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Preparing for Cold Weather/ Winter Gear Guide


Hello Flame,

We recognize many of you are new to cold weather and the cold conditions of living in Chicago, so we want to share with you how to find good quality coats and materials at a good price. We also want to help to protect you and your skin from Frostbite, a serious condition of damaged skin or tissue that occurs when skin is exposed to temperatures that are 0F or colder.  Frostbite can happen quickly.  Combining wind chill factors and a temperature of 0 degrees, frostbite can happen within 30 minutes. If the temperature is -20 degrees below 0, frostbite can occur in 10 minutes.   Wearing the proper gear and covering all exposed skin with help to make your Chicago winter safer and warmer! Link to NHS post on frostbite:
If you’re pressed on time, take a look at the 2 videos down below.
Winter Clothes Checklist

What you should have to stay warm in Chicago!

  • Winter Coat or parka
  • Insulated Hat
  • Waterproof Snow Boots
  • Thermal socks
  • Glove
  • Scarf
How do you know if the clothes you find will be good quality and effective in the winter?

What makes a good coat?

  • Has the following:
    • Hood
    • Hand pockets and inside pockets
    • Long (cover mid-thigh or knees)
  • Color
    • Look for darker colors that will absorb sunlight
    • Darker colors will also make you more visible to buses and drivers
  • Size
    • Because layering is important (see below), you’ll need a coat that leaves you room to do so
    • Choose a coat that has an extra two to three inches in the waist

What makes a good hat?

  • Should cover your head AND your ears
    • A good chunk of your body heat is lost from your head!
  • If possible, choose a hat that’s fleece lined
    • Provides insulation
  • Different styles and shapes → find what works for you!
  • If your coat has a good hood, you can get a fleece headband or earmuffs to cover your ears

What makes a good pair of boots?

  • Cold rating
    • Some boots are rated to be warm even at colder temperatures like 30 degrees below zero
  • Waterproof!
    • Or water resistant, but waterproof is better
  • Treads (on the soles to help provide traction when walking on snow/ice)
    • The deeper the tread, the better
  • Insulation
    • Fur-lined, fleece-lined, or wool-lined on the inside to trap the heat for your feet
  • Height
    • Tall = Cover more of your legs for more warmth, but can be difficult to move in
    • Medium = Covers some of your legs and easy to walk in, but doesn’t have as much protection
    • Short = Easy to walk in, but won’t be protective against deep snow
  • Tip: make sure the boots are a size that is big enough for you to wear thick, thermal socks with them
    • These socks should be insulating, thermal and NOT COTTON
    • Check the temperature rank most companies provide to see what temperatures the socks work best in to know which ones to get

What makes a good scarf?

  • Good material
    • i.e. knitted, wool, cashmere
  • Styles
    • Choose whatever you like best BUT make sure it covers your neck and/or chin

What makes a good pair of gloves?

  • Not cotton
  • When wearing them, they should:
    • Allow you to move your fingers
    • Close the gap between where your coat ends to cover the most skin
    • Fit your hand snugly (fingers almost touch but don’t push against the tips)
  • Waterproof/water resistant is a must
  • Can be thick or thin, just make sure it has insulation (i.e. 3M)
  • Some have touchscreen capabilities

Layer Up!

  • Chicago’s weather changes frequently throughout the day, so make sure you wear layers in order to be prepared to dress warmer or lighter
  • Bottom Layer:
    • Light and airy, such as thermal silk
  • Middle Layer:
    • Traps heat, such as fleece or wool
  • Top/Outer Layer:
    • Waterproof and windproof, such as wool, polypropylene or Gore-Tex

Where to look?

  • Most effective winter gear is very expensive, so it is important to look for sales and outlets for good quality clothing
  • Inexpensive places to look:
    • Target
    • Famous Footwear
    • Ross
    • Marshall’s
    • TJ Maxx
    • Walmart
    • Nordstrom Rack
  • Thrift stores such as:
    • Goodwill
    • Salvation Army
    • Secondhand shops
      • Tip: Look closely at clothes from thrift stores or secondhand shops to make sure there aren’t any excessive holes, rips, or loose threads
  • When looking on online stores such as Amazon, check the reviews and read the listed materials

Other Winter Tips:

    • Look for the highs and lows to know how many layers to have on
      • Look for the windchill (this is very important in Chicago)
    • Check to see if it will be snowing to know what outer layer to wear
    • Be aware as temperatures drop that the risk for frostbite increases.  Damage to skin can start to occur at a temperature of 0 within 10 minutes.
  • Prepare for public transportation to take longer as everyone moves carefully in the weather. Expect that your wait time for the bus or train will be 10 to 20 minute longer.  So cover all exposed skin to protect against frostbite.
  • Winter weather leaves skin very dry, so make sure you have chapstick or lip balm, lotion for your hands and lotion for the rest of your body.
  • The snow can often be very blinding when the sun reflects off it, so have some sunglasses handy
  • Winter often leads to the Winter Blues, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), so take Vitamin D supplements

Materials Heading link

Material Pros Cons
Wool ~ Insulates well ~ Durable ~ Odor Resistant ~ Wicks moisture ~Can feel itchy ~ Some absorb moisture ~ High maintenance (a lot of specific care needed when cleaning, storing, etc.)
Fleece ~ Lightweight ~ Easy maintenance ~ Soft, not itchy ~ Doesn’t insulate when wet ~ Low water resistance ~ Can melt if near a fire or too high a temperature in a dryer
Synthetic (Polypropylene) ~ Wicks moisture ~ Insulates even when wet ~ Dries quickly ~ Retains odor ~ Can melt if near a fire or too high a temperature in a dryer
Silk Insulates well ~ Lightweight/breathable ~ Doesn’t work well as an outer layer
Gore-Tex ~ Waterproof ~ Excellent outer layer protection ~ Lightweight ~ Not as durable ~ Expensive
Down ~ Insulates well ~ Durable ~Ineffective when wet ~ Not hypoallergenic
Cotton ~ Cheaper ~ Not effective ~ Absorbs water ~ Doesn’t insulate ~ Not durable

What to Wear Backpacking and Hiking in the Winter || REI Heading link

HOW TO SURVIVE CHICAGO WINTER - 5 Keys to Getting Through the Cold Season Heading link