If you’re a newcomer to Canada, we welcome you. It’s great to have you here! Unfortunately, you have arrived in winter, and as beautiful as snow-capped mountains and frozen lakes can be, the colder months are often a bit of a shock for new residents. Winter can also last quite a long time, especially in the eastern provinces and northern territories.
You’ll need some essential supplies to make sure you are warm and snug all season long. Some of the most typically Canadian activities take place outdoors in the snow and ice, so to enjoy all Canada has to offer, you’ll need to be comfortably warm while you ice fish, hike, snowshoe, ski, play hockey, skate, toboggan and eat maple taffy off the fresh snow.
The options can be overwhelming, so we have gathered the best cold-weather essentials to get you through to spring as painlessly as possible. Welcome to Canada!
Many newcomers to Canada, myself included, at first fail to dress in layers and quickly become cold when enjoying the frigid temperatures outdoors. It’s really important to start with a good base layer, and then add clothing in smart fabrics, like Merino wool, that prevents overheating and moisture build-up while creating little pockets of air to keep you warm.
Unbound Merino Long Underwear ($97; unboundmerino.com)
Choose homegrown Toronto-based company Unbound Merino that makes T-shirts, sweatshirts, socks and cozy long underwear from the finest wool — all of which provide an excellent warm layer to build upon.
Carhartt Men’s Base Force Heavyweight Quarter-Zip Thermal Base Layer Long Sleeve Shirt (starting at $65.66; amazon.ca)
Start with this polyester wool-blend base layer, and you’ll be toasty and warm no matter how low the temperature dips. The clever little concealed thumb loops stop the sleeves from bunching up underneath other layers, and it’s available in five colours.
Mountain Warehouse Merino Kids Leggings (starting at $29.99; amazon.ca)
Whether you are off to the local ski hill for a day of outdoor fun or just building a snowman in the backyard, keep kids warm all day long with these lightweight and breathable leggings made with Merino wool and available in three fun colours including blue, orange and purple.
Icebreaker Merino Women’s 175 Everyday Long Sleeve Thermal Cold Weather Base Layer T-Shirt (starting at $79.65; amazon.ca)
Although Canadian winters can be extreme, you’ll quickly see how much fun they can be too, and that’s why Canadians don’t let the cold stop them from enjoying outdoor winter sports and activities. Invest in just a few basic base layers like this high-performance T-shirt, and you’ll build warmth and comfort in your outdoor wardrobe.
Cold weather coats
Pajar Women’s Ava Down Quilted Trench Parka Jacket with Real Fur Hood ($419; amazon.ca)
It can be tempting to pick up a cheap coat and hope for the best. But if you aren’t used to the extreme cold temperatures that are part of a normal winter in many places in Canada, it makes more sense to invest in a quality coat that will last you for years to come. This coat from Canadian brand Pajar is ultra-warm thanks to its quilted-down design and comes in black or military green.
Alpine North Women’s Vegan Down Parka Jacket with Faux Fur ($185; amazon.ca)
Montreal-based Alpine North makes coats for the conscientious shopper looking for a vegan alternative to down winter jackets. The polyester blend inside still keeps you super warm, and these coats also feature faux fur collars. They come in a range of colours including cobalt, crimson, grape, black and white.
Arc’teryx Men’s Piedmont Coat (starting at $600; amazon.ca)
Vancouver outdoor and climbing brand Arc’teryx makes incredibly hard-wearing warm winter coats. They may be on the higher end of your price range, but you’ll be warm and snug all winter in this coat that’s sure to last through many cold seasons. It’s available in three colours: black, a navy shade and a burnt orange.
Spyder Boys City to Slope Full Zip Hooded Jacket (starting at $99.18; amazon.ca)
Kids will love the cool spider logo, and parents can be confident they’ll keep warm with the internal snow gusset that keeps blowing snow out. Available in four colours, pick bright red or blue for extra visibility on the slopes.
Avery Mixed Media Coat with Hood ($495, soiakyo.com)
If you’re looking for a glamorous winter coat to keep you warm but also looks great for nights out, look no further than Canadian luxury outerwear brand Soia & Kyo. This elegant coat, which is part wool, part puffer is both stylish and practical.
A warm, waterproof pair of boots with dependable traction for walking over snow and ice are essential to survive your first Canadian winter. Be sure to get a Canadian-made pair, like those from the 110-year-old Canadian company, Kodiak, so that they are up to the job of stomping over the frozen tundra.
Kodiak Men’s Magog Waterproof Ankle Boot (starting at $84.44; amazon.ca)
These rugged waterproof boots can cope with all sorts of weather but also look stylish enough for a dinner date. Lined with 200 grams of Thinsulate insulation, they help to keep your feet at a balanced temperature, while the memory footbed insole makes every step comfortable.
