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When travelling during the Winter, it’s easy to find yourself in countries and regions that frequently have sub-zero temperatures.

In fact, countries like Finland and Poland frequently reach temperatures as low as -20°C or even -25°C… that’s some serious cold!

When we travelled to Finland in January last year, it was between -23°C and -26°C every single day, and it was so cold that the ski lifts closed on a couple of the days! This was my first time travelling to such an icy country (and I’m sure it won’t be my last).

I learned a lot about technology and my own body during that week and so while I’m now tucked up in bed with my laptop and pyjamas on in the safety of a mild British Winter, I want to share all the things I learned that you definitely need to know about temperatures as cold as -20°C…

Snowy trees in Finland

1. Your phone will stop working!

Phones (especially modern smartphones) are not used to these sorts of temperatures, so expect them to shut off if kept outside in the cold air for too long (i.e. if you’re using one to take photos). Keeping it in an insulated pocket is fine, but if you keep it out in the cold air for longer than 30 seconds, expect it to turn off until you get it inside again. It’s almost like your phone is having a tantrum about being asked to come out into the cold!!

2. You will need to bring spare batteries for any electronic equipment

When out in sub-zero temperatures, expect your batteries to last half as long as they would normally. Just like with your smartphone, carry batteries around inside an insulated pocket to keep them warm and efficient, but the fail safe plan is to stock up on a number of batteries… especially if you’re after some epic shots of the Northern Lights or other snowy scenes.

Cold Camera

3. Bring disposable hand warmers with you for your photography equipment

It’s not just batteries and smartphones that have a hard time of it in cold climates, cameras and other photography equipment also suffer. One tip from the pros is to carry around disposable hand warmers to use on your photography equipment to help warm things up a bit when needed.

4. Pins and needle tingling sensations are a warning sign!

So we’ve all heard about pins and needles, haven’t we? You know, when you’ve been sat still for too long and your body’s gone to sleep in places. Well, if you experience a sensation like this when in sub-zero temperatures, then this is your body warning you that if you don’t get inside soon, you may experience hypothermia. I’m afraid there’s no way of saying this without scaring you, but cold temperatures like this are no laughing matter if your body isn’t used to it. So listen to your body, and if you do start getting tingling sensations, please head inside to warm up! See this as a great point in the day to head inside for a well deserved rest by the fire with a warming hot chocolate in hand.

Finland Fire

5. You will want to eat lots… and lots… and lots…

Eating keeps calories burning in your body and keeps you warm, so you will probably find you’ll want that reindeer steak, cheese fries, mince pies and yet STILL be hungry afterwards.

6. Get used to slightly square tyres!

Countries that are used to sub-zero temperatures such as Alaska and Finland among others are ahead of the pack in terms of prepping for cold weather when driving. Residents of these countries usually keep heaters under the hood of their cars overnight, but there’s another thing they have to get used to: square tyres. Basically, cold weather causes car tyres to contract and decrease in air pressure but this happens unevenly, so the result is a bumpy ride as cars turn their not-quite-round wheels.

Snowy Finland

7. Remember to remove any snow in the exhaust pipe & keep the tank at least half full

Another tip if you’re hiring a car in these sorts of temperatures is to remove any snow from the exhaust pipe when you’re finished with it for the day and to always keep the tank at least half full. This will prevent your car from freezing over and blocking important mechanics!

8. You may have to look like the Marshmallow (Wo)Man in a full body suit

For any tour you do in these types of temperatures – anything from hunting for the Northern Lights, to snowmobiling or husky sledding – expect your tour operator to make you wear a full body suit over your ski clothes that makes you look like the Marshmallow (Wo)Man. You’ll be nice and toasty… but may just find your movement is difficult and more constricted than usual!

Justine aka Marshmallow Man

9. Even countries used to the cold sometimes shut down!

One last thing I learned was that even countries used to these types of temperatures can sometimes shut down. Now, I’m not talking about public transport failing to run or shops closing, that’s probably just us in the UK as soon as we get the first signs of any kind of snow! No… what I’m talking about is things people have no control over such as electronic equipment failing, which includes ski lifts. If you happen to head out somewhere extremely cold for snowsports, know that sometimes, things will have to temporarily close through no fault of anyone’s, except nature versus electronics.

In super cold temperatures like this, being prepared is key so I hope knowing all of this is useful! And do you have any tips I’ve not covered? Let me know in the comments…

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What They Don’t Tell You About -20°C Temperatures

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