Arrive Prepared for Winter in Canada

No matter where you live in Canada, it’s wise to be prepared for the winter. Here are our tips for staying warm, driving safely and having fun during the winter season in Canada.

With the exception of parts of British Columbia, where it is worthwhile to invest in rain gear to get through the winter season, you will need very warm winter clothes. This should include a parka, hat, gloves, and warm boots. Boots with a good tread will allow you to walk safely on the snowy and on icy sidewalks. When temperature drops below -10˚C, your body is not be able to keep warm if you are not dressed appropriately. You risk frostbite and hypothermia. Both of these can easily become medical emergencies.

There is a huge difference in types of winter clothes that you can wear when it’s significantly below 0˚C. Make sure you choose winter clothes that is good for temperatures up to -25˚C. In some regions even that might not be enough. Do some research online and read different brands and products reviews to see what others are saying about them. If you are immigrating to colder regions of Canada, investing in good winter gear is a must.

Please remember to have a have at least 3 layers of clothing if you are going out and planning to be outside for longer than 30 minutes. Start with a base layer that is made of natural or synthetic materials. Choose a base layer made of polyester, microfiber or merino wool. Then add a sweater or a warm hoodie, and a winter parka. Layers are good because you can take off a layer if you are feeling too warm.

Pants with inside lining or wearing long johns underneath your clothes are good options for your lower body. Depending on how long you’ll be in the cold or if it’s below -30˚C, you may need both.

 “Winter is a fact of life in Canada. And while for many of us the natural instinct is to escape, the country is rich in opportunities to enjoy the cold and snow” – Kat Tancock, Freelance Travel Writer

Consult your SOPA contact for more information about appropriate weather gear for your chosen province of residence. Each province has various weather specifics and our Intake Counselors can inform you of these specifics during your one-on-one session. Also, do some research on the climate and average seasonal temperatures in your region so that you know what winter wear is most appropriate. There can be a lot of variation between provinces and between months of the year. Dressing for 0˚C when it is -25˚C will mean you will be too cold. But dressing for -25˚C when it is only 0˚C will make you sweat and being wet will also make you cold and uncomfortable.

When it comes to winter clothes there are differences. Which items would be better for milder or colder conditions?

To give you an idea of what to look for, here are a few more details.

Hat: Extra fleece linings or toque as Canadians call it will give you that extra warmth and protection from wind you need in colder weather.

Scarf: Look for wool or fleece scarfs as those are a better option for colder weather.

Gloves: Gloves with insulation, the kind that skiers wear, are a great choice in colder weather, too.

Parka: look for long winter parkas with wind stopping outer shells and down or thick synthetic insulation.

Boots: Look for boots that are specifically designed for cold weather. Some boots indicate the temperature they are designed for. Ask a store consultant or do a Google search of proper winter boots.

Socks: Wool socks are always a good choice; they dry quickly and keep your feet warm.

Do not be intimidated by winter in Canada. If you are not used to winters, your first instinct would be to hide in the warmth of your house with a hot cup of tea or coffee. However, we suggest that you try to embrace winter and enjoy great winter activities such as skating, skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, or even fat tire biking. A lot of local community centers offer free rentals of winter equipment, some offer free lessons in one of these winter activities or sometimes you can get a great discount on a lesson and rental. Just ask your local immigrant settlement organization on where to find these places.

One more thing to keep in mind is driving in winter. If you have never driven a car in winter conditions before, make sure to take a lesson with one of the local driving schools to learn about driving in winter once you are in Canada. Here are some things to keep in mind if you are going for a long winter drive. Tires: you may not have needed to change tires if you are from a warm country, but in most provinces in Canada winter tires are a must. These are specially designed to maintain traction on ice, snow, and slush. This is the key component in winter driving. Car battery: test it and replace as needed. An older battery is more likely to die in cold temperatures. Brakes: Have a licensed mechanic check that your breaks are working well. Ask around for a good auto service once you are in Canada and if you are buying a used car, make sure to check that it’s good to go for winter conditions.

Enjoy your winter in Canada!

Written by Albina Ziatdinova

Albina Ziatdinova is based at the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) in Halifax and currently monitors SOPA’s two self-guided courses: ‘Canadian Workplace Integration’ and ‘Working in Canada’ for all of the provinces where SOPA program is offered. She also monitors and coordinates SOPA’s main social media channels. Albina is an immigrant herself and she knows just how important is to get a timely and reliable information. She immigrated 6 years ago to Halifax, NS and since then has been working at ISANS. Albina is passionate about helping clients arrive better prepared.