How to Survive a New York Winter { A Californian’s Guide }

Winter is coming…

I don’t mean to get all Game on Thrones on you, but the thought of a New York Winter can be really daunting to someone who has never really been through a real winter. Before moving to New York, all my “winter” clothes were cute jackets and boots that helped me look on trend with the season but not to shield me from cold harsh winter. Why I thought I needed gloves living in the Bay Area, I will never know.

Having survived 3 New York winters and the Polar Vortex now, I feel like I need to help fellow winter newbies out. It’s not all snowflakes and hot coco, guys. Here’s my list of Winter Essentials that might seem like common sense to those who know, but a complete mystery for those who don’t.

1. Long Puffy Jackets. (Here’s another cute one.) Okay, this first one is obvious. But it’s the details that matter the most.

  • First, you MUST get a jacket that will cover your bum. Short jackets might be cute, but you need a long one so that you’re not freezing your ass off (as much).
  • Windproof is essential. On snowy days, it’s not the temperature that’s going to get you, it’s the wind speed.
  • Waterproof, because when snow hits you on a warm-ish day, it turns into water.
  • A hood, 50% of your body heat escapes from your head when it’s not covered. COVER IT!
  • Bonus points if there is a elastic sleeve where your wrist is so wind doesn’t travel from your hands to your arms.
  • If you’re getting a wool jacket for winter, make sure you check the % of wool it is on the tag. The higher the percentage, the warmer you’ll be.


2. Snow boots w/ warm socks. When it’s snowing outside, your regular boots aren’t going to cut it. Please don’t end up in this Huffington Post roundup, “These Photos Of New Yorkers Slipping And Falling On Fifth Avenue Will Make You Want To Stay Inside”.
  • If you need snow shoes you can repurpose (because you’re going on a short trip) Hunters are a super popular option for snow boots because it has decent grip and usually made with one piece of rubber so that there are no leaks. Most of my friends in NY own Hunters and it’s what I’ve been using for the past 3 years since it also doubles as a rain boot.
  • If you and winter are about to get serious: Sorel has been making really great snow boots and they look more like a regular boot so would be great for every day wear. (Update: I ended up buying a pair of Sorels for my trip in Iceland and it’s turned out to be SO amazing as a non-slip boot. Definitely recommend them if you plan on living here for more than 2 years! Totally worth the money.)
  • Keep in mind that a day of snow turns into a week of ankle-deep slush. Also, most sidewalks are covered in salt to help melt snow and therefore your cute leather boots will definitely get ruined in this lethal combo.
  • Speaking of footwear, Hunters makes very cute fleece socks that lines their boots for those extra cold days. Thin wool socks are also great to help you keep warm on regular days.
  • Don’t wait until it snows to buy boots. Friends from last winter waited too long and couldn’t find any weather appropriate shoes ANYWHERE, not online, not in stores. You’ve been warned.

My Iceland Uniform
Jacket (similar) | Sorel Tivoli (seriously the best) | Beanie (cute poof is a must) | Infinity Scarf 

3. Uniqlo Heat Tech Everything! There will be days when you want to layer up on pants, and the leggings from Uniqlo goes great under jeans. It’s thin enough to not feel bulky under anything you wear, but it really does work to add some extra warmth to your outfit. Consider buying some camis, long sleeve shirts, etc etc.

4. Gloves w/ Touch Screen. You need directions, but you have gloves on. Should you… take off your glove and freeze, or just buy a pair of gloves that allows you to use your touch screen phone. This one is a no brainer. As an alternative, I’ve also found success in mittens that opens up to fingerless gloves. BTW, mittens are great because you can use body heat to warm your fingers with its neighbor.

5. Hats w/ Ear Cover. When J first bought me a Woolrich Aviator hat, I laughed at him. Like, silly J, why would I ever wear a hat like that? And then winter came, like real winter (not the wimpy winter we had in 2011 and 2012), and I wore that hat every day.

It kept my head and ears warm, I was such a happy camper. Who’s laughing now? If this winter is going to be anything like last year’s, this is a must.

6. Wool Infinity Scarfs. The bigger the better. Even better if you can cover your face with it, because there will be days where you want to be walking around Manhattan like a ninja, everything covered except for your eyes. That’s how you will keep the warmest.

7. Atopalm Facial Moisturizer. This one is a new addition to the list but an old favorite. When winter is drying out your skin, you really need a good moisturizer to help balance out the harshness of the bitter cold hitting your face at 30 mph. Atopalm is perfect for me and if you’re having a hard time finding a good moisturizer for your face during the winter, give this one a try – it’s only $20 on Amazon. For more info, see my blog post here.

One last note, animal hats are completely appropriate pub crawling attire for winter 😉

What are some of your Winter Essentials? Any tips for our winter newbies out there?

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