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I'm from a tropical climate environment and I'll be travelling to England/London on the 6th of December for about 5 days, so I'll have to pack winter clothing for the first time in my life.
I'm expecting much lower temperatures than where I'm from.

Does anyone know if England/London during this time of year will be cold enough that wearing one of those woolen/winter hats is necessary (I'd prefer not to go and buy/wear them if I have to)?

My level of cold tolerance, I would say, is about average.
I saw some videos of England during this time of year, and only about a third of the people in those videos were wearing one of those hats outdoors, so I presume it isn't that necessary, but would still like to receive some suggestions.

closed as primarily opinion-based by mts, David Richerby, JonathanReez Supports Monica, Jan, Giorgio Dec 4 '16 at 18:34

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Fun fact: During Elizabeth I’s reign, it was mandatory to wear a woolen hat on Sundays (so that the wool manufacturers could pay lots of lovely taxes to the queen). But that was the 16th century. Source: Horrible Histories by Terry Deary. – Jan Dec 4 '16 at 14:16
  • Depends what you'll be doing. If you'll be spending a lot of time outdoors - e.g. hiking - then you definitely want one. If you won't be spending a lot of time outdoors then you can get away without one. What will you be doing? – A E Dec 4 '16 at 15:25
  • Depends what you'll be doing, what temperatures you're used to, how tolerant you are of being a colder than you're used to... Many, many variables. – David Richerby Dec 4 '16 at 16:27
  • @Jan Remember that it was much colder back then. – Michael Hampton Dec 4 '16 at 17:51
  • It also depends on how much hair you have. – phoog Dec 4 '16 at 20:54
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Coming from a warm country, you will feel the cold much more than someone who has lived in the area for a long time.

I guess you will feel much better with a hat.
Remember that you will lose a lot of heat through your head, much more than you imagine, and having a cold head will make you feel miserable all over. And if it is too cold or you have wet hair, you can end up with a headache that is really heavy.

This is the time of year where it is easy to buy a warm hat in London, no need to buy one before you feel the need.
With where you are from, almost for sure you will feel the need, but it is not guaranteed.
Winter clothing will be cheaper in London than in the tropics.
So buy as much as you can in England, ask around for the cheaper shops to avoid spending too much, charity shops often have good deals but there are also many other shops selling hats for modest amounts.

A tip I learned from someone from Singapore, if you have thin silk pajama pants, bring some, as they are ideal extra layers under normal trousers.
You can wear up to six layers without them showing and each is going to add a lot to the warmth of your legs.
Warm legs make you less feel the cold on your top half. It will not replace a hat but it will make it less needed.

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    I live in San Diego, California, and visit London every couple of years. The selection and prices for warm clothing are definitely much better in London. – Patricia Shanahan Dec 4 '16 at 16:08
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    And from San Diego you can drive to places where you need warm clothing, from many tropical areas you will need to fly. – Willeke Dec 4 '16 at 16:15
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I live in the UK, I own a woolly hat. Some winter days I wear it and some I don't. Sometimes when I don't wear it, I wish I had. Coming from a warmer country you're likely (not guaranteed) to feel UK levels of cold more than I do, so you'll probably be more comfortable with a hat.

As a native, I would say that in the UK the weather is almost never cold enough that you need a hat in order to, for example, walk from a central London hotel to the nearest Tube station. A few minutes might be uncomfortable, but will never be harmful.

But if you're planning to be out in cold weather for an extended period of time, especially at night, especially if it's windy, especially if you're standing around doing nothing, then your ears may well start hurting and in this sense you "need" a hat. A scarf is also recommended, so that you can cover your mouth and nose if you're feeling it there.

In any case London is usually warmer than the average for the country since it's in the south and it's a large urban area. Furthermore, the weather forecast for London for the 6th-11th isn't "cold" as UK winters go: above 10°C except for the nightly lows, and never near freezing. So, perhaps colder than you ever get in the tropics, but you're only going to be miserable if you get it wrong, not frostbitten.

