Moving to a much colder climate - any advice??
October 28, 2008 7:36 PM   Subscribe

My question dear MeFites is... do you have any advice for me to help make the transition from very hot to very cold temps. comfortably and cost-effectively?

I may soon be moving from Brisbane, Australia, which has very mild winters (20 degrees celcius / 68 degrees fahrenheit) and *very* hot and humid summers, to north Tasmania which is meant to be COLD!

On average I'm looking at a comparative 20 degree celcius (65 d FH) drop in temperature all year round.

My question then dear MeFites is... do you have any advice for me to help make the transition from very hot to very cold temps. comfortably and cost-effectively? Things I particularly need help with are...

- What sort of fabric should I be looking for in a winter coat to keep me toasty warm and dry?

- How does one make their warddrobe work in a new cold climate without having to buy everything all over again (I'm thinking high-altitude thermals under everything?)

- What kinds of things can I do in a rental property to keep the house warm and our electricity bills down?

- Do you have any recommendations for cost-effective and preferrably eco-friendly heating options; the kind of thing that could be left on all day in a small room?

Anything else?? Any and all advice would be very much appreciated :)!

Thank you!
posted by katala to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I personally prefer fleece jackets that come with nylon shells because you can wear them separately depending on the conditions. Fleece doesn't do much when it's windy but keeps me warm and is breathable, and then the nylon shell just acts as a wind breaker. Other things you should look into as far as winter gear goes are a good pair of gloves/mittens, and maybe scarf and a hat if it's really cold. Fleece and wool are usually good materials to look for.

For the rest of your wardrobe you can probably get by with thermal underwear but there is something about wool sweaters that I love. Wool socks during the winter are pretty amazing too.

As for your house the best things you can do are to make sure there's decent weather stripping around all your doors and windows and to keep your shades down at night or when you leave the house.
posted by woolylambkin at 8:08 PM on October 28, 2008

Best answer: I managed to do international development work in South Africa and Vietnam and arrived back in Saskatchewan in December and January. I encountered a 70-80 degree drop in temperature... I have been through many winters like this, but I had no time to acclimate. When you are around for the seasonal temperature drop, you won't notice the cold nearly as much. In school, most of us would play football in shorts when it was -10 (c).

Basically when I endured the 80 degree swing found that I needed lots of blankets at night to keep warm, and that my feet were always cold (I found I would always sit cross-legged and put my feet under my body, which means my feet were always asleep when I was sitting). This was the worst part.

Always have a hat and gloves for sure - this to me is key. I am fond of wool/leather coats to keep warm most days - and I have a downfill coat for when its really cold, a nice leather coat or wool/cashmere coat also looks great. I rarely wear long underwear, and I wouldn't recommend them unless you are working outside - and ski pants work better for that. Your core won't be cold with anything resembling a decent coat, but dress in layers. T-shirt, sweater, coat is a good combo. Have slippers around the house. I generally wear a nice pair of insulated dress boots outside when there is snow on the ground, and keep a pair of nice dress shoes at my desk in the office or take them in a bag.

I don't recommend fleece but some people like it. You will want to avoid coats that have buttons with gaps between them and metal zippers.
posted by Deep Dish at 8:48 PM on October 28, 2008

Oh yes, the best winter coat ever made is the Canadian-issue (Arctic or Extreme Cold?) parka.

It looks like army gear, but its the warmest and most practical winter coat you could imagine. I would take one of those over anything made by North Face or anyone else in a survival situation.
posted by Deep Dish at 8:56 PM on October 28, 2008

Best answer: I'll second the fleece jacket with a nylon shell. I have a decent one made by Columbia and it's kept me warm even when skiing in really cold conditions. As well, a good toque makes a big difference on really cold days. In general wearing multiple layers is key. As for the house, windows are a prime spot for heat to escape so make sure they are new or at least sealed well.

That said, the temperatures you are likely to experience in Tasmania are not exceptionally cold. It's autumn here and today the temperature was around 2 degrees C. I wore a sweater under a warmer jacket (not my bigger ski jacket) with jeans and was just fine. We actually only turned the heating on recently and weren't that uncomfortable before.

