an airplane, assuming again that you have no tactile issues – that poly blend can put a rash on Dearly Beloved at a hundred paces. If you can’t get those, then get any synthetic blend with cotton or wool. Also, get some of those wool/felt shoe liners, cold feet are the Worst Thing Ever, unless it is sore, cold feet.

Get shoes that come up over your ankle. They don’t have to be padded and they don’t have to be snow boots but they do have to come up over your ankle. And at least here it is good if they are waterproof because it rains a lot in winter. Favorite is leather ankle boots treated with WD 40 to make them waterproof (and softer as a bonus!).

Wear camisoles or undershirts, not those worthless satin ones but knit cotton or if you can find it jersey knit silk. Then over that a long sleeved cotton shirt, over that a knit or quilted or fleece vest, or a blazer, then a coat. Whatever coat you have. I get the most use out of a ski jacket with two layers, but I also have a fuill length coat which is less practical but more attractive.

Heavy sweaters rarely come into play, a light wool sweater with a cotton shirt under it is much more useful – the cotton insulates and the wool keeps the wind out.

You must have a hat and gloves and a scarf. I never saw the point of scarves either until I moved. Believe me, a scarf is a mandatory item and you will freeze your ass off without it. Don’t get a narrow tube like thing; a wide pashmina shawl will serve you better than a 4"wide knitted thing with stripes.

Thanks for the wonderful advice, please keep them coming.

I would like to remind you that my coldest ever was 5 C, I didn’t like it. And I hate the cold rain and wind that comes with it.

This is our itinerary:

Amsterdam: One day.
Denmark: 3+ weeks
Sweden (hubby and child will be skiing, I will be hugging the chimney. Not sure where we’ll go yet.): 1 week.

Heh - that was going to be my post. “It only gets down to 0ºC? That’s still t-shirt weather here!” :smiley:

Layers. Lots of loose layers. You’re going to want turtlenecks because nothing gets you colder faster than having a cold wind blowing down your neck. I wear turtlenecks from October to April. A proper, long knitted scarf- keeps your neck warm, and you can use it over your face when your face starts to freeze. Mittens, not gloves - gloves don’t keep your fingers as warm. If your hands are still getting too cold, layer one set of mittens inside the other.
I don’t bother with a toque in 0ºC, but you will probably want one - you lose most of your warmth out of your head. The knitted hat here is a toque.

DON’T GET WET. Water is the enemy when you’re outside in cold weather. If you get snow or moisture on you, brush it off immediately before it soaks in.

You might want to not buy your boots and parka (is your quilted jacket a parka? You need a parka) until you get there - you’d get a better parka at a better price in Denmark than in the Caribbean, I would imagine. Get a longer parka, too - they offer very short, sporty ones, but you’ll be warmer in a longer one, with your butt covered.

You should dress for cold wet and windy.
Cold feet, cold hands and cold head is the worst so a pair of waterproof boots a number to large so you can wear two pairs of socks (one pair cotton closest to skin, one pair wool over that):
and some sort of headwear that covers your ears:
And dont forget your mitts. you will freeze your hands if its below 5 and windy.
something reasonably waterproof is good wet hands freeze fast.

think layers.
the baselayer - close to the body something that will transport moisture away a tshirt or similar reasonably tight
one or several middle layers - insulation and warmth, wool, fleece ie something loose that traps air. etc. vary number of layers as needed.
outer (or shell) layer. wind and water resistant. windbreaker layer.

a large scarf to cover your face if it blows.

What the others said about getting a parka, a scarf, mitts, boots, and layers.

Layers are important: if you are exerting yourself outside (such as skiing or doing physical labour, and snow shoveling counts as physical labour), you will need to thin down your clothing while you exert. You can’t do that with one thick coat over a T-shirt.

I’ll add that you must be careful about what boots you get. They need to be waterproof and roomy to accommodate thick woollen oversocks, and they need to be not slippery on ice and snow.

I had a pair of wonderful Italian hiking boots that fit my feet like a dream. I wore them from BC to the Baltic. They had only one major fault: their sloes were slippery as hell on snow and ice. Bad Idea. I almost fell into a river because of them.

Here’s an example of winter footwear: Sorel. This kind of boot is standard winter wear once you get outside the cities.

For reference, southern Sweden is climatically similar to Southern Ontario and Toronto; and central Sweden is climatically similar to areas in Central Ontario and Southern Quebec, such as Ottawa and Montreal.

In Toronto you see people wearing quite light jackets and light shoes in temperatures down to about -5C or so, with just a hat and mitts or gloves. But they’re pushing the edge. That only works in the city, where you can be assured of stepping from heated building to heated vehicle to heated building, and not being outside for more than about 15 minutes. And if there is any sort of cold rain or strong wind, it rapidly becomes inadequate.

I dress up in sweater, parka, Sorel boots, mitts, toque, and scarf over my regular clothes to wait for the bus in the coldest months.

Never been to Scandinavia, but I have been skiing in Colorado:

Those really thin synthetic thermal long underwear things are awesome! Not only are they not bulky, but I felt significantly warmer the time I wore them than on other trips with a different style. So if you’re skiing or hiking, I would definitely recommend those. Plus you feel like an F1 driver. :stuck_out_tongue:

Vox Imperatoris

All of this advice is good. I can remember being scolded for going out with high boots on under my dress, but nothing covering the skin above my knees. I did not know what cold was until I went to Denmark at Christmas.

I envy you! It’s a wonderful time of year to be there! I’m not sure if this is spelled right, but Gaelig Jule!

Oh, I wouldn’t argue that 0C isn’t cold, just that it’s an entirely different thing from, say, -20C. After all, the freezing point is just as far away from +20C as it is from -20C, and +20 is widely considered a standard room temperature.

Or, to put it another way, you’ve got more to worry about at -20C than at 0C. When you leave your comfortable +20 indoor environment for a 0C outdoor environment, you’ve got to think about staying warm and dry, and blocking the wind. But if you’re leaving your comfortably +20 indoor environment for a -20 outdoor environment, you’ve got to think about all that, plus the possibility of frostbite, plus how you’re going to preserve your will to live.

It’s just a whole different way of thinking.

Silk long johns (available by mail order from L.L. Bean and others) are my favorites: very light, effective but not too effective, and feel great on the skin.

Footwear that’s too tight will be counterproductive by limiting circulation. Thin socks and some wiggle room is warmer than thick socks that squeeze the feet. Of course, thicker socks or two pair of thin socks, with wiggle room, is best.

A hat can make a huge difference.

My advice for Mighty_Girl is based on someone who will feel 0ºC like cold country dwellers feel -20ºC. I actually do run around outside in a t-shirt in 0º weather - I know how long I can stay out like that, and cold really doesn’t bother me. Mighty_Girl isn’t used to the cold, and she doesn’t like it - she needs much more protection than a Canadian or a Dane would need at those temperatures. Well, our skin all starts freezing at the same point, but someone used to cold knows the difference between a little chilly and frostbite. I get the impression from Mighty_Girl that she just wants to stay warm! :slight_smile:

My favorite, too. Check out Sierra Trading Post for good prices.

Speaking of keeping warm, **glögg **is an important element of keeping warm through the Scandinavian winter. It’s mulled wine. We get it whenever and wherever we can.

what a coincidence! Those brown boots are the ones I ordered (from another vendor).