The Sun is back, but “King Winter” is not about to loosen his grip on Norway just yet. This February has been one of the coldest in decades, so I thought this is a good time to share some personal experience on how to deal with the cold weather when you venture outside.
The obvious thing to do when it’s cold outside is to put plenty of warm clothes on. However, it’s a bad idea to just throw on layer after layer of thick shirts and jackets – too much clothing will hug your body too much, weigh you down and end up making you cold. What the body needs to stay warm is simple: air. A pocket of stationary air around your body will minimise heat loss, allow blood flow and give room for moisture to evaporate. The most important thing is to stay dry! Wear underwear that will transport moisture away from your skin (wool is excellent; cotton – not so good!), then add a layer of loose-fitting garments to create the air pocket. Complete your look with a coat and bottoms to stop the wind. Under most conditions, this is all you need.
Head and Toes
Too often I see people walking around with thick coats, gloves, scarves, boots – and nothing on their heads. Since the brain is in constant need of blood, your head contributes to a substantial amount of heat loss. If you walk outside in the cold and you start getting a headache, it’s probably a sign of “brainfreeze”. So wear a hat – you can always take it off if it gets too warm.
Many people try to stop the cold wind in their face by covering their mouth and nose with a scarf or a balaklava. This makes sense if you are snowmobiling or downhill skiing, but it’s not a good idea if you are doing heavy activity like running or shoveling snow. The dampness in your breath will condensate on the scarf and freeze, eventually forming an ice shield around your mouth and give you chapped lips or even frostburn. Keep your face bare and use a cold cream instead (these can be bought at pharmacies and many supermarkets).
Finally, if your toes are warm and dry it’s good news for the rest of you. There is plenty of hi-tech footwear available, but I find that a pair of good sturdy leather boots and one pair of thick woolen socks is all you need in most cases. It’s also good to get a pair of woolen insoles. These normally have cardboard or leather on one side – that side should face up! This way the insole will create an air-filled space between your foot and the cold ground rather than just hugging your feet and going flat.
Doing all these things will obviously make you nice and toasty if you are doing any physical activity. But it’s better to put on too much than too little – you can always unzip your jacket or loosen your scarf for ventilation once you are warm. Personally, I rarely wear gloves even when it’s -15 degrees outside – all the excess heat will literally slip through my fingers.
And if all else fails: a good cup of hot chocolate in front of the fireplace is my favourite plan B!