Harbin Survival Kits
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Jacket & pants (recommend ski/ down)
Padded gloves (recommend ski gloves)
Wool socks (many extra pairs)
Threaded shoes - otherwise get them upon arrival. Price range approx RMB50/pair to RMB200/pair (well designed). Bargain hard. You can find plenty at the Zhongyang Dajie underground shopping area.
Luggage and bags: Rolling bags are annoying and are just not the way to go. Ever. I don't care if you are just rolling from airport to hotel. They are evil! Evil I tell you!
Backpacks are ideal, especially if you plan on hiking around, but they can be a bit troublesome at times. I must say, that on trains, especially in the mad rush that becomes getting on Chinese trains, you might be glad to have both hands free. Having your hands free is always nice, and not having to struggle with your stuff over curbs and around other people is nice. On packed buses, backpacks can get in the way, but they are still ideal.
Some worry about the backpack being cut and the contents stolen... line your bag.
Hard-sided luggage- on a tour these are ok, but never if you have to walk around. Again, backpacks allow you to be free in where you go- no heavy bag with an uncomfortable handle.
Rolling bags... I've told you about them. Just don't, not in China. Orlando, maybe. Many people use them here, but they are akward and annoying... and evil.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: The winters in Harbin are cold. Indeed, in October there is already ice on the ground from the freezing nights. -40 F. Cold. Bring gloves, hats and all the other stuff you'd wear skiing, ice fishing, climbing Everest...
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Cipro and Immodium have been very helpful to me...
Photo Equipment: As always I recommend the best gear you can afford. Always shoot on the largest size and don't use your flash from the nose-bleed section of a stadium.
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: No beach...
Miscellaneous: Sunglasses and a hat.
Dress Smart, Not Thick!
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Dressing thick isn't as effective as dressing smart. It's easy to tell who're from warmer climes eg Singapore as they invariably look like overstuffed teddy bears.
Your inner layers (long underwear) are the most important, multiple layers if necessary.
Get good snow shoes, or shoes with fluffy insides, especially the inner soles, as these will help to insulate your feet against the cold. Cold feet are a recipe for chills. However these aren't meant for extended periods of wear, only when you're going to the snow and ice sculpture exhibitions etc -- we wore ours for all 12 days of our trip and suffered from sore feet as a result.
Wear double layer of gloves if possible, especially useful when taking photos. Thick (eg skiing) gloves are useless during photo-taking, they limit your fingers' agility and you'll be taking them off constantly, defeating their purpose in the 1st place.
Some warm-looking sweaters actually let in a lot more wind than you realise, wear close-knit ones for maximum insulation.
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Luggage and bags: Bring the minimum and buy from local hypermart (Wal-Mart, Carrefour) and many supermart (Pai Lian, Parkson, etc).
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Best to wear clothing in layers. Start off with a woolen long-john, polyester shirt, fleece sweater and a jacket. Upper Torso are usually alright in this weather. A good jacket can be purchased at Wal-Mart for about 135 RMB. Good layering allows you to take-out/remove some clothing to suit indoor and outdoor temperatures. My wife only had a pair of long-johns, sweater and cashmere coat on the first night there and no problem with that. The main photo shows my son with down jacket unzipped after 3 hours at Harbin Ice Sculpture. I would not encourage anyone to attempt to do similar.
The main body area where it is affected by the cold is the face (when the wind blows) and fingers.
Keep a scarf and a pair of glove, hat handy. Temperature can change rapidly. In the Morning, we had alot on and by noon, it was without hat, scarf, gloves.
Get a good pair of walking shoes (35 RMB) and a woolen shoes' insole (1.99 RMB) at Wal-Mart.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: The air quality is bad and having a cloth mask for the nose and mouth may be a good idea.
Photo Equipment: Batteries drains fast in this cold weather. Always keeps the photo/video equipment close to your body to keep it warm. Camera metallic body tends to retain the cold. Bring along spare batteries.
My camcorder fully charged battery only lasted 3 hours (intermittent usage) at the Ice Sculpture compared to days/weeks in normal temperature of 15 degrees and above.
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If travelling in winter...
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: take heavy winter clothing, because you will need every sock, glove, scarf, jacket and so on...
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Take also some medicine in the case of a unexpected cold...
Photo Equipment: And of course, photo equipment resistant enough to work in such low temperatures...
Some friends during the trip had problems with their cameras because they have simply frozen!
Keep spare batteries, cell phones and cameras warm, near your body...
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Heilongjiang Winter is No Joke
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: I wore fleece socks over my regular socks, long underwear (heavy duty for the pants), a mask hat, and thermal fleece gloves. And still there were times my fingers and toes felt awful. And then some of the indoors places are overheated!
Photo Equipment: Your camera will use batteries faster than usual. And in between pictures, you should keep it close to your skin or it might stop working. It is all rather awkward, but where else will you see such sights?
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Layers! Layers! Layers!
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: If you want to see the Ice sculpture festival bear in mind, it's not for nothing they hold it in harbin. We are talking temperatures of minus 30. Get some thermals, a silk top, a wooly jumper, a down coat and a windproof outer coat. Wear a hat and gloves and get out there! Don't touch metal: you'll be stuck there till spring!
Photo Equipment: Long exposures necessary, plus wide angle facilities. Because of the cold, find a good pair of gloves with rubber pads (that way you can take photos without always having to take your gloves off.
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Luggage and bags: I found that a ruck sack suited me perfectly. It was lighter than a suitcase and I could just toss my stuff in before the rather early morning wake up calls.
A day pack is a good idea so you can take a thermos with you to keep some warm fluids available to warm you up and rehydrate you after hours out in the cold. It's also handy for storing food and layers of clothing.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Polar fleece was nice and all, but nothing seemed to beat the jackets lined with duck down.
I found it was okay with a thick wool jumper and a thick ex-Australian navy coat and some thermal layers.
A scarf, balaclava or face mask to keep your breath warm is a must as cold air can be painful to breathe and may leave you with a sore throat.
Something to keep your hands and head warm are also important as you'll really start to feel to cold if your head/hands start to freeze!
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Panadol and asprin are handy things to carry in case anyone gets sick.
17 out of 19 people in our group came down with colds/flu so any panadol type products are essential in keeping down a fever and relieving the aches and pains of travel.
Some medication for gastro problems is also handy as food poisoning can be a nasty thing to get on a holiday.
Photo Equipment: We had no problem plugging in the battery charger for the digital cameras, but it is important to try to keep the camera and batteries warm as the cold temperatures can play around with their functioning.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: If you want to visit Harbin in winter to see the famous Ice Lantern Festival, dress really warm. It can freeze up to minus 50 degrees celcius. Even in october in the evening it was freezing. Don't forget warm gloves, wintercoat and heavy boots.
Photo Equipment: Harbin is a megalopolis. You can by anything you want including accessories for digital camera's. European or Japanese high-tech equipment is very expensive over there. Roughly 3 times what you would pay over here.
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