How to survive Siberian Winter? There are several aspects to this challenge. Firstly, what do we consider as severe survival conditions? Secondly, what are the psychological aspects of dealing with the cold? Thirdly, the physiology of the matter. The last, but not the least important is choice of proper clothes.
Siberian winter – How Does The Cold Affect the Human Body?
Well, to start with, Novosibirsk (West Siberia) is obviously not the coldest place on earth even though we are exposed to as low temperatures as -40 Celsius. It is quite a challenge, though, to be outside in these low temperatures: your nostrils stick together as you breathe in; your eye lashes get covered with frost; tears well in your eyes; if you wear glasses, the frame gets so cold you can feel it on the face. However, if you are properly dressed and if you eat and rest sufficiently, you have all the chances to enjoy Siberian winter.
What Clothes To Wear for a Siberian Winter?
Let us start with getting the right outfit. As we Siberians say, “A true Siberian is not the one who never feels cold, but the one who dresses properly.” So, what do we wear in winter? Some 30 years ago, when I was in my early teens, a fur coat was considered to be the best thing to put on at -40. These days, however, with the introduction of new synthetic materials and new technologies for saving the warmth inside your winter jacket, there is no more need in killing animals. Besides, hi-tech materials in clothes are light, so you will not have to struggle with a heavy outfit), feeling stressed and clumsy (sheep skin fur coats ARE heavy, believe me, I had one).
The same statement goes for footwear – buy something modern, unless you want to try valenki on – local craft winter boots made of sheep wool – (it is quite an acquired skill to wear those, as they are not really flexible, so your legs and feet might feel tired, especially when you first introduce them to this type of boots). Apart from the comfort issues, clothes made of modern materials are also easy to dry after you have had fun in the snow. So, I would 100% recommend to opt for traditional clothes only if you want to really feel what it was like to be a true Siberian some 50 and more years ago, otherwise just buy regular winter clothes made of modern synthetic materials.
Yes, to do justice to the warmth of natural materials, I do recommend to have a scarf, hat and mittens made of real wool. I personally have noticed that if these items are not synthetic, I feel an overall higher rate of warmth as compared to synthetic garments, which can be also quite bulky.
Psychological Aspects Of Dealing With The Cold
As for the psychological aspects of enduring the cold, I have noticed that people’s attitude to the cold is changing and this results in the change of their behaviour. For example, if somebody some 20 years ago had said to me, that at the age of 40 I will be wearing just 1 pair of thick cotton tights on top of my thin office pair of tights, I would have considered it to be a laughable absurdity, but this is my reality these days – no matter how low the temperature is, I never torture myself with 2 pairs of woolen tights under my winter trousers.
There is no need in overdress: in the city we rarely spend hours outside and if we do go for a walk in the woods, we usually either ski or walk fast enough to keep ourselves warm. By putting too many items on you only creates unnecessary heat which will surely play a bad trick on you as soon as you enter a building – you will be sweating straight away and then going out again after half an hour at a supermarket will surely make you feel a lot colder than before.
So the rule is as simple as that: don’t get overdressed – 2 layers under the jacket are perfectly enough, just make sure you plan your day in such a way that you will either have enough cases of dropping in inside or will move fast and actively enough to keep you nicely warm. By the by, these days I notice more and more young people in the streets who dare to wear leather trainers as their winter footwear (my teenage son is in the flock too) and (!) their ankles are bare (!!!). I will not be surprised that in some 20 years’ time we will be reconsidering the advice in terms of proper clothing I have given to you in this article.
Well, one thing I can say for sure – Siberian winter in December differs a lot from that in March. Even though everything is covered in snow, the air temperature is a lot higher in March (-10-17 Celsius) as compared to the average of -25-35 in January, so it is quite easy to be more careless about woolen mittens forgotten at home and go about with your hands stuck in the jacket pockets.
Nutrition Advice To Keep You Warm In Siberian Winter
Let me also hit upon the matter of the right food. It is of uttermost importance that you eat meat, animal fat, eggs, cheese and butter. These give your body enough energy to pull through the hostile frozen environment. Bacon and eggs for breakfast with a good cup of hot whatever you like to drink; pelmeni, pozy, manty (different types of meat dumplings) or some soup for lunch and a steak for dinner are the best nutrients for those who feel like living a month or two in the middle of Siberian winter (which, by the by, lasts from mid of November till mid of April – if we take into account the period when the soil is covered with snow).
I am not completely ruling fruit and vegetables out – do indulge into your vegetarian diet on the days you are staying inside. I personally feel my body rarely craves for a tomato salad when it is -35 Celsius outside, but if it does switch to the keto diet .
Siberian Winter Fun Checklist
To sum it up, the following issues are not to be overlooked when getting ready for a winter trip to Siberia:
- What to eat
- What to wear
- What to do
- Who to be with
Oh, yes, this last matter is also relevant – try to be with the people who are enjoying the cold, if you are in the company of the people who are strongly opposed to experimenting with bare ankles at -35 Celsius, you might not feel the trip as much fun as it can be, so get in touch with true Siberians – the hardcore enthusiasts of their motherland who will make you try all the different styles of winter clothes and will introduce you into the fun warm keeping activities to crown it all with bathing in the Ob river on January, 19, when the air temperatures are at their lowest. Well, this is our tradition – nothing can be done about it, but this is the subject of another story.
And that is how to survive a Siberian Winter!
Want to see the former USSR for yourself? Check out our Soviet Tours.