I realize your problem is the transition, but from the way you talk in your post it seems like you think you need to go all out with new stuff. However, when your lowest temperatures are just barely cold enough for snowfall, it might not be necessary.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 9:01 PM on October 28, 2008

I have one of those Columbia coats, and I find they tend to bunch up around the drawstring at the waste and always need adjusting. I am very broad-shouldered though YMMV.
posted by Deep Dish at 9:06 PM on October 28, 2008

Best answer: It's been said many times and it will be said again, but it bears repeating: layers. I moved from Phoenix to Bloomington, Indiana (not the coldest, but a lot colder than I'm used to). I still wear t-shirts all year long, but I wear a thick coat when it gets cold, and I add a long-sleeved flannel shirt under that when it gets colder. Unless I'm going to spend more than 30 minutes outdoors (or more than 10 minutes biking or in high wind), I don't even bother layering below the waist, and then I usually add something over my pants rather than long underwear. This is primarily because I really don't like pants to begin with, and the option to remove the outer layer is one I take advantage of as soon as I get into a decently heated place. Thick socks are a win.

One bit of advice that everyone gives, but no one listens to is to cover your head even when it's not your head that's cold. You lose a lot of heat through your head, so your body has to work extra hard to heat the extremities when it's exposed.

If you're going to be in the wind or riding a bike, I am very uncomfortable unless I cover up every exposed inch of skin. It doesn't have to be very cold at all for the wind chill to really get to me. I'll be biking in gloves, a hat, ski goggles, and a ski mask before it even gets below freezing.

I have an absolutely wonderful winter coat/jacket that I got at CostCo a couple years ago. I never really thought about how well-designed a coat could be until I noticed all the nifty features it has. All of the following are great things to have in a coat:
  • a flap that goes over the zipper/buttons to keep the wind from getting in
  • soft fabric-lined pockets where you put your hands
  • slick water-proof pockets for everything else (an umbrella pocket is a nice bonus)
  • velcro or some other way to make sure the sleeves are tight around your wrists
  • some kind of flap that covers any metal on the inside of the collar (it's not nice to try and snuggle up into your coat only to get a freezing metal zipper poking you in the mouth)
  • big dangly things on the zippers so you can manipulate them in gloves
Non-clothing related advice: If you have a car, you need an ice scraper. If you have a yard, you need a snow shovel. Better to buy them early than after you need them. If you're not driving with snow tires, chains, or in a 4x4, try not to drive when there's any ice on the roads. You will skid. Often, no harm will come of this, but the first few times, it's a scary thing to have happen. (Unfortunately, the fear fades with time, but the danger does not.) This is actually more of a problem in the spring, when the ground's been cold for a while, but the air is fluctuating around freezing. You can get all sorts of nasty (but not severe) weather combinations (for example, a couple inches of ice water under a very thin sheet of ice covered by just enough snow to make it look safe to step on). If you're somewhere where they salt the roads, wash off the underside of your car as soon as you can do it without covering it with ice. The salt will do lots of damage if you let it sit.
posted by ErWenn at 10:11 PM on October 28, 2008

Thermal underwear.
posted by mandal at 11:43 PM on October 28, 2008

Glancing at climate information for northern Tasmania, I should note that it has mild winters, just less mild than you are used to. Average winter lows of 4--5C/40F. That is, milder than Dallas.

I would suggest that you need:

*A jacket. Any kind of lined or insulated jacket should do you admirably. You do not need to care about the fabric of the jacket; just get one that you think looks good and is lined/insulated. Even thinly insulated jackets should be fine in the barely-freezing climate you're talking about.

*A hat. Your basic toque.

*A pair of cheap gloves.

That is all. I would suggest that arctic parkas are inappropriate for that climate.

How does one make their warddrobe work in a new cold climate without having to buy everything all over again (I'm thinking high-altitude thermals under everything?)

Wear a jacket over your shirt. Put on a hat and gloves. Simple as that, really. If that's not doing it for you, then thermals are cheap.

What kinds of things can I do in a rental property to keep the house warm and our electricity bills down?

Keep the thermostat turned low enough that you want a sweater/sweatshirt inside the house.

Do you have any recommendations for cost-effective and preferrably eco-friendly heating options; the kind of thing that could be left on all day in a small room?

