What to Wear in Canada in Winter

by Brenna Holeman

what to wear in canada in winter

Ah, Canada. Beautiful, huge, and diverse, it hasn’t taken much for me to fall in love with it all over again in these past few months. Despite being born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, I actually haven’t spent that much time in Canada over the past decade or so; with the exceptions of a few stints here and there over the years, I’ve mostly been abroad. So what to wear in Canada in winter?!

I also haven’t spent that much time in Canada in winter, unless I was home for Christmas. So in coming back to Canada for three months in some of its coldest months, even I, a Canadian was stumped. What do I wear in Canada when it’s that cold? I mean… I wanted to be warm, but I also wanted to be cute, you know?

what to wear in canada in winter

And although Canada is MASSIVE – seriously, it’s the second biggest country in the world – I’ve found that there are some basic rules for what to wear in a Canadian winter, no matter where you are in the country.

Sure, some provinces and territories will be a lot colder than others, and some will get more rain than snow (I’m looking at you, coastal BC), but I wanted to cover at least the basics of how to dress in Canadian winters. I’m sure a lot of you reading will be like, duh, I’m from Idaho, but after being on a tour across Canada with forty Australians, some of whom had never seen snow before, I felt the urge to write about it.

what to wear in canada in winter

And again, while there are definite variations in winter in Canada, the general rule is that you’ll need warm winter clothing from October/November until March/April.

This can vary depending on where you are and when – it has snowed in October in Winnipeg before, and it has also snowed in May – so it’s always best to check the forecast for the week ahead and plan accordingly, especially if you are travelling to more remote places or to very touristy places (like Whistler or Banff) where buying a warmer jacket will set you back a pretty penny.

what to wear in canada in winter

So without further ado, here’s what to wear in Canada in winter. I am focusing pretty heavily on clothing to wear while participating in winter activities, but even if your trip is fairly city-based, it’s still good to take a lot of this advice to heart.

Your regular outfit of jeans, sneakers, and a leather jacket will most likely not cut it if you fly into pretty much any major city in Canada in the dead of winter… trust me. I was a teenager in Canada. I am pretty sure the majority of my teenage years just consisted of me saying, “Mum! I don’t need a scarf!! I’m fine!!!” and then shivering until the brink of hypothermia at the bus stop. Don’t be like me at 16, I beg of you.

what to wear in canada in winter

Please note that this post includes affiliate links, and, in this particular article, I was given some clothing to review. I’ve had a lot of people tell me they like my what to wear posts but would appreciate links to clothing I’d recommend, so I’ll try to do that from now on. As always, though, I would encourage you to try to shop locally whenever possible; my favourite travel wardrobes are always those that include a lot of the local clothing and jewellery!

What to wear in Canada in winter:

what to wear in canada in winter

1. A Jacket (or three)

“Wowwwww,” I can just hear you saying while rolling your eyes, “How original.” But yes, it’s true – no matter where you are in Canada in winter, you are going to need a really good, comfortable, warm jacket.

If you are going to spend any time at all doing anything in the snow – think skiing, snowmobiling, skating, even just building a snowman – you are going to need something beyond your average city-appropriate outerwear (so as cute as it is, your peacoat probably won’t make the grade in this situation).

Unless you are planning to spend most of your time in a West Coast city like Vancouver, I can guarantee you that you will need a reliable, practical jacket while in Canada in winter. For the record, I have been in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia in winter, and I have lived in Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. Trust me: just buy the warm jacket, OK?

In Manitoba this winter, I experienced temperatures that dropped down to -37 degrees Celsius, while in The Rocky Mountains of Alberta, it got down to -15. You can read more about what temperatures to expect in winter in Canada here.

what to wear in canada in winter

My biggest struggle was finding a jacket that could withstand those temperatures but still look reasonably fashionable. It just so happens that, around that time, the outdoor clothing company Kathmandu got in touch with me about reviewing some of their clothing.

Normally I turn these kinds of requests down, but I knew I’d be in Canada for three months and I knew their products would really come in handy (if they worked, that is). I opted for a jacket which is both long and down-filled, and hoped that it would not only keep me warm but leave me feeling somewhat stylish (I liked how it came in at the hips).

It ended up being the perfect jacket for outdoor winter activities in Canada; I wore it in freezing conditions all over the country, and not once did I feel cold. I had held off buying this kind of practical jacket for years, but it turns out – surprise! – they really are ideal for frigid, snowy temperatures. You’ll want to find something similar for your time in Canada.

what to wear in canada in winter

But because I’m a true Canadian at heart, one jacket is never going to be enough. While the Kathmandu coat was perfect for outdoor activities, I also like to have a jacket that is a bit more cosmopolitan and looks nice for going out at night. I wore the “Cocoon Coat” from Aritzia and loved that it was both stylish and warm (although I wouldn’t want to go rolling around in the snow in it, as it’s quite expensive).

what to wear in canada in winter

Another tip for finding stylish, warm jackets to wear in Canada in winter? Head to thrift shops. I personally shop at Value Village, a thrift chain across Canada.

