My brother is going to be travelling to Harbin, China from South Africa in January. According to google the average temperature is -24 to -13 Celsius, What clothing will he need when he arrives there? (Having grown up here, neither he nor anyone we know have any experience at all with coping with temperatures below freezing)

Appropriate cold weather clothing is extremely expensive in South Africa, can he buy some of what he needs locally and make do?

  • Not related but might be helpful: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/149029/…
    – Willeke
    Commented Nov 2, 2019 at 21:41
  • Well, you need a lot of clothing. But yes you can buy things locally; Harbin is a big city and not like there are a lack of shops or something.
    – xuq01
    Commented Nov 16, 2019 at 12:55
  • @xuq01 I can probably clarify the question better, but the "when he arrives there" can be literally interpreted as stepping off the plane. If he arrives in a pants and a t-shirt (appropriate clothing for South Africa in January), he would be in big trouble. So the question is really, what minimum clothing does he need to be comfortable to get himself off the plane and survive the couple of days it takes to accumulate the lot of clothing that you mention.
    – stanri
    Commented Nov 16, 2019 at 13:18
  • 2
    Possibly a face mask
    – BritishSam
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 13:52
  • @BritishSam ha, yeah. His trip has been postponed till Aug.
    – stanri
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 8:11

1 Answer 1


Your brother's best bet is to take extra layers of shirts and pants, any thermals, any gloves and hats you possibly already own, as well as the thickest coat you can find and use this as initial clothing for entry into Harbin China, and then ditch it for better local winter gear once you leave the airport or checkin to your destination.

If your brother intends to be there more than a few days, I would suggest buying a coat and related gear from a local retailer in Harbin. He will still need to have the warm coat and related gear he arrived in at the airport. Retailers will have the warm gear he is looking for, in Harbin China. The clothes he will find in South Africa will probably not be adequate enough for such a harsh and extreme winter in Harbin China. I travel from Texas to Russia every January and have found that it's much cheaper to ditch my American gear and simply buy the heavy local winter gear in those places where it's cheaper and better quality.

In Harbin your brother will find wool products that are always the best choice for extreme cold weather.

There is also an article from the Harbin Ice Festival that covers Tips for Winter Dress for Harbin Travel

Tips for Winter Dress for Harbin Travel

Packing for winter travel to Harbin to see the world-famous Ice Lantern Festival can be difficult. All the gear it seems you'll need to keep yourself protected from bitter winter can weigh you down, but if you leave anything behind you can sorely regret it, especially if your finances or location don't allow you to purchase suitable replacements. Follow these tips for packing for winter travel in Harbin and keep yourself from freezing.

Pack a Warm Coat

Harbiners who are used to brutal winters wear coats made of fur, wool, or other insulating materials. Unfortunately, these coats can be bulky, heavy, and expensive. You may be better off purchasing a good quality down coat that can be flattened to fit into your luggage. Any coat you do buy should be longer than waist length and windproof.

To pack a down jacket (or other coat), find a large sealable bag. After placing the coat in the bag, press all of the air out and seal the bag. This will save you space in your suitcase.

Don't Forget a Hat

The traditional Chinese Northeastern-style fur hat complete with ear flaps doesn't only represent a funny stereotype. These hats are designed to protect the wearer's head and ears from the bitter cold weather. Some sort of head covering will be essential for winter travel to Harbin. Choose a hat for its practical qualities. You may find that the traditional style hat, or a version of it, offers both protection and style... once you get used to how you look in the mirror.

Wear Snow Boots or Waterproof Shoes

A pair of warm, comfortable boots or shoes may be the most important accessory you take with you when you travel to Harbin during the winter months. The coldest months in Harbin can see heavy snowfall. Whether wet or dry, the snow can be deep and may not melt off until spring. Make sure the boots you take cover the ankle so that you don't get wet feet while trudging around in the snow.

Boots or shoes are best purchased well before traveling to Harbin during the winter so that they can be broken in. They should be comfortable enough to walk long distances in and able to accommodate your feet and heavy, warm socks both.

Winter Socks

Winter socks aren't just for outdoor use, either. If you suffer from cold feet while just sitting indoor, as many people do, take a look at the socks that you will take to Harbin.


Those one-size-fits all gloves that cost a few dollars won't keep your fingers from freezing as you visit the parks (most are the venue of the Harbin ice and snow festival) or enjoy skiing in the ski resorts in Harbin. Purchase well-insulated gloves made of quality materials that fit well and cover the wrists.


A woolen scarf tucked into your coat can protect your neck and throat and block chilly winds. It is better to have a coat with a high collar than to depend upon a scarf to protect your neck from the cold, but if you don't have a coat with a high collar, bring along a scarf that is long and warm enough to be useful against the weather.


Harbin use a centralized heating system to heat residential buildings, so despite bitter winters, the temperature can be quite hot indoors. While you'll need to wear warm clothing when going outside, you'll want to be comfortable inside. The best way to insure that you don't freeze while outside and don't boil inside is to wear sweaters that can be removed if opening the windows doesn't cool off the room enough for comfort's sake.

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