In the near future I will have to prepare myself for a Siberia expedition.

During the winter, average temperatures in Siberia range from -10°F (-23°C) to below -50°C (-45°F).1

What should I wear in very low temperature conditions? Is there any layer system that has been proven to effectively protect the body from very low temperature exposure? I have found this paper but I am sure many of you have some personal experience/tested “solutions” – that's what I am asking about.

Most of the time (60-70%) I will be outdoors, just visiting different places (i.e. sight seeing, walking). I will also travel through Siberia (by train & bus) but the question mainly concerns protecting from cold when outdoors.

  • 4
    What sorts of activity will you be engaged in? Physical? Sitting around? Dashing from sheltered transport to shelter?
    – Lost
    Mar 19, 2012 at 14:59
  • Most of the time (60-70%) I will be outdoors, just visiting different places. I will also travel through Siberia (by train & bus) but the question mainly concerns protecting from cold when outdoors.
    – syntagma
    Mar 20, 2012 at 17:34
  • That helps - so that 60-70% outdoors you will be doing normal tourist type activities (ie sight seeing, walking) not climbing, hiking, excessive physical activity, etc. And you will be returning to stable, safe, warm shelter. (Recommended clothing choice will vary depending).
    – Lost
    Mar 22, 2012 at 1:19
  • Yes, that's right.
    – syntagma
    Mar 22, 2012 at 8:46
  • I think many of us have probably traveled in very cold places, but personally I'm having trouble answering the question as-is. Do I answer with defining a layering system, or by listing actual clothing, or by stating the obvious (big warm boots, big warm jacket, protect your exposed skin)?
    – Greg.Ley
    Mar 22, 2012 at 16:07

5 Answers 5

  • a two layer winter hat to protect your ears
  • a good winter jacket (long enough) supporting -40ºC (-40ºF)
  • winter boots
  • a two layer gloves
  • a scarf

For the intermediate layer: The key point is to not sweat. Depending on your body, you should choose the appropriate "heat level" intermediate layer. Some shops will have different categories from very cool to very warm.

Last but not least:

  • it is more important to have a very warm winter jacket than very warm intermediate levels
  • Carry with you spare socks, colder or warmer intermediate layers, instant hand and feet warmers

Personal preferences (I live in Canada and do snow-shoeing in winter):

  • Salomon, Columbia, Northface winter jacket
  • Merrel boots thermo 8 or 12 (Northface is nice also)
  • merino socks

The key to cold weather clothing is viewing it as a system. The base layer of the system wicks moisture from the body and provides a small amount of insulation. The middle layer(s) of the system provide warmth and wind protection. The outer layer provides protection from the elements.

That being said, a proven system for the temperature range you're considering would generally consist of a lightweight wool base layer (long underwear or similar top and bottom), a windproof polar fleece or down jacket, and a waterproof shell. A polar fleece or down vest makes a good alternate for the intermediate layer. The face and hands should also be covered. Gloves should follow a two layer system, with a wind resistant inner glove and a waterproof outer mitten or glove (mittens are warmer due to the reduced surface area). Fleece and wool are both good choices for the inner gloves, with windproof fleece being preferable. For footwear, use wool socks and insulated boots that are rated for cold weather. Additionally, goggles are strongly recommended below -20F, and at anything below 0F when strong winds are present.

Wind protection is an extremely important factor in clothing selection for cold temperatures. Hats, gloves, and an intermediate clothing layer should all be highly wind resistant. The impact of wind chill is greatly eliminated, making the temperature your body is adjusting to more consistent.

Additionally, an extremely warm outer layer is rarely a good idea, as it greatly limits the temperature range that the clothing system will properly function in. Your body will attempt to maintain approximately 98.6F. Each insulating layer will lower the outdoor temperature at which your body can remain comfortable. If you have an extremely warm outer layer, say one rated for 0F, then you have around 90F in which you can't be comfortable. If multiple intermediate layers are used to achieve the insulation, the temperature ranges can be broken up into 20-30F ranges, which can then be mixed and matched as needed, with the outer layer providing the protection from the elements.

  • 2
    Note that in -23C to -50C temperatures you won't be encountering liquid water. As you move farther away from 0C (in either direction), soft-shells become more useful than fully waterproof shells.
    – requiem
    Jun 16, 2014 at 7:01
  • Agree with @requiem a waterproof hardshell will sacrifice breathability that can help keep you dry. The last thing you want is damp underclothes in those temperatures. Dec 16, 2017 at 12:51

One small note to add to all these good answers: After you get all your gear, try all of it on at home. Get familiar with it. You don't want to go there and try it on for the first time, and then find out that you can't fit all your layers under your coat or in your boats, etc. The best time to find problems is before you go.

Make sure you are familiar with all the pockets so you can easily take things in and out of them, and so you know their capacity. You want to know where to store things like sunglasses that you might take off and put back on, or something like where to store a small camera in your clothing.


Another slight side note, you may want moving layers, plus a "standing" layer. If you're walking around in heavy snowfall, you will probably get quite warm but you'll cool down very quickly once you stop. When winter walking (-5ish) I tend to wear a baselayer and softshell (hardshell if it's really windy) to walk then throw on a big down jacket (rab neutrino endurance) as soon as we stop. So add an extra mid layer/2 maybe a thick fleece or extra softshell. If you can't test your systems before you go, then you can always add more thin layers than separate thick layers.


The body responds to the cold by first contracting the vessels of arms and legs to preserve organs and the brain, which are vital. So you wanna make sure your extremities are extra insulated, warmers are a fantastic option for hand and feet, plus layers of merino or alpaca. Then make sure your head and face are well covered, remember that the body will preserve the brain last and it’s also the part that uses most of your energy. Keep your skull warm. For the rest of the body the typical by-layers clothing.

  • The question is asking about layering systems. Please try to write about specific layering systems that you think might work.
    – ahron
    Apr 23, 2020 at 17:10
  • @Yogesch OP asked two questions, only one is related to layers. Also they pointed out at the end that the main question is protecting from the cold. Reading and comprehension is essential when answering.
    – kannibal
    Apr 24, 2020 at 18:22

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