Heading to New Zealand on your next trip?

Well then, you’ve made a wise choice! New Zealand is famous for its picturesque views of unique flora and fauna and exciting activities that’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the world.

However, if you are from a warm country or if you’ve never been to a country in the winter before, it’s wise to take precautions in handling the weather.

While snow and winter are exciting to many tourists, it can also be a danger if you don’t know how to handle the cold, an absolute necessity if you want to enjoy New Zealand’s outdoors.

In today’s post, we’ll cover the best tips for tourists to handle and beat the cold weather so you can enjoy yourself more during your holiday.

Always start by warming yourself first

It’s easier to change your own body temperature instead of trying to fight the weather. So, instead of trying to turn up the heater in your room or chugging down a hot drink, start off by wearing proper clothing in the cold.

The old myth of humans losing almost all of their body heat from the head is false. You’ll lose heat from any part of your body that is exposed to the cold air so make sure your clothing covers your whole body with the exception of your face (although masks are recommended when it gets too cold).

Layer your clothing

Speaking of clothing, a handy tip to keep yourself extra warm is to layer your clothes.

So, what is layering?

Layering simply means stacking your clothes on one another to take advantage of each material’s weaknesses and strengths and keep your body warmer during cold times.

For example, fleece clothing is light and it’s designed to be breathable so our body won’t overheat. However, as it is so breathable, it won’t keep you warm from cold air nor will it insulate if it rains.

So, you can wear fleece clothing on a calm and dry day, but you have to layer your clothing with a water of windproof material if it rains or gets very cold to make up for the weaknesses of fleece clothing.

Not only does layering create more pockets of air in your clothing which helps to insulate your body, you can also avoid sweating which brings your body temperature down the quickest.

This advice also applies to your legs; it might not be the prettiest outfit, but long underwear or tights underneath your pants make a world of a difference in keeping your body warm.

A step-by-step guide to layering your clothing

New Zealand snowy magic

Have a base layer

The base layer is the first layer of clothing which is your underwear or thermals.

Merino wool is the best choice of material, but there are many high-performing materials that work just as well while being cheaper.

Your base layer should be relatively tight but still be comfortable and breathable – you definitely do not want to wear something so tight it hurts.

The base layer also needs to be able to stay warm when wet because this layer will get sweaty easily, so be prepared.

The midlayer

On extremely cold days, the midlayer can be layered twice to keep you warm. Unlike the base layer, the midlayer should consist of breathable fleece or synthetic materials to compensate for the base layer’s weaknesses.

This layer will always be some sort of down jacket that insulates your body heat. It’d make sense to go for a down jacket that is light and squishy as not only will it feel more comfortable, you’ll also have an easier time storing it.

The wind and waterproof layer

The wind and waterproof layer is pretty expensive compared to the other two layers but if you really cannot find or afford one, a plastic raincoat or even plastic bags work well for a while.

The final layer is meant to protect you against cold winds and heavy rain during the winter season which is incredibly hard to tolerate even if you are a native.

Again, get something that is light and easy to store. Spending your money on higher end products is more than worth it here.

Wear loose clothing

One of the more important tips to keep warm is to wear loose clothing. We know this advice contradicts the advice on layers above but your underwear is the only thing that should be sticking to your body.

Especially on your feet and fingers, allow more space for air to circulate and forget about tight gloves. Mitts are usually better for this reason as they have more air pockets than gloves.

An extra pair of socks to keep your feet warm may sound like a great idea, but if you find that you have to put in extra effort to wear your boots, you’ll face a lot of problems along the way.

The reason you want to wear loose clothing is that you want to create little bubbles of air between your body and the cold weather; think of your body as a thermos, you want to maintain spaces of air between the drink to keep it warm.

Be careful of frostbite

New Zealand winter road trip

Frostbite is one of the main dangers of adapting to cold weather, regardless of whether you’re used to it or not.

Do you feel pain?

Do you notice lethargy, pains, or discomfort in any part of your body? Do you also notice any abnormal color changes on your fingers, for example?

