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The Lowdown: Winter clothing

Jennifer Heape · 14 Nov 2008, 11:39

Published: 14 Nov 2008 11:39 GMT+01:00

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Whether you are about to face your first Swedish winter, are a snow sports enthusiast, or just looking to update your thermal wardrobe, The Local has sifted through the jargon to bring you a basic guide to staying toasty as the freeze sets in.


The most vital element to coping with cold weather is to master the art of layering. By layering clothes, you trap warm air within the material, keeping you well insulated against winter chills.

There are three basic rules to layering your clothing, and the principles are the same whether you are storming down the slopes skiing or just popping out for some milk.

First of all: 'wicking'. The wicking layer is worn next to the skin and functions to wick (or drain) away moisture from the body. This is important, as moisture that remains within the clothes you are wearing can decrease your thermal insulation by up to 50 per cent.

Basically, for the wicking layer, we are talking about thermal underwear. It might not be the sexiest addition to your wardrobe, but when that Baltic wind comes tearing through the country you'll be singing its praises.

A common mistake is to only wear a thermal top and to leave your legs with only a pair of trousers. Long-johns or leggings are essential when it gets truly cold.

Tights can also be worn, but they can get a bit uncomfortable after a long day worn under tight trousers and you'll need to opt for a high denier.

Jeans are surprising cold, so thermal trousers are a must underneath. Also, never wear jeans if there is any possibility of them getting wet - they take ages to dry and will even freeze on you if it's cold enough.

Another fabric to avoid is cotton. The fabric is a big no-no as a wicking layer, as it retains rather than draws away moisture, leaving you cold, wet, and - most likely - miserable.

Second: the insulating layer. Quite simply, the point here is to keep heat in and the cold out, which is done by trapping warm air between fibres. Some good fabrics for this are fleece, a synthetic material which insulates even when wet and dries quickly; wool, which naturally wicks away moisture; silk and down feathers.

Finally: the protective outer layer. In snow sports terminology, this is often called the 'outer shell'. This layer should protect against the elements, resisting water, snow and wind, while allowing perspiration to evaporate.

For your outer jacket, check functionality such as hoods, zippers and pockets: these small extras really do help. Depending on what you prefer, you can either opt for a large insulated coat or a lightweight waterproof shell, which can be combined with an insulating inner jacket for when it is particularly cold.

Heads and hands

Proper head wear is key as up to 60 per cent of body heat is lost through the head if left uncovered. As for style or type, that really depends on personal preference, although it's always recommended to keep your ears warm by donning either a low hat or ear-muffs.

If out in the snow, sunglasses must be worn as the sun's rays are very strong when reflected off the snow's surface. Make sure that your shades have 100 percent UV protection. If you are planning on being out for a while, it is prudent to wear sun cream.

For hands, in general mittens tend to be warmer than gloves, but do restrict your ability to do anything other than a very convincing lobster impression. Waterproofing is always a good idea, especially for building snowmen and snowball fights. Adjustable wrists help keep out chilly draughts.

Story continues below…


For winter sports, one pair of light or medium-weight socks is enough, while technical support socks are absolutely worth the extra expense for skiing or snowboarding.

Make sure you don't make the mistake of wearing several pairs of socks, as while two pairs might be helpful, too many will restrict your circulation and actually make your feet colder.

The Local gets out and about in Stockholm to find out what city folk are wearing as the winter draws in: Photo gallery.

Related links:

Jennifer Heape (jennifer.heape@thelocal.se)

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