I have one winter coat I wear all the time that was purchased more than a decade ago, while this past season I bought one black fuzzy winter coat for eight dollars (eight dollars!) and a belted leather bomber (don’t judge, I swear it’s cool) for a mere twenty bucks. If you have some time to spare and want to do some shopping, I highly recommend buying a vintage or secondhand coat – they’re everywhere in Canada and it’s great for the environment to buy secondhand.

what to wear in canada in winter

Of course, if you’re a skiier or snowboarder, there are jackets specifically designed for you. I can’t speak much on these – I don’t ski or snowboard – but this list has quite a few good options for the necessary gear. A lot of Canadians wear Canada Goose coats, so they’re worth looking into (but very expensive!).

what to wear in canada in winter

There actually was a fire in there, I’m not just posing

2. Sweaters

Without a doubt, you are going to need a few sweaters for your winter in Canada. While these are fairly easy to buy just about anywhere, I’d recommend going for at least one heavier sweater, preferably one made of wool.

I’ve picked up a few yak wool sweaters while in Nepal, but more recently in Canada I wore a turtleneck sweater similar to this one. They’re pricier, yes, but you get what you pay for: it really is worth the price. You’ll notice that, unlike packing for warmer climates where you can buy a few cheap cotton dresses, it makes so much more sense to spend a little bit more money on high-quality items so that you’re guaranteed to say warm while in a Canadian winter.

I’ve recently also discovered the warmth of cashmere – yeah, I’m kinda posh now, apparently, or maybe just old – and I can also recommend getting clothing with a bit of cashmere blended in (the company Kit & Ace has lots of nice options).

what to wear in canada in winter

3. Jeans and trousers

If you’ve read one of these guides of mine before, you know that I very rarely recommend bringing jeans, and usually bring only a pair or two of trousers on my travels if I think I’ll be hiking or doing something active.

Well… I’ve crossed over, my friends. I’ve finally found a few pairs of jeans (all from the Gap or ASOS) that fit me quite well, and I can say that they’ve been lifesavers while in winter in Canada, because I got too cold wearing only skirts. If you go for trousers, again, make sure to invest in a heavier fabric, not something that will provide absolutely no protection from the cold or the wind. Wool is almost always best.

what to wear in canada in winter

Although I still definitely wear my usual skirts and dresses if I am going out at night or if I know I won’t be outside for that long, wearing long trousers or jeans is totally the way to go to stay warm in winter in Canada for everyday wear. Keep in mind you won’t want to wear jeans or trousers while you’re doing any serious winter activities (see below for my tips). I also sometimes layer tights or long underwear under my jeans if they’re baggy enough.

If you DO want to wear skirts and dresses while in Canada in winter, make sure to invest in a few pairs of warm tights to wear under them, tights like these ones. They’re expensive, yes, but they’ll last a long time and are MUCH better than the typical cheap stockings or tights you’d buy for everyday use.

One more tip: wool tights are much more likely to ride down your body, leaving you with the dreaded drop-crotch feeling. I always, always wear black bicycle shorts or, if I know I’m having that extra slice of cake (so, every day), Spanx on top of my tights to prevent them from riding down.

what to wear in canada in winter

4. Long johns

Oh yes. Long johns, or long underwear, are THE BEST. Invest in a good thermal pair of tights or long johns to wear under your jeans/trousers OR to layer (I layered a thermal pair of tights under long underwear UNDER snowpants to stay warm).

I actually found a pair of thermal leggings to layer, which help significantly with staying warm in Canada in winter. You’ll need them or something similar if you’ll be in the cold and snow for long. Alternatively, going for the classic long johns (apparently these are only made for men, but hey, other genders have legs, too) is another great option for layering.

Keep in mind these are also cosy to sleep in… but most homes and hotels in Canada are very well insulated, so they stay quite toasty at night!

what to wear in canada in winter

5. Snow pants

Again, if you are planning on spending any time in the snow whatsoever, you are going to need snow pants during a Canadian winter. The great thing is, once you buy a pair of these, they’re usually good for life (or at least for many years).

A durable, warm pair of snow pants will normally run you at least a hundred dollars, but they are an essential part of winter dressing. Buy something insulated and waterproof, much like these ones. Now is not the time to scrimp – I find my legs, especially my upper thighs, are the first parts of my body to get cold even if I’m bundled up.

what to wear in canada in winter

Wearing pretty much every single thing on this list (including an extra jacket) to snowmobile in Big White

6. Thermal tops

If you know you’re spending a day outside in the Canadian winter weather, the absolute best thing you can do is layer your clothing. Layering is KEY to staying warm, and hey, if you start to get hot while skiing or tobogganing (it happens!), you can always remove a layer. Much better to be able to take something off than wish you had something else to put on!

If you’ll be spending the day outside, I recommend layering something like a thermal top under your sweater. Long-sleeved t-shirts will also work, but best to go for something specifically made to keep you as warm as possible.

