10 winter clothes you must own

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Posted January 29, 2013 by Tricia Edgar in Shopping Trips
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These kids at the Quebec Carnival may not know the rules of tug of war so well, but they (or someone they know) definitely understands how to dress properly for winter fun. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Story by Tricia Edgar
Vacay.ca Outdoors Columnist

It’s cold. Your eyelashes sport icicles and your cheeks have a cheery red glow. You’re rubbing your hands together, not with glee but because you’re trying to stop your fingers from freezing. Yes, it’s winter, and there are outdoor festivals galore. To get out and enjoy them, you need to dress well.

What should you wear to enjoy a Canadian winter in comfort? Here are 10 clothing items or tips you need to consider if you want to get the most out of winter fun.

1. The Layered Look

First, let’s talk layers. Instead of throwing on everything in your closet and hoping for the best, dress sensibly in layers. Start with a base layer that keeps your skin dry. On top of that, add a layer of insulation. Follow that up with a protective layer that keeps the wind out. If it’s very cold, put on additional inner layers as well.

2. A Moving Experience

Next, determine how much you’re going to be moving. Are you going to work up a sweat hauling a toboggan up the hill, or will you be waiting in line to go to an outdoor event? If you’re going to be active, a good, moisture-wicking base layer is very important. If you’re going to be standing or sitting in the cold, pay special attention to the insulation and protective layers, especially if it’s windy. If you find that you’re getting warm, you can always remove a layer.

3. The Toque: Terrifically Canadian

These hats are so Canadian that you can feel yourself getting ready to “eh” when you put one on. But hats in general are simply practical for cold weather. Even if it’s above zero, you can still get chilly. Keep a hat on your head, and your body will stay warm.

In colder weather, make sure that you use a hat that keeps your ears warm as well.

If things are looking windy and the temperature is dropping, use a balaclava for ear and face protection. If you’re looking for fashion and function, felted wool hats keep the rain out and the heat in. Visit Etsy, the world’s largest marketplace for handcrafted objects, and find one-of-a-kind headgear.

Read a wonderful story about how one recent immigrant to Canada discovered the meaning and importance of the toque

Vacay.ca’s toque choices: 

Under Armour Balaclava: $25 on Amazon.com
Felted wool hat: $25-$80

4. Gloves: Keep Your Hands Warm and Dry

From snowball fights to lacing your skates on the Rideau Canal, keeping your hands warm and dry is the challenge of winter. You could buy ample quantities of hot chestnuts and BeaverTails to keep your fingers toasty, or you could invest in some really good gloves. Get an outer shell to keep the wet and wind out, and use liners to keep your fingers warm.

Vacay.ca’s choice for a thin glove or liner: Outdoor Research Glove liners: $35

5. Reusable Hand Warmers: For Freezing Fingers  

While hand warmers aren’t a substitute for dressing well, these little gems certainly take the edge off when your fingertips are freezing. Get tiny ones for the kids’ hands as well. Click the snap in a Hotsnapz and the hand warmers activate, keeping your hands warm. Boil them for a few minutes to reactivate them.

Vacay.ca’s choice for hand warmers: Hotsnapz: 6 for $19.99

6. Long Underwear: Your Secret Winter Fashion Accessory

Long underwear is the most-neglected winter fashion accessory. When it’s a little cold outside and you want to wear street clothes, slip some warm long underwear underneath as a base layer. A good base layer should help you stay warm and dry as you move from place to place, wicking moisture away from your body. SmartWool long underwear is soft and breathable and will last for years.

Vacay.ca’s choice for long underwear: SmartWool: $55 to $100, depending on the garment and size

7. Warm Pants: No More Chilly Knees

When it’s a little chilly, insulated pants slip over your long underwear to keep the wind at bay. When it’s really cold, fashionable attire needs to take a back seat to function. When it’s extremely cold or if you’re playing in the snow, go for insulated ski pants. Whatever happens, unlined jeans are a no-no. They might look tough, but they’re not up to the wind and the cold.

Vacay.ca’s choice for warm pantsColumbia’s Ridge2Run pants: $70-$140

8. Cozy Jacket: Stylish Outerwear

Thick wool jackets are perfect for any occasion: they’re warm, they’re somewhat waterproof, and they are stylish as well. If you’re going to be active in the snow, you might want to choose something that’s a little more wet and wind-proof, such as a ski or boarding jacket. Remember, this is just one of your layers: don’t rely on your jacket alone to keep you warm.

Vacay.ca’s choice for winter jackets: DC Mens boarding jackets: $100-$120 on Amazon.com

9. Warm Boots: Keep Your Toes Snug

Get warm boots that are lined, and make sure that they’re waterproof. That way, when the going gets slushy, you’re prepared. If you’re in the wetter regions of the country where slushy snow is in the weather forecast, a pair of neoprene boots will keep your feet both warm and dry. Whatever boot you choose, make sure you still have some room for your feet to wiggle. If your feet can’t move because you’ve overstuffed them with wool socks, then they’ll get cold.

Vacay.ca’s choice for slushy snow or cold rain: Bogs Neoprene Boots: $60-$120

10. Ice Cleats: No More Slipping and Sliding  

Walking on snow and ice? If you’re slip sliding along the sidewalk, invest in some cleats to add traction as you walk from place to place.  That way, if the sidewalk situation gets dicey, you can move right along. Yaktrax and Icer’s cleats go on the bottom of your shoes to help you move on packed snow and ice, and they fold to easily slip into the bottom of a pack or purse.

Vacay.ca’s choice for ice cleats: Yaktrax: Depending on the style, $20-$40

Whether you’re playing in the snow, watching a show, or enjoying a hot chocolate next to the canal, there’s a lot to see at Canada’s winter festivals. Dressing well is the key to enjoying yourself in the Canadian winter.


About the Author

Tricia Edgar
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