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Winter in Toronto - What to Wear

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”

We are onto our 4th winter in Toronto and wanted to share some tips on buying winter clothes. To give you some background we live in Toronto city and do all our errands walking even in the winter, even on some days when it feels like -20. The best thing we did when we moved here was to invest in really good jackets and gears that made our winter smooth and fun.

It can be mind-boggling to decide on winter clothes with so many brands and types of winter jackets to choose from. In Toronto, you need two types of Jackets one for Fall and Spring and the second for the deep winter (anywhere from Mid Nov - to March)

Jackets for Fall and Spring: You probably have jackets for this weather. In California you wore them in winter but here is Toronto these would be your Fall and Spring jacket. We have a couple down jackets and it serves well for these months along with a nice beanie. Since it also rains during these months make sure you have at least one jacket that’s also waterproof.

Winter Jacket (Mid Nov - March): This jacket is for extreme winter months when the temp is hovering around zero or below. They are called Parkas. We bought Nobis Parkas and totally love them- they are lightweight, warm and the best part is you can wear it on top of your t-shirt and step out into freezing cold and still be warm and comfortable. If you have a good Parka, you don’t need to layer up at all. There are some other brands known for technical Parkas - Arc’teryx, North Aware, Mackage, Canada Goose etc.

In addition to a good winter Jacket, you need boots that are insulated as well as waterproof. It’s important to pick a pair of boots that are waterproof as when the snow melts it gets slushy, with big puddles of water on the street corners. There are some good Canadian shoe brands to choose from - Sorel, Kamik, Stonz. You also need a good pair of mittens and a hat.

Protip: Instead of going for gloves pick up mittens as they tend to be warmer than gloves because your fingers generate more heat when they’re not separated from each other by fabric, as they are with gloves.

A good place to pick up winter stuff is MEC - they have their own house brand and many other great brands under one roof. The staff is knowledgeable. You can buy just about anything you need for winter.

For Kids: They too need two sets of jackets. For deep winter months they would need snow pants along with the snow jacket, boots, mitts, scarf and hat. For kids, good mittens that stay snug on their hands are very important since kids love to play in the snow and if the mitten keeps coming off its not fun for them. Also, boots that are easy to put on makes a big difference in their school life. Bogs boots are great and you can start using them from October till all the way to May when it’s still cold and rainy.

While shopping for winter gear we chose functionality, lightness, minimalism over heavy gears and layers and layers of clothes. The right gear just makes you be more out and about in winter. Managing and storing winter wear becomes much easier otherwise it gets overwhelming with so many pieces of winter clothing.

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Great post! Thanks for the unbiased advice - a lot of people just tend to promote brands without actually trying out the products and talking out of their own experience.

If I may share my two cents to others seeking winter wear -

  • Staying warm is all about trapping heat generated by your body. Layers can work in your favor, provided you pull it off with the right materials. Shirt + Sweater + Parka is much more effective than Cotton Vest + Shirt + Jacket. The problem here is that we tend to overspend on additional winter clothing - simple is better.
  • Different body parts lose/retain heat at varying speeds. The torso and head are more susceptible. If you wear gloves with a good pair of boots and a poor jacket, you will not be getting the maximum comfort. Invest in your gear wisely, understand how the materials work.
  • Depending on the activity or occasion you may need switch your outerwear. Spending a few hours in the snow skiing? Get thermal innerwear and a ski jacket. Heading to a formal dinner in the city? Grab a more refined coat. You will need to adjust your clothing since you will be spending more time inside temperature-controlled buildings (definitely would want to drop the thermals in this case!)
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Thanks to all - very useful info! :slight_smile:

What about pants? I have seen some people wear pants that look similar to snowboarding pants. If you’re walking down the street in -15 with windchill, a jeans is definitely not sufficient. I find that wearing thermals and then a pant over the top helps outdoors, but the moment you’re indoors, it becomes unbearable (you can’t easily take that stuff off as you can a jacket). Is there a smarter solution, maybe a special type of winter pant that people usually wear?

We haven’t felt the need to get special pants since the Parka is up-to the knees only very little part of your legs are exposed. But yes I have seen some people wear snow pants.

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Other than snow pants, I have ordered couple of Fleece Lined jeans from Eddie bauer. One extra layer should be better than a simple jeans, hopefully.
Will share feedback how it goes, but as Deepa mentioned, a long parka with long boots should solve 90% of the problem.

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I have got ‘heattech’ thermal inner pants from Uniqlo https://www.uniqlo.com/us/en/men/heattech-collection. They have different categories like regular, extra warm, ultra warm. You can try their regular and on top of that wear regular jeans or pants. They are not unbearable while indoors at least for me. I wear extra warm so regular should work for you. They are reasonably priced as well.

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My first winter here and I am trying not to freak out. This is a very useful thread. I did try out the heattech thermals from uniqlo but I couldn’t decide whether to go for the extra warm or ultra warm. And yes, keeping my legs warm is a major concern for me since I use public transportation and the bus tops without a shed are pretty difficult to wait at. Getting fleece-lined pants seem to be a good option but I want to know if it would be too much indoors.