It’s a question I get a lot when I tell people that I left my sunny home state for the blistering cold of the Midwest. And I don’t blame them. Some days, I look at the temperature on my weather app, cry a little on the inside and ask myself the same question. Gone are the days when the winter lows are 50 to 60 degrees; for me, they’ve been replaced with winter lows of sub-zero temperatures.
However, no matter how low the temperature drops, I have yet to regret my decision to move to the glacial land that is the Midwest. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that I like the cold, but it’s mostly in large part due to a few simple things that I’ve included in my winter wardrobe.
Although I’ve only been in the Midwest for a few months, I’ve realized that there are four things I could not live without if I wanted to survive the cold.
1. Winter Coat
This is, by far, the most important thing you will need. Choosing the perfect winter coat can be tricky, given the variety of coats that are sold. When people say it’s cold, they’re usually not just referring to the temperature outside; rather, they’ve factored in the wind chill. For example, one day it was -5 degrees outside, but with wind chill it felt like -30 degrees. Because of this, you’ll want a coat that can protect you from the wind.
Ranging from North Face to Canada Goose to brand-less coats that are just as warm, winter coats vary on the price range, with some going for almost a thousand dollars. Ultimately, it’s important to get a coat that will meet your different needs. If your coat has a really warm hood and long sleeves, you might be able to get away without buying a hat, a scarf and gloves. On the other hand, if it doesn’t have those things, then you may have to spend a little bit more on those extra things. In addition, some coats are warm enough that you can wear a t-shirt inside your coat, whereas others will require you to layer up.
If you’re trying on a winter coat for the first time and you feel like you look ridiculous, don’t worry. No one will care what you look like when each person is freezing and rushing to class. If no one else cares, you shouldn’t either.
2. Winter Boots
Something they don’t tell you on their glossy admission brochures is how difficult it is to walk on ice. Or walking in general. My school does a decent job of clearing the walkways, but there’s always ice that doesn’t get cleared entirely. The first day I came back from winter break, I decided that it would be a good idea to wear my normal shoes. (Spoiler alert: It wasn’t.) After slipping on the ice more times than I would care to admit, I decided that my boots were the way to go.
It’s also nice to have boots, because they help you trudge through the snow. Even if your school clears the walkways, it’s helpful to have boots when you’re late to class and need to cut through a large area of snow. In terms of socks to wear with winter boots, I haven’t found it necessary to wear thick wool socks. In fact, since boots are heavy themselves, it’s nice to wear thinner socks so you don’t feel like your feet are cinder blocks weighing you down.
Coming from a state where summer is usually the season year-round, I’m accustomed to wearing shorts all the time. Let’s just say that a few months in the Midwest have destroyed that notion of mine. In fact, just wearing long pants isn’t enough for me. This is, again, due to wind chill. When you’re walking one way and the wind is blowing at a billion miles per minute in the opposite direction, your legs start to shake. Before the winter began, I was already noticing that my knees were always freezing whenever I went outside. A simple solution to that is investing in thermal underwear or a thermal base layer. It doesn’t need to be heavy duty, but it should be enough to keep your legs warm when you go outside.
It’s important to keep in mind that when you go outside, it’s usually because you’re going somewhere else that will be indoors. It’s also important to keep in mind that when you’re indoors, people will tend to have the heater on full blast. It’s a bit difficult (and awkward) to remove a thermal base layer while you’re out and about, so don’t go overboard with the thermals, unless you plan on sweating like crazy.
While I was researching about pants, I noticed a lot of people brought up snow pants. Personally, I think that might be overkill. I haven’t seen anyone wear snow pants (yet), and most people seem to survive without them.
For the winter, there are a lot of additional things that you need to keep yourself warm. For example, it would be nice to invest in earmuffs, a hat, a scarf, gloves, etc. Like I said above, the necessity of a lot of these items will depend on what type of coat you have. Personally, I would recommend keeping these items to a minimum, since it does end up being a lot to carry once you get inside and take everything off.
However, if you plan on spending a lot of time outdoors, I would recommend having these items just in case. The other day, I was having a snowball fight and building a snowman, and my gloves were the best things in the world. Whenever you plan on going outside, just make sure you think about what you plan on doing and where you’re going. After that, it should be a lot easier to decide what accessories you will need for the cold weather.