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How onion-like should we be for Europe in December?

How onion-like should we be for Europe in December?

Old Aug 28th, 2008, 03:21 PM
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How onion-like should we be for Europe in December?

We are a family of five who live in a very hot part of Australia. Two members of the family are teenage girls and there is one young boy.

We will be embarking on our once-in-a-lifetime 6 week family trip to Europe on 2nd December this year. We will be visiting Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Paris, and the south of England.

As our winters never last longer than 6 weeks and the daily winter temp is around 23 degrees (centigrade), we each own one or two thin jumpers and I think my son might have a pair of gloves that he inherited from a cousin who lives in colder climes.

The young boy and I found a shop yesterday that sells winter gear. We saw thermal underwear (tops and bottoms) which made him shriek with mirth, all types of gloves and mittens made of many different materials, thin jackets, down jackets, short jackets, long jackets, waterproof jackets, etc, etc. Trousers looked quite sraight forward - maybe jeans will be OK? We looked at hiking-type boots, balaclavas, ear muffs, scarves, beanies and strange gell-like things that can go inside gloves and socks.

Before we venture back to this shop with the entire family in tow, does anyone have any advice for me as to what we should wear? I gather that layers are the answer - hence my question about how onion-like we should be - but how many layers, what should they be made of, and how do I fit all of this into a suitcase?????
Ozziez is offline  
Old Aug 28th, 2008, 03:46 PM
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I guess the best way for me to give any insite is to tell you what I did when going to Copenhagen and Stockholm a couple of years ago. It was just after Christmas and we stayed until the end of the first week in January, so the timing is about right.

I must add that they had more snow and colder temperatures that what is usually "normal", but you are still going to hit cold weather.

I had some light weight, lined synthetic gloves. They are called Isotoner..don't know if you have that brand in Australia. The gloves were essential to my comfort level. I had some rubberized, lined, short black boots. They looked nice with pants...I did NOT wear any skirts that trip. These boots were water proof and were very warm, I did not need heavy socks with them, just normal socks.

I bought silk underwear from a company in Canada, they ship to the US and I took three pair of heavy knit black tights to wear under my out trousers. When it was windy my legs were always warm. The silk underwear...I got a low necked T-shirt, short sleeve style were the first layer on top. Then I added a cotton T-shirt or light weight knit top. Then I would add a cardigan sweater over that and then I bought a long ankle length, medium weight black wool coat. It also helped keep my legs warm.

I could shed the coat AND the sweater if needed indoors. That's why I didn't want a really heavy coat because the stores are usually way overheated and I knew I'd be taking it off and didn't want a really heavy garment to lug around.

The final additon was a scarf. That made all the difference in the world on how warm I was and I could pull it up over my chin, or my nose to keep them warm. I did NOT wear a hat...I hate "hat hair" so just would not, but there were a couple of days when a hat would certainly have been appropriate. My brother had a knit cap he wore almost every day.

We had highs in 20's (F) so it was pretty cold. That's not the norm, but it certainly could happen any time.

I really was quite comfortable walking about almost all the time.

So, maybe this will help you a little bit. Usually layers will keep you warmer than one heavy garment.
crefloors is offline  
Old Aug 28th, 2008, 04:04 PM
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Hi ozziez,

well with an itinerary like that, you can reckon on getting virtually every sort of weather except a heat-wave. one thing you will get is wet weather, though, but not necessarily snow, so the suggestion of water-proof boots is a good one.

But rather than stock up at home, why not wait til you get here to see what it's like? I'm not saying buy everything here, but you could certainly save a bit of room in the luggage for some european gear.

one thing to bear in mind, particuarly in places like austria and the czech republic, is that although museums etc do tend to be over-heated, they all have "gare-robe" ie cloakrooms, usually free, normaly compulsory, to leave coats and bags. so it can make sense to have a big top-coat to keep out the cold, which you then take off indoors and walk round in relatively few garments.

hope you have a great trip,

regards, ann

ps unless you're going skiing, don't bother with the thermal stuff. we have central heating and when it's on, the thermals tend to itch.

pps - jeans don't keep out wet or cold. strangely enough, everyone still wears them!
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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 04:20 PM
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Silk underwear, fleece, waterproof jackets, waterproof shoes, warm socks!!! plus hats, gloves and scarves (again, fleece is most flexible).

For both sexes, I think a good vest -- fleece or down -- is the most valuable item plus what you need for the extremities.
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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 05:00 PM
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For Central Europe in December you will need a real winter coat, hat, gloves, scarf, waterproof boots (some snow is likely) and a sturdy folding umbrella.

Since many people used to hot climates feel the cold more than people used to it I would also reco a couple of warm (not thin cotton) sweaters, long-sleeve shirts, warmes pants (cords or heavy jeans).

Italy - depending on where you go is likely to be significantly warmer (snow is very rare in Rome and infrequent in Paris and London). But the latter two esp can be damp and chilly. In late November in Paris I was perfectly fine with a leather jacket (jacket - not thin blazer) - but then I'm used to colder weather and like it - and don;t pull out my winter jackets until the temps go into the 30"s (about freezing - about 5 degrees centigrade).

