What a Southerner Needs in a Northern Winter

I see posts in Facebook groups asking what they should buy to survive their first northern winter all the time and honestly, I wish I had had a guide when we moved to Canada (although blogs weren’t even a thing then, so a magazine article I guess?), so here is what you need when you are moving from a warm climate to a cold climate (in my opinion, of course!)

So I like to break this up into categories; getting stocked for winter is expensive, good coats, good boots, socks, gloves, hats, and scarves all add up and should be investment pieces that you wear for several winters.

The Essentials


I don’t think you need a Canada Goose, but if you can afford one, go for it (although any Canadian you meet will think you’re a Toronto a**hole), but there are many other seriously warm, and significantly less expensive, coats out there. Columbia Sportswear, L.L. Bean, Patagonia, Eddie Bauer, all make great winter coats. You can also thrift some really good coats, my current winter coat is a thrifted coat and if there was a thrift store here I would 100% be trying that, and I may go to Thunder Bay or Winnipeg (aka Winter-peg, so I’m thinking they should have good options) and look for one there.

1. Columbia SI Insulated Parka 2. Woman’s Mountain Croo Long Down Jacket 3. L.L.Bean Ultralight 850 Down Hooded Jacket 4. Glacier Peak Seamless Stretch Down Hooded Jacket

Having a variety of weights of jackets is also really important, you will experience a wide variety of temperatures on the way down to and up from those scary, scary -40 days. I have to admit that I am really leaning towards number 4, the Eddie Bauer jacket, even though it doesn’t cover your butt (good for warmth), because I really love the shape of it (I’m looking for a new coat, now that I’m so much further north).

Gloves and Mittens

Okay you can literally get these anywhere, so I’m not making a collage. But generally, I like to have several thin pairs, I really like running gloves for this, I specifically really like these Lululemon gloves, however I understand that is a completely absurd amount of money to spend on gloves (although if you break it down to cost per wear, then it’s probably down to pennies per wear, because I wear them almost everyday. They also snap together for storage, so if I lose them I won’t loose just one glove.). They’re really warm, but you can still do stuff with your hands. I generally wear these for most of the winter. However, if you are going to be out for a long time, in a hockey rink (they’re always so cold), or on those really cold days, I really like the big ugly puffy ones. Now, mittens are warmer than gloves technically, because your fingers produce body heat and four fingers produce more body heat than 1 finger. However, I find mittens more annoying and less practical.


So to be totally honest, I’ve never bought an actual insulating undershirt. If I do layer shirts, it’s generally just regular long-sleeve t-shirts or layering t-shirts, sweaters, and sweatshirts, to stay warm, and I do believe that this is the best method. However, my one tip is not to have cotton as your layer next to your skin. If you get sweaty, the cotton will hold on to your sweat and then when you get cold again, you’ll get cold really quickly.


This may seem like a no-brainer, but socks are crucial. Keeping your feet dry while you do activities, even if it’s just walking to work, will keep you comfortable and warm. I really like Icewear Icelandic Wool Socks and SmartWool Socks, however they are very thick and very warm. Sometimes too thick and warm. I do find it hard to wear them with shoes, but they are great for home days. I do think that wool socks are the best for winter. And to be honest, I don’t really love fuzzy socks, but I do really want some of these KJP socks.


Boots are the second most important item you will buy for winters. Boots are not just for fashion anymore, and if you insist on wearing fashionable boots, keep a pair of proper snow boots in your car so that if you get stuck you won’t ruin your boots digging yourself out of the snowbank. In general, you want a pair that goes at least a few inches above your ankles, you can also get knee high snow boots, but in general I think those are impractical, especially if you are going to be in and out of heated areas. You will likely just get hot when you’re inside and sweat and then when you go back outside you will be colder because your sweat will cool you down even more. That is kind of the trick to winter dressing, staying warm without making yourself sweat too much, because that sweat will eventually work against you.

So what to look for when you are buying your winter boots:

  1. A thick lug sole: This is what will help you grip in the snow and ice. You want a nice thick sole with deep grooves, these grooves are what will provide you with traction.
  2. Water-proof or water-resistant: as you move in and out the snow that sticks to your shoes will melt, you don’t want that to get into the insides of your boots and get your socks and feet wet.
  3. Well insulated: there are many different types of insulation for boots out there, Thinsulate, shearling, PrimaLoft, etc. The synthetics, such as Thinsulate and PrimaLoft, are more water-resistant and will keep you warmer if your feet sweat or water/snow does get into your boot.
  4. Two-part vs. One-part boots. So personally, I hate two-part boots, the inner lining always comes out when you’re taking your boots off and when I come inside after being out in the cold, I just want to get out of my gear and these slow me down. However, they can be better at resisting water coming into the boot, so there are trade-offs. I also find two-part boots feel bulkier and heavier.

There are lots of really great brands of winter boots: Ugg (although not the basic bit*h version- they make legit winter/snow boots), Sorel, L.L.Bean, Kodiak, and Kamik (although those two may only be in Canada, I’m not sure). I currently have a pair of Sorels and really, really like them, although my mom and my favorite uni roommate had Ugg winter boots and I also really like the look and feel of them. When I need to replace my Sorels I’ll be really torn between Sorels and Uggs, the Uggs are a little bit narrower and lighter feeling but my Sorels have been really great.

Collage Details: One // Two // Three // Four // Five

I could have a whole wardrobe of winter boots haha, I think the first one in the collage could be great for light snow, walking to work or if you live in an urban area and commute on public transit. They don’t seem to make my boots anymore, but I really, really like my Sorels.

Sorels vs. Bean Boots

So this is one of the great debates (more so in the Northeast of the USA, L.L. Bean isn’t quite as popular in Canada yet), but Sorel vs. Bean Boots. Personally, I think that Sorels (or Uggs/Kamiks/Kodiaks, anything along that style) is better in the really cold or really snowy. However, the Thinsulate/GoreTex Bean Boots that I linked in the collage would be very warm, so if you have less snow or it’s not super duper cold Bean Boots could definitely be great! Also, if you look at the collage you can kind of see the soles of the boots, and that Bean Boots have a slighter smoother and slicker sole, making you slip and slide a bit more. And I love the look and slim profile of a bean boots.

The Fun Stuff

I know, there isn’t a ton fun about winter dressing. It is about keeping warm and in the worst of it, honestly, it is about survival. Dramatic, yes, but when it’s your first week of -40 (fun fact -40F and -40C are the same, both mathematically and in terms of just too damn cold). But depending on how far north you live, you may have to learn to thrive in the cold (although TBH, I’ve been in Canada 15 years now, and I still don’t thrive in the cold). However, I do think that your hats or ear-warmers and scarves are where you can display more of your personal style beyond survival mode, while also helping keeping you the warmest you can be (and destroying your hair, but that’s another post). Covering your head and neck/chest can really help to keep you warm. I don’t really have anything specific for these, I tend to get hats, ear-warmers, and from small, maker-type shops, or make them myself. I also always get scarves and hats for Christmas and I don’t know if I’ve actually ever had to buy them myself!

Also knitting is a great winter hobby if you are more of an indoor cat like myself.

Photo from my sister’s knitstagram @emmalizknits

I hope you find this guide useful! I definitely have several ideas now for myself for things I would like for this winter! There will also probably be an update after this winter now that I live quite far north and will probably learn some things this winter. If you have any suggestions, please drop them in the comments below !!


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