Another tip? If you bring lots of “under” layers like thermal tops, you won’t have to worry about washing the heavier stuff that often, meaning you’ll only need to bring one or two big sweaters alongside your lighter, easier-to-wash thermal layers.

what to wear in canada in winter

what to wear in canada in winter

7. A toque

You will absolutely, definitely, 100% need a toque when you visit Canada in winter. A toque, you say?! A toque is what we call a beanie or wooly hat in Canada. Fairly easy to come by in the country, it’s still best to go for one that totally covers your ears and one that won’t let any wind through.

I was a big fan of the fake fur one I’m wearing in most of these photos purchased from H&M years ago, because it was super warm and also pretty fun to wear. Roots also has some very cute ones!

what to wear in canada in winter

8. A scarf

Again, you want to go for a durable scarf made of wool, fleece, or another material that is guaranteed to keep you warm. I tend to choose larger, almost shawl-like scarves, because I like being able to wrap them multiple times around my neck and shoulders.

If you’ll be spending lots of time in a frigid temperature, I recommend adding a fleece neckwarmer underneath your scarf. Again, layers are key when it comes to what to wear in Canada in winter.

what to wear in canada in winter

9. Mittens

One of the biggest mistakes I saw many of the Australians I met last month in Western Canada make was that they almost all brought gloves. And I know – mittens seem kind of childish, right? The thing is, in so many cases, mittens will keep you SO much warmer than gloves.

With mittens, your fingers are able to move about and work together to keep themselves warm, as opposed to being wrapped individually. A lot of Manitobans wear “garbage mitts” – this actually just might be a Manitoba saying coined by the Raber company – and I can tell you: these are the best mittens around. Super warm, locally made (and made by hand!), and built to last a lifetime, I love my pair of Raber mittens. I mean, the RCMP has worn them, so you know they’re good.

Again, if you’re skiing or snowboarding, you may wear different accoutrements – just something to keep in mind.

what to wear in canada in winter

10. Socks

Um, yes, you’ll need to wear socks in winter in Canada. Again, splurge a bit and buy some very thick socks meant to be worn in cold weather, and be prepared to double up if need be. Just make sure, when you are wearing your thick socks and your winter boots, that you can still move your toes… this will help prevent frostbite and keep them nice and toasty!

what to wear in canada in winter

11. Winter boots

It is very, very difficult to find stylish winter boots, trust me. A lot of Canadians wear Sorels in winter, although I found a pair of Steve Madden winter boots and, with the exception of one -20 night when I stood in a line outside for over an hour (we Canadians are hardcore like that), my feet were warm for the entire winter season. I’m also a huge, huge fan of Timberland fleece-lined boots; I can wear them all winter long with wool socks.

The best thing I can say is make sure you really test the boots you choose out in the store or at home before wearing them outside; they need to be snug but not too snug. They should also be fake-fur or fleece lined, and I highly recommend buying some that are waterproof. Great traction on the bottom is an absolute must as well, because where there’s snow, there’s ice.

Speaking of ice, if you know you’ll be doing a lot of walking outdoors in winter, I recommend buying a pair of winter cleats or ice grippers. I am OBSESSED with my Icetrax, which fit nicely over my Timberlands; I walk two dogs twice a day in winter and never slip. They’re also really affordable, making them a great investment.

If you’ll mostly be in cities, you can definitely get away with a more stylish boot – think a riding boot, or, my favourites, Doc Martens – but you’ll still want to wear warm socks. If you’re wearing a leather boot, make sure to spray them with protective spray before subjecting them to the cold and snow.

12. Makeup and jewellery

So I’m sort of lumping these two together here, but as I usually address them, I thought I’d do the same for this list! In general, you can wear exactly the same makeup and jewellery as you’d wear at home when you’re in Canada. However, if you’re going to do any sort of winter activity outdoors, I’d recommend leaving any valuable jewellery in the hotel safe. Trust me, if you drop an earring or a ring in the snow, it’ll be lost forever.

what to wear in canada in winter

As for makeup, I wear the same makeup pretty much all year round, although my skin gets very, very dry in winter, especially in places like Manitoba where the air is naturally drier.

I recommend lots and lots of moisturiser – I’m a fan of Aveeno and Body Shop products, including their body washes. Good lip chap is a must, and if your feet get really dry like mine in winter, a foot mask is necessary (and disgustingly fun).

Finally, you wouldn’t think it, but you should definitely wear sunscreen while out in the snow all day, as the snow reflects the sun and often results in sunburns. C’mon now, this look is not a good look on anyone (and that’s not even mentioning the damage to your skin).

what to wear in canada in winter

So, I know that this list sounds like it’s for an expedition to the North Pole or something (please do not follow this packing list if you are actually doing that, FYI… if you’re spending any time outside overnight in a Canadian winter, that would most likely require expedition gear), but the fact remains that it is so much better to be over-prepared for the cold than under-prepared.

