Newcomer guide: Essential armour to stay toasty in the Canadian winter
by David Gomes
People from around the globe choose to make Canada their home for the country’s oh-so-many qualities, ranging from being surrounded by some of the nicest people in the world to safety, a high standard of living or public healthcare, among others. But what gives many immigrants cold feet, literally, is the chilly Canadian winter!
While there’s no denying that it gets really cold, truth be told, it isn’t all that bad and foreboding as people make it sound. Once your body adjusts to the Canadian climate and you bundle up in the right clothing for the season, you should be able to enjoy the Great North in all her wintry glory.
Winter temperatures vary depending on which part of Canada you are moving to. While the likes of Toronto (Ontario) and Quebec City (Quebec) often experience an average of -15 degrees Celsius and drop further to around -30 degrees Celsius during the peak winter months (December to February), cities such as Saskatoon (Saskatchewan) and Winnipeg (Manitoba) can even experience average lows of around -50 degrees Celsius or more. But there are also some relatively warmer cities. For example, Victoria, British Columbia – known to be the warmest Canadian city in winter – sees an average high of 7.6 degrees Celsius and an average low of 1.5 degrees Celsius during peak winter.
Even if it isn’t snowing, the wind-chill can definitely make you feel like you may have wandered into the coldest place on earth, the East Antarctic Plateau. Sure, you could plan to stay indoors most of the time, but you’ll also have to brave the weather outdoors every now and then. So, how do you stay toasty? With the right essential winter armour. Here’s what to focus on in your winter wardrobe:
This is basically thin but warm clothing or an undergarment, for both your upper and lower body, that you wear close to your skin. Buy thermal wear that is soft, breathable and moisture-wicking so that you stay comfortable.
This is your insulating layer of clothing, which traps the body heat to keep you warm while allowing moisture-laden air to escape. Besides sweaters and pullovers made of good quality wool, fabrics such as fleece and flannel are great to keep you warm under your outer layer. When buying hoodies, sweatshirts and even pants, look for fleece or flannel-lined options in the stores.
This is the final piece of clothing and the outermost layer to battle the winter chill. Buy jackets or coats that are waterproof, or water-repellant at least, windproof, and have a lining or insulation that traps body heat. You can choose between down-filled or synthetic insulation. In the case of a down-filled jacket, look at the fill-rating – it will be anywhere between 500 and 900. The higher the rating, the warmer the jacket is likely to be. While these jackets are known to be very warm and durable, they can lose their effectiveness if they get too wet. Some of these are not washable. Synthetic insulation, on the other hand, could keep you just as warm as a down jacket, but these jackets tend to be heavy and a tad less durable. The advantage of synthetic insulation is that it handles moisture or wet weather well and dries quickly.
Although all the clothing layers mentioned above serve their own purpose in keeping you cozy, it’s the shell that stops the winter chill from piercing through. So be careful to pick the right size and fit. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to buy a size bigger than you usually wear. The jacket you pick should have a snug fit when worn over the layers underneath. When going jacket shopping, mimic the way you would dress for winter (i.e. wear a T-shirt and an overshirt under the jacket) to make a wise purchase.
You definitely cannot step out into the cold Canadian winter without the right footwear. When looking for durable yet functional winter boots, go for ones that are made of nylon or leather, most of which come pre-treated to repel moisture. Look for boots with soles that have a good grip and are designed to tread on snow or ice. Finally and most importantly, insulation is the key to comfort in a Canadian winter. Boots that are well-insulated against the elements – rain, snow or sleet – are your best bet.
When in Canada, your winter wardrobe is incomplete without an equally warm pair of down-filled gloves, earmuffs, knit beanies, trapper hats, toques, and soft flannel winter scarves and wraps or gators to protect your neck.
Where to buy winter essentials?
Most sports stores, super centres and department stores, including the likes of Walmart, Canadian Tire, Sport Chek, Winners, Marshalls and other renowned apparel brands stock a variety of options, from clothing to accessories.
With your winter armour all set, step outdoors, take in those gorgeous Canadian sights and maybe, make some snow angels, too, eh?
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