Winter essentials in Metro Vancouver

What do you keep on hand to stay warm?

Okay, I guess the more appropriate question is, what do you use to stay warm and comfortable?

Earlier this year I decided it was time to part with some of my older winter items. I’d had some of these items since high school and first-year university (for more than ten years), and they were sadly beginning to fall apart because they were so well-loved and well-worn. When I went to take a look online at some of the stuff I could potentially purchase to replace these, I was only half-shocked to see that 1) the majority of the lists out there focused solely on tourists, and, 2) everyone’s favourite suggestion was often a rain jacket, parka, or hi-tech winter gloves that cost upwards of $500(!). No thank you.

I did a bit of research and looked at winter weather-appropriate clothing recommendations for other places, namely larger cities. Because there were geographic differences, there were foreseeable variations in how thick/thin some of the articles of clothing were, but almost every website I went to had similar recommendations items-wise. Here’s what I decided to ensure I had in my wardrobe (and at my bedside table!) in these cooler conditions.

A good scarf

I like to have a few different scarves because it allows me to mix and match with different outfits. Right now I have two heavier scarves: a blue one from Hudson’s Bay’s CORE brand, and a burgundy unity scarf that was knitted by my journalism school classmate’s mother. I also own a thin scarf that I found at a night market in North Vancouver about three years ago, but it’s a better as an accessory I wear more so for fun and not for warmth.

If you’re always cold like me, invest in a good thermal layer

I struggled with this for a while because every time I’d buy some kind of thermal layer, it was often something for hiking (or something more intense). By the time I’d be halfway through my shift at work, I’d be so warm that I’d take off the piece, only to find myself putting it on again and repeating the process through the day, which is annoying. These days, I like reaching for Uniqlo’s HEATTECH options. They keep me warm (but not too warm!) and dry as I work!

A lightweight windbreaker (especially if you like to hike or walk everywhere!)

I have two of these (one more flashy than the other), but I love my orange The North Face option because it’s a bit bulkier and is great when it’s incredibly windy. There is not much for lining, so I’ll usually wear this with a hoodie underneath. This is what I usually choose to sport when it is windy and raining — my least favourite kind of weather condition!

A raincoat you can wear to the office for work (bonus: if there is reflective gear, it’s a winner)

I have a blue raincoat I got at Hudson’s Bay, by the brand Novelti. (It appears they are not making this jacket as of publication.) The material is fantastic for rain and dries in less than 15 minutes when hung from a hook or a chair. What I like about this is that when I’m at crosswalks, people will actually stop for me as they’re driving — because the piece is so bright and I’m hard to miss!

A toque (or two!)

I am always paranoid that I will lose whatever toque is on my noggin; I own a handful and for me these aren’t investment pieces. (I’m not really a hat person.) You can get these pretty much anywhere. I tend to have the least luck with dollar store toques, so I’ll usually go to Army & Navy for one. I also like to browse accessory sections at Winners, and can usually find something that I like for less than $10. If you are hiking, though, you may want to find something that’s a bit more hike appropriate. I still have a The North Face toque from almost six or seven years ago (similar to this one); it keeps me warm but it also makes my head itch.


This seemed to be the most “controversial” piece of outer wear across the board. Some publications said that, as an adult, you should be investing in a good piece of gloves; others said you’re probably going to lose ’em, so you might as well stick with the little magic gloves you get from drugstores. I am #teamdollarstoregloves; I proudly sport magic gloves because every. Year. I. Lose. A. Pair. Of. Gloves. At least, that was the case in university (when I lost a very expensive pair of Coach gloves) so I decided to stick to the cheapie guys after that.

I also like having the thinner magic gloves so that I can do stuff on my phone while I’m on the train. I often read the local newspapers on my phone when I commute in the morning, so I’m amazed that I managed to find dollar store gloves that have those tech-friendly fingertips. I also own a pair of Red Mittens from the 2010 Olympic run, along with a dressier pair of thick fabric gloves. (I barely wear these because mittens annoy the shit out of me, and the dressier gloves were a bit more expensive — I don’t need to lose those.)

Some kind of heavier, warmer coat

I have two wool coats: one is actually more of a transitional piece (fall to winter, or winter heading into spring) that I will wear when it’s at least four or five degrees out. When it’s less than that, I whip out my heavy, long wool coat. The shorter wool coat is from Topshop, while my longer coat was actually purchased during a thrifting session in New West. The latter coat must have been made in the mid-90’s; it still had the tags attached…and I got it for $25. It’s one steal I’m proud of.

Bonus: moisturizers, both at home and in travel form

I unfortunately didn’t mention this in my video, but I think it’s important to have things like lotion and chapstick on hand. There is nothing more painful (and gross) than biting the skin off your lips (only to have them bleed), or watching your hands and elbows peel! I’m 28 and in the last year I’ve noticed my hair not only getting drier but my skin getting flakier. (I used to have very, very oily skin; I still have an oily t-zone but now more than ever the skin on my body gets really tight and dry at this time of year.) You’ll also want to be drinking more water, too!

Moisturizer works best after you’ve had a shower, because most work to lock in the moisture that’s already in your skin. Unless the technology has changed in the last few years, moisturizers don’t typically introduce water into your skin: they’re meant to act as a barrier between your skin and the environment around it. I would recommend going to a drugstore and speaking with a cosmetician to discuss options (since everyone’s skin is different).

If you are curious, though, because I have an oilier skin, I like to use body milks and yogurt to keep my skin feeling comfortable. I am currently fan of this vegan/cruelty-free option by The Body Shop. If I happen to run out of that, or if I need something thicker, I’ll use Lubriderm’s Daily Moisture Lotion. I have a bunch of tattoos and this stuff has been key to keeping my ink looking good! For hand cream, I’ve been using a variety of L’occitane’s hand moisturizers while I’m out and about. 

When my skin needs extra help, I turn to Kopari’s coconut oil. A jar will set you back about $40, but it’ll last you for a long, long time. I don’t use regular (cooking grade) coconut oil on my body because it doesn’t absorb well into my skin. On my hair, it’s fair game, and I use whatever kind I can find at the grocery store.

Lip balms/chapsticks are fairly throw away for me. I like regular old cherry-flavoured Chapstick, and I have a few options from Lip Smackers if I feel like changing things up. Roc’s lip balms are incredible; they’re a bit pricier but anytime I can get my hands on one, it’s worth it.

What do you like to have on hand in colder weather? Is there anything else I should be adding to my collection? Let me know in the comments section!

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