This list is primarily for outdoor activities, but if you’re in the city you’ll still probably wear some version of this (boots, jeans, a sweater, a jacket, scarf, and mittens). The ultimate goal is to feel comfortable and warm, because you really don’t want to risk frostbite or hypothermia, not to mention how much being cold can really ruin your holiday.

Canadian winter Rocky Mountains

As I participated in a lot of winter activities this year – tobogganing, snowshoeing, zip lining, snowmobiling, long walks, as well as visiting ice castles and even dining on the ice in -25 degrees Celsius – I wore some version of these items of clothing a lot all winter, and I can happily report that I was very rarely cold. In terms of what to wear in Canada in winter, I stand proudly by this list.

Bottom line: don’t worry too much about the fashion side of things while dressing for winter in Canada. Trust me, everyone else will be wearing their warmest gear, too. Focus on staying warm and staying happy, and you’ll be just fine.

In conclusion

My packing list for a recent two-week trip across Western Canada in January looked like this:

-three jackets (one extremely warm and down-filled, one for warmer/city days, and one leather bomber, but this was excessive; the first would have been fine on its own)

-two warm, heavy sweaters (one black and one white turtleneck)

-four long-sleeved thermal/warm tops (two were nice enough that I could wear them out in the evening with a skirt)

-two pairs of jeans

-one pair of thermal leggings and one pair of long johns

-one pair of snow pants

-one pair of winter boots and one pair of lighter leather boots for going out at night

-two hats/toques

-two scarves

-two pairs of mittens (one I wore every day, with one in my suitcase for backup… we all know mittens are easy to lose!)

-one fake leather skirt (I’m fancy like that)

-two pairs of warm tights

-seven pairs of wool socks

-a bunch of duster/kimono jackets (OK, these didn’t make this blog post, but I’m obsessed)

Have you been to Canada in winter? What would you add to the list?

Make sure to check out the other What to Wear posts, including packing lists for Thailand, Cuba, India, Kenya, Colombia, and more!

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Sarah March 1, 2018 - 3:00 am

I just want to say I LOVE this post! I was just commenting to a friend how I’ve been upgrading some of my winter apparel, and especially as I get cold easily I read the reviews and hone in on the ones that say they’re Canadian because then I can trust when they say that something will actually keep you warm! Reviewers based in South Carolina I don’t trust for winter apparel recommendations!

Also, I really appreciate the links to specific products! When I was looking up what to wear for a winter trip to Europe (where I was planning to be outside most of the day and evening), so many articles were just “bring some sweaters!” and it’s like… yeah, that’s a broad category with quaity and warmth ranging from heavy duty to almost nothing! And especially when you’re investing in good quality gear (good down jackets and warm snow boots aren’t cheap!), you want to make sure you’re not wasting your money on something that just looks like it’s made for winter.

Brenna Holeman March 1, 2018 - 11:36 am

Aw, that’s so great, thank you Sarah! I’m so glad that you liked the post. I hope you find all of your new winter gear very soon 🙂

Nicky October 1, 2018 - 1:02 pm

Can I ask you to do a travel packing video for cold weather, hot weather and in between weather? As a seasoned traveler I’d love to hear, I’m a chronic over packer and still find I never seem to pack quite right!

Brenna Holeman October 26, 2018 - 3:17 pm

Hi Nicky, I don’t do videos but I can try to write a post that covers that topic in the future!

Margueritte Hillman March 10, 2019 - 1:49 pm

I’m soooo glad that I ran into this post! Now I can do some fine tuning of things that I need for my trip at the end of March. I know that it’s not likely to be as cold as In absolute winter, but considering that Ottawa(2015) and Chicago(2018) were cold and snowy as #%+*! in April, I’m not taking any chances. Looks like I need just 2 or 3 other things from this list. Thanks for posting!

Margueritte Hillman March 10, 2019 - 1:58 pm

I’m from Southern Coastal California, where it very rarely dips below 40 degrees in the winter(although that’s changing). It still doesn’t snow though!

Lorri White March 1, 2018 - 4:04 am

It’s hard to believe this post was written by someone who has spent any time outdoors in a Canadian winter.

1. Given the dozens of quality Canadian clothing manufacturers, you suggest an Australian/New Zealand company? That creates low to mid quality gear? And doesn’t distribute in Canada?

2. Jeans. Anybody who spends any time outdoors knows that the last thing you wear is jeans. Cotton has no insulation value and once it gets wet it takes forever to dry. You want to wear wool (if you want to look dressy) or preferably a pair of polyester technical pants that will look great, move easily, dry quickly and when teamed with wool or polypropylene (not cotton) base layer will keep you warm all day.

Brenna Holeman March 1, 2018 - 11:45 am

Hah! It’s hard to believe this comment was written by a Canadian, because it is so unnecessarily rude.

