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Dressing for Winter: 11 Things I’ve Learned About Living in the Cold

Winter. Each morning, it hits you like a punch in the face. Your eyes water, your nose runs incessantly. Preemptively, you stuff your gloved hands into your jacket pockets to keep from losing the feeling in your fingers. You put your head down, and push on as fast as your legs will take you.


I had little idea how people lived in snowy climates before I came to Chicago. I mean, I knew that it was possible to survive, but knowing how to dress for the cold had always perplexed me. Particularly, how people navigated the nexus between the impossibly cold outdoors and the super heated indoors. I was baffled and more than a little intimidated.

But I’m still here. I’m surviving! So here’s 11 things I’ve learned about living in the cold: 

TRP DressingForWinter

*not shown in photo: singlet, t-shirt, long-sleeved t-shirt, and jumper underneath the jacket.

1. Give up trying to look cute/cool/trendy. You’re fighting a losing battle in sub-zero temperatures! Go for what keeps you the warmest and is the most practical. Aim for looking cute/cool/trendy/whatever underneath your multiple layers if you must, or just wait until the weather warms up.

2. Layers, layers, layers. This is the unofficial mantra here in Chicago. Adding layers keeps you warmer, and you can peel as many off as you need to when you arrive somewhere warm. You’ll wind up feeling (and probably looking) like a Matryoshka doll, but you’ll be warm. And although it’s super daggy, tuck your singlet into your thermals/tights/jeans. Give the wind no chance to get at you!

3. Wrap a scarf around your face before you head out the door. I prefer to wrap mine like a high neck scarf, leaving the tops of my cheeks and eyes exposed so I can see where I’m going. But it helps keep my nose warm and goes some way to making sure you can still physically talk at your destination.

4. Buy snowboots. When you get 10 inches of snow (like we did yesterday), you will really need them. Particularly as you encounter very slushy street corners with Lake Michigan sized puddles. And not worrying about slipping/getting your feet wet/developing hypothermia always makes your outing much more enjoyable.


5. Invest in a long-ish coat with down fill, preferably one that covers your bum. I was loaned a phenomenal one by Josh’s Mum a few months ago, and I have worn it every day since. The length helps to provide more of a wind/snow/rain barrier than a regular jacket, and you don’t end up with soggy legs and backside when you wind up where you’re going.

6. Beanies and gloves are a must. And in some cases, even a second pair of gloves is necessary. Make sure the beanie has multiple layers and covers your ears (I have a Columbia one, with heat-trapping technology that has proven useful), and the gloves are rated for the cold.  At least once a day, you see a forlorn, lonely glove on the footpath that has been lost out of a pocket. I have ones that tie together and I am vigilant about keeping them in the same place.

7. Woollen socks. I layer them up for warmth (my toes are always cold — even in summer!) and for thickness to prevent blisters. They’re much better than cotton ones.

8. Dry your hair before you leave the house. I don’t own a hairdryer (and am not a fan of them, anyway), so I have been washing my hair in the early morning and letting it dry fully before I go out. That way, it doesn’t (literally) freeze and snap off.

9. Fleece-lined tights. I received a pair for Christmas from the Hanovers and they’re marvellous! I wear them as regular tights when it’s not terribly cold outside (down to about -10C), and under jeans when it dips lower.


10. Check the weather forecasts regularly. I find keeping a tab on the weather forecasts helps me to plan and know what to expect. I have three different weather apps on my phone to ensure I’m not missing pertinent information, and these have helped me immensely seeing as the weather changes on a dime here.

11. Just get out there. Even though I consult my apps a dozen times a day, I try not to imagine how cold it is outside, and what that feels like. I make sure I leave the house at least once a day and go for a walk outside, even if it’s just walking a new way to work or going to grab some groceries. I just try to live it, embrace it fully. Returning home into the warmth and comfort of the apartment is like heaven! Plus, it makes me feel like a total badass to be able to tackle this weather and survive.

Do you live in a snowy climate? 
What are the things you do to make sure you stay warm?


  1. Pingback: The Polar Vortex 2014 | The Rebecca Project

  2. Pingback: 20 Requirements for Handling the Cold | Entropy Acres

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