Winter is the season many dread, and with temperatures in Finnish winter ranging anywhere between 0 and -30°C it’s good to be prepared. With winter here, it’s time to make sure that you’re ready for the cold season! Winters have changed a lot and temperatures vary quite a bit around Finland. Assess what you have and adjust accordingly – if this is your first winter in Finland, it doesn’t mean you have to spend hundreds of Euros on new winter gear. Although I do recommend investing in the key pieces. The right coat and shoes are essential and you shouldn’t go for bad quality there.
Material Choice: First things first – the material choice in the cold is essential. Here’s what to look out for:
- wool or merino wool
- cashmere or mohair
- Bamboo, silk, tencel, viscose and even linen – work also well in combination or mixed with the above
- I don’t recommend most synthetic fibres for many reasons: they don’t insulate, are not as durable and are not an environmentally friendly choice as they are often treated with toxic chemicals. So, avoid polyester, polyamide, acrylic, nylon.
- Winter is not the time for cotton. Cotton retains moisture and that will make you feel colder. In the North, they say “cotton kills”.
Layers are everything: The key to staying warm, is always layering. Thinner layers keep you warm and well insulated from the cold. I personally prefer a mid-weight knit with a silk vest top underneath, or vice-versa, a silk top with cashmere or merino on top. Again the reminder: no cotton should touch your skin when it is really cold. A set of thin woollen base layers is essential, merino is the best. For good quality and fair production, look out for mulesing-free products.
- Thin merino tights or long johns under jeans if the temperature drops under -10. Above that, you’re usually okay, unless you spend a long time outdoors.
- The Heattec line from Uniqlo is very popular, their ultra-warm underlayers are great in deep winter temperatures.
My faves for merino woollen items and base layers: Pierre Robert, Uniqlo, Muji, Scandinavian Outdoor store. Large supermarkets also have merino tights or base layers available, check Prisma, for example.
Makia Vuono Coat
The Right Coat: You will need a proper winter coat. If you stay in Southern Finland, I recommend a mid-heavyweight coat, which should get you through the worst of winter here, and I suggest going up a size so you can layer accordingly, which should also be sufficient for a trip up North or when temperatures drop significantly.
- A good winter coat is an investment, and it’s worth your while and a total game-changer. Invest in a good brand and good materials, once you’re no longer cold, winter is actually not bad.
- Don’t buy a coat that is too tight, both for the said layering, but also the air that is between you and the coat is what actually keeps you nice and toasty. If the coat is too tight, it’s counterproductive.
- I recommend a woollen coat for the “warmer” days, and a thick puffy down (or synthetic down) jacket or parka for the colder times. That’s a foolproof combination.
- For outdoor sport or activities, I recommend a puffer jacket as well – not a coat. For things like cross-country skiing, ice-skating or snowshoeing, it’s important to have full freedom of movement for your legs. A down puffer jacket will keep you warm enough, but also keep you well insulated and not too hot if you work out in some form.
Some great Finnish brands to check out for winter wear: Halti, Luhta, R-Collection, Makia (their Raglan Parka is famous and available for men and women). If you find a model you like, it’s always worth checking out second hand options as well.
Socks: Thin woolly socks are the best in wintertime. They keep your feet dry and warm, and they are super comfy as well. Thick woollen socks are also important, especially for outdoor activities. Look for a thin wool-blend or 100% merino. Here also layering is important; two thin pairs of socks insulate better than one thick pair, and is less likely to affect the fit of your shoe.
Shoes: Sturdy, waterproof shoes with a good profile are essential for the winter. For city life in Helsinki, you most likely don’t need heavyweight winter boots at all times, although they are really good to have in Finland for sure, and it will give you all the options you need. Make sure that the sole is the proper material.
Snow grip rubber shoe covers: These are really just for heavy-duty scenarios when it is extremely icy – these can save your butt (literally). These pull-over rubber stud straps function basically like studded tired for your feet. Just be careful not to ever use them inside.
Recommended brands: Sorel (they are also pretty nice looking and not too bulky), Merrell, Lowa, Icebug.
DO NOT BUY: Timberlands, UGG boots or Doc Martens. Their soles are not made for real winters, even though they look like it. The sole material will turn the ground even more slippery. Trust me.
My must-haves: In the last two winters, I got on well with leather ankle boots with a thick sturdy sole (purchased a size larger so they would fit woolly socks). I have heavy-duty Sorel boots for the snowy cold days.
Shoe snow grip
Sunscreen: Yes, even when it’s winter, and when you stay indoors – you need to wear sun protection. SPF 20 at least – the sun here is strong and if it’s white from snow, the sunlight is reflected and intensified. UV rays are dangerous all year round, and they don’t care about the temperature.
Oil- or wax-based: when it’s really cold, make sure you opt for a lotion or creme that is not water-based – moisture in lotions can freeze on your skin and crack it. This makes everything worse. When the temperatures drop below 0°C, this is very important to keep your skin healthy. The easiest way: use a bit of a light face oil before everything else – don’t be afraid that it gets greasy, your skin will absorb it and it’s an extra layer of protection.
Exfoliate: in the winters your skin will be very dry and might become flaky – this can be avoided by using the right products, but it helps a lot to exfoliate regularly. It also helps any product you’re using to actually be absorbed into the skin, and not just sit on it.
Lips: Dry and cracked lips are the worst thing in life for me, and you’ll find at least one lip balm (but usually closer to 5) in every single purse, backpack or pocket. Especially in the dry cold weather, your lips are probably the first to suffer and it can be really painful. Carmex is my go-to lip product, but I like Burt’s Bees and the Weleda options as well.
Hands: Hand lotion is absolutely essential in the winter! I always lather my hands with something really thick and rich in the evenings, sometimes thin cotton gloves can help it to absorb and keep your hands smooth and soft. Great on the couch with Netflix and some tea 🙂 I also keep a small tube of hand lotion in my purse at all times.
My must-haves: The Weleda Skin Food series was an absolute lifesaver last winter. Both the original thick lotion for hands and sore skin, the light version for my face and the lip balm. The 8-hour creme (unscented) by Elizabeth Arden is a trusted all-rounder for anything. The Lumene face oil has been my favourite product for many years. Also the Avène Cold Creme that is wax-based is a great deep-winter product.
Avène Cold Cream
Carmex lip balm
Weleda Skin Food
Lumene Face Oil
Hat & headwear: A woolly hat is a must! Ideally something thick or fleece-lined, to protect you from wind as well. Lightweight merino beanies are great for autumn and early winter days, something bulky and fun, and/or fleece-lined for the cold days are important to have as well.
Hands & Gloves: For autumn and transition days, good leather gloves are great also when it’s windy. In the depths of winter, I recommend thin woollen gloves as a base and then big fluffy mittens.
Scarf: I alternate between my lightweight merino buff and thick woollen scarves. Depending on the temperature, the activity and your need, either of those can be great on a winter day.
Myssy Muffi beanie
- Always protect hands and ears
- Use a face oil to protect your skin
- Thin merino layers are key to staying warm without looking bulky
- Stay away from synthetic fibres and cotton
- Make sure your shoes have a good grip
- Invest in a good coat that is warm but leaves space to layer
- SPF every day