This one is specially dedicated to my friends bound for the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign this coming Fall, or anyone in particular looking to learn how to survive subzero temperatures four months a year. It’s gonna be sort of a mini-series, so I’ll be starting off with learning how to avoid death by freeze-nap.
So, I don’t know about you guys, but before coming to the UofI, I had this picturesque image of the Main Quad in my head that kinda looked like this:
But the university websites forgot to mention a couple of itsy bitsy things like:
And hence this little PSA. So here are a few things that helped me (your friendly neighborhood Equatorial-country native) survive my first Winter (and late Fall).
Woolen inner wear
These include long johns, socks, and leggings. They essentially function like a second skin, and can be very comfortable if you buy the right one. Woolen ones are harder to come by in Malaysia, but synthetic ones work just the same. Synthetic material also tends to be more water resistant, which is something you’d want for your socks (especially during Fall of the Perpetual Rain). However, you’d have to wash synthetic inner wear more often than woolen ones, because they tend to develop an iffy smell if you don’t clean them for more than a week.
Invest in good-quality inner wear, though. If possible, don’t be stingy about it. A good set of long johns can mean the difference between comfort and ants in you pants.
A down coat
A down coat is (duh) a coat stuffed with down, a material typically made of goose or duck feathers, or synthetic fibers. They come in all styles, colors, sizes, and fashions, but I would personally recommend getting one of those Michelin-man ones that extend below your knees. Reason being that those coats are designed to increase surface area to trap more warm air. Also, a long coat is better at preventing the winds from riding up your gluteus maximus. Some of them even come with an inner layer that you can zip on and off, depending on how cold the weather is. Also, get one with a large hood (preferably with synthetic feathers) to prevent the wind from getting at your face.
Mine kinda looks like this:
It’s not fashionable, but it works amazingly well.
A sturdy scarf.
No, one of those flimsy cotton ones isn’t going to work. Neither is a soft fluffy one. Get serious, heavy-duty scarves that can stay upright on your face, even when the wind is blowing at 70km/h. Knitted woolen scarves are really good (my friend made one for me and it helped me survive November and December). But in January, when things start to get bad, you’ll want a stiffer, thicker scarf. I bought mine at Target, and it’s the green one in the picture below:
And since I’ve shown you this picture, I’ll talk about leather gloves.
I bought them at Target, too. They double as half-mittens, and have an inner synthetic lining. I wore them throughout the entire winter. They helped me stand -20C weather, piercing winds, and torrential rain. I am not exaggerating one bit. And as I am cursed with perpetually cold hands, these gloves are a $39 blessing. I’ve tried mittens, woolen gloves, touchscreen gloves – but nothing worked as well as the leather ones I now swear by.
BOOTS. Mustn’t forget boots.
There are two kinds of boots that you will need if you’re studying at the UofI: rain boots and snow boots. The former because it rains non-stop during the later Fall months, and cold, wet feet is the last thing you want to have on a day with five consecutive classes. The latter is absolutely necessary. I have these pair:
They are huge, chunky, and rather ugly in an endearing way, but they are also warm, waterproof, and non-slip. Do not skimp on these. I repeat: DO. NOT. SKIMP. ON. WINTER. BOOTS. You will live, miserably, to regret it when you cannot walk to class without slipping on ice at least seven times and arriving home at 5pm with damp, wrinkly feet.
Jeans. Mankind’s savior in all weather conditions. I would advise getting a few pairs of reasonably baggy jeans for winter wear. Baggy because you’d be wearing layers of inner wear underneath it, and I would not recommend walking around like an overstuffed bratwurst. You can also survive Fall if you have a couple of good-quality pairs without any inner wear.
Flappy hats and beanies
I got a one of those flappy-eared hats for warmth, and BOY does it work well. It looks terrible, though, so I don’t wear it unless the wind is blowing and my hood will be rendered null and void. I also got a floppy beanie, and that works fine, too. The basic principle is to get something that covers your ears, because that’s where you lose a lot of heat.
Layer your clothes. I made the mistake of buying the thickest of everything that I could get when I got here, and wasted some money. The trick isn’t to buy the thickest jacket or scarf on the market, but to wear your clothes in layers. Each layer of clothing traps a separate layer of warm air, and that’s what actually keeps you warm. So basically, more layers = more warm air = more comfy. Here’s an example of what would typically pass of as ‘warm’ for me in the winter.
- Long-sleeved blouse
- Thin inner jacket
- Down coat
- Woolen leggings
- Long socks
- Snow boots
- Big scarf
I get cold easily, so it might be overkill for some of you.
There you go. That’s all I can think of for now. Whoever you are, I hope this helps you, and please feel free to ask me questions in the comments below!