Top 10 things to pack when visiting Canada in winter

There’s winter, and then there’s Canadian winter. 
You can brave the cold Canadian winter (dropping as low as -40 to -55 C) with the right clothing. Frostbite and hypothermia are real threats, so make sure you pack accordingly! Pack your warmest jacket, waterproof, insulated boots, and other winter essentials such as gloves, toque, merino base layer, wool socks, etc. Warm, functional layering and the right clothing materials are recommended if you want to be active in winter sports. 

This blog breaks down the Top 10 Things to Pack When Visiting Canada in Winter. You might need more but having these Top 10 Winter Essentials is a sure way to enjoy your Canadian winter without lugging too much heavy luggage! 
Read on for our recommended Top 10 Things to Pack When Visiting Canada in Winter. 

Download the complete Canadian Winter Packing Checklist here (link to checklist).

1. Merino Wool Base Layer (Top and Bottom) Layers. 
Layers. And more layers. The key to enjoying Canadian winter is to layer it up! The colder it gets, the more layers you put on, and the warmer, the more you can take off. Maintaining core body temperature is one of the most important things to keep in mind when exploring out and about when it’s below 0 C outside. Merino wool provides warmth without giving you the scratchy feeling associated with wool. We advise wearing a Merino wool base layer under your garments every day to ensure that your core temperature is at its warmest. This suggests that everything you wear, especially the layers closest to your skin, should be made of merino wool, including the top base layer (long sleeve sweater) and the bottom base layers (leggings). Check those label tags and read the textiles of your clothing before spending your hard-earned dough. 

2. Lightweight Down Packable Jacket or Vest 
Now we move on to the mid-layer. A lightweight packable down jacket or vest increases insulation and keeps body heat near the core. Make sure to zip up and not let any winter wind get through. Some find it too warm depending on which part of Canada you visit, so they use a fleece jacket instead. In some parts of Canada, the winter temperature can drop as low as -40C to -55C. While some, like Vancouver, which has the warmest winter, are usually not colder than -5C to -10C. There’s more rain than snow in Vancouver, so you probably won’t need the mid-layer, compared to when you come here to West Chilcotin, where it’s much colder and can range from -15 C to -40 C, so a mid-layer (lightweight down jacket) and 3rd layer (Fleece jacket) might be needed.

Would you believe this 80% Down-filled Winter Parka Long Jacket was bought from a Thrift Shop in Vancouver for only CAD 70?! Score!!!

3. Quality Heavy Down Long Parka Winter Jacket 
This is going to be your outer layer. Your first layer of protection from the sometimes harsh Canadian winter. So, don’t cheap out on this! A quality, heavy, down winter parka will save you from missing out on enjoying the outdoors. The heavier it is, the warmer it will be. But then again, this depends on which part of Canada you're travelling to. A heavy down-long winter parka is essential if you're going somewhere like Banff and the Rockies for sightseeing or going on an ice fishing adventure here at Red Cariboo Resort. We recommend a mid-calf length paired with high-cut winter boots for full coverage. 
However, if you’re going to do active winter sports like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, etc., then you would not want a heavy jacket but instead a waterproof, fleece-lined windbreaker with zippers under the armpits for better body temperature regulation. Your core temperature increases during winter activities, so you would sometimes have to unzip just under the armpits to circulate some air and not drench in sweat underneath all those layers!
Pro Tip: Allow room for layers. When buying a Down Parka Winter Jacket, consider some room needed for the layers of clothing underneath. If you are going to put 3-4 layers underneath your parka jacket, pick a size bigger than your usual. Ideally, you should put on the layers while trying on the parka jacket options. Make sure you can fully close the jacket and comfortably move your arms freely. The winter parka jacket should be big enough to accommodate the layers underneath but not too big that there’s too much space for air to get in. You want it snug but allow maximum mobility.

Pro Tip: Check label tags. Choosing the right textiles for winter clothing is the key to enjoying Canadian winter. Look for materials such as Merino wool, down, fleece, or other synthetic patented thermal textiles. Stay away from polyester and denim jeans! Those will do you no good in winter. Trust us on this!