If your trip is pretty much entirely indoors with travel around London then you probably won't need it, except that some proportion of tropical visitors (I don't know how many) badly feel the cold. I have an aunt from Hong Kong who's near-constantly uncomfortable in the UK even in summer.

So, I would suggest taking a short walk aound the area once you arrive. If you feel the cold, do buy a hat locally, because the shops might not be open at the point where you seriously wish you had one: late at night with a long walk or wait ahead of you, or on a trip to some scenic location in the middle of nowhere. If you're concerned about cost then ask a friendly local for a cheap clothes shop. If you look around you should be able to find an unbranded beanie for under five pounds (it might be synthetic or blended rather than pure wool, but for the weather next week this doesn't matter). If you're not concerned about cost then go to the first sports shop you see in any high street or mall, and pick up a Nike/North Face/whatever branded hat for £15-20. Avoid team-branded kit from UK teams you don't support.

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    The "avoid team branded kit" might qualify as a health and safety warning depending on the locale he is in. +1 for the hat tip. – Burhan Khalid Dec 4 '16 at 17:31
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I would say in the UK winter rain protection is more important than insulation. If you are dry the temperature isn't too bad but being wet leads to being cold and miserable.

So overall I would put a waterproof with hood above an insulated hat on the list of important stuff.

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    Most hats, also the cheap ones, will keep water from your head for shorter periods. For longer periods you will need a warm layer under your hood as well. – Willeke Dec 4 '16 at 15:21
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I think the chance of you wanting a warm hat of some kind in London during this period is about 50%. The air temperature could easily vary between -5 and +10 celcius. If you don't have much hair on your head, or are planning to stand outside for periods of time, that increases the changes of wanting a hat. The typical temperatures in the UK earlier this week were close to zero.

Even if you're not planning to stand around outside, if you travel by train, there's a risk of having to stand on a windswept platform with little shelter while you wait for a delayed/cancelled train to appear.

I'm nearly bald, and frequently carry a cheap synthetic "woolly" hat in my pocket during the English winter. You should be able to buy one for about £5 if you shop around. You might want to consider thin cheap gloves of some kind as well.

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As someone who lives in a place where temperatures often reach more than 45C in the summer I can tell you a bit more about how someone from a moderate to warm climate deals with the cold.

Recently I was in Amsterdam which had rain/sleet/wind - so, almost London, except no red busses :). It was windy - but it did not snow (snow is not expected in London for at least the upcoming week, as per BBC weather).

I am by my own admission not averse to cold weather; I enjoy it but even I can tell you that a warm hat goes a long way into reducing the perception of cold.

You can just wear a hat, and a windbreaker / rain jacket and you will be very warm.

If you are a husky person (I am 5'8" and 120 lbs) you will find that walking around easily increases your body temp so the first thing you will feel is instant warmth - it is often easy to overdress for the cold and then walk around with a coat on your arm because its just too damn hot when you put it on.

So, I would recommend:

  1. Dress in layers rather than one or two very warm pieces.
  2. Carry a warm seamed cap (often called a beanie); one that you can pull over your ears if need be.
  3. A scarf is good as well - keeps your neck warm and can act as a wind deterrent.
  4. (Personal preference): Avoid a heavy jacket - because this will either make you extremely warm, or leave you extremely cold. These are good for when you are away from the metropolitan area where the effects of the weather (read: wind) are more prominent.
  5. Some people prefer to dress in thermals (warm under garments) and then wear their "normal" clothes. I personally find thermals restrictive so avoid them.

Keep an eye on the wind forecast. Wind can increase the wind chill factor which will make it feel colder than it actually is outside.

  • That is where the thin silk pajama pants I mention come in handy, almost as warm as termals but much less restrictive, good answer, +1 – Willeke Dec 4 '16 at 17:25

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