How to Survive the Chicago Winter

By Tyler Kearn ‘15

Tyler Kearn '15

Tyler Kearn '15

I was not adequately prepared for winter this time last year. I didn’t own the clothes. I didn’t really even know what I needed. All I knew is that my California wardrobe was not going to cut it. I tried to get the right gear—I went to stores, I asked around and what I discovered is that shops don’t put out their cold weather inventory until it actually gets cold.

Well, now it’s getting cold. This last Friday, I saw snow fall from the sky. I spent weeks this time last year freezing when I went outside. I learned the hard way and I want to try and spare you from that. So, what kind of stuff are you going to need to make it through sub-zero days, icy blasts, and wind blowing over the Michigan Ave. bridge? Here are the essentials:


One thing I learned: There are warm jackets and there are warm jackets. Wool coats are nice, but they don’t cut it when the temperature drops below 15°F. Most people go with down coats, and for good reason—they’re the warmest. They’re also soft and puffy, which makes them comfortable but not exactly flattering.


You need something that is going to cover your ears. Some people go with earmuffs, but most people go with hats. It will need to be something warmer than a knit hat – a cashmere hat ordered on Amazon kept me warm all winter long, but there are lots of other options including furry hats (faux and otherwise), wool and fleece.


There’s a tradeoff with gloves between warmth and convenience. That’s because gloves that allow you to use your phone with them on (that is, they allow the use of touchscreens), tend to be colder at the fingers. I think that for most people, the convenience of the touchscreen gloves is worth it. They will certainly be much warmer than pulling your hand out of your gloves to use your phone! There are tons of choices out there, but some will be better than others and some will work with touchscreens more smoothly, so I would read a few reviews before buying.


It might be 10°F outside, but it’s always 70°F in Harper or Gleacher, and the temperature can vary widely from one room to another (C25 has this one area that is always freezing…). It is useful to dress in layers so you can adapt from one space to the next. Layers mean different things to different people and different genders, but can range from technical clothing to long johns to fleeces and sweaters. Everybody has their own preferences, so it will take some experimentation to find what works for you.


Not everyone uses a scarf, but they really do keep you warm. There are infinite varieties, but if it’s warm and covers your neck and face, that’s all that matters.


The biggest mistake that I see people make is getting footwear that is warm but not waterproof. When the snow falls, it tends to stay, and though they do plow the sidewalks they can still be quite wet. You do not want soggy feet when it’s below freezing. Function > form in this case.