What to Wear in Winter!
Updated: Jan 22
A good coat!
A good coat is a must for Canadian winters. There are a lot of things a student may want to cheap out on, but this is not one of them. When the wind is blowing hard -15c can feel like -30c! Without a warm jacket getting anywhere will be miserable.
When looking for a good jacket do a little research first. Clothing companies provide a temperature rating to give you an indication of how toasty warm their winter jackets will keep you. Make sure you find one that meets the needs of your local weather. We strongly suggest looking into down filled coats which are some of the warmest you can get although there are high tech options available as well. Finally we strongly suggest you choose a longer coat that goes well below the waist. You won’t always have the option of snow pants; a long coat can provide much needed leg coverage. While we are speaking of snow pants…
Snow pants are not an absolute need for winter in a Canadian city. In places like Montreal where travel times are relatively short, or largely in our heated Metro or bus systems you can probably get by without them so long as you wear sensible pants, winter tights or long johns. But if you live further out into the countryside or just want to get out in the snow and play, snow pants are a necessity! Even city dwellers will have a pair or two for stormy days, skiing or playing outside in the snow with the kids.
Mittens, Scarf hats and other sundries.
You will see a lot of tough teenagers wandering around in -30c weather with no hats or gloves on and their coat wide open. That is because they are stupid! I’m not judging, I was no different at that age, but I also got frostbite twice trying to look cool, so there is that. To avoid my youthful mistakes, invest in a decent pair of gloves or mittens and a warm toque (what we Canucks call our winter hats). Even if your core is warm as can be the cold can quickly make your ears and fingers feel like icicles are growing off of them. A scarf is never a bad idea either. While most coats will zip up to the chin having a scarf to block any airflow can really help keep you warm or the worst days.
Long johns and winter tights.
Long underwear, or long johns as they are often called, are a must for when playing out in the snow. Remember layers are your friend. The more layers the warmer you will be. With a good pair of long johns you can wear a lighter pair of pants on cold days when traveling to school or work or combine them with heavy pants and snow pants to stay warm for a full day and night of skiing!
For those who prefer skirts and dresses even in the wintertime a few pairs of winter tights are an absolute necessity. Your average pair of pantyhose won’t keep you warm when you are looking out the window from inside during winter. Winter tights are thicker and warmer but still stylish and can be the difference between suffering for fashion and looking hot, literally.
When it is dry and the streets are clear you could, in theory, get away with wearing shoes in winter. Will your feet get cold? Yes. Will you slide around on ice? Yes. Is it worth it? No. A pair of warm winter boots with good treads on the bottom for grip on icy winter streets is an absolute must! Any low ankle shoe or hiking boot will leave you vulnerable to snow in your socks and cold wind flying up your pant legs. A pair of above ankle boots will let you tuck your pants in to keep them dry and you warm.
Winter on a budget!
By now some of you may have bounced off already to start looking up how much this will cost you. We understand that on a student budget making big purchases like a winter wardrobe can be tough. Winter outerwear like coats and snow pants in particular can get very pricey. Buying a brand new winter Coat for instance, is a good investment. Spending a few hundred dollars on a good winter coat that will last you for years (some of mine I have had for decades) is much better than buying a cheap one that will leave you with broken zippers and generally cold.
That being said, shelling out that amount of money on a student budget may still be too difficult. That is where second hand stores come in. At the end of each Winter a lot of Canadians will clear out old winter-wear from their closets to make space for summer clothes, some of those coats will end up at second hand stores at very reasonable prices. As I have mentioned a good winter coat can last years, that is no different for the ones you will find in the second hand stores. While previously worn you can still find many major brand name winter coats with only light wear at a much more reasonable price for students. Also make sure to check out spring sales to get an expensive jacket new, but at clearance prices!
We hope this helps you adapt to Canadian winter. We know it can be a huge change for students more accustomed to warm weather, and it can seem intimidating at first. Just remember, a little preparation goes a long way to turning what some might see as frozen misery into the winter wonderland that Canadians are so proud of!
If you are looking for some advice from someone else who has traveled and lived in many places in Canada check out the link below.