How to Dress for Finnish winter

(c) Jussi Hellsten. 10.12.2013. The Icepark is open again right next to the main railway station. jussihellsten.com & visithelsinki.fi

(c) Jussi Hellsten

Finland has long winters, with the polar night (where the sun doesn’t rise) lasting for two months in the far north.

Helsinki however enjoys a milder climate with around five hours of sunlight a day. While emperatures can get as low as -26° celcius, many people prefer sub zero temperatures as the air is drier and more snow means more light.

It’s important to know how to dress well in winter as life very much continues and you may find you love being outdoors.

Suitable clothing is readily available in Finnish stores and staff are generally happy to help. You will find stores update their stock according to the conditions, meaning you don’t have to overspend before knowing how cold the winter will be.

Headwear

A good hat is essential, especially on a windy day. Real wool is best and many hats come with a soft inner. Ears can get painfully cold, so make sure your hat comes down low enough to protect them.

Other options include hats with ear flaps, ear muffs or warm head bands.

For children, a soft balaclava or neck warmer (not scarf) is essential as Finnish daycares play outside until the temperature drops below -15°.

Hands

When it’s really cold many people wear two pairs of gloves. An inner pair made of wool is handy, especially if you can use them with a touch screen / phone.

The outer pair should be wind and waterproof and if you have gloves underneath you may find mittens easier to pull on.

(c) Melanie Dower

(c) Melanie Dower

Feet

Warm socks are essential and when it gets really cold you will probably wear two pairs, the second being wool.

Take this into account when buying shoes or boots as you will need more room to fit them in. If the winter is mild you’ll find the snow melts, only to refreeze overnight. This can create long stretches of ice which are difficult and dangerous to walk on. The City of Helsinki will lay gravel down to help stop sliding, but this is the time to invest in a pair of footwear with good grip. If the weather is really cold, the snow stays dry, as anything below zero degree freezes.

Body

It’s good to remember that houses, stores, restaurants, public transport and workplaces in Finland are generally well insulated and heated. So you really only need to dress for getting from here to there. Layers are important and thermals are a good place to start. You can find 100% woollen underwear at reasonable prices in many department stores. Invest in a good jacket that is water and windproof and has a hood. One that comes down to cover the top of your legs is a good idea as your backside can feel quite exposed to the cold air.

Most of all, don’t be afraid to get outdoors as life carries on in Finland during winter and there are loads of activities to get involved with.

As Finnish people say, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!”

Helpful websites:

How to Dress Right & Enjoy the Finnish Winter – Visit Finland

How to Dress a Child for Finnish Winter – Hey Helsinki

How to Walk on Ice without Dying – Hey Helsinki 

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