Packing for the Frozen North

For anyone who doesn’t know, it’s almost time again for China’s Harbin Ice and Snow Festival. This takes place every year in Harbin, China, located up north (it’s actually at the same latitude as Montreal). The festival is basically an ice wonderland: there’s going to be hundreds of ice sculptures and performances throughout the festival. Officially, it starts January 5th and lasts for one month, although some exhibits open earlier and close later than that.

Ice Sculpture

If you go at night, they actually light up the sculptures, which gives everything another dimension.

An ice bridge at night

Temperatures can get to -30°C (-22°F), so obviously it’s going to be ridiculously cold. I’ve heard stories about people touching doors and windows and having their hands get stuck, as well as cameras freezing. Sounds crazy right? Not if you pack right.

So, what do you pack for this frozen journey? I’m going January 8th on our ICE9 tour (points if you can make a reference out of the tour code) for 9 days. This is what I’m bringing:

  • Heavy winter coat: I recently bought a thick knee length coat. It’s roomy enough for layers while being fashion forward.
  • Down Jacket: I’m also bringing a thick down jacket that has a faux fur collar.  It’s so warm that when New York City was hit with a blizzard 2 years ago, I was actually sweating while wearing it.
  • Snow Boots: I have a pair of mid-calf Sketchers snow boots. Very warm, waterproof, and the inside is fur-lined.
  • Sneakers: I used to wear sneakers in the snow in NYC. I don’t get cold very easily.
  • Lots of sweaters and long sleeve shirts
  • Jeans and long underwear
  • Thick socks
  • Knit hats: I have a love affair with beanies.
  • Knit gloves
  • Scarf: quite essential if you think about it. Don’t want a cold neck and it can also block wind.
  • Laptop computer
  • Cell phone: if you have an unlocked quad band cell phone, you can buy a SIM card in China and have your family call you. Or, if you have a smartphone, sign up for Skype calling and use that instead.
  • Those hand warmers you snap to activate.

Of course, since I’m on a tour the festival isn’t the only thing on the itinerary:

Day 1: USA-Shanghai
Day 2: Shanghai-Shenyang
Day 3: Shengyang
(Sights: Shenyang Palace and Chang Tso-Ling Mansion)
Day 4: Shengyang-Changchun-Jilin-Changchun (Sights: North Mountain Park, Songhua River)
Day 5: Changchun-Harbin (Sights: Ice and Snow Festival)
Day 6: Harbin (Sights: Ice and Snow Festival, Flood Control Monument, Russian styled Center Street)
Day 7: Harbin-Shanghai
Day 8: Shanghai
(Day on your own or visit the World Financial Center, Shanghai Expo Memorial Park, The Bund)
Day 9: Shanghai-USA

A detailed itinerary can be found here. It’s in Chinese though. The tour is entirely in Chinese, but you shouldn’t be deterred. We’ve had non-Chinese speakers on our Chinese language tours, and they’ve always had either the tour leader or another member of the tour translate for them.

Anyway, if you want to head on over to the extremely frozen north, give us a ring. Or, just pack all your thermals and go!

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