1. I say explicitly that I was given a jacket to review. Considering Canadians make up a very small portion of my audience, and that this guide is written for those visiting Canada, doesn’t it make more sense to talk about a jacket that’s easy to find abroad? I’d feel very disingenuous recommending a jacket I hadn’t actually tried (and not sure where you’re getting “low to mid quality gear” from – I, as well as everyone else on my Western Canada tour wearing Kathmandu, were extremely warm the entire time). I also recommend Canada Goose, Kit and Ace, Raber, Sorel, Aritzia, and Roots… all Canadian companies.

2. I thought I was quite clear about when to wear jeans. I do not recommend wearing them to do winter activities, but after growing up in Manitoba and spending the last three months there, I can tell you that everyone I see (and everyone I know) wears jeans for everyday wear. I can’t find trousers that fit me properly, so jeans it is.

I’m sorry my post aggravated you so much, but as someone who grew up in -40 winters, I stand by my words.

SM September 22, 2018 - 11:23 am

I agree with you 100% Brenna. Nice reply.
-from a northern Alberta girl.

Susan B October 25, 2018 - 3:05 pm

Hi Brenna,
Nice post. I only wear jeans in winter. Or basically any pants or skirt with regular old pantyhose. I don’t ski though. City girl here. I was born in Montreal and now live in Vancouver and my internal temperature seems to run naturally hot, so most of these clothes would probably have me dripping with sweat. In Montreal you don’t even have to go outside for very long… All the malls and Metro are connected underground, and if you are going out for dinner you can get away with the fancy dress, pantyhose, pea coat and regular heels if you take a taxi. In Vancouver people don’t dress up much and tend to think it’s cold when it really isn’t. I remember my first day of school here in Vancouver, coming from Montreal and all the kids were in snow suits in one inch of snow. I had a stylish wool dress, tights and a wool coat and short little booties…The other kids were horrified. I was like this isn’t cold…Calgary (my Grandparents lived in Calgary) is cold…Montreal is cold…this is nothing.
Nice list of stuff…I have 4 pairs of winter boots. One is London Fog which I thought was a good name (used to be) They look like proper snow boots and go almost up to the knee, but they are made in China and they leak. One is a hiking boot, but they are waterproof and are Ahnu made in the States. They are a teal/forest green colour. I like green so I probably wear these most when it snows here. They only come just past the ankle and lace up. Another is a pair of made in Canada boots…beige faux ostrich sturdy like crazy with a solid extra grippy sole. Can’t remember the brand. Also waterproof. Then my grey suede booties for dress up. I think these might just be Nine West. It’s kinda nice living on the west coast.We did get heavily hit the last couple of years with snow, but mostly it just rains. Keep up the good work. I tend to over pack. It’s nice to have some guidelines. Since coats take up so much room though, I’d probably just wear the one heavy coat and pack a jacket and oh… I also love my big woolly 100% merino Aran Isle sweater from Ireland…that’s really warm. I have a Canucks (hockey team) touque, I find they don’t suit me though so I do berets. Wouldn’t be enough for back east though. Oh…some people might want earmuffs under their toques. The ears can get cold if I recall…if your scarf is bulky enough you can pull it up though. I’ve been to Australia and New Zealand…both beautiful countries. Such nice people. Such beautiful weather….why would you want to live here? LOL….Thanks Again! Susan

Aadil August 27, 2019 - 6:59 am

Hello , dear i read your post and enjoyed a lot
i am from india , i would be migrate soon in canada . I want to know what type of dress would be fine for there .Please suggest me because i would be come there for job, i never lived in cold weather.

LC March 1, 2018 - 12:46 pm

I LOVE winter fashion, but tend to borrow other’s clothes whenever I go anywhere super cold, so I never end up looking as stylish as you do in all these photos! Definitely going to take your advice re the mittens next time I’m in sub-zero temps – they look real cosy.

Brenna Holeman March 1, 2018 - 1:23 pm

Thank you so much, LC! Yes, I totally recommend those mittens – they’re the best.

Stacy March 1, 2018 - 1:28 pm

Everything in this post is so spot on! I’m a lifelong Minnesotan, or as my mom likes to say, the Land of Three Winter Coats. Because you totally need them! A dressier, wool one; a lighter weight one for average cold days; and a damn-is-it-really-that-cold super warm one 🙂

Brenna Holeman March 1, 2018 - 1:30 pm

Aw, thanks so much, Stacy! So glad that you enjoyed the post, and glad to hear that it got the Minnesota stamp of approval. 🙂

Linda March 1, 2018 - 3:23 pm

You are spot on with every single suggestion, Brenna. As a hard-core Canadian, spending almost all my winters in Manitoba or Ontario, I have bought and worn a number of your recommendations. I especially appreciate that you make it easy to look warm AND stylish. This post is a really great one for anyone thinking of visiting Canada in winter (and I say “come on over, you’ll love it)!

