I'm heading to Yellowknife (not too far from the Arctic Circle!) in February. The temperature at the moment (January) is -31F, or -35C.

I grew up in New England, so I'm used to cold, but not this kind of cold. What do I need to bring? I don't know what's "enough" to insulate against that kind of temperature.

  • 2
    What activities are you planning? If you won't be outdoors long, you could probably wear something like this... Jan 18, 2020 at 7:50
  • Have you checked out related questions on outdoors.stackexchange.com ? They are bound to have a few of those.
    – Willeke
    Jan 18, 2020 at 9:11
  • To be accurate Yellowknife is NOT in the Arctic circle. It's 62 degrees north. Doesn't mean it's not very cold of course. Jan 18, 2020 at 16:11
  • Good point! I added a qualifier. Jan 18, 2020 at 22:59

1 Answer 1


I grew up in Winnipeg (not as far north as Yellowknife, but we had our share of weather below -30°C) and now I live in New England. If I was about to spend significant time outdoors in Winnipeg in the severe cold, and I had an unlimited budget to buy clothing for it, here's what I would wear:

  • A parka with a hood. Thigh-length if possible. Natural or artifical down are best, but they're expensive. Look for one with a temperature rating that's colder than you think you'll need. Having the hood allows for an extra layer of clothing between your head and the outdoors (see below), and also covers the back of your neck.

  • A toque (knit wool cap) that can fit under your hood. Pompoms & earflaps are cute, but if they prevent you from putting your hood up you'll be sorry.

  • Mittens (not gloves). If you need five-finger dexterity while outdoors, a common tactic my family always used was to wear a lightweight pair of knit gloves underneath bulkier mittens. I don't actually own a pair of mittens any more, and every time I visit my parents in Winnipeg I wish I did.

  • If you're wearing jeans, consider lined jeans. Heck, consider lined jeans even if you weren't planning to wear jeans. Alternately, long underwear to be worn under the pants.

  • A set of waterproof boots with some insulation. How heavy-duty these need to be depends greatly on whether you'll need to be walking through deep snow or simply walking around on plowed streets. If you'll be walking through really deep snow, a set of boots that comes up to the thigh will be ideal.

The degree to which all of these elements are necessary depends greatly on how long you'll be outdoors. For example, when I go back to visit my family in Winnipeg, I usually just take the parka, toque, gloves (instead of mittens), and ankle-length boots. This is sufficient for walking from a parking lot into a heated building, even without my hood up. However, it's not really sufficient if I go for a walk in the neighborhood with my parents.

  • 3
    "most of your heat gets lost through your head" when you are wearing coat, boot, gloves etc but no hat. Seriously, that was the study. There is nothing magical about your head. Jan 18, 2020 at 23:23
  • @KateGregory it probably got confused with the fact that dogs lose most of their heat via their breathing. But that's with dogs and only when it's warm.
    – JonathanReez
    Jan 19, 2020 at 2:14
  • The "most of your your hear gets lost through your head" is thought to have arisen through a flawed interpretation of a vaguely scientific experiment by the US military in the 1950s. It was debunked quite some time ago. Jan 19, 2020 at 3:35
  • You learn something new every day. Removed reference to "heat loss through the head". I still think a hood is a good idea, though. :-) Jan 20, 2020 at 15:03
  • 1
    @MichaelSeifert definitely. The soldiers who were wearing their arctic survival suits without the headgear lost much more heat than those who were wearing theirs with the headgear. A hood and a hat are just as important as sleeves.
    – phoog
    Jan 20, 2020 at 15:31

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