Cold climates

It may seem obvious but if you’re going somewhere cold you need to take appropriate clothing. Here are some tips on what to take and how to stay warm.

Tips on how to stay warm

  1. Make sure you have an insulated, water-proof coat with a hood. There are all sorts of light-weight materials you can now buy these in to make sure you stay snug in the cold.
  2. Waterproof boots and thick socks are essential. It’s best to buy these a little while before your trip so you have time to break them in. When you buy boots don’t forget to try them on with thick socks to get the right fit.
  3. Pack lots of layers including thermal underwear (leggings and vests), tee shirts, jumpers, hoodies, thick trousers (a pair of waterproof ones can be particularly useful), good gloves, a hat and where it’s very cold a balaclava.
  4. Keep your gloves and hat on at all times while you’re out and if you start to feel cold (which you will eventually no matter how many layers you’re wearing) head inside.
  5. Eat lots. You burn up calories more quickly in the cold so make sure you eat plenty especially if you’re being active such as on a winter sports holiday.
  6. Have lots of warm drinks to help you heat up but avoid gulping them – you’re likely to scold yourself. And remember that while alcohol might make you think you’re warm it does in fact lower your core body temperature. So if you’re drinking alcohol make sure you’re in the warm and think twice before heading out in the cold.

What to do if you get too cold

If you are exposed to the cold for too long or you get wet while outside you risk getting frostbite or hypothermia.

Frostbite can affect any part of your body but it’s most likely to affect your extremities such as your hands, feet, ears, nose and lips. It starts off feeling like pins and needles and the area affected then becomes cold, numb and white. If you remain exposed to the cold the frostbite will become increasingly severe.

Frostbite needs to be treated immediately by going into a warm environment and seeking medical help. The affected area will need to be warmed up which is often done by putting it in warm – but not hot – water. This can be very painful and you may need painkillers.

You can find out more about the causes of frostbite and how to treat it on the NHS Choices website.

Another risk is hypothermia which is caused by a dangerous drop in your body temperature. The early stages of hypothermia include shivering, cold and pale skin, slurred speech, fast breathing, tiredness and confusion. If your body temperature drops to 32C or lower, you’ll usually stop shivering completely and may pass out. Hypothermia can be life threatening and needs to be treated immediately. For more on the signs of hypothermia and what to do see the NHS Choices website.

Travelling with children

If you’re travelling with children you’ll need to take extra care to ensure they stay warm and safe. Young children are less likely to realise when they are cold and they lose their body heat more quickly than adults because they are smaller.

Safer Tourism cold climates checklist