Brenna Holeman March 13, 2018 - 12:20 pm

Thank you so much! I always love when you comment on my blog xoxo

Cate March 1, 2018 - 4:10 pm

I so love and appreciate these what to wear posts! Keep it up! Next week I am heading to Vancouver Island for whale watching, hiking, exploring outdoors, and just bought new hiking boots, and plan on bringing both a rain coat, a heavy coat, and a hate, scarf, and gloves! Hopefully I still look cute! You certainly did!!

Brenna Holeman March 13, 2018 - 12:21 pm

Thank you so much, Cate! I hope you had a fantastic time in Vancouver – it’s such a beautiful place.

Mark March 1, 2018 - 5:31 pm

Great post, solid recommendations from someone who’s obviously experienced a few winters on the prairies! Seeing as it was our first full winter outside of Canada in a few years, following you on this trip was a little nostalgic. That being said, I don’t plan to spend another winter in Alberta for quite some time!

Brenna Holeman March 13, 2018 - 12:22 pm

Thank you so much, Mark! And yeah, I get it, ha ha! Those winters can be brutal if you have to endure months of them…

Katie March 2, 2018 - 8:39 am

This list could apply to Italy right now! Wah. Our town has the first big snowfall it’s gotten in 6 years, and I went out yesterday and realized I have no proper footwear for this. None. My only option was low-cut boots with low heels and no traction because they were waterproof. I might not go all-out on my winter gear considering this is rare, but I do need to get myself a decent pair of boots.

Brenna Holeman March 13, 2018 - 12:23 pm

Oh god. Footwear is always my BIGGEST pain! I feel like I can never find cute, practical footwear, so I’m with you. Hopefully Italy is nice and warm now 🙂

Paige March 3, 2018 - 11:38 pm

This post made me oddly nostalgic for winter in upstate New York where I grew up! Not that we don’t get *ahem* delightful winters in Boston, but long johns were always a must for doing anything outside in the snow! Also, my dad (who’s French Canadian) insists on wearing his bright orange toque embroidered with a picture of a deer everywhere in the winter (despite the fact that he’s never hunted anything ever). Would definitely recommend such a hat for “that friend” who always wanders off in crowds. : ) P.S. The spanx over wool tights suggestion might have just changed my life and professional wardrobe, as I own exactly zero work trousers and spend most of my winter life shivering at bus stops on my way to the office. Also can’t wait to hear more about the trip–I want to make it to Western Canada sometime in the next couple of years!

Brenna Holeman March 13, 2018 - 12:24 pm

Thank you so much for the comment, Paige! Yes, that wool tights + spanx combo has often been a lifesaver for me. I like the sound of your dad’s toque, ha ha – definitely one to stand out in a crowd! 😉

Susan B October 25, 2018 - 3:12 pm

Hi Paige..I liked this too…Another one is a pantry girdle over pantyhose… I hate pantyhose when it starts to creep down…then you get those nice wrinkles at the ankle.

Becky March 11, 2018 - 10:52 am

Canada looks stunning but also pretty cold thanks for those helpful tips! That packing list in the end is a great idea 😀

Brenna Holeman March 11, 2018 - 6:49 pm

Thank you so much, Becky! I’m glad you liked the post 🙂

Susan B October 25, 2018 - 3:22 pm

Hey Becky,
It’s not always that cold.. .This is just about winter. The same cities mentioned here can also get scorching hot in summer…we’re talking walking from air conditioned lobby into an oven. Shorts flip flops and a tank top can feel like too many clothes. If you prefer less extreme temperatures Vancouver is great. We sometimes don’t even get snow in the winter and it doesn’t stay so blisteringly hot in summer for as long. Sort of like the diff between Seattle and Buffalo ?
If you plan to come to Canada, I’d suggest spring on the west coast when everything starts to blossom or autumn back east. The Laurentians in Quebec become a riot of colour in the fall when the leaves turn…All the sugar maples, oaks and elms…etc…
Susan ?

Kayla March 13, 2018 - 12:16 am

This is actually super helpful! I’m one of those Australian’s that has barely seen snow (once on a family trip to the ‘snow’ which was more like settled sludge, and once when it randomly started snowing in Berlin but not even enough to settle on the ground) so I’d pretty much be you at 16 – I don’t think I’ve ever actually owned a scarf!

Brenna Holeman March 13, 2018 - 12:25 pm

Thank you so much, Kayla! I hope you find your winter wonderland soon 😉

Maira March 14, 2018 - 11:24 am

Love the post, super helpful tips!
Thanks for sharing Brenna ?

Brenna Holeman March 22, 2018 - 12:32 am

Thanks very much, Maira! I’m glad that you liked it.

Jessica March 17, 2018 - 11:29 pm

You couldn’t of written this at a more perfect time! I’ve just accepted a job in Manitoba and will be moving there from Australia in June! The concept of -20C is so foreign to me that I’ve been laughing a little manically every time someone asks me how cold it gets in the winter.

Brenna Holeman March 18, 2018 - 4:15 am

Oh wow – that’s very exciting! Great that you’re arriving in June… there’s so much to do in the summer in Winnipeg. I’m sure you’ll love it!

