By Caitlin Kelly
Right now across North America it’s colder than….insert cliche here.
For us Canadians, it’s “really?”
I grew up in Toronto and Montreal, have visited Quebec City several times in winter and even once reported a story from the Arctic Circle in December.
I know cold!
Anyone who survives multiple winters in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal or parts further north — like Yellowknife (- 27 today) or Salluit (-11) — quickly learns how to handle bitter, biting winter winds, frost, ice and snow. As one friend, a former wildlife biologist who worked in the Arctic says, “It’s not the cold. It’s having the right clothing.”
A few tips:
— Don’t wear anything made of metal! If you have piercings on any piece of exposed flesh — earlobes, eyebrows, nose, whatever — take that thing out now. Metal conducts cold. You do not want to invite frostbite. That includes metal watches, bangles and rings.
— Exposed skin can get frostbite within minutes. Wrap a wool, cashmere or polypro scarf or cagoule (Americans call this a neckgaiter; the link is to a $12.99 one in black. Do it!) around as much of your face as possible. Forget vanity! If you have to work outside or spend long hours outdoors, give in and buy a balaclava. Yes, you’ll look like a cat burglar. Deal with it.
— Woolen tights and socks only. Forget any other fabric right now, except cashmere. Only wool will give you the insulation you need. Woolen tights are also super-durable, so even if they cost a little more, you can use them for years.
— Moisturize. Skin is easily dehydrated and chapped by winter winds, so wear plenty of creamy, rich moisturizer and use lip balm. Refresh often.
— Don’t forget SPF. The sun is still shining and your skin still needs protection; choose a moisturizer or facial cream with 15 to 30 SPF.
— Windproof clothing is your best bet — down-filled nylon from makers like LLBean, The North Face, Patagonia, Lands’ End. Look for features you really need right now — a tight elastic cuff deep inside the sleeve so you can tuck your gloves or mittens into it so that not one inch of your flesh is exposed between sleeve bottom and mitten top, a high collar that can cover your throat and lower face and a warm, insulating hood with strings you can draw tight around your face.
— Fur is the best. If that suggestion horrifies you, sorry. But if you can find a fur coat, scarf and/or hat — at thrift stores, vintage stores, Ebay, etc. — fur will keep you warmer than anything, and (sheared fur, like sheared beaver or mink) with minimal bulk.
— Yaktrax can help save you from serious fall and injury. I love these things! For $20, these metal/rubber grippers slip over the soles and sides of your shoes or boots and will make even the slipperiest of sidewalks less terrifying. They’re light and small enough to tuck into your purse or backpack in a Ziploc bag after use.
— Stay dry. Exposed moisture will freeze. That includes wet hair. Yes, I used to get hairsicles as I crossed the University of Toronto campus between winter classes after my early morning squash game. Always wear a warm hat that covers your ears and thick windproof gloves or mittens.
— Drinking hot tea helps. Winter wind is dehydrating and drinking lots of hot tea will warm you quickly and affordably, with no calories. Try a new-to-you blend like Constant Comment or smoky Lapsang Souchong.