Just leave your central heat on. That is what it is for. Many places have time-sensitive thermostats so that you can tell the house to keep itself at 55F while you're at work, start warming up at 4 to get to 65F at 5 or 6, and then to cool down to 62F whilst you sleep snuggled under your blankies. If not, just drop the thermostat a little bit manually when you leave for work and when you go to bed.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:35 AM on October 29, 2008

Best answer: Just leave your central heat on.
I don't know about Tasmania, but a lot of places in Melbourne don't have central heating, so it's quite likely that a rental down there wouldn't have it either. He probably needs tips more along the lines of
- thick curtains for insulation
- pick a 'living area' in the centre of the house for winter and keep it warm. Deal with the rest of the house, bathroom, bedroom, etc, being cold. It won't kill you.
- Get warm pyjamas and a couple layers of blankets and, if you like, an electric blanket or hot water bottles as preferred. Welcome to the joy of snuggling in a warm bed knowing that it's freezing just outside the blanket. Also, you may consider getting a dressing gown and nice thick socks/slippers (as your bedroom is going to be cold, per tip 2).
- carpets/rugs are warmer than bare wood/tiled floor. A nice thick bathmat is great when stepping out of the shower.

If you have a car, you need an ice scraper. If you have a yard, you need a snow shovel.
I SERIOUSLY doubt this. It snows above 1000 feet in the middle of winter, not the rest of the state pretty much ever. Average temperature over winter is 10 degrees C.

I've moved from Melbourne to Brisbane, and from Brisbane to France for the winter, and I don't think you need that much new stuff. Depends a little on your personal body temperature - my sister wears thermals for most of winter (in Melbourne) whereas I've never owned a pair in my life. First thing I'd buy is some thicker pairs of socks and warmer pyjamas. If you're actually moving 'soon', as in the next few months, don't buy anything until you start getting cold - as Deep Dish said, the acclimatisation is significant, and the summer shouldn't be much of a shock.
posted by jacalata at 6:15 AM on October 29, 2008

Invest in a good down comforter. My wife and I live in Minnesota. We can let our indoor temps drop quite a bit at night so long as we have the comforter on the bed. An electric blanket can be nice too, even if all you use it for is to pre-warm the bed before you get in.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:22 AM on October 29, 2008

Best answer: Oh yea, a couple more things I was going to mention
-I doubt they salt the roads. I'd never seen it done until I went to Europe.
-One thing that will make a big difference is that people are prepared for it to get cold. My first winter in Brisbane I was freezing, living in a ridiculous wooden Queenslander with drafts under all the doors and no heating at all - even though the weather itself was a good 10-20 degrees warmer than my previous winter down south. Find a good solid house where all the windows close properly and you'll be halfway there.
posted by jacalata at 6:28 AM on October 29, 2008

1. Look for down or fleece jackets. The puffy kind. They're very comfy and can double as pillows in a pinch.

2. You want to layer as much as possible. You will obviously need to buy some sweaters, but I think if you layer your existing clothes, you should be stylish enough.

3. Get a space heater for every room you sleep in. They're portable and can be moved around from room to room as needed.

4. I'm in the US, but I'm sure they have this in Australia. There are plastic wrap sheets one can bloe dry onto the windows to seal them properly. This keeps heat from escaping as fast. I'd go to Wal-Mart, or whatever iteration of it they have down under.

Good luck!
posted by reenum at 6:56 AM on October 29, 2008

I think you are WAY over-reacting. northern tasmania is just not that cold.

Sure brisbane is pretty much summer (shorts and T-shirts) all year round but still Tasmania barely even gets below zero in the winter.

the only difference is in tasmania in the winter you will need to wear a pair of jeans, a jumper, and a coat/jacket on most days...

Thermals will be unnecessary - unless you are working outside or spending a lot of time outside.

buys sopem jeans, jumpers and a thick jacket. - or say a wollen over-coat from a thrift/charity store if you want to do it on the cheap.
posted by mary8nne at 7:30 AM on October 29, 2008

Best answer: Oh man, I've said it before and I've said it again: just because it is cold doesn't mean your clothes need to be ugly. Your profile doesn't list your gender, so I'll include girl-relevant parts.

If it is in the 40s (me no speak C), you need some nice layering sweaters that you like and that match a lot of clothes--you'll be wearing them a lot. Thick cardigans are nice because you don't have to keep pulling them over your head & you have more heat adjustment with buttons. A mid-weight wool coat will be warm enough and will look and feel nicer that fleece or nylon. You are going to be wearing it every day in any number of situations, so neutral color with the possibility to dress it up is what you want. An example.

