Surviving Siberia – all limbs still intact?
Packing clothes for somewhere you’ve never been before is always a bit of a tricky endeavour, especially if you’re heading on a trip through varied climates. Before setting off, you may have no idea whether, once you’ve reached your destination, you’ll be too warm, to cold or look like a bit of a tool dressed in your bright pink spandex tech windbreaker whilst surrounded by sensible locals clad in bearskin fur coats.
But before you go off and spend lots of money on a stylish mink and matching rabbit hat (prices are around 700% inflated in Russian winter!), see how we fared with our UK bought outfits and Russian essential additions for minus teen winter fun.
Coats are obviously a very important part of your kit, and Nicola has been very happy with her Rab Neutrino Plus down coat, whilst Saxon has been keeping warm in his urban style snowboard jacket. For a full lowdown on the selection process, check out our previous post.
But just like a good break beat track, the best coat is nothing without base layers. Outdoor outfitters will happily tell you all about their latest hit technological breakthrough, but quite honestly, we preferred it simple and raided Japan’s answer to “we only have that t-shirt in brown and size 14”: the mighty Uniqlo.
Uniqlo’s heat tech range is surprisingly light, super comfortable and effective at a) keeping you warm and b) stopping you from smelling bad after 4 days without a shower. Leggings, socks, tank tops, and long sleeved t-shirts (some with micro fleece lining) were already essential wearing around London. But pair these with a micro light down body warmer or undercoat (don’t be fooled by their apparent flimsiness, we’ve been thanking the universe every day for their existence) and you’ve got some really solid insulation going on that would even make a nerpa sit up and take notice.
Uniqlo was also the provider of Saxon’s fur lined hoodie (ooooh!) and Nicola’s fleece lined gym trousers (aaah!), and we have both been boring our fellow travellers with how much we love them. Nicola’s famed Blue Ninja fleece (with added ears) came from H&M’s sportswear section when she went sailing – beat the system, life-saving hoodie for £20.
Now you’re all cosy up top (don’t worry, fashionistas, there’s going to be a whole separate accessories section below), we have found our soft shell, fleece lined, plain snowboard trousers from Mountain Warehouse very good for the reasons that a) we didn’t look like idiots on the way to St Anton whilst walking around Moscow and b) we could easily slip into and out of them on the Trans-Siberian, when we switched from tropical heat inside the train to -26 degrees outside when stretching our legs and shock freezing the insides of our noses during 10 minute stops.
Decent footwear is essential, and (in this rare occasion), don’t be seduced by furry bits, especially if it’s only trim. Nicola’s North Face Snow Drift Hiking Boots have kept her feet as warm as can be (although due to bad genes she still gets toe freeze after a few hours standing around trying to make the tripod do what it’s supposed to), whilst Saxon’s fake Estonian Timberlands have been amazing (to purchase a pair, just look for the dodgy shop to the left of Tallinn’s old town south exit and ask for Olev. Bring a bottle of vodka).
If you want to go crazy arctic, Smartwool extra heavy crew socks are your thing and will give you the sensation of putting your feet into a towel. Alternatively, if you’re in wetter climates, a UK-Russian family run company called KeepTex do pretty awesome waterproof socks (amongst other gear). If you can’t read their website, send them an email in English – they are lovely.
Yes, dear stylish friends, we have finally arrived at accessories, the cherry on the cake of your winter wardrobe. Hurrah! Before we start, we would like to point out that due to the Trans-Siberian’s love of over-heating the carriages, we found our bikinis and board shorts most useful. Oh, the irony. Now back to the expected stuff.
Whilst you’ll probably have a couple of changes of underclothes, accessories are close to your skin but you’ll wear the same things all the time, so make sure they are warm and comfortable.
First off, get some gloves. And take them with you when you leave the hotel room (Saxon!). A pair of fingerless ones and a pair of fleece ones (thanks for ‘lending’ them to Nicola, cousin Charlie!) that are big enough to fit over the fingerless ones (and small enough to fit into the thumb loops of your H&M sports hoodie!) and you’ll be the most prepared and able photographer on the planet, switching around settings and tapping touch screens without losing your extremities to frostbite.
Hats wise, you’ll need something that covers your ears, so whether it’s a badger face nit job from Primani, a Moscow flea market bought rabbit skin extravaganza or one of KeepTex’s super-cool waterproof beanies is entirely up to you. Don’t leave it in your hotel room. (Saxon.)
Finally, you’ll most definitely need a good scarf. Much like the hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy’s towel, the scarf is a multi purpose must have item of Siberian clothing with Topshop currently stocking some awesomely coloured fluffy wonders and retailers and street stalls around the world catering for the less (or even more) garishly minded.
Or you could always wear a towel.
And thus, we come to the end of our first hand account of clothes for surviving Siberia. Remember, shopping around will save you money – we got our biggest buys at less (sometimes half!) shop price just by comparing providers, for example these guys, whilst not the cheapest, were pretty awesome with their customer service. And do let us know in the comments below if you have found other items of clothing essential for your travels. We’d love to hear from you!