Mo March 20, 2018 - 11:18 am

I just had my first snowy winter and skiing trip (in Japan, not Canada) ever!!! Since I’m from Los Angeles, at first I was definitely at a loss as to what I should wear. While reading this list I found myself nodding in agreement to every item. This list will save other LA girls from freezing in the future!

Brenna Holeman March 22, 2018 - 12:32 am

Aw, thank you so much, Mo! I hope you had a great time 🙂

Zalie March 20, 2018 - 4:27 pm

I bet you never saw yourself writing a ” what to wear” post about Canadian winter gear! Some wonderful suggestions and of course you always look great wearing them!

Brenna Holeman March 22, 2018 - 12:33 am

Thank you so much sister xoxo

Jace Harrison March 23, 2018 - 12:18 pm

There is nothing worse than a winter in Canada.How hot you wear will not be enough because in winters it freezing cold in Canada.I live in Toronto, believe me, you can’t stand outside for even five minutes, so think what will it be.

Brenna Holeman April 17, 2018 - 4:25 pm

Yeah, it surprises me every single winter, no matter how many times I experience it!

Jennifer August 10, 2018 - 4:55 pm

Hi I’m from Australia and I shall be traveling early January from Calgary to Vancouver plus 4 days in the Whitehorse aurora viewing. I have taken everything you have said on board in getting my gear together. One question would a long down filled coat (below calf length) be cumbersome should I be taking a shorter one or both. Thank you for your excellent advice on what to pack for winter in Canada!

Brenna Holeman October 26, 2018 - 3:22 pm

Hi Jennifer, if I were you, with those locations, I’d definitely bring the long coat. You might feel a bit warm in Vancouver – I wore a leather jacket there in January – but you’ll definitely need it for Calgary and Whitehorse! Have fun 😀

Sharon August 21, 2018 - 7:16 am

Hey – I am travelling to Calgary from Australia in October – what do I pack for nice cocktail bars etc – can I wear open toe heels – sorry but I need to get this packing correct !!!

Brenna Holeman September 5, 2018 - 4:18 pm

I think it would be far too cold for open toe shoes in October… it will already be quite cold then, with even a potential of snow! You might not need full-out winter gear but definitely pack for cold weather…

Shannon September 30, 2018 - 12:23 pm

Hello! Life long Texan here planning to visit Banff in November. “Winter” for me is when I exchange the flip flops for Uggs for a few days every so often between December and February. Thank you so much for this post. Any specific guidance for dressing in Banff in mid-November is appreciated!!

Brenna Holeman October 26, 2018 - 3:19 pm

Hi Shannon! Glad you liked the post. It will be pretty cold in Banff in mid-November with a strong possibility of snow, so I’d take most of this article to heart! You can always buy stuff while there, but it will be much more expensive as it’s a touristy place. Bring lots of layers and nice warm boots!

Kerrie Stuckey October 3, 2018 - 10:43 pm

hi Brenna so glad i found this blog. As a Australian (Queensland) heading to Canada for my first white Christmas. It is very daunting to work out what is needed to make sure I m not cold. After reading your article I think I have most things covered now. just one question regarding shoes, I was planning to take my Merrell Moab hiking shoes, very supportive, good grip and very comfortable, of course with a pair of thick thermal socks. Do you think these would be OK as buying a pair of snow boots would cost a lot for a once off trip.

Brenna Holeman October 26, 2018 - 3:21 pm

Hmm. Those might work if you are only going somewhere for a few minutes, but if you’re planning on spending any time outdoors I do recommend buying actual snow/winter boots. Frostbite is no joke, and toes and fingers are the first to be affected. I sometimes wear hiking boots in winter, but only if I’m just grocery shopping or something (i.e. running from the car to the store and back again). I hope this helps! Have fun 🙂

Alejandro Diaz November 15, 2018 - 4:10 pm

Firstly, I have to say that your blog is great, it’s wonderful, is one of the best blogs I’ve seen, I love your way to share your trips, I am your fan from now haha.

Well, now my wife and I are planning vacations during winter in Canada for the next year, and this is only blog where I have found information about what to wear, thanks so much, we are from Mexico and this is great and useful.

I really hope you be very well.

Brenna Holeman November 15, 2018 - 4:17 pm

Aw, that’s so great to hear, thank you so much, Alejandro! I’m really glad that you enjoyed the post. I hope you have a wonderful time in Canada!

Deb November 25, 2018 - 3:13 pm

Awesome blog! I am one of those Australians who has never seen snow in her entire life. I’m travelling to Canada soon, and am looking forward to experiencing snow and cold weather! Kathmandu brand is available here so I appreciated your advice on those products. I don’t know if it’s even possible to buy snow boots where I live in Australia, so I am thinking I might have to wait until I arrive in Vancouver to buy some. What do you think?

