The weatherman tells you that the forecast top of nothing degrees will actually feel like negative millions. The wind is howling, rain splattering against your window and you could swear you saw some snowflakes.
Sure, there are days in Canberra when staying indoors seems like the only option. But if you’ve got to head out, there are ways to prepare yourself for the onslaught of winter’s icy hell waiting to slap you around the face as soon as you step out the door.
It’s no real secret that layers are the key to dressing for cold climates. David Edwards, director of Canberra adventure company Mont, knows all about preparing people for anything “from Canberra winter to Mount Everest, and everything in between”.
“The advantage of using a layering system is that you can, of course, put more on when it’s cold, take layers off when you’re warming up or if the weather is changing, so it gives you a really universal clothing system that is good for all conditions,” he said.
But here’s where a little inside knowledge can help – ordering your layers.
If you’re feeling the chill, or spending some time outside, don’t go for cotton closest to the body.
“We certainly avoid cottons, because they don’t offer much of a thermal retention. They’re cold and damp when they’re wet. We look for a technical base layer,” Mr Edwards said.
Instead go for something which dries quickly, and wicks moisture away from the skin, like a high-tech polyester, or a super fine merino.
“Merino’s inherent quality is that it’s warm when it’s wet. It’s a natural fibre, so it seems to acclimatise to the prevailing weather conditions, you’re not necessarily overheating in the garment – it seems to regulate temperature really well,” he said.
The outer layer should always be a reasonably hard shell – waterproof and windproof are two essential qualities if you’re going to be outside at all, but make sure it’s still breathable and capable of moving moisture and condensation from inside the garment to the outside.
“As soon as you’ve got wind penetrating the clothing system, you obviously are then starting to deal with problems with wind chill. While the ambient temperature might be bearable, once you’ve got a cutting wind through there that reduces the ambient temperature,” Mr Edwards said.
Cover your head, fingers, and pull on some thick socks (feet also lose a lot of heat), and maybe a middle layer of fleece or more merino, and you’re ready for just about anything.
And if the freezing conditions aren’t enough to put you off a little athleticism, Mr Edwards recommends a heavy base layer with excellent wicking capabilities, topped off with a light wind-breaking, breathable shell.
“We normally approach it with the fact that you might start out cold, but you’ll warm up quite quickly,” he said.