Especially if you come from a warm country, dressing for a Russian winter can be a daunting prospect. Without experience of very low temperatures, it is really hard to know what clothes will serve you best. In this post, I will try and offer some helpful advice for dressing well for the bitterly cold Russian winters.
The cornerstone of any good winter wardrobe will be your winter coat. There are countless designs for winter coats, but there are a few features you should be looking out for. First of all, the jacket should be long, coming down below your belt line. This is going to help keep everything toasty and warm! Next, you should ideally have a hood. Even with the addition of a hat, without a hood on your jacket your face and ears can get really cold. A lot of cheaper jackets use synthetic materials and they can be perfectly fine. However, if you are looking for the best, you cant go far past down jackets.
You Gotta Have a Hat!
Now as you will see for yourself, some Russians will disagree with this rule, but I see a hat as essential. A nice woolly hat will keep your ears warm and stop a lot of heat escaping from the to of your head.
Your winter boots will be one of the most important things you buy to prepare for winter in Russia. You need to find some boots that are warm – preferably wool lined – and with good ‘grippy’ soles to stop you tumbling over in the snow and ice. A lot of people in Moscow go for well known brands such as Timberland. One thing not to cheap out on is your boots.
Some people go for thermals and some do not. The heating inside buildings in Russia is epic and if you will just be moving from heated building to heated building, then wearing thermals is going to be overkill and result in you feeling very uncomfortable. However, if you are planning to spend an extended amount of time outside, thermal underwear is a great way to keep that creeping chill out.
Scarves and Gloves
Gloves are definitely a must, while scarves are only necessary if you are going to be outside for longer periods of time. Especially if it is windy, a scarf is useful for pulling up over your face to stop your nose freezing off!
To Layer or not to Layer?
Almost all advice online about dressing for a Russian winter mentions using layers. The idea being to have a shirt, a sweater and a jacket on, trapping heat in with each layer. Before I came to Moscow, I thought I would be layered up like the Michelin Man. The reality is that most of the time, layering heavily is just not necessary. As I mentioned above, all of the buildings in Russia are very well heated.
So if you are spending most of your time indoors, layers become a headache more than a solution. I personally prefer to wear a very good outer layer, which is taken off when indoors.
Most importantly, wear what is comfortable for you. As you wander around the winter streets of Moscow, you will see a whole range of fashions and outfits and you may start to feel inadequate. However, the most important thing is to keep warm and then tweak your winter wardrobe bit by bit as you learn how your body copes with extreme winter temperatures.