More of a guide for our 10 stalwart polar bears going on this trip, this will hopefully stay as a useful reminder for future trips that there’s no such thing as cold weather, only not enough clothes.
Starting with the footwear, I’m packing a pair of Sorel Conquest Mid OutDry Boots that not only are as light as sneakers but can keep your feet toasty in temperatures as low as -40ºF. Just make sure you go one size above your normal; remember, air is an insulator and when you make boots too tight your feet will ironically get colder when you cut off your circulation.
With the boots, wear a pair of Merino Wool socks for a good balance of breathability, warmth, and its ability to wick away moisture/sweat to keep your feet dry and comfortable in insulated conditions. Any fluid on your skin will decrease insulation so you’d want materials that will minimize buildup as you’re walking around all day.
Going higher up, including your underwear (sorry not going to post photos of my fruit of the looms…and with that said, go for boxers — your sensitive areas need to breathe!), start with thermal mid-weight synthetic underpants to keep the heat in.
Afterwards, ditch the skinny jeans and the fashion statement: ontop of your thermals breathe easy with a comfortable mid-layer pants (such as pair of sweatpants, jeans, or a pair of Uniqlo Heattech pants) that’s on the baggier side, and overlay it with a pair of waterproof pants for the snow, rain and ice (such as a pair of ski pants in my case).
Going up higher, I’m going all out on the layers (because it’s always layers layers layers!): you’ll need to start with a sturdy base layer — and in my case I’m going for the Merino Wool/Smartwool thermal.
Then you can follow with the most variable layer: choose any shirt (if you’re on the colder side, go for a synthetic thermal) to go over your baselayer.
Over that, start your outerwear with a light fleece as those are excellent in their versatility and keeping the insulation intact even when they get wet.
Afterwards, wear a thin, easily packable thin down jacket (such as the LL Bean Ultralight 850 Down) to ward off the extreme ends of cold.
Then finally you can skip the insulation this time and top it off with an outer shell to combat wind chills and other elements such as snow, rain and ice. They can be a ridiculously top-of-the-line expensive Canada Goose or you can do what I did and dig up an old Weatherproof 3-in-1 Systems Jacket that hopefully still has its staying power.
Finally, to round it off at the head and limbs, don’t forget your Carthatt Beanie to cover those pesky ears (and head!), a Balaclava and/or scarf for the nose and mouth, gloves (I go for a pair of thin liner gloves followed by the Freehands Men’s Stretch Thinsulate Gloves where you can tip the fingertips off to take photos), and strategically placed HotHands Superwarmers.
As for the long train rides on the Trans-Siberian, I’m also adding the following do-not-forget items:
1. A spork (to eat)
2. Toilet Paper (to poo)
3. Portable Shower wipes (to stay sane)
4. Thermos (to keep hot liquids nearby)
5. Sunglasses (FYI light reflecting off snow is just as bad as staring straight at the sun)
6, Comfortable, light, thin scrub pants (to relax in)
7. Flip flops/slip-ons/crocs
8. Eye mask, ear plugs/headphones
9. Tablet/Phone with a good collection of…
- photos (to share with locals and other passengers)
10. Portable charger
11. Russian phasebook
12. A pack of cards
13. Instant noodles, oatmeal, coffee, and tea bags
14. Petty cash (to buy russian snacks!)
15, A camera (to remember the crazy thing you did last winter)