When I first moved to Canada, I had little to no idea what to pack. I’d never been anywhere in the world where it snows more than one or two days a year, or even snowed more than 3 inches! I had never even skied in my life. I was clueless when it came to knowing what to wear in Canada in winter..
You know when you’re browsing Instagram and come across all those winter posts where girls make it look glamorous and not-that-cold? Well that wasn’t me. I spent my first winter here wearing the exact same outfit every.single.day.
I was so cold I couldn’t even be bothered to think about what was fashionable, as long as I was warm that was all that mattered. And essentially, that should be the most important part of bringing winter clothes to Canada. But, you can do so and still look cute!
As you may know I’m from a very exotic part of the world… London (hah!). And since moving to Canada I’ve somehow adapted to the cold weather (AKA I finally listened to my husband and wore thermals)
So, if you’re a complete newb like me and need some advice on what to wear in Canada in Winter, keep reading!
Winter Temperatures Across Canada
Before deciding what to bring with you, first you need to establish which parts of Canada you’ll be visiting and what kind of activities you’ll be doing.
Most people will hear “winter in Canada” and simply think “Cold AF” but believe it or not temperatures do vary from province to province.
The clothes mentioned in this post I’ve worn in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec during different times of the year. I’ve also worn them to snowmobile in -18c, ski and walk down a mountain to get to work at 5am.
The exception would be Vancouver. If you are planning a trip to Vancouver or Victoria, winter temperatures are very mild in comparison. If you’re only sticking to Vancouver/Victoria then think of winter in London or Paris. Whatever you’d pack for those cities will suffice in Vancouver. Sorry Vancourites but even for a gal from London, it’s pretty warm!
Thermals – Winter Clothes Canada
My first winter in Whistler, Canada I made the big mistake of thinking I wouldn’t need thermals. Or that my jeans alone were warm enough (hint: they aren’t). And I complained the whole time (imagine that)
The next winter when I came home from living in Orlando, I dug out the thermals my mum had bought me two years ago, still in their packaging, and it was life changing.
I went to the amazing Quebec City and Montreal in the month of November and the wind chill was strong with snow everywhere. I wore my thermals thankfully and never looked back! Suddenly, Canada and I started to get along much better…
Looking back I’m not sure how I survived the winter. I remember one morning taking the ski lift to the Rendezvous lodge for work in just jeans. My legs froze the whole way up – it was not a fun time! So take it from my experience that you will need thermals!
While you’ll see me wearing jeans in many Canada winter photos, I’m actually wearing thin thermals underneath!
What type of coat to wear in winter in Canada?
You’ll need a good warm coat if heading to Canada in the winter. When I initially moved to Canada I brought three different coats with me.
Think about the activities you’ll be doing before choosing which coat(s) to bring with you. Will you be skiing? Snowmobiling? Dog Sledding? If you plan to do any winter activities I’d always recommend bringing a water resistant ski jacket with you. Not only will they keep you dry but they’re also insulated and super warm. There’s nothing worse than falling over in the snow and being soaking wet for the duration of the day (talking from experience)
I bought two ski coats from Billabong when I moved to Canada. Both were water resistant and the exact same coat just a different colour. Of course if you are only visiting for a couple of weeks you won’t need two! They were initially around £200 but I got mine for £75 and £45 – so keep an eye out for sales! I love my ski coats, I use them all winter long because they are also great for when you are walking through town and it’s either snowing or raining.
If visiting Canada on a short trip I would recommend a maximum of two coats. I brought three with me and my suitcase was full just from the puffy coats.
You may want to bring a second coat with you for every day walking around or eating out that might look nicer in the evenings. If bringing a second coat, a wool coat is recommended and also looks cute! Again, you might not want to wear a wool coat if it’s snowing and you’re spending lots of time outside!
Snow pants/ Winter Pants
Depending on where you are visiting in Canada,you may need to bring snow pants. Snow pants are perfect for any outdoor activities and are water resistant.
I love my snow pants and use them when skiing (the few times I’ve been!) snowshoeing, ice fishing and snowmobiling. I bought my snow pants in T K Maxx for around £25 just before I moved to Canada and they’ve served me well ever since.
If you’re not fussed about brands and just want a standard pair of snow pants to see you through the winter Amazon is the perfect place to buy snow pants.
For every day sightseeing, jeans with thermals underneath work just as good! But for winter sports/ activities always go for the snow pants!
In the UK I’d call what I’m wearing in the photo below a “bobble hat” but here in Canada they call it a toque (tooke) For the longest time I had no clue what people were talking about – so just a head up, it’s not a beanie, it’s not a “bobble hat”. It’s a toque.
You will definitely need a warm hat when in Canada. I love my toque but I also wear warm headbands in the winter too, which are perfect if you want to wear your hair up in a ponytail.
I love scarves – I have about 4 or 5 at present. Scarves are a must when visiting Canada in the winter time. I have a pashmina that I use as a scarf as it’s warm but not as bulky as others.
