Spending my whole life in a tropical climate has rendered me clueless about the science of proper layering. We never needed any outer wear in this southeast asian heat so when it came to dressing up for winter holidays like Japan or Korea, I only knew about Uniqlo’s heat tech at most! My ignorance had to stop somewhere. I was going for a trip to Norway, Finland and Iceland. I knew I had to take layering up seriously. I had to step up my game!!!!
I spammed my website tabs and read up on so many different guides. And I found out… there is obviously one significant and ultimate rule:
NEVER USE COTTON AS YOUR FIRST/BASE LAYER!
First layer meaning the layer which touches your skin. Afterwards, I was avoiding cotton like the plague!! Anyway enough chit chat let’s move on with the layering guide!
The first layer is all about warmth and moisture control. Consider materials like MERINO WOOL, as they help to wick away moisture, lets your skin breathe, and is odorless which means you can wear it multiple times without smelling bad.
The problem with cotton is that the fabric retains sweat, which makes you feel chilled even when it’s not even cold at all.
So my base layer consists of merino wool top and merino wool long-johns.
I got my painfully pricy Patagonia merino wool base layers (~SGD150) from Outdoor Life at Novena. They were great though. Extremely comfortable and kept me very warm. Highly recommended. I alternate them with heat tech top and long-johns from Uniqlo in between washes. You can also get way cheaper base layers from Coldwear and Winter Time.
It’s important to get yourself a few pair of wool socks to keep your toes from freezing! Snow might get in from your boots, and if you opted for cotton socks, you are going to have a difficult time!
The second layer is about retaining the heat. You have a few choices. Some people wear WOOL or FLEECE, combined with a DOWNJACKET or SYNTHETIC INSULATED JACKETS. Basically, for me, I was wearing fleece all the way for my second layer. If I felt cold, I would add on another downjacket as part of my mid layer.
Jeans were actually sufficient enough for me during my time in Scandinavia. But for northern lights chasing, I used ski pants because there was a lot of waiting outside in the cold and no movement.
I bought my fleece pullover from Coldwear, and a downjacket from North Face. It was part of the 3-in-1 triclimate series, which already comes with a detachable downjacket. Got my ski pants from Coldwear.
By the way…
My pink Northface Thermoball Triclimate jacket on the left. You can see how the downjacket is fully detachable on the right.
Tip: I managed to save more than half on my North Face jackets by buying them online, rather than getting them in the local stores. I tried them out in the Singapore stores so I roughly know my size, and I went on to Moosejaw to order and get it shipped to my VPOST address. My jacket was SGD560 but in the end I got the same one for SGD250 (!!!) including shipping. Sooo happy!
The outermost layer is all about protecting you from the weather, be it wind, snow, or rain. So it’s important that your outer layer is WINDPROOF and WATERPROOF! Especially for harsh conditions, like for example Iceland (unpredictable rain, crazy wind in general).
I bought my water resistant puffy jacket from Coldwear. Also brought along two waterproof and windproof jackets from North Face.
Preferably, a beanie which will cover your ears. So important!!!! I bought fleece ones. I had a knit one which I wanted to use to be ‘fashionable’ but it was practically useless…
I brought two gloves with me. One for warmer temperatures, which is touch screen friendly. The other, almost like ski gloves (affordable ones from Winter Time) for when I am waiting for northern lights or when it just gets too cold.
Brought two scarfs for the sake of looking different in photos, but I sort of stuck with the thicker one and abandoned the other. I also used Buffwear (the ones with the fleece lining inside) as a scarf alternative. That way, I get to keep my face covered! It’s more versatile than a balaclava.
For boots… I bought snow/hiking boots (Winter Time) which looked like Timberlands, and another type of cushy/puffy snow boots (North Face). This part is up to you, really!
Shopping for winter gear in Singapore
Keep in mind, my lowest temperature experience was at about -20°c. Finland can get to -40°c so you might need more ‘intense’ layering. Not quantity, but quality. More layers do not mean more warmth.
I recommend shopping at Decathlon (for more budget friendly prices), Winter Time, Cold Wear and Velocity@Novena (many shops, different brands). You can pretty much get all the specific technical stuff you need at these two places. I spammed Velocity@Novena so much haha!
For my basics, like hoodies or sweatpants to sleep in, I just buy them from H&M stores. My H&M sweatpants were so warm and comfortable!!!!
If you have any recommendations of your own, drop a comment and let me know! Hope this guide was helpful to you!