These are two common signs when frostbite is starting to take over your body. Remember, feeling pain is much better than numbness in cold weather. People think that feeling numb is a good thing but it’s not!

The reason why you feel numb and have a tough time noticing which parts are numb is because your tissues and skin are literally freezing which makes your body unable to detect pain.

If you start feeling pain, you should quickly find a way to solve your frostbite. If your skin turns blue, there is probably some tissue damage to your body – find somewhere warm ASAP.

How to treat frostbite

When you are frostbitten, you have no reliable way to tell what is actually hurting you. You can try rubbing the area, but rubbing is going to cause more damage than healing it.

One way to treat frostbite is to warm the injured part with warm (not hot) water. Take extreme notice of the water temperature because when you have frostbite, you cannot feel the temperature of the water even if it’s boiling.

It is incredibly easy to burn or damage your skin further while it is in the early stages of frostbite when you are trying to warm up.

Instead, find a source of warmness (like a fireplace) and find some clothing to keep you warm. Remove all tight clothing and stay as warm as possible while getting help from the hospital.

Figure out the signs of hypothermia

New Zealand Mount Cook winter

A common misunderstanding about hypothermia is that it happens only in the winter season.

Many fail to realise that rain is more than capable of inducing hypothermia in adults, and even more likely among children. Exposing yourself to cold temperatures can cause hypothermia regardless of whether it is snowing or not.

Some symptoms of hypothermia include:

  • Your teeth start to shiver and talking is incredibly difficult
  • Your movements feel sluggish and everything seems slow
  • It’s hard to think, almost as if you’re drunk
  • You begin to feel very sleepy
  • You don’t feel cold out of a sudden

Another reliable way to recognise hypothermia is to touch the tip of your thumb with your pinky finger.

If you begin to struggle to touch your thumb tip with your pinky, your body is too cold and further exposure to the weather will induce hypothermia. Try it in cold weather and you’ll notice that it’s very hard to apply pressure when you’re cold.

So, how do you prevent hypothermia?

We suggest you do the following:

  • If you are wet, go somewhere dry and get your clothes as dry as possible. You don’t want to remain wet in cold weather because it’ll rapidly bring down your body temperature.
  • If you’re somewhere windy, find a place where the wind is scarce. Some good places are in buildings, shelters, or under a tree if you have no choice. You can also wear thick clothing to block the wind.
  • Finally, find a source of heat. Fireplaces and cars are good options but be careful when staying in your car. Roll down your windows and do not leave it running for too long to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

Stay cool on the alcohol

Drinking is fun, we know, but there should be a limit when it’s cold outside.

What happens when you drink?

When you drink, your blood capillaries become wider, which brings more blood to your skin, which also makes you feel warmer. However, what you’re actually doing is dangerous as you’re losing heat quicker than when you were not drinking.

Why so?

When blood flows to your skin, your body is shifting blood to the surface rather than keeping it focused in your core where your vital organs lie. So you may feel warm, but you’re quickly experiencing hypothermia without knowing it.

Taking a nap or sleeping while drunk is also an extremely dangerous combination in the cold. You won’t know what’s going on and before you know it, you’re already unconscious.

So, remember, be extremely careful in cold weather and always take steps to keep your body warm!

About the Road Trip

We have a reputation for preparation and detail that goes above and beyond – making excellent recommendations for your itinerary as well as including the best stops to enjoy the scenery and take memorable photos on your next time.

We offer a wide choice of private tour packages and you can select one based on your needs and travel expectations.

From an 8-day North Island private tour that covers the very best of the North Island to a 14-day adventure in New Zealand’s South Island, we’ve got your traveling needs covered.

We’ll be more than happy to discuss your interests and the length of your stay, before putting together an itinerary that is tailored exclusively for you.

What’s next?

Over here at The Road Trip, we have several tour packages on offer for visitors.

We are one of the leading tour provider in New Zealand with a host of awards under our name. You can check out our client testimonials over here.

To get in touch with us, send us an e-mail by heading over to this page or call us at 0800 4 ROADTRIP if you are in New Zealand or +64 2191 0433 if you are outside of New Zealand.