Surviving the Canadian Winter: 8 Essential Tips for Staying Warm and Comfortable

Surviving winter in Canada as an international student can be intimidating, but with proper planning and a positive attitude, it can also be a memorable and enjoyable experience. Those who are not accustomed to harsh winter weather may find the Canadian winter a daunting challenge.

By taking the right steps and having the right outlook, however, you can thrive during the Canadian winter and fully appreciate all the country has to offer during this season. Here are 8 tips for ensuring warmth and comfort during your time in Canada during the winter months:

1. Dress in Layers

To stay warm and comfortable during the winter in Canada, it’s essential to dress in layers, which will trap heat and keep you warm, even in the coldest temperatures. The three layers you should consider are the base layer, the mid-layer, and the outer layer.

  • The base layer should be made of a material that will wick moisture away from your skin, such as synthetic materials or silk.
  • The mid-layer should be insulated, such as with fleece or down, to provide warmth.
  • The outer layer should be waterproof and windproof to protect you from the elements.

When layering, make sure you have enough room to move and enough layers to stay warm in the coldest temperatures, but also be able to remove layers as needed to regulate your body temperature.

To learn more about how to dress for the winter, check out our detailed post about How to Dress for Winter in Canada: Tips for Rainy, Snowy, Cold, and Sunny Days

2. Invest in Quality Winter Gear

To survive the Canadian winter, you need to have high-quality winter clothing and accessories. Look for items such as insulated jackets, heavy-duty boots, warm gloves, and a hat and scarf to protect your face and neck. Investing in quality gear will ensure that you stay warm and comfortable throughout the winter, no matter what the weather brings.

When looking for good quality winter clothing, there are a few key factors to consider:

  • Material: Look for products made with high-quality materials such as Gore-Tex, Thinsulate, and down feathers that are designed to keep you warm and dry.
  • Insulation: A good quality jacket should have an appropriate amount of insulation to keep you warm in cold temperatures.
  • Waterproof and windproof: This will protect you from the rains, wind and snow.
  • Seams and zippers: Check for seams that are well-sealed and zippers that are durable and easy to use.
  • Boots: choose the models with good support, a solid sole and high ankle to keep your feet warm and dry in the snow and slush.
  • Consider the design and construction of the clothing and boots, look for products with a good fit, so that you have plenty of room for layering and have enough freedom of movement.

3. Plan Ahead for Transportation

Winter weather can make driving difficult, so consider using public transportation or planning ahead to avoid being stranded in the cold. Here are some tips to help you plan ahead:

  • Check the weather forecast: Before starting your journey, check the weather forecast to see if there are any adverse weather conditions such as snow or ice storms.
  • Choose the right mode of transportation: During winter, it’s important to choose the right mode of transportation. Consider using public transportation, as it’s often more reliable during winter than driving your own vehicle.
  • Prepare your vehicle: If you plan on driving, make sure your vehicle is equipped with winter tires and that the brakes, battery, and oil are in good condition.
  • Leave extra time: It takes longer to get around during winter, so make sure to leave extra time for your journey.
  • Plan for alternative routes: Be prepared for road closures or detours due to adverse weather conditions and plan alternative routes in advance.
  • Pack a winter survival kit: A winter survival kit should include essentials such as a shovel, flashlight, food, water, and warm clothing.

4. Keep Your Home Warm

To stay warm during the winter, it’s important to ensure that your home is properly insulated and sealed to keep out the cold. There are several tips to keep your house warm:

  • Insulate your home: Make sure your home is properly insulated to prevent heat from escaping. This includes adding insulation to the attic, walls, and floor.
  • Seal air leaks: Check your windows and doors for air leaks and use weather stripping or caulk to seal any gaps.
  • Use draft stoppers: Place draft stoppers in front of doors to prevent cold air from entering your home.
  • Install a programmable thermostat: A programmable thermostat allows you to set the temperature in your home according to your schedule, reducing energy waste and keeping your home warm when you need it to be.
  • Use a humidifier: A humidifier can help keep the air in your home from becoming too dry, which can cause discomfort and make it easier for cold air to seep in.
  • Cover bare floors: Cover bare floors with rugs or carpets to help insulate your home and reduce heat loss.
  • Use heavy curtains: Heavy curtains or blinds can help block out the cold and keep your home warm.

5. Use Salt or Sand on Sidewalks

To prevent slips and falls, use salt or sand on sidewalks and driveways to help provide traction in the snow and ice. In Canada, salt is spread on sidewalks and roads during the winter to melt snow and ice, providing a safer and easier surface for people to walk on.

Salt works by lowering the freezing point of water, preventing the snow and ice from bonding to the surface. This helps to prevent slips and falls, as well as make it easier for cars to drive on the roads. So, take extra care when walking on slippery surfaces, and always wear warm and sturdy footwear to protect your feet and keep you and others safe during the winter months.

6. Know the Signs of Hypothermia and Frostbite

Hypothermia and frostbite are two serious conditions that can occur in cold weather, especially during the harsh Canadian winter. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of these conditions so that you can take appropriate measures to prevent them from occurring or to seek medical attention if needed.

Hypothermia is a condition that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, causing your core body temperature to drop below normal. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, confusion, clumsiness, slurred speech, drowsiness, and fatigue. In severe cases, hypothermia can lead to unconsciousness and even death.

Frostbite is a condition that occurs when skin and other tissues freeze due to exposure to cold temperatures. The affected areas may become numb, hard, and blistered, and in severe cases, gangrene may occur. Frostbite is most commonly seen in the toes, fingers, nose, and ears.

To prevent hypothermia and frostbite, it is important to dress warmly and in layers, wear a hat and gloves, and to avoid prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. If you start to experience symptoms of either condition, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. In order to identify the signs of hypothermia and frostbite, it is also important to be aware of your own body and to pay attention to any changes in your skin or physical symptoms.

7. Be aware of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the winter

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs during specific seasons, particularly in the winter months when there is less natural light. SAD can be caused by a number of factors, including changes in serotonin levels, changes in circadian rhythms, and a decrease in exposure to sunlight. Symptoms of SAD may include feelings of sadness, irritability, fatigue, and changes in appetite and sleep patterns.

To prevent SAD during the winter in Canada, it’s important to take steps to stay active and get exposure to natural light. Here are some tips to help prevent SAD:

  • Get plenty of natural light: Spending time outside each day, even if it’s only for a few minutes, can help boost your mood and energy levels. Try to spend some time in the sun each day, and consider using a light box or a full-spectrum lamp if you have trouble getting outside.
  • Exercise regularly: Regular exercise has been shown to help prevