Winter is coming: how do I prepare for the weather?

Updated: Jan 12, 2019

The temperature is dropping, the days are getting shorter, and the smell of hot chocolate becomes more and more appealing... There's no denying it, but winter is definitely knocking at our doorstep. In preparation of the imminent cold, I've compiled some winter essential facts for everyone to get through (and enjoy!) the Canadian weather.

Quick Facts/Tips on Canadian Winters:

-Winter officially starts on December 21, but it can definitely feel like Winter, starting from as early as mid-October to as late as the end of March!

-CHECK THE WEATHER FORECAST! The sun may be shining brightly and there may not be a single cloud in the sky, but that doesn't mean it will be warm! Do not dress based on 'what it looks like out the window' because chances are, you will be freezing while waiting for your bus.

This is the actual Toronto weather on January 6, 2018. So even though the weather forecast said that it was -15, the wind gusts and the wind chill made the day feel MUCH MUCH colder.

-Be sure to also check the wind chill when looking up the weather. Just because the temperature says -15 °C doesn't mean that it will feel that way. It's also useful to check for the wind gust, as well as the temperature's 'Daily High' and the 'Daily Low', so as to know the range.

-Black ice: this is a term that refers to a patch of ice (often found on sidewalks or on roads) that is transparent. This can be extremely dangerous to pedestrians or drivers, because they are easy to miss and can cause falls or car accidents. You will experience this the most when temperatures hover around the 0°C mark, so walk with care and factor in a longer travelling time!

It may not be obvious, but this entire road has been covered in ice!


On top of cozy sweaters and thicker clothing, the best way to survive Toronto weather is to layer!

-Winter jacket: This is a no-brainer. You do not need to shell out money for a Canada Goose jacket, but do look for one that will provide you with lots of insulation as well as a hood. Brands such as The North Face, Columbia, the MEC, and Patagonia will offer jackets that are built for the winter. Tip: A 'parka' refers to a jacket that is longer in length, ending just above the knees, and it comes with a hood. These, in my humble opinion, are going to be your best friends, especially if you have to be outside with Kindergartners for an hour per day.

***This picture was taken from the US website. *** Costco also sells great winter jackets for cheap prices. The catch though, is that they are on sale around the start of September, so you will need to shop early in order to find good prices/selection.

-Invest in proper winter boots: Because the winters here are harsh and we liberally salt the roads, most winter footwear will not last long in Canada. Though every brand has more "stylish" options as well as the more "functional" ones, I'd recommend looking for boots that are waterproof, well insulated, and comfortable. A few of my favourite brands would be Sorel, Timberland, and UGG's (Adirondack) model.

-Bundle yourself up with hats, mittens, and scarves: This may seem like a shocker, but when you are covered up and shielded from wind, it actually makes a HUGE difference. Since the wind chill and wind gusts play such a huge role in the frigid cold, wearing these pieces of clothing can actually make or break your day.

Tip: Blanket scarves are especially versatile, as they offer an extra layer of warmth should your classes be extremely cold.

Gloves or Mittens? Gloves = when your fingers are separated. Mittens = when they are together. While mittens tend to be warmer, they also hinder you from performing certain tasks, like driving or using your cellphone.

-Get a vest! They may not seem like the "coolest" fashion choice, but they make a world of a difference when it comes to layering and insulating yourself against the cold. For those days when the temperatures dip below -40°C, they will still keep you toasty warm. My favourite brands for this would be Uniqlo, Columbia, as well as The North Face and Patagonia.

-Check out Uniqlo's HEATTECH Line: I'm someone who gets very cold very easily, so the way I survive winters is to actually wear double layers. So, that means wearing tights underneath my jeans/dress pants, or wearing an inner layer underneath all my clothes.

Obviously, everyone's resilience to the cold is different, so the point isn't to rush out and buy every item in the stores. However, at the VERY LEAST, I strongly emphasize the need for a proper winter jacket, and some high quality winter boots.

Things to do:

While our winters may be long and cold, that doesn't mean it can't be fun!

-Skating: Feel free to choose either an indoor or an outdoor rink, and join in the fun. The link will also show which rinks offer skate rentals as well as their hours of operation. My personal favourite is to skate at Nathan Phillips Square, right by the Eaton Centre.

-Christmas Market: Get into the holiday spirit while frolicking through a myriad of shops full of foods and drinks, all decked out in Christmas decorations. Opening November 15 in the Distillery District, admission is FREE during the weekdays (Tues-Thurs, and before 5pm on Fri).

This place is so festive, a trip to the Christmas market has become an annual tradition among many Torontonians.

-Winterlicious: If you love fine dining but cannot afford the high prices, this is the best compromise. For two weeks during winter, lots of restaurants offer a set menu for a fixed, affordable price, so that you can enjoy all the luxury while living on a student budget.

-Skiing/Snowboarding at Blue Mountain: Grab a couple of friends, and make a day trip up north to really enjoy the winter weather. Whether you're a novice or a seasoned expert, there will be a slope for everyone!

-Tubing: Just as exhilarating but perhaps less intense than skiing or snowboarding, one can enjoy the simple thrill of sliding down a hill and unplug for a couple of hours.

This activity can be done individually, or you can also opt to slide down the hill in a group, all at the same time.

-Knitting: Always wanted to learn how to make your own scarf but not bothered to pick up the hobby? Well, drop by the Knit Cafe in Roncesvalles and check that off your bucket list. It's a perfect activity during your downtime, and it's also indoors!

Though Spring may seem like eons away, do not fret, because we will get through this, and it might even be enjoyable, I promise :)