Brenna Holeman November 28, 2018 - 4:24 pm

Yes, you’ll definitely find a lot of boots in Vancouver… and I think you’ll be OK as there is never that much snow on the ground in the city (but don’t quote me on that). There might even be good sales as most winter gear starts to be discounted the longer the season runs. It won’t be hard to find stores with winter boots!

Tina November 27, 2018 - 10:34 pm

Fantastic blog and very informative. I too am one of the many Aussies asking questions. I am hoping to see the Aurora in Yellowknife in Dec-Jan 2019/20. From there it will be off to Quebec for a week. I realise it will be seriously cold and in Yellowknife they will supply jackets, boots and pants etc. My question is … for those of us more rotund … any idea’s where I can get seriously warm jacket and snow pants in larger sizes. Should I wait until I get to Vancouver or better still up to Edmonton (largest mall in the northern hemisphere I here!)? Shoes I am looking at getting a pair of the Merrell Aurora 6 ice boots, which from my reading should be up to freezing temperatures. I really dont want to pay a fortune and half a spleen for gear that I will were only 3-4 weeks. Any ideas??

Brenna Holeman November 28, 2018 - 4:27 pm

Thank you, Tina! What an exciting trip you have planned. I think it’s a good idea to get ice boots before you arrive, and it’s great that you’ll have supplies provided in the Yukon. You’ll definitely find lots of options in both Vancouver and Edmonton, but you’re right, it’s nice that the West Edmonton Mall has so many options under one roof! If you’re not fussed about style, and want to get something cheap but useful, I’d recommend looking into stores like Value Village (for used coats) and Walmart. They always have a great range of sizes and I find it very affordable. I wish that I could shop a bit more ethically, but sometimes we have to make due with our budgets. A great and ethically made winter coat can run hundreds of dollars, so if you know you’re only going to use it for a few weeks, I’d suggest a cheaper store like that… and then you can always donate the coat before you leave!

Lailani December 8, 2018 - 7:18 pm

So glad I found this post! Looks like I get to celebrate my 50th birthday in Alberta!! But we live in southern Georgia, US. A BIG change in temps…smd we can’t buy local what we need. With your article I now can hit up Postmark and have a clue what I am doing! Thank you!

Baylee December 11, 2018 - 3:09 pm

-Sincerely a California Girl that will be traveling to Canada this winter ?

Brenna Holeman December 14, 2018 - 11:14 pm

Amazing! I hope you have a great time 😀

Megan December 28, 2018 - 2:15 pm

These pictures are amazing

TRIPTHI SUGUMAR May 2, 2019 - 10:40 am

Hey Brenna. I just came across your post. Great post really ! I’m so clueless.

I’m from India – The tropics ! Right now ,my city has temperatures of 35-40 degrees Celsius ! I love warm weather and I’m the kind that feels cold when temps are at just plain 18 and below ?. I visited the U.S last fall for 3 months and felt cold on the east coast in October ! Luckily went to to California mid Nov till the end of December and I was ok. But still not adequately prepared for the nights …

I’m applying for fellowships in Canada – Edmonton / Vancouver / Toronto. I’m most likely to take a program in Edmonton for a year and hope to get another year in toronto. Weather wise , Vancouver seems like the best, but the better programs are at the other two places :(. I’m petrified thinking of Sub zero temps. My main question is, what is it like indoors? Hospitals , homes , gyms. Can one get away with regular clothing. …next going btw ones house and car or the bus etc…does it require this many layers, that you’d prob have to take off once in your work place ?
Also, shoes to work. Or restaurant and bars or the mall etc. What would be best?
Actually it would be nice to have a post on how to manage for a year or two ? in Canada. And how to pack and purchase for that .

Sam August 21, 2019 - 8:06 pm

Hi Brenna,

Thank you for your post! I am from the tip top of Australia where our ‘winter’ is about 24 degrees on a bad day! I have one question regarding jackets – is it necessary to have a heavy duty waterproof jacket? Most Australian websites have ‘water-resistant’ as opposed to ‘waterproof’. I don’t want to spend the money on a warm jacket if it wont withstand the water/snow. I am visiting the US and Canada at the end of the year. Thanks 🙂

rohit aggarwal December 22, 2019 - 11:16 am

thank you thisbatteredsuitcase for giving me wonderful information

Melissa Edwards February 18, 2020 - 10:38 pm

Thank you so much for your post. As Aussie’s (Sydney siders at that who wouldn’t know Winter if it smacked us in the face) who travelled thru Canada in the December 2019 holidays i found your guide so very valuable. As it was summer in Aus i was able to get lots on sale and headed straight to the Outlet Mall near Vancouver for the last bits and pieces.
Thank You!!!

Terry Jeisman April 3, 2022 - 7:18 pm

Ever since spending a 2 week January holiday in Scotland some years ago, and being of an age that some people would call elderly, I swear by wearing a pair of heavy fleece pants under the snow pants as well as the thermal long johns! I also have a couple of pairs of “glove liners” to avoid trying to use my phone with “bare hands”


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