For every day sightseeing I’d recommend any scarf of your choice. However if you’re skiing, snowmobiling or snowshoeing, you will warm up pretty fast and a big scarf might be too much. In this case I’d recommend a neck warmer, or a base layer that covers the neck.
Keeping your feet warm during the winter is important, especially so in Canada. Again, depending on activities the type of socks you might want to wear will differ. I wear a variety of regular ankle socks, thick/fluffy socks and thermal socks.
If you are doing any type of winter activity or winter sport, you will definitely want to invest in thermal socks. I have some over the calf socks from Burton and Fox River. Fox River does amazing socks and although the price may seem high your feet will thank you later!
Your hands WILL get cold in Canada. I’ve had days where I’ve worn a decent pair of warm thick gloves to go snowmobiling, and have come back with my hands in terrible pain due to the cold.
I initially purchased a pair of Burton gloves which were warm to wear to go to work etc but not good for winter sports/activities. I’ve since switched to a pair of Salomon mittens instead which are far warmer.
I’d recommend mittens over gloves since all your fingers will be together they’ll keep each other warm!
Hand & Foot Warmers
Ever put your cold AF feet on your husband or boyfriend and laughed? (Sorry Matt!) Winters often mean extremely cold hands and feet for women. My hands have been so cold here in Canada after a day in the snow, that when they start to warm up, it’s incredibly painful!
That was until I discovered hand and foot warmers. These were a life changer – I felt unstoppable snowmobiling with these on!
Hand and foot warmers can be purchased almost anywhere in Canada in winter. I often just buy the multipack. You can always search amazon for the multipack to save some $$$ before your trip since they can be expensive. They are also single use so depending on your planned activities you may need quite a few.
Shoes & Winter Boots
I may have dismissed thermals initially but I did make the correct decision on shoes! A couple of weeks after moving to Whistler, I invested in some waterproof slip resistant snow boots. In the winter when it rains after a snowfall, the snow turns to ice and it’s easy to fall over. Good slip-resistant boots in Canada are a good investment.
My brand of choice is Sorel. They’re not the most affordable but in my opinion they are worth the money. My first pair Ive had for 3 winters now and can hike in slippery conditions both in winter and the fall when it rains a lot. They’re also super cute and super Canadian!
I swear by my Sorels, I’ve walked up staff hill in Whistler drunk and still made it home. Speaking of walking home – this is a biggy. Always walk home with friends and try not to pass out on the way… (unfortunately it does happen and can be dangerous)
If you’re visiting in the spring or autumn the chances are, you’re going to experience rain. They don’t call it raincouver for nothing!
I’m from London so my general rule is never leave the house without an umbrella! While it may be snowing on the mountains, sometimes that could mean rain in the valley. And while I recommend wearing water resistant clothing, getting rained on is never fun!
I’d recommend purchasing an umbrella before you arrive in Canada since the stores in tourist towns charge a lot for them. Some hotels do include an umbrella in the room, but this depends on where you are staying.
One of the things you might not think you need is lip balm. Every winter I’ve spent in Canada my lips have become chapped and sore. When you’re spending days outside in -30 or lower it’s bound to happen.
Forget Burt’s Bee’s, forget Keihl’s. If you are someone who has dry chapped lips to the point it physically hurts, ignore everything you know about Lip Balm and buy the HEMP lip balm from The Body Shop.
Does it smell nice and fruity? No (but it’s not a bad smell, promise)
Does it save your lips and is a game changer? YES!
I’d recommend buying the entire range of HEMP products because you’re skin will love you for it. The hand cream is hands down a life saver (no pun intended) Again, hands are something that do become dry and sore in winter when you are outside and constantly putting gloves on and off.
Other Items You May Need For A Winter In Canada
I came to Whistler to experience something new and leave my comfort zone. I came to work a ski season even though I’d never skied in my life. It turns out that quite a lot of people do/ have done the same. I worked with people who’d never even seen snow in their lives.
Since some people will be coming to Canada who have never skied or are looking to learn, you may need to invest in good accessories. I was lucky that I knew people who could get amazing deals on ski accessories. I purchased my helmet from SMITH and I love it – so comfy and warm!
My goggles were also purchased from SMITH (courtesy of my amazing husband) Once you have a good helmet and goggles you’re good ’til the end of the season!
Since I never really picked up skiing too well, I never bothered to purchase ski’s or ski boots but there are tons of places to rent them instead. A helmet and goggles isn’t something I personally would want to rent!
Choosing what to wear in Canada in winter can be difficult if it’s your first time experiencing temperatures of -35 and lower. The weather can and does change from day to day too. You might have warm days followed by a cold spell. Having a variety of clothes will ensure you are prepared for all conditions and any winter activities you may have planned.
Don’t let the cold temperatures put you off – Canada is truly magical in the winter time!
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