Tips for DJing in Extreme Cold: DJTT readers share their advice

DJ Kaspu at one of his recent gigs at ULA, who hosts Snow Bar events annually in below-zero temperatures.

DJing in extreme weather is a sport in itself – whether it’s an extra-hot day in the desert or a freezing cold party in the snow. Though it may sound grueling, more than anything it’s fun (we’re all here for the adventure anyways, right?) – but it’s crucial that you know how to tough out the weather, and make sure your gear is up for it too.

With that, we took the question to the masses (aka our email subscribers here at DJTT) and asked for their advice on surviving that really cool, but really cold DJ gig you’ve got coming up.

Keep your body warm with the right clothing

Head, shoulders, and extremities

Dj Boogy Karon, a Montreal resident in Canada, shares his own tips on how to stay warm, and where to start:

The most important part of staying warm to protect are your head and your feet. Good boots are really important mostly if you need to work a long period of time. For the head, you need a good beanie (or tuque-toque, knit cap, etc) Reliable because you can fold it on your ears or not depending. Best for djying. You can also use or add a cap (capuchon) if it’s windy.

Once you’ve got your head and feet covered, make sure you’ve got a way to keep your extremities warm like the hands, the ears, the mouth. Consider fingerless gloves (more on this below). Headphones also obviously can keep your ears warm if they have a solid foam lining, and you can also layer up with beanies or caps for extra head warmth.

Yotto playing in a snowy Finland setup – note his gloves, beanie, and mouth cover. (Video via Yotto on YouTube)

Pay attention to warming up your core – and wear layers

DJ John Sippy shared similar sentiments on how he layers up, and how he tackled the feeling of not being able to wear gloves while playing:

I played for years at a yearly, outdoor event that took place in the suburbs of Chicago in mid-November. I find it difficult to play with gloves on so I made sure that I kept my core warm, and my body would keep my hands warm. To do this, I’d wear a nice warm wool hat or even a Russian Ushanka hat on my head (I use IEMs so didn’t have to worry about headphones fitting with it).

For upper body, my outer layer would be something wind-proof, the next layer in was a wool army sweater and my inner-most layer was a cotton t-shirt or under armor sports shirt to wick moisture away. Now, if it was going to be “nasty cold”, I’d wear one of those battery-powered, heated vests designed for motorcycle riders in between the wool sweater and my inner-most layer. For lower body, heavy wool, ski socks and boots and thermal pants with jeans over them.

A 2020 Zhu performance in the Japanese Hakuba mountains. Note his heavy-duty gloves and thick jacket with a neck coverage – great to stand against any wind chill. (via Cercle on YouTube)

DJ Kaspu, an artist from Tartu, Estonia, echoes the sentiment of keeping your head and feet warm – and also notes that it’s important to keep them dry as well. Having flooring in your DJ booth can help keep your feet in good shape rather than standing directly on the snow/dirt/grass.

Weatherproof your DJ booth coverage

DJ Kaspu’s other piece of advice involves the structure of the DJ booth shade structure itself: that if there’s a chance of anything coming down on you or the DJ-booth, have a roof and preferably walls. The last thing you’d want is for a pile of snow from a tree above to fall on top of you and ruin gear and/or make the situation even more freezing.

Stock up on handwarmers

DJ Rockalot’s advice is to place handwarmers throughout your body. He described that at a recent outdoor gig, he was gifted a box of reusable hand warmers – which was ideal since he doesn’t like to DJ with gloves. “Since I had a box of them I would activate as needed, put them in my pockets and reach for them between songs to keep my hands warm”, he shared.

A fellow DJTT reader named Mike had a similar route with handwarmers and layers:

My best practice for cold outdoor events used to be wearing thermals (bottoms and tops). These days I would keep packets of hand warmers with me as well.

Consider a portable propane heater

DJ Rockalot’s next recommendation is to look into a portable propane heater, rather than one you’d need to plug into a power source. There are many out there that use a simple screw on propane bottle, like the Little Buddy heater. Some also include fans to push the heat out (but those would require a few batteries.)

Fingerless gloves

Fingerless gloves are a great option recommended by quite a few of our readers, if you’re willing and comfortable with playing with gloves. As Karon describes, they can help keep your hands warm without affecting your ability to grasp knobs on your gear. Justin Q. out of Chicago found them to be quite useful when he started using them after freezing during a stream he did in lockdown).

Take a look at Adriatique’s Cercle set in the Alps. For the most part, they’re always moving to stay warm, and bundled up with their layers of coats and scarves – plus, they’ve set their DJ booth up on a solid floor, which adds a layer of cold prevention by not standing in the snow. (Video via Cercle on YouTube)

Keep moving, and eat before your set

Karon shared with us details about his own personal experience living in Canada, where he regularly finds himself in cold-weather DJ scenarios. As he describes it, the temperatures in Montreal could drop fast in an hour or two and reach as freezing as easily -20,30, and even -40. He worked outdoors often as a DJ and sound tech.

Here’s some of his other key tips & tricks to stay warm and functional:

  • Move! Dancing on the music will make the blood circulate and keep you warm. But be careful to not get wet because this “liquid” will eventually freeze and it’s long after to dry and will make you feel very uncomfortable.
  • Alcohol: not a good idea in general. No beers for sure. Good brown liquor (whiskey, bourbon, brandy, scotch) may warm you, but I’d recommend only one little zip each hour max. Drinking heavily will make you feel colder like a fever and if you’re shaking, it will be hard to manipulate the devices mostly turntables. One major tip here: don’t get drunk, as the cold will make you want to sleep. It’s worth sharing this with your crowd as well – there’s not much worse than being too drunk, freezing, and exhausted in the bitter cold.
You probably won’t want to take notes from this guy. No gloves, beer in hand, and… well, everything else. (Video via YouTube)
  • Drinking hot liquids like good green or herb tea, hot chocolate do the job. I’m not sure about coffee (I never drank) but if you drink too much coffee mostly good one, you’ll get excited and you’ll sweat and get wet, not a good idea as I said in #3.
  • Eat before your set. Digestion will spread some heat and energy in your body. But eat a little, too much will have the opposite effect and with the cold, will make you feel lazy & sleepy.
  • Be wary of metal devices in the cold. Watch out if it’s really really cold, your nude fingers could stick on the metal parts, same with your tongue and lips on a microphone. Be careful also that if ice, snow or melting in water, goes inside your equipment, mixer, effects, keyboards, remotes, pad, etc. And of course, manipulate electric connectors, adapters and power bars with full precautions and isolate these from contact with ice & snow. Always keep you workspace and around very clean and dry.
  • Start with your speakers and monitors at a low level. The cold makes everything get hard and those are fragile. More it’s cold, more this tip is important. There could be a fine layer of ice on it. Dry it and check after few minutes if they’re still dry. You will be ok after, just up the volume slowly to the level you need for the gig. Same with headphones tough.
  • Take a break if you can. If the cold is too heavy, take a break inside to warm up and come back.

His final takeaway: if you follow these tips, you should be ok and have fun as any normal gig.

What other tips would you recommend for DJing in freezing conditions and handling DJ sets in the cold? Sound off in the comments below.

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