surviving montreal winter: gear edition

December 7, 2014 ginginbonbon

so. I’ve had this active dog for over 7 years now (and for a couple of those years I was living alone with her, responsible for all walks) and I know a thing or two about having to go outside when it’s the last thing in the world you wanna do. proper gear makes this season less unbearable.

I advise against spending a lot of money on a coat no matter how nice or good quality it is. come march, (or april, or may, or at least after the following winter) you will never want to see the thing again. and I mean, styles change. the good news is you do not have to shell out a lot for a good jacket. teeny bopper stores are great if you can stand the music. recognizable brands = you are wasting money on branding rather than materials and construction. also, do not buy real fur trim. it’s the current lifeline of the fur industry, which needs to diaf immediately. there is nothing good, neutral or even acceptable about the fur industry, do not give it any of your dollars.

things to look out for: the outer fabric should be thick and at least a little bit stiff. this is what keeps the cold and especially the wind, out. it should have a good weight to it, if it feels suspiciously light it probably isn’t warm enough. make sure the hood is big enough to fit over a hat or second hood, nothing is worse than a shitty little too-small hood. pay attention to the neck, shoulders, waist and wrists for a good fit over scarf, thick sweaters, etc.

protip: wear secondary, backup (crappy) winter gear to clubs and places where you have to check your stuff. that way your life isn’t over if it gets lost or stolen. don’t leave it in the car and then stand in line outside drunk or shivering, everyone thinks you look like an asshole.

your hat and scarf are the only things where the look doesn’t necessarily have to give way to more important considerations, so I recommend taking the time to find stylish ones that won’t make you die a little inside when you pull them on for the three thousandth time. again, they do not have to be expensive. try etsy or the gap (on sale).

oh, and forget gloves. you do not have fingers for the next 6 months. ski mittens are the only way to go. big, hard, padded, waterproof, washable mittens (they are going to get dropped and they are going to get gross), preferably in the same colour as your jacket.

protip: a trucker cap under a hood keeps snow from blowing in your face. sometimes the weather will call for a toque, sometimes two hoods. don’t be afraid to experiment, and be versatile.

as a fan of the bomber style of jackets, I’m a big proponent of snow pants. they allow you to wear whatever you want underneath and protect your ass when you slip and fall in the slush. warmer legs also mean you can afford to dress a little less warmly on top, which tends to be more comfortable.

one-piece ski suits look great (or hilarious, depends) but in my experience they are not convenient and not warm enough on top for colder weather. layers are great and everything but they get bulky and uncomfortable fast, plus the more layers you use the greater the chance of the colours not matching, even black. too many top layers make a fitted one-piece ride up into your ass (visible wedgie). if it’s big enough to accommodate layers, it will sag and look dumb without them. you can’t have it both ways.

warning: snow pants, any type, are guaranteed to trap farts. you’ll be enjoying the aroma well after you take them off. never stuff them into a closet or bag. let them air out.

basic considerations: waterproof, warm, non-skid, breathable. you have few options for boots proper, namely sorrels or similar. personally I find them too heavy and not my style. I highly recommend NEOS (new england overshoes). they make fancy ones that are insulated and non-slip. I bought the cheapest model ages ago, they are very slippy but incredibly durable, still in perfect condition after years of use. they don’t breathe per se but since you can wear any shoe that fits inside them, you never have to have a problem with sweaty feet. and you can go out in your slippers or sandals all winter if you choose.

protip: rub wet snow on your boots regularly to keep road salt from destroying them.

put your feet in hot water when they feel cold. the best gear in the world is not going to warm you up if you have poor circulation and don’t exercise, and cold feet suck.

always dry your crap on a rack and boot tray next to a heater when you get home so it’s useable in case you need to step out. if you’re dating or usually care about your impression on other people, wash that smelly scarf frequently. wash your jacket if it smells like fried food or b.o. (unless you’re into that).

a word on materials
I haven’t tried those fancy new fabrics; I am old skool when it comes to underlayers. most synthetics feel gross on your skin as soon as you break a sweat anyways, and I’m sure even the wicking ones smell bad at the pits. I like cotton bc it’s absorbent, or bamboo. (bamboo has the advantage of not really feeling wet when it is. everything I learned about bamboo is from cloth diapering tho.)

you know when there’s that chill that goes right through you no matter how warmly you dress? that’s humidity. wool is unbeatable for wet weather but make sure it’s covered on the outside with something waterproof and on the inside with something soft and absorbent, bc wool feels like scratchy and/or wet shit on your skin, yes, even merino. take good care of your woollens.


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