4. Fleece-lined Pants
Aside from the Merino wool leggings as a base layer, you will need an outer layer of protection for your legs. Fleece-lined pants are ideal as they are warm and comfortable for daily winter strolls. We prefer fleece-lined cargo pants because you need all the pockets for other winter essentials such as matches, hand and feet warmers, lighters, snacks, etc. If you can't find fleece-lined pants, you can use your regular cargo pants, but put on a mid-layer, such as fleece-lined leggings, underneath it for an extra layer of protection. So, it’s the base layer (Merino wool leggings), mid-layer (Fleece-lined Leggings), and Outer layer (Thick Cargo Pants). 
Waterproof snow pants are ideal for winter sports instead of regular fleece-lined pants. However, some snow pants are thin, so you can wear fleece-lined leggings for mid-layer protection. 

5. Wool Toque 
Toque is the Canadian term for a winter hat or beanie. If you don’t like wool, you can opt for a patented thermal toque. Some toques use a patented thermal textile, and some are fleece-lined. These are good alternatives. Just make sure it’s big enough to pull down all the way to cover your ears. Some opt for ear muffs to cover their ears, but it’s really up to you.

6. Wool Scarf 
Again, pick your material! There are a lot of fashionable scarves in the market, but this winter essential will give you so much warmth if it’s made of wool. Buy one that is wide and long enough to fold in half lengthwise, and then wrap it around your neck twice.

Ice Fishing at Red Cariboo Resort: Ice fishing is one of the most popular winter activity in Canada but you have to dress warm because you will be outside for hours.

7. Wool Gloves 
The first parts of your body that will get cold will be your hands and feet since they are the farthest from your heart. Therefore, it is important to make sure those stay warm. Wool is the best material, but you can opt for fleece-lined gloves or other thermally patented textiles. Just make sure it’s thick enough to keep your hands warm. No to polyester! If one layer of gloves is not enough, you can put on wool winter mittens or snow gloves, which are waterproof and ideal for winter sports. 

8. Wool Socks 
Your feet will be the coldest part of your body. So, wool-sock it up. Since the feet are the farthest from the heart, it does not get enough blood supply to keep them warm. Add another layer of wool socks or use foot warmers if it's too cold. These are disposable sheets you can put in your boots to have an extra source of warmth. 

Pro Tip: Tuck it in. Tuck in your scarf, top base layer, and pants. After wrapping the scarf twice around your neck, tuck the scarf underneath your top base layer or mid-layer. Tuck your top base layer into your base bottom layer. And tuck your pants into your socks. This will ensure all the heat is retained closest to your core, and there is no space for air to get in.

9. Insulated Waterproof Winter Boots with Good Traction 
Insulated. Waterproof. Traction. 
We can’t stress enough how important quality is regarding winter boots. Look for waterproof insulated boots with good traction. Walking in the winter can be tricky as grounds can be icy, and you can easily slip and fall. Some even break their hips or shoulders or have a concussion because of this. So, make sure the soles have good traction. 
Check the temperature grade and insulation material. Some brands indicate what temperature the boot can withstand and what insulation material is used. Another thing to consider is the height of the boots. High-cut winter boots are ideal for going somewhere with heavy snowfall, like here at Red Cariboo Resort. This will keep your feet warm even when submerged in up to 20cm of snow. But low-cut winter boots are sufficient if you’re going somewhere where there’s not much snowfall, like Vancouver. When doing winter sports, low-cut winter boots are recommended.

ISnow Shoeing around Red Cariboo Resort: Can you guess who is wearing the correct winter clothing in this photo? Hint: Denim jeans don’t protect you from winter.

10. Packing Cubes 
Using packing cubes will help reduce the bulk of your winter packing! The last thing you would want is carrying too much luggage while braving the Canadian snow-covered, icy streets. Packing cubes save so much luggage space that you’ll have more room for maple syrup, ketchup-flavoured potato chips, Nanaimo bars, and other Canadian treats to bring back home. 

Pro Tip: Wear anything that makes you look the bulkiest on your flight, such as your thickest jacket, your largest wool scarf, etc. Hauling your carry-on through the snow in 20 layers of clothes won't be as pleasant; not checking it in will save you time worrying about your winter necessities being offloaded somewhere. 

Pro Tip: Use a backpack as a day pack. Winter streets are not the best to walk on since they can easily become icy. If it’s icy, then it’s slippery. Although you might have the best stance and balance, you could easily slip and fall. When exploring out and about, always bring extra layers with you just in case you feel cold. Pack these in your backpack. This will also serve as a cushion in case you slip and fall on your back. You’re welcome!

There you have it, the Top 10 Things to Pack When Visiting Canada in Winter.

To learn more about Red Cariboo Resort's winter activities, check out here (Link to activities)

Download the complete Canadian Winter Packing Checklist here (Link to checklist).