Hispanic senior woman enjoying her first snow

HOW TO DRESS FOR WINTER IN CANADA

The only place in Canada where winters are warmer is Vancouver ( +6 C average temperature in January). In other parts of Canada, like in Ontario for example, winters can get really cold. On a cold day, the temperature of -18 C will feel like -25 C. This is because the wind makes it feels colder. This is called ‘wind chill’.

So, how do you prepare for temperatures like this? You will need to buy good winter clothes. Good quality winter clothes will cost you a lot of money but they are an investment in your HEALTH.

 

You will need:

1. A coat / a jacket

A good winter coat is thick and long (goes to the knee or below the knee). It should be waterproof and wind-resistant, and it should have a hood. This is the most expensive item – for an adult it can cost $500, $600 or more. Don’t be afraid of the price – if it’s a good one, you can use this coat for 5 years ( so it’s only $100 per year).

Notice what other people are wearing. Ask them for advice on a good coat.

When buying, ask a salesperson at the store: “What temperature is this coat good for? I’m looking for a coat that is good for -15 C  or -20 C. “

Sport stores sell ski jackets and other winter jackets, so check your local sport store.

The warmest winter coat is called ‘parka’ in Canada. It is usually down-filled, meaning there are small bird feathers inside (for example goose feathers).

 

2.  A hat

A simple knitted hat is called ‘a toque’ in Canada (pronounced like tjuke).

A good winter hat will cover your ears – the skin on your ears is very thin and gentle so ears can easily get frostbite (get red and be very painful).

You need to wear a hat to keep your whole body warm – the heat always rises and you will lose a lot of body heat if your head is not covered.

In winter, people wear a hat AND a hood on top of it – that keeps the heat inside. If you only wear a hat, the strong wind will take the heat away so put your jacket hood on.

 

3. A scarf

A good scarf made from wool is the best choice for winter. Wrap it tightly all around your neck and make sure you don’t leave any gaps open – you don’t want the wind to get in.

 

4. Gloves or mittens

Mittens are warmer than gloves. Buy a pair of ski mittens and wear them on the coldest days. On other days, you can wear gloves. If your hands are cold, your whole body will feel cold. Put your gloves on BEFORE leaving the building to keep your hands warm.

 

5. Boots

Buy waterproof boots. If your boots let water in, you will freeze. ‘Water-resistant’ is not completely waterproof. Your winter boots should cover your ankles. Also, look for good insulation layer inside.

Another important thing about good winter boots is that they have traction! Look at the sole of the boot – does it have deep grooves? You need to have good traction not to fall down on the icy roads. This is very important!

If you work in an office, keep a pair of other shoes at the office and change every day in the morning when you come to work (this is a normal practice and many office workers do this, you can do this in the washroom if you don’t want anybody to see). Winter boots are meant to be worn outside – you will overheat if you wear them inside.

 

6. Thermal underwear

You must wear at least two layers on your legs in winter. Many people make a mistake of wearing five layers on top and only one layer on their legs and they complain about feeling cold!

The firs layer is tights for women (buy thick winter tights) or long johns for men. You can now buy ‘thermal underwear’ – this is an excellent idea for both men and women!

The second layer is your pants or a skirt. Choose thicker pants if possible. But remember: the secret to feeling warm is the first layer that goes close (tight) to your skin.

 

7. Socks

For winter, choose sport socks that are thick and have the moisture-wicking ability. To feel warm, you must keep your feet dry. Woolen socks are a good choice for cold winter days, especially if you are going for a walk.

 

8. Sweater

Do not buy one thick sweater – you will not be able to wear it inside. Or be prepared to take it off – wear a shirt/blouse underneath.

As with legs, you should wear layers on your body. Thermal underwear is a good idea. The first layer goes close (tight) to your skin. Your total should be at least four layers with the winter jacket (underwear, then shirt, then sweater, then jacket). On colder days add another layer. When inside and feel too hot, just take it off.

 

“All bundled up?” Canadians like you ask when they see you put on all your winter clothing (including a hat, a scarf and mittens) and ready to go outside. When the weather is cold, we don’t care about the style – we care about our health.

If you come from a warm country, the first winter in Canada might feel terrible. It’s okay – give yourself time to get used to it.

The funny thing is, even people born in Canada often don’t like winter and complain about it a lot.

One more thing to keep in mind: when the weather gets colder, your body needs several days to adjust! On the first day you may feel like you are dying. Just wear more warm clothes and be patient – you will adjust to this temperature in about three days.


Checklist:

  • Item 1. Coat – long, waterproof, with hood, parka or ski jacket, down-filled
  • Item 2. Hat – covers your ears 
  • Item 3. Scarf – woolen
  • Item 4. Gloves and Mittens – ski gloves, ski mittens
  • Item 5. Boots – waterproof, insulation layer, good traction
  • Item 6. Thermal underwear
 

Discussion questions:

Please share your ideas in the Comment box below.

1. What do you wear in winter to feel warm and comfortable outside? Where do you buy it?

2. What advice can you give a new immigrant about how to dress for winter?

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