Accessories: A hat is nice; gloves might be overkill in those temps. Do not, however, overlook the mighty scarf. You have no idea how much warmer you are when your neck is warm. When I first moved from California to the Northeast, I scoffed at the little accessories. I was so wrong.

Finally, if you are in fact a girl, you can keep your lighter skirts and dresses alive with a good pair of knee-high boots and stockings.
posted by dame at 7:55 AM on October 29, 2008

Best answer: I don't think you need a parka, but then again, I live an Canada and know the difference between a mild winter (like Scotland) and a cold winter (Ontario, Canada).

For clothes, I think you need to layer, you may already have most things, maybe something warm, like a sweater and a top layer to break the wind, like gore-tex or a trench coat. Don't underestimate scarfs, hats and gloves. Scarfs can fill in the air between your jacket and your skin, it can make a big difference. If it's not too cold the scarf doesn't even have to be wool.

For the house, I like feather comforters. I think in mild winter climates, it gets much colder inside compared to Canada because of the lack of central heating. I suggest suggest slippers and lots of blankets for the living room. Also, keep doors closed in your house. This is really important! I used to get suddenly get really cold watching tv only to turn around and see that one of my roommates would leave the door open when leaving the room! The hallways had no heaters.

If you want to be eco friendly, don't heat the house during the day. It will warm up in about a half hour. A hot water bottle is also fantastic for sleeping in a cold house.

Have fun in Tasmania!
posted by Gor-ella at 8:43 AM on October 29, 2008

Best answer: I've moved to climate a little cooler from the one described.... from one that's much colder. In any case I do think there's been some great advice for those concerned about making a significant change. Cold is, after all, a relative thing.

nthing layers: wool in particular is your friend. I work on a pool deck and don't drive. I often have 3 or 4 layers on with zippers and vents as appropriate. A favourite combination is something thermalish with a wind & water proof shell with an option for warmer base layers.

If your core and head are warm you probably don't need as much clothing on your legs which can help when active. I often cycle in a long sleeved shirt, sweater, jacket... and shorts. Stay warm but avoid sweating. Moisture is the cursed devil

Dry feet. Things may not dry out as quickly as you expect. Moving from -20 (or colder) winters to 0..+5 was more difficult than I'd have imagined until I noticed my bread; left out didn't turn brick hard in hours, it molded. Change socks frequently, have alternate footwear (cycling shoes were an excellent decision, it make wearing the footwear you arrived in less likely) and chose footwear appropriate to the weather. Warm dry feet make a big difference.

Hot beverages and exercise can both help bring your core temperatures up to snuff. Acclimatizing to a colder climate is always challenging but moving more can help.
posted by mce at 8:52 AM on October 29, 2008

Ok, if it doesn't snow, then obviously you don't need a snow shovel. But it doesn't take much to make your window freeze overnight if you're parked outside. This happened to me maybe once or twice a year even when I lived in Las Vegas. Of course, that was rare enough that I could just hack at it with a credit card or wait an extra 5-10 minutes for it to warm up enough to break up with the windshield wipers. Moving to just a bit colder makes an ice scraper worth having. Besides, they don't cost very much.

I just noticed that the C-F conversions in your question don't quite match up. A 20C drop from 20C takes you down to 0C (32F), but a 65F drop from 68F takes you down to 3F (~-16C). This probably accounts for the variety in responses here. 3F is cold enough to need to worry about snow, long underwear, and more than two layers. 0C means you just need to have a decent coat and maybe a hat.
posted by ErWenn at 10:30 PM on October 29, 2008

Best answer: Thank you very much for all your replies :)!!

I begin to see that the answer is simply going to be really good insulation - layers, hats, gloves, scarves, wool socks, etc.

That makes me very happy because I already have the basics in my warddrobe, I'm just going to need to invest in a good coat, some good wool socks / stockings, maybe a few alpaca sweaters & cardis's, some warm boots, warmer PJ's for winter, a few warm hats, scarves, gloves, and I should be all good :)

Thank you very much for the house and car tips too! I don't think we'll get much, if any, snow in Tasi but frost will be an issue.

I feel much better prepared now to face the wintery bite (for me anyway) of a move south. Thank you again for your help and time, I'm very grateful :)!
posted by katala at 5:57 AM on November 10, 2008

« Older What is the name for my   |   Go Away, Corporate Big Bad Wolf! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.