Also - it depends on if you will be in the mountains or not - since as you ascend the temps drop fairly quickly. (We went up the Jungfrau in June and it was below freezing at the top even though it was about 75 - 24 cent. - at the bottom).
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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 05:33 PM
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Wow! What great advice. Thanks so much crefloors, annhig, zeppole and nytraveler. I am compiling a list right now of what we need.

I had never heard of silk underwear to keep warm (obviously have heard about skimpy silk underwear), so I'll investigate that. I can hear you laughing at my ignorance right now!

Also didn't know that thermal underwear got itchy - my son will be relieved that he won't need to wear it.

The tights are an excellent idea and I can't believe that I never thought of an umbrella. On that, would a raincoat be better than an umbrella if we are in crowded spots?

I don't think we will be at the top of any freezing mountains - but I could be wrong. In Italy we'll be going to Rome, Naples, Pompeii, Florence, Pisa, Bologna and Venice.

One other thing - I remember my woollen gloves disappearing before my very eyes when I played with snow. My kids are praying for snow as only the oldest has ever seen it. Should I get gloves made of man-made fibres / materials?
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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 05:41 PM
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I would research second hand or consignment shops, or somewhere where you can buy these things very cheaply, since I bet you'll almost never need them again, and the kids will outgrow whatever you get.

That said, I usually wear a silk camisole, silk turtleneck, fleece pullover, and a warm coat or a vest. Gloves, warm shawl, no hat. I don't bother with the warm tights under my jeans because I hate the feeling, and my legs rarely get that cold. A vest is crucial, I think - they look stylish, and I believe the most important part of you to keep warm are the extremities (fingers and toes) and your core. You can get away with a warm vest rather than a coat. Will you be outside much, or running from the metro or a taxi into a building? That makes a big difference. Watch out for sweaty feet - when my feet sweat and can't breathe, they get really cold!
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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 05:52 PM
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Hi Momliz

What good advice. You are quite right about the kids outgrowing the gear I'll get them, so I'll seek out some charity shops - perhaps I'll get lucky with one or two items.

We'll be outdoors a great deal because we want to walk around and explore as much as possible. However, we will also be in museums, shops, trains, etc.

About the sweaty feet - will waterproof boots make feet sweaty? What are your suggestions to combat sweaty feet? Cotton socks maybe?
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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 06:58 PM
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No, no NOT cotton! Here (and I'm sure in Oz) we can get hiking socks, made out of some kind of wicking material. Work great! But, yes, waterproof shoes would make your feet sweat. But, you wouldn't need to wear them every day. Do you really need waterproof? Good leather keeps most water out, and if you treat it first, it won't get water stains on it.

I'm trying to think of what you could do with your cold weather gear when you're done with it - maybe donate it to a shelter there? Or sell it on eBay?

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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 07:20 PM
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I agree with wearing layers, but I would ditch the fleece and take a medium to heavy weight wool cardigan. Wool is warmer even if it gets wet. From the inside out: silk long underwear top and bottom; jeans or other sturdy pants; turtle neck or long sleeve tshirt; long sleeve shirt (take one heavy flannel or wool shirt); wool cardigan; hip length, heavy outer layer that is wind and rain resistant with hood; hat and mittens. To avoid buying winter boots that will be used just once and take up unnecessary space, you can waterproof a good pair of walking shoes that will accomodate a pair of warm socks. The silk long underwear washes and dries easily in the sink. Have a fantastic time!
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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 07:36 PM
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I'm no expert... but I wouldn't buy a bunch of new kooky clothes, unless you will be mountain climbing or something. For European cities, layered t-shirt, sweater, jacket/coat, jeans, socks, shoes/boots, etc. should be sufficient. Cheap knit hat, gloves, scarf, completes the outfits.
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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 08:00 PM
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Hi Ozzie

We are doing a similar trip - but from Sydney - and we are following that up with a cruise from Florida to Rio.

DD and I are going to Toronto first so will hit Winners (a discount outlet) to buy winter coats - quilted down types so they will squish and warm ankle boots.

DH is meeting us in Paris and I've just been entertaining my cousin's inlaws from Spain who have a leathergoods shop. DH is XXX so unlikely to find appropriate coat in Sydney so I had them measure him up and they are custom making a coat (this isn't much help to you but I'm chuffed at my ingenuity). I'm spending a few days with them before we head to Paris so DH will get coat when he arrives at apartment. We are finishing up with a few days in the French Alps before flying to Orlando.

Otherwise we are doing lots of layering.

If I was you, I would start looking for cheap ski jackets on Ebay/Trading Post following our ski season or contact some of the ski rental places and see if they are selling any off. Last time we went to Toronto/London over Xmas/New Years we took old ski jackets and left them behind. We needed them. London had a cold snap and the weather was brutal. Layers of vests/cardigans etc would have been impossible.

