I routinely help people move to MN from out of state and because nearly every state is south of us, warmer than us, and doesn’t have quite the winter that we do, most people aren’t mentally or physically prepared for winter here in MN. I sense a lot of excitement, but also fear?
Let me reassure you that people in MN aren’t some mutant breed, we aren’t the huskies of the human race that want to roll around in ice in summer. We just like seasons and recognize that winter is one of them, and have found ways to make it comfortable, safe and doable. In this video I’m taking you to SNOW SCHOOL and giving you the tips that you’ll need to get through winter comfortably and safely!
Winter and snow can be downright magical if you can sit inside a warm house with a cup of coffee and a fire blazing watching it fall from the sky. But eventually you have to leave the house. I’m going to start off with how to DRESS for winter here and I’ll do another video on other considerations like driving in it, managing it around your home and preparing your actual house for winter as well as staying safe outside in winter.
It’s September and that means it is HIGH time to start preparing for winter. Costco has their gloves and hats out, Christmas decor is usually up right around now and its a great reminder to get your act together while the getting’s good.
Today I’m going to start with the basics! How should you plan to dress here in winter?
It will vary across the season, with peak winter gear needed in January when we often see stretches of well below zero weather. Our seasons are pretty prompt here, with a definite change in the air that hits right at the 3 month mark of any season. I’m recording this at the beginning of September, and the weatherman here pointed out that we have just seen our last after 8pm sunset until next April and that means that we are on our way into fall. Our temps have been in the mid-50’s overnight lately (and I LOVE IT) with highs in the mid 70’s. Northern MN has the high 30’s for overnight temps – winter is coming!
I don’t mind the short days (in the depths of winter it’s starting to get dark here by around 4:30 and it won’t be light til well after 8am), I sleep well in winter! I may be part bear. We do have the flip side in summer with extremely long days, so if that’s your cup of tea you’ll have it to look forward to.
Everyone has their own definition of cold, but I would say that it starts to get cold at the end of October (highs in the 30’s lows in the 20’s overnight). We often see at least some snow around Halloween. And fun fact – if you see snow it means it’s NOT THAT COLD. It actually will NOT snow when it is truly cold here, there needs to be some moisture in the air to achieve snow and intense cold is also intensely DRY.
Your mom may have mentioned wearing LAYERS to you, and she knew what she was talking about. If you’ll be outside in very cold weather you should plan to have 3 layers on. The first layer is a snug base layer. Do not wear cotton as it holds moisture and having damp skin or clothes is dangerous. Pick a synthetic material that wicks moisture away from the skin.
Your second layer should be your fleece or other clothing (sweater, sweatshirt, something!) that insulates and holds pockets of warm air close to your body. Do you need 2 layers on your legs -yep! If it’s cold, having warm legs makes a world of difference. I feel like there is an artificial focus on the upper body for warmth, but having your legs warm (I mean 50% of your body?!) makes a HUGE difference in comfort if you’re going to be outside.
My dogs don’t seem to mind cold weather at all and still want their walks, and having snow pants on changes everything. They come in varying styles and weights. I’m a dork and wear the thick (and WARM) snow pants you see on kids. You probably have more shame/fashion sense than me and You can get some “sleeker” pants that insulate and block wind, those can be pricey but you’ll look as amazing as you CAN look while wearing snow pants. If I’m going to be out walking dogs or clearing the sidewalk I’ll wear a base layer – long johns, leggings or even tights – and then pull the snow pants over that and I’m super comfy.
Final layer! You’ll want something WIND and WATER proof! These two elements can literally be the death of you if you don’t prepare. Down is a wonderful insulating material but if it gets wet, it’s worse than useless. Blocking wind and water will be what keeps you feeling toasty warm. And when I say water – I don’t mean rain. Snow can be quite wet and soak right through your coat. I can think of nothing worse than being cold and wet at the same time.
When looking at coats for actual winter weather here, you probably want a parka vs a “jacket”. A parka is generally longer and will cover your backside better. I would actually say that having both is not a bad idea. If you’re running around doing errands and will be in and out of the car and heated spaces you can scurry around in your jacket and be fine, but for warmth – I like a parka. Parkas also come with hoods (often detachable) and when the wind is ripping around I’ll use it. If you buy from a quality place they often have ratings on their winter items and you can see that clothing is rated to X degrees below zero. You’ll need that in winter. My favorite combination is down with a wind and waterproof shell.
For your extremities, you definitely need a beanie or tuque (interchangeable – you’ll hear both words!), gloves or if you really want warm hands, get mittens. Having your digits all together in one pocket of fabric makes for a much warmer hand. Feet should have wicking socks. The best are wool or smart wool (they aren’t itchy – I promise!) and then boots that are insulated and waterproof. I see lots of feet looking stylish and warm in Sorel’s but North Face are super popular here as are less expensive brands like Lands End.
My husband hates the cold and we also stock up on the hand warmer things in winter and he will keep those in his pocket when walking the dogs or clearing. So if you tend toward the chilly side, that’s another option.
My last tip is don’t wait! When winter things appear in the store, buy them. They disappear pretty fast next thing you know it’s -20 and the stores are stocked with swim suits for spring break.
I’ll do another post and video for driving and dealing with cold in general shortly, I also did one a while back on getting your house ready for winter, you can check out my YouTube Playlist for life in Minneapolis and you’ll see that!