If you're from Southern California or the American Southwest, there's no real reference for cold weather. Yes, it gets down to 40 degrees during some winters, especially in the high desert. The mountains get snow. But living in cold weather, real cold weather, requires a whole lot more than a down jacket and some snow gloves.
If you're planning a move to a much colder climate, here's what you need to know:
1.) A Sweater & Jacket Won't Cut It (Layer Up!)
Dressing warmly in areas with moderate temperatures really just means putting on a sweater and a jacket, maybe some nice wool socks. In places like Detroit or Chicago or Boston, it's more like gearing up for a spacewalk. The secret here is to have a lot of slightly warm layers—layers trap heat near your body.
Here's the system you should shoot for:
- A base layer (thermal underwear or long johns)
- An insulating layer (a sweater or fleece)
- A shell (a down jacket or a waterproof coat)
2.) You Need to Prep Your Car for Emergencies
When your car breaks down on a hot day, having some water could be life-saving. But when you're living in cold climates, you'll need to be a lot more prepared than that to survive. Imagine a night where you'd need to spend the night in your car out in the cold—what would you need?
Here's what we'd recommend:
- A flashlight
- Thermal blanket
- First aid kit
- Jumper cables
- Ice scraper
- Road salt or kitty litter
- High-calorie snacks
It's a good practice to keep your car well-stocked for breakdowns in general, but having some food, blankets, and a way to signal passing cars could save your life, or at least make your misery a lot more manageable.
3.) Don't Hide from the Cold
When you experience real winter for the first time, you might be tempted to stay inside all day. That's not a great idea for a few reasons. One, everyone who grew up where you live has learned how to enjoy the cold. A lot of your social life, sports, and other local traditions are going to require you to go outside. Two, you'll need to come outside eventually, and the longer you associate "cold weather" with your flight response, the more miserable your life will be.
Instead of being a hermit for a chunk of the year, learn to love the cold. Practice going outside, enjoying outdoor festivals or events, or just taking some sun for a few minutes. The more you learn to enjoy the crisp, cold air, the more you'll enjoy your new life.
4.) You'll Really, Really Miss Sunlight
Cold climates tend to be further north, and the further north you are, the shorter the days will be in winter. In some places, you're looking at a 4PM sunset—that's more than 12 hours of darkness a day. When we say you'll miss sunlight, we don't just mean you'll want to tan. We mean you'll feel like you're missing a a vital nutrient, like you're sad and you're not sure why.
Don't worry! There is a solution: sun lamps. Sun lamps imitate the sun's effect on your body, which can help keep you in a sunny state of mind all winter long.
5.) Your Fingers, Neck & Ears Need Protection
Do not underestimate how painful the cold can be. Even if you wear layers that protects your legs, torso, and shoulders, the cold will find a way to hurt you if you're not careful. Your fingers, ears, and neck all require protection. On some days, you may even want to cover your face!
Aside from being necessary, neck warmers and ear warmers will certainly help you enjoy the cold more if you're not used to it.