Planning the Transsiberian, Part 2: Ok, cold weather...TRY me.

Some of you know that I've been on a mission lately to go zero-waste. I'm nowhere near perfection, but I have been making changes in my daily lifestyle to use and purchase items that will lessen my carbon footprint. I haven't bought new clothes in two years, except underwear. I have bought "old" clothes, however. When I absolutely need something, I go to a secondhand store. If you want to stay with current fashions and also try buying secondhand, I recommend Crossroads Trading or Buffalo Exchange, which keeps current styles, but at a reasonable price (see more about my finds below).

It pains me to buy new things, especially clothes. I really really really hate it. I try to buy secondhand when I can, but this trip is forcing me to buy more and more stuff that I know I most definitely will need so I can't skip it. Comfort (and survival from frostbite and hypothermia) is key, so I bought what I needed while being as eco-conscious as possible and trying to save money at the same time.

All natural fabrics are important because when you're done getting your use out of them, you know that they'll naturally biodegrade over time instead of clogging up a landfill. As much as you'd like to say your favorite item of clothing will stay in your closet forever, it won't. This way, it'll go to a much better place.

All of this to tell you how I plan to survive in those below-freezing temps in Siberia.

In a previous post, I mentioned how the temps in Mongolia will be the coldest. In the daytime, it will be a high of 6*F.

Luckily (luckily isn't the best word...), Chicago has been experiencing 6*F temps for the past two days, so I have tested my cold weather wear and I can tell you with confidence that I am ready. I am ready for this cold weather because I walked to/from work in 6*F weather and was perfectly comfortable. I wasn't rushing into my building with that "ahhhh finally I'm WARM again!" feeling. No, it was more like "Oh, I'm here already."

Layering is key in cold weather. Any outdoor site will tell you that you should have three layers. The base layer, closest to skin, is either a natural or synthetic fabric that holds in heat while wicking away moisture. The middle layer is the warmth or insulation layer, such as fleece or wool. The outer layer protects from the elements, like a wind-protective or waterproof shell.

I've done a LOT of research.

So, without further ado, here is my complete wardrobe for efficient and compact warmth.

