It’s that time of year again when the mornings start to get very cool, you start pulling out the winter gear and heaters and the Canberra air is filled with the smell of firewood burning as night falls.
While a lot of Canberrans I’ve met seem to prefer the colder months, winter is just not for me. I love the sun and the heat. I find it a lot easier to cool down than warm up – give me humidity any day over icy mornings. Coming up to my third winter after moving to Canberra from Brisbane, I’m already cursing those already fresh mornings which seem to come around way too soon.
For those new to Canberra, ‘winter’ or those unpleasant mornings below zero usually begin around Anzac Day and it sometimes doesn’t get to my standard of warm until around Melbourne Cup Day. For the past few years that I’ve been in Canberra, there’s been a phenomenon called ‘fake Spring’. You think spring is here in full force with lovely sunny and warmish days, then just when you think it’s safe to put away the winter clothes for the year, so begins a cold snap and it drops to below zero again for a week or two.
From my experience, if you’re not from Canberra, winter is hard to get used to and takes a lot of effort to not give in and move back to a warmer climate. My first winter was definitely the worst and I think I’ve acclimatised a bit since. I used to be cold at 15 degrees in Brisbane but now that temperature is pretty good – I just really hate anything below five degrees now.
If you’re new to a winter with below zero temperatures, it can take a bit of getting used to in figuring out how to dress appropriately.
Here are a few of my ‘lessons learnt’ on getting through winter.
Invest in a quality wool coat. I found out the hard way that those polyester/cotton jackets just don’t cut it in the dead of winter. You need a coat with at least 80 per cent wool in it I found. Buying a quality coat will last you many winters so it’s worth spending the money. And learn the art of layering – it makes it much easier when you enter a warm shop or restaurant to lose a few layers rather than sweating it out.
The same goes for quality gloves. I’ve found wool is best for me. The best I’ve found were actually alpaca wool which I picked up in Peru last year. Those gloves have amazing warmth. Another tip is to put the gloves on before you go outside to protect your hands from the chill. Also invest in a good hand moisturiser especially if you experience chilblains like I have – the hemp moisturiser from the Body Shop is the best I’ve found.
For the ladies, wool stockings also do the trick, particularly if you wear skirts or dresses to work or out.
Make sure your shoes have thick soles. I had an awful experience wearing thin-soled shoes at a Brumbies game one year. My feet were freezing on the cold concrete.
A great tip I learnt from a colleague is dose up on vitamins. My first winter I suffered my first ever sinus infection which swelled up my face to twice its size and made me feel like I’d been punched in the face. A colleague said she took echinacea, garlic and horseradish vitamins in the lead up to and over winter and never got sick. I tried the tip and have only had very minor colds over winter since.
If you don’t like cold winter nights, invest in an electric blanket, hot water bottles and/or heat packs (I have them all!) I’d never used an electric blanket before moving to Canberra but I can’t live without it in winter.
Travel to the northern hemisphere if you can to break up the winter. My strategy last year was to avoid the worst part of winter which was August and fled overseas to Europe and South America. While not everyone can do this I found it very effective to break up the winter – when I returned in late August I didn’t mind the cold so much as I knew it was nearly over with spring on the horizon. This year I’m going to Greece and Portugal to escape the winter for a few weeks.
Do you dislike the cold? What are your tips to surviving winter?