Hi all! So, I’m writing this post because, on year ago, I was in that process of researching what to pack to live in Boston without freezing. Actually, last year’s winter was pretty mild, and we were greeted on the new year with the coldest New Year’s Eve in history. I was in New York City back then and I spent it freezing on the Brooklyn Bridge at a whooping -14ºC. Warm, right? Also, bear in mind that I come from Lisbon, Portugal, where never ever ever we have negative temperatures. Well, the thermal sensation can go below zero celsius, but not -20ºC for sure. And, as I was moving to Boston in February, it meant I had to buy all my gear in Portugal and I read so many reviews of winter boots and the best products to pack.
I am going to share some resources that were useful to find everything I needed for the winter and be minimalist about it. Find out how to balance your budget between cheaper and more high end things in 6 easy steps!
1. Where to spend less – thights, leggings and wool socks
In contrast to Portugal, all buildings are well thermally insulated. So, you won’t need a very warm wool sweater. The trick is to have thin layers. What is absolutely fundamental is to have thermal thights and leggings. You will be cold in your legs, even if you have a long jacket. These are simple thights with a bit of fleece lining inside and they are super stretchy. You can go online, but I bought mine in Aldi (it’s a German supermarket chain present in some Portuguese towns, and also in the USA) for €4 each. Crazy, right? My mom also offered me two pairs from a Chinese retail shop (“lojas dos chineses” that are everywhere in Portugal). The advantage of owning multiple thights and leggings is that you can stock them over each other when wearing dresses or skirts, or put one or two below jeans. Make sure your jeans are quite stretchy! Also fundamental are wool socks. You can buy fancier Merino Wool ones online (I bought two from Amazon recently) but cheap wool socks that you can find on supermarkets are enough, depending on how warm your boots are. I also bought all my wool socks from Aldi and Deichmann, a German shoes’ retailer found all over Europe.
2. Where to splurge – a good pair of winter boots
I cannot state enough how important these are. You don’t want to end up with your feet wet and freezing while walking on the snow. And you want something with a tall sole and good adherence since ice is slippery. Look for waterproof insulated boots. If you buy them from a good brand, chances are that they will last a long time and will be a good investment, even when you return to a milder climate like I will, because rain will always be a reality. You can look online through several brands, like Sorel, The North Face and Ugg, but my choice fell on a pair of Columbia Omni-Heat Bugaboots. They cost €80 on a Columbia outlet store in Portugal and, despite being one of the most expensive pairs of shoes I bought, are still like new after one year. They are also super comfortable, despite being a little hard to take off. Since wearing a heavy winter boot for the days where it doesn’t snow will not be that practical and I needed something more practical as well for warmer weather, I recently bought ankle-length Kodiak’s and I’m pretty satisfied. They also keep my feet warm enough due to a good insulation and that’s what I’m wearing today.
3. Where to spend less – scarves and winter hats
You will just need maybe two winter scarves, with them being able to cover your face. I say two because in a day where it will snow a lot, the next day you need to dry the said scarf. And, regarding winter hats, any cheap one that covers well your head will do and having one is absolutely necessary because you lose a lot of warmth through the head. Just keep in mind that it needs to be fleece lined to avoid cold to enter through the holes of fabric. My current one is from Amazon and was like $8.
4. Where to splurge – a good waterproof, windproof outer coat
When I left Portugal, this was for sure the most expensive clothing item I ever bought besides my University uniform. It was sale season in January, so I bought for the first time something at Pepe Jeans. The coat was €95 after a 50% discount and it has a down lining to keep you insulated and a knee length for more warmth. It’s a good blend of fancy and casual and it works well in any situation, while I wouldn’t necessary do hiking with it. It’s really important to have a coat that keeps you warm and dry and this one does the trick. Also super relevant is to have a hood and pockets with fleece or fur lining. I love this jacket, the only thing I would trade would be the zipper which yields sometimes. However, if you want something a bit more practical and sporty and you are willing to splurge more, look for jackets in The North Face, Columbia or Patagonia. In Europe, you might even look at cheaper ones at Decathlon.
5. Where to spend less – sweaters
Like I said, everything here in the US is well insulated. So, just layer up with thin layers and avoid wool. You can have some fleece coats and sweaters (if you live in Europe, again Decathlon has very cheap and good ones). This is again a good way to pack less things, because you can wear the tops and light sweaters you would wear in other seasons and pile them up. In case you need extra warmth, bring as well a lightweight thermal ski sweater to wear below sweaters.
6. Where to splurge – waterproof and smartphone compatible gloves
I didn’t spend money on this when I was in Portugal and I regret it. I still had wool gloves and I thought they would do…but no. You hands will get wet and freezing in no time. You can buy pretty reasonably priced fleece lined waterproof gloves at Amazon, and you can even wear thin running gloves below them so that accessing your phone is easier. Believe me, in -20ºC it is a huge need, especially if you are riding a bike.
There are some things I could advise you on, like owning a par of ski pants that will help in days of heavy snow. Regardless, I think I covered the essentials for you to move from a moderate climate like Portugal to a cold, snowy winter. Please look for my Pinterest board to check some blogposts I consulted before the move and other resources. I’ve been loving Pinterest lately as you can tell!
What are your tips for packing for living in a cold winter climate? Let me know! In the meantime, don’t forget to follow my PhD journey in the US in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to keep up to date!
See you next week,
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