The items under each body part are listed in the order they're layered, from closest-to-skin moving outward.
  • Head: They say most of your body's heat escapes through your head, so this part is important!
    • 2 merino wool neck gaiters
      • These are cheap and can be worn in a TON of ways. One of them I wear as a beanie hat, and the other I wear as a balaclava, leaving only my eyes exposed.
      • Merino wool works like a synthetic performance fabric does, wicking moisture while keeping you warm. However, it has the added benefits of being all-natural and odor-resistant. Synthetic fibers will start to smell if you sweat/breathe into them too much, so this is crucial as I'll be backpacking and have limited access to laundry facilities.
      • Even after breathing straight into these for 45 mins, mine never develops icicles/frost with the moisture from my breath.
      • These are also great for hot weather, too, as they can work as a sweat band on your head or wrist, and can be used as a protective neck covering to keep the sun off while wicking away sweat.
    • flannel scarf (similar one here)
      • My friend Claire made me an awesome flannel scarf for Christmas last year, and it's the perfect thickness/material for added warmth. The merino wool gaiters covering my mouth are fine in 30*F temps, but I noticed an extra chill from the moisture caused by my breath, so I wanted extra warmth here. 
    • hood (see puffy jacket below)
    • hood (see outer jacket below)
  • Torso: It's important to keep your core warm in cold temps. Movement is also key, so despite the layers, you should have mobility in the arms. 
    • Bra 
      • because...boobs.
    • Long-sleeve performance tee
      • As I mentioned above, the base layer needs to be warm, but also wick away moisture. A cotton tee won't work, because once it gets sweaty, it'll get cold.
      • It has extended sleeve cuffs with thumbholes to cover my hands.
    • A cashmere sweater
      • or a wool one, or a fleece. I wanted something renewable, so I picked cashmere. Normally cashmere costs a LOT (over $90 for a sweater), but this was a wonderful find from Crossroads looks brand new and it only cost $19! And it's soooo soft.
      • a cashmere or wool sweater looks nice. That means I can use this as a fancy layer of warmth when we go out to dinner somewhere nice, instead of looking like some college bro wearing a Northface everywhere.
    • A thin puffy down jacket
      • Down vs. Synthetic fill, the ultimate question! Well, with down you get better warmth-per-weight ratio. That means it's thin, but super warm, and it's very packable. I can roll it up and put it in a drawstring bag the size of a tall-boy can.
      • Down lasts longer than synthetic because the puff stays puffy, even after packing it and wearing it hundreds of times. 
      • Down is natural! It's filled with down and duck feathers, so it's as renewable as I can get for this sort of thing.
      • The negative to down is that it can't insulate warmth when it's wet. Since this is an interior layer that won't be affected by rain or snow, this is a non-issue for me. However, there are plenty of waterproof down jackets out there, albeit slightly more expensive. 
      • It has a hood, so it keeps my head warm.
    • An outer jacket/ski jacket (similar one here)
      • My jacket is a ski jacket with amazing features like extended sleeve cuffs with thumb holes to keep my hands extra warm. It has a ton of pockets (there is a lipgloss pocket labeled as such) and even pit-zips for when your armpits need to breathe. 
      • It's waterproof and windproof with a hood, so it keeps my torso and head extra protected.
      • The collar comes up to my mouth, so when it's zipped all the way, it keeps my scarf in place.
  • Hands: These are probably the coldest parts of my body when I'm outside, but only when my hands are out of my pockets. If they stay in their pockets, they are perfectly fine!
    • performance tee sleeve/thumb cover (see above)
    • outer jacket sleeve/thumb cover (see above)
    • fleece-lined velvet gloves (similar ones here)
      • These are warm, but nothing too special. I'm adamant about getting gloves that are not knit, because those itty-bitty holes between the yarn let the coldest of cold air sneak in. These don't have that issue.
      • if you want extra warmth, get glove liners to wear inside your gloves. 
    • hand warmers
      • I plan to keep these in my pockets to warm my hands.
      • These are reusable, so unlike disposable ones, they won't clog a landfill.
      • I debated for a long time whether I should get rechargeable USB warmers or these, which recharge when you put them in boiling water. I decided that I will most likely have easier access to boiling water/a kitchen than I will of outlets. The charging method takes 3 hours but boiling takes 10 minutes, and the charging ones are $30 each, instead of $25 for a pack of eight. This way I have backups even if I haven't "recharged" them. 
  • Legs: With my layering below, my legs are just warm enough. For perfect comfort, I would make adjustments. Like this, my legs are slightly chilly, so my method isn't perfect. However, after being outside for 45+ minutes, I am perfectly fine. If I were to sleep on Mount Everest, I would require more warmth...but in my scenario I'll do just fine.
    • quick-dry underwear
    • Thermal leggings
      • I already had these, but if I needed to purchase new ones, I would opt for a silk or wool blend to be more sustainable.
      • These hold in heat well, and since they're black I can wear these as leggings/tights for fancy occasions where I still need to stay warm.
    • Knit leggings (similar ones here)
      • I already had these, but if I needed to purchase new ones that are most likely warmer, I'd go for wool leggings to wear under the synthetic thermals above to wick moisture and insulate well. 
    • Skinny Jeans
      • This is the least recommended thing to wear as an outer layer. Why? Skinny jeans, or any pants that are fitted, will let heat escape faster than looser pants will. Also, jeans aren't waterproof and take forever to dry. Alas, fashion is fashion, and I don't want to drop hundreds of dollars on special windbreaker pants or ski pants. But if you want the warmest of warm and the perfect pants for the job, go for windproof/waterproof pants for this final, outer layer.
  • Feet: It's important to keep warm the part of your body closest to the cold ground. Good boots are important. You don't want them to be too tight, because air is a good insulator...your feet warm the air surrounding them. However, if they're too loose, you risk blisters and your feet won't be able to keep warm all the extra surrounding air.
    • Sock liners (similar ones here)
      • quickdry and breathable, these socks add an extra layer to prevent blisters but also make the wool socks last longer. Since I can wash these and have them dry quickly, I don't have to deal with stinky wool socks every day.
    • Wool-blend socks
      • Moisture-wicking and warm, wool socks are key in keeping your feet the driest and warmest as possible. Wool also is great at avoiding odors. Synthetic socks, even if thick, will smell awful after a day of wear. Best to stick to natural fibers. 
      • I also have angora socks that I plan on packing, and they're knee-high so they'll provide extra warmth. They're bright orange and very fluffy, and when I wear them I feel like my legs look like a Muppet's. Super sexy.
    • 6-inch leather (not Nubuck) Timberland boots
      • Waterproof. Warm. Durable. Dare I say...fashionable? These are my favorite shoes of all time because they're practical and perfect. 
      • I've worn these in the slushiest of snow in below-freezing Chicago. I've worn these to hop over slick wet rocks near a waterfall, getting them drenched in the process, all while my feet kept dry. I've worn them hiking up and down the 66% (super steep) incline/decline of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. I've worn them at that same park while practically foot-skiing down sharp, loose scree. I've trekked miles upon miles in Yellowstone on uneven ground. I've walked miles in the city in these things. I've done things to them that would leave any other shoe as a pile of laces, leather, rubber and dust. But here are my Timberlands, tried and true, ready for more adventures. 
      • I wear these with jeans on normal non-adventure days, too, because they're super comfortable and I think they look cool with jeans. I don't think I'm crazy for thinking so.