Where were you looking at thermal underwear? Kathmandu has great sales on gear as well. Buy your socks, gloves hats etc. there. Buy the quick wicking socks - they are brilliant. You could use those with Blundstones / RM Williams boots. Also the explorer socks are very warm. Probably bring one pair of thermals per person. I know they worked a treat when we were touring London and it was so bitterly cold. The thing with the socks is they don't get stinky and you can wear them for a couple of days.
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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 08:10 PM
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The thing about the Blundstones/RM Williams is that they are waterproof. My SIL wears Blundstones all winter in Canada - someone brings her a new pair every couple of years.
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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 11:18 PM
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You want to keep your feet warm ! There might be snow in the Czech Republic, Germany and Austria.
I have a pair of black Gore-Tex boots with insulated lining. They do not look like hiking-shoes, fold easily, weigh nothing, are water-proof and are elegant enough to be worn in the city.
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Old Aug 29th, 2008, 12:10 AM
Join Date: May 2006
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We are also doing a similar trip from Sydney...a lot of Aussies searching for a "white" Christmas??LOL
I got a really comfy and warm pair of waterproof boots from Larry Adler in Sydney and they have been good here too with some of the weather we've been having!
I'm also told layers and I got a goose down jacket that packs down to nothing.
Hope we all have a great time and can compare notes back here in 2009!!
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Old Aug 29th, 2008, 12:37 AM
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At the moment here in Perth, Mountain Designs is having a huge sale so you might pick up some bargains there if you can find a store near you, I assume its an Australia wide sale. They also stock some thermals from NZ made from wool, very thin and they breathe which is important. But the sales ends at the end of this month so you only have a couple of days. I have never seen the silk ones here though they sound nice.

In Norway last year we wore thermal tops, t-shirts, polar fleeces and a Goretex jacket, scarves, gloves and hat. You need something to cut out cold wind.

If you are scouring the Op Shops and see anything that has Goretex on it, grab it as it is one of the best. K-Mart also have some gloves and beanies that have the brand Thinsulate on it which my hubby found he was happy with. But unless you get in real quick most of the winter stuff is disappearing from the shelves. We have a storage box where we keep our "cold" gear, both our kids have been snowboarding in Canada so you never know you might use it again (think positive!).

Good luck with your buying and best wishes for a great trip.

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Old Aug 29th, 2008, 01:07 AM
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I , Canadain here, but from the "warm "part of Canada,, but we ski,,

Important to note.

Down jackets suck in the rain, they get wet and smell and dry slowly,, down is good for COLD DRY weather, for wet and cold and wind, GORE TEX is the way to go.

Long underwear, sometimes also called "thermal" underwear, is not itchy unless it is wool or wool blend. I have serveral pairs that are cotton blends ( synthetics) and one pair silk, they do not itch.

Bring a toque for the kids( knit hat) they pack to nothing and since most heat loss is through your head they are one of the most important items for cold weather. They are cheap too. I like the fleece ones myself rather then knit.

Fleece is nice, but tends to be really casual , so a sweater is probaly more verstile.

Good socks are important. I wouldn't bring heavy duty boots, but choose a heavier shoe with a good sole and room to wear with a warm sock.

I am vain enough as a woman that although Gore Tex is a better choice I would still likely bring/wear my long fitted wool coat, its more "city smart" and does keep me warm,, I would just make sure to bring my umbrella each day.

Lightweight gloves are a must.

I am not a scarf wearer( many women are though and scarves are very in style in Europe) ,, and in the interest of packing light, I would just make sure to pack a turtle neck or two, they look nice on men or women.I always bring at least one.
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Old Aug 29th, 2008, 02:35 AM
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Buy your winter clothes in Europe, where you'll get a much wider choice and, if you look a bit round, by far cheaper prices.

Leather shoes will NOT keep your feet dry in the rain unless you give them special treatment which has to be repeated every couple of days. Solution: Buy a can of water-repellent spray in a shoe shop or department store on your first day in Europe.

Unless you plan mountaineering or skiing, you won't need thermal underwear. I have never owned any and survived 41 German winters.

You'll definitely need a rainproof jacket with warm lining. A 3-in-1 jacket with a fleece lining that can be zipped in or out might be a good idea, as the rain jacket without lining will also be of use to you at home. These things aren't cheap, though.
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Old Aug 29th, 2008, 03:37 AM
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Right - I'm getting the picture now I think. The shopping list is looking comprehensive and you have all done an excellent job of educating me - thank you so much.

One thing I'm still not sure of is whether we should leave our umbrellas at home - or not? I have visions of my kids poking people's eyes out with open umbellas in crowded places. Would a raincoat/rain jacket with a hood suffice?
Ozziez is offline  
Old Aug 29th, 2008, 04:39 AM
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I'd bring the umbrellas. If it rains in Paris they're everywhere. In my experience teenage girls prefer umbrellas to hats and hoods as they'd rather get wet than mess up their hair! Your son would probably be happier without an umbrella...
Bring small collapsible ones if you have them alternatively you can buy the cheap souvenir umbrellas sold in most big European cities as soon as the skies turn grey.

highflyer is offline  

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