Here in Canada, we’re known for our cold and hardy winters, but that doesn’t mean everywhere is the same. I mean, we’re a huge country spanning two oceans, the weather isn’t going to be the same all over. It also doesn’t mean you need mittens in July. Maybe September or October if the weather is fickle…but, you might also need shorts and flip flops. We can’t make up our mind about seasons.
Winter Months (November-April)
Yep, you read that right. Winter can last from November right into April. Does it always? No. But, there’s always one last snowstorm in April, so check the forecast for what clothes to bring. Canada may get a rep for being cold as fuck, and that’s true, but we’re a big country, so cold in Vancouver usually means rainy and damp. Cold in the Atlantic provinces means who knows what is going to happen. Rain? Sleet? Snow? You got it all.
If your country doesn’t sell any proper winter clothes, plan your first day as a shopping day to get all the essentials.
Toque (you know, a knit hat).
Scarf. Not just a fashion scarf, but a real scarf that will be warm.
Mittens. Real mittens. Not thin gloves. -40 is no joke and freezing your fingers off only looks cool when you’re 13. And, honestly, it didn’t look that cool.
Parka. As in a proper winter jacket. While the infamous Canada Goose jackets aren’t needed unless you’re heading up North (like, way North. Think town names you have no idea how to pronounce), a warm jacket meant for real winters, not crisp temperatures, is an absolute must. Especially if you’re hoping to enjoy some of the winter activities, and why come to Canada in the winter if you aren’t?
Seriously, why? It’s cold and we’re grumpy from the cold unless we’re skating or tobogganing or ice fishing or snowmobiling or skiing or snowboarding or snowshoeing or cross-country skiing or building a fort or having a snowball fight.
If you don’t have a proper winter jacket (or plan to buy one once you arrive), loose layers are your friend! Guys, I’m serious. If you come from a climate where you think 15 degrees (celcius of course) is cold, bring all your sweaters and plan to buy more. We’re not as cold and ridiculous as people make us sound, but the winter is well below 15 degrees.
Thermal underwear aka Long Johns. These are to be put under your jeans or sweats. They keep you snuggly when ski pants are too bulky for the day or you don’t have any. No thermal underwear? Leggings can work in a pinch! They may not have insulating tendencies, but they help give you another barrier to the cold air.
Ski pants. If you plan on rolling around in the snow, and I mean, who isn’t, ski pants are a must. They’re also what people wear when they want to go for a crisp walk when they should be inside under blankets, eating. You know, hibernation things. They’ll keep you dry and warm and let you actually enjoy winter instead of trying to dry your jeans that have been soaked through from snow.
Boots. Okay. So, these are needed if you’re doing any kind of winter activity besides skating. Booties and fashion boots, while absolutely adorable for nights out, will not make it through in any kind of outdoor activity.
Coming to Manitoba? Grab a pair of mukluks that will keep your feet nice and warm in the colder months. They’re Indigenous and if you don’t have a friend or aunt or mom who knows how to make them, you can purchase them at Manitoba Mukluks. They’re not the best in slushy weather as deer skin (what they’re mainly made of) isn’t waterproof, but made for the deep cold. They’re my favourite winter boots. although I own numerous pairs for various activities. You can also buy slippers if you like the boots, but not the price.
Wondering if you need those real big clunkers? Those sexy AF Sorrel bad boys that could easily kill someone with a simple kick? Maybe. If you’re sledding (snowmobiling) or planning on doing some heavy shoveling in thick snow drifts, they’re easy and warm. But, if you’re just visiting, you don’t. You can find some warm boots that aren’t as expensive, but will do the job. DLG offers cute boots (like red plaid, above) for a cheaper price. The HBC also has cute short striped Sorel options that I NEED and are way less heavy than the originals.
Going to Vancouver? Rain boots will be your best bet for the winter months. While they do get snow, it’s not as cold as the middle provinces and insulated rain boots or thick socks will do you good.
Extras. Usually, winter means cold and dry, so pack sure you pack some good lotion, lip balm and stuff to keep your hair less staticky and frizzy.
Summer Months (June – September)
While the winter months get cold, the summer months get HOT. I’m sure southerners in the States are rolling their eyes right now, but while it may not get Georgia hot, temperatures into the high 30s and low 40s are normal in the summer nearly all across Canada, save for the high North.
While packing for summer vacation is easier than winter and way less bulky, there are some accoutrements you’ll need.
The standard summer clothes: shorts, bathing suits, dresses, flip flops.
Rain jacket. Cause it’ll rain. A prairie thunderstorm is something to see with lightning streaking across the sky with heavy rolls of thunder.
Hoodie/Warmer sweater. This all depends on what you’re planning on doing while here in summer. If it’s just city living, then ignore the bottom half of this, but if you’re planning on camping or staying in a cabin, a hoodie/warmer sweater is a must. Bonfires and hoodies are de reigeur when it comes to night-time camping (if the bugs aren’t too bad) and taking along a hoodie will help keep the bugs at bay and your arms warm when the nights get a little chilly. Unless it’s late July/early August, then you’ll just melt 24/7.
Bug spray. Especially if you’re camping or spending time in a forest or a lake. Fun fact: my husband and I once held some street cred from being from Manitoba while at a wedding in Ontario. The bugs were bad, but we’ve definitely seen worse. Only two people who were not slapping themselves or spraying on their 10th coat of bug spray. Weird brag, I know, but I’ll take it where I can.
Hiking boots. Why come in the summer and not hike through a forest! Canada is nature and hiking, even a short 1-2 hike, is a great way to experience Canada. Don’t have hiking boots or want to spend the $$$ on them? A sturdy pair of runners will do you good if you’re not going on a long or strenuous hike. Think a chill path hike with selfies and deep green foliage.
Be bear smart. Check out the guides and always, always listen to the park rangers. You are not smarter than a park ranger when it comes to nature and while Australia has a lot of disgusting tiny things that can kill you, we have a lot of big things that can kill you.
Extras. Suncreen, hat, lip balm with sunscreen.