Kodiak Women’s Surrey II Waterproof Fashion Boot (starting at $96.20; amazon.ca)
These sturdy lace-up boots look great with jeans on a night out but cope equally well on rough terrain hikes. The rubber sole grips well and prevents slipping on ice, while the warm lining will keep toes warm all winter long.
Kamik Unisex-Child Snobuster1 (starting at $46.84; amazon.ca)
Kids’ boots need to be warm too, especially as they are often having too much fun playing in the snow to realize they’re getting cold. Another important consideration especially for little kids heading off to school: Their boots should be easy to put on and take off without help from a grown up. This affordable pair by Canadian brand Kamik, which have been operating for over a century, is effortless to slip in and out of and has a comfort rating of -32 degrees centigrade.
Stonz Winter Booties Baby/Infant/Toddler Boys and Girls ($29.95; amazon.ca)
It can be hard to find winter boots for the littlest feet, especially as they invariable just kick or pull them off. These clever booties have a drawstring that keeps them snugly attached and as they are soft, they won’t hurt mom or dad when using a baby carrier or sling.
Caterpillar Unisex’s Stormers 11-inch St Industrial Boot (starting at $236.13; amazon.ca)
These hard-wearing boots are so convenient to slip on that they make a great pair to leave by the back door. Available in olive, black or iconic yellow, they even feature steel toes for maximum safety and as the No. 1 toughest work boot ranked globally, they can effortlessly take you from worksite to backyard.
Snow pants and snowsuits
Amazon Essentials Boys’ Water-Resistant Snow Bib ($39; amazon.ca)
One item of winter clothing that you can save money on is kid’s snow pants. You’ll likely have to buy a new pair every winter, as children grow so rapidly in leg length and rough play on snow hills and icy skating rinks can be hard on the knees; they’ll probably wear them out before spring is sprung! This very affordable Amazon Essentials pair comes in five colours, and the bib design makes them comfortable and warm.
Stonz Rain Suit Waterproof Coverall for Baby Toddler (starting at $64.95; amazon.ca)
Buy a size up in this cute little rain suit, and you might just get two winters’ worth of wear before handing it down to a younger sibling. Available in four colours, it makes the perfect waterproof top layer for milder winter weather or for those messy days when the slushy snow starts to melt.
Orage Clara Pant ($180.99, originally $300; orage.com)
Montreal-based company Orage is a leader in ski wear. These top-performing pants offer unparalleled flexibility and full movement, yet still keep you warm on the slopes. Available in five colours and sizes XS to XL.
Salomon Mens Untracked Pant (starting at $143.72; amazon.ca)
The four-way stretch in these warm snow pants allows you maximum movement when skiing, snowshoeing or just getting around town on cold days. Plus, they’re available in seven colours, so you can coordinate with your other skiwear.
Hats and gloves
Herschel Supply Co. Men’s Elmer Beanie Hat ($22.54; amazon.ca)
BC’s famous Herschel brand makes the ultimate Canadian winter toque. Available in three muted colours and at this affordable price, they make a great gift.
Nathan Convertible Reflective Glove/Mitt (starting at $49.99; amazon.ca)
When you can’t decide between the extra warmth of a mitt or the dexterity of a glove why not have them both? These athletic gloves convert from glove to mitt and are a perfect choice for cold weather runs.
Kombi Mens Roamer Ii (From $33.39; amazon.ca)
Proudly Canadian, Kombi is a family-owned business founded in Montreal back in 1961. The brand’s super warm, comfy mitts and gloves feature a wrist strap to keep blowing snow and cold air out and come in classic black.
Fenely Kids Neck Warmer ($15.99; amazon.ca)
Many schools in Canada don’t allow scarves, as they can be a safety hazard if they get caught on something. Instead, Canadian teachers advise parents to buy neck warmers for their little ones, which keep them warm but are much safer. This one is fleece-lined and comes in four cute designs.
Cold weather accessories
Kahtoola MicroSpikes Footwear Traction Crampons (starting at $84.95; amazon.ca)
It’s quite normal to slip on the ice during your first winter in Canada, but if you’re feeling extra nervous or if you’re heading out to be a little more adventurous on an icy hiking trail, pick up some crampons to give you extra traction and peace of mind. This quality pair comes with a two-year warranty.
Bluetooth 5.0 Wireless Music Headset Winter Music Earmuffs ($31.49; amazon.ca)
Rather than struggling to get your earphones settled underneath your winter hat, pick up these Bluetooth wireless earmuffs that keep your ears warm and deliver tunes simultaneously.
HotHands Hand Warmer Value Pack ($22.49; amazon.ca)
As a newcomer to Canada, you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll get used to colder weather, and before too long, you’ll be boasting to your friends and family back home about how tough you are. In the meantime, keep a few of these single-use hand warmers in your pocket for when you need to warm up quickly.
Rechargeable Electric Heated Socks ($99.99; amazon.ca)
For the ultimate cold-weather comfort, treat yourself to a pair of electric heated socks, which can provide heat to your toes for up to seven hours.