It’s less than two weeks until we go to Lapland and my bedroom floor is filled with piles of clothes.
Clothes can make or break a trip to somewhere like Lapland. If you or the kids get cold you’re in for a miserable time. So it’s important to get it right.
However, you don’t need to spend a fortune on expensive branded snow gear, especially if you’re only going for a short break. Pay most attention to the materials you buy rather than brand names and follow these rules to keep everyone nice and cosy.
If you’re organised you can look at the end of season or summer sales. I have to say I wasn’t that organised but I bought most of my stuff really cheaply in Aldi’s ski-wear sale at the end of November and Go Outdoors’ Black Friday sale. I also bought a couple of bits from Amazon and the Trespass sale.
Taking children with autism and other additional needs on a snow holiday can have more challenges than neurotypical children. Big Bear, for example, hates what he calls “itchy” clothing (ie wool) which makes working out how to keep him warm in minus temperatures quite difficult. Little Bear, on the other hand, is fine with wool but doesn’t like wearing new clothes. He’s currently in training and I’m introducing a new item of clothing a day to wear so his snow wardrobe is familiar when the holiday arrives.
Clothing costs for a snow holiday can rack up but here’s my guide to the best clothes to take for a family trip to Lapland without breaking the bank:
The layering system:
Layers are your friend in extreme cold. They are essential for keeping the family toasty warm in minus temperatures. Lapland weather tends to be cold but dry, meaning -20°C doesn’t feel as cold as -20°C in other countries. Locals advise that it’s unlikely that you will need waterproof clothing because the snow is very dry and doesn’t melt – you can just shake off the snow.
The golden rule when it comes to choosing any warm clothing is to avoid cotton. It’s fine to wear indoors but not outside. It holds in moisture, which can cool you down. Most other materials are ok. Wool is best, especially Merino wool.
Snow boots are best but walking boots are fine if it’s a one-off visit to Lapland. Ideally they need to be a little larger than your foot size so you can comfortably wear two thick wool socks inside them. It’s also a good idea to wear thermal or fleece insoles inside the boots. In an emergency, putting crumpled up newspaper in your boots will warm up your feet a treat, anecdotal evidence suggests, provided that your replace the newspaper every day.
Wellies are a no-no because they don’t keep feet warm and they are dangerously slippery.
Wool hiking socks or ski socks are best, especially Merino wool. Avoid cotton. Most other materials are ok.
Experts advise wearing three layers on the bottoms half.
- Base layer/long thermal underwear made from wool or polyester. Wear it direct on your skin and do not wear anything under it (such as cotton pants). However, if your child wears a pressure vest, it should still be ok as they usually aren’t made of cotton. I plan to experiment when we get to Lapland so I’ll report back.
- 100% polyester jogging bottoms. Most fleece is 100% polyester. I bought fleece trousers from Aldi for about £4 each for The Bears.
- Salopettes/ski trousers. Even though you’re not skiing they are super warm and made for very cold conditions. Locals advise that good quality branded ski pants are far superior to the budget. However, if you don’t want to buy ski trousers, the thermal underwear, polyester trousers and a cheap pair of waterproof pants (for a bit of wind protection) should be ok down to about -15°C.
Again, layers are essential. You can take layers off if you get too hot or put layers on if you get too cold.
- Base layer/long thermal top. The base layer’s function is to remove moisture from your skin. Wool or 100% polyester is good. Avoid cotton. The base layer also keeps wind and drafts off you.
- We’ve been advised by locals to wear a fleece shirt underneath a thick 100% wool jumper. The fleece shirt is optional but will keep you cosy in all temperatures. Just make sure it’s 100% polyester and not a cotton mix.
For The Bears, I found base layers along with fleece tops and fleece shirts from Aldi really cheaply. They both have wool/polyester mix jumpers from last winter that still fit. The main problem will be encouraging Big Bear to wear his, given his recently-developed dislike for “itchy” jumpers.
I’ll wear a base layer, followed by a fleece top. I’ve got one jumper with a high percentage of wool that I’ll be taking to wear over the top. 100% wool jumpers are hard to find.
- On top of the wool jumper, it is recommended to wear a fleece coat. However, because I’ve got a fleece underneath the jumper, I’m hoping that will be enough for our trip underneath my jacket.
- Winter jacket. Locals recommend going the extra mile when it comes to your jacket. It needs to be one that can perform in extreme temperatures even if it never sees extreme temperatures. The top type of insulated jacket for conditions like this is the down parka, as worn by science expeditions in Antarctica.
If a down parka is too expensive or you wouldn’t use it enough to warrant spending so much on one, a down shell jacket or any other sort of insulated jacket is better than nothing.
At the very least you would want a padded jacket. If a jacket is very thin, it is doubtful it will keep the heat in. If it is quite thick, it should do a good job.
- Hat and gloves are mandatory in Lapland. It’s recommended to have a thin pair of gloves on under your main gloves/mittens, so you can operate camera etc using the thin pair of gloves and you don’t have bare skin exposed to the cold. Mittens are better than gloves in serious cold with a thin pair of gloves on underneath. The fur trapper hat, which covers the ears, is a good choice if it’s cold and/or windy.
- 100% wool or fleece scarf.
- If you are doing any sort of winter activity, such as husky sledding, snowmobiling etc, you’ll need to have a balaclava or snood. Keep your face covered and you won’t feel the cold no matter how low the temperature drops.
Check what your accommodation provides. Some places will give you or let you hire snow suits and boots, socks, balaclavas, gloves etc so check before you go out and buy anything.
Our hotel provides lots of clothing items but we’re taking a few bits, like supportive walking boots, for The Bears just in case. I’m keeping some of the tags on in case we don’t need them but I’d rather know they will be warm than chance it.
So, in conclusion, pay close attention to the materials you take with you. Polyester and wool (especially Merino wool) are really good, cotton is bad for the cold outdoors. Most of the clothing is pretty standard stuff so shouldn’t cost too much. I got most of ours from Aldi, at the end of November and Go Outdoors’ Black Friday sale. However, good quality ski trousers and an insulated jacket are recommended.
Remember, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. If you dress correctly for the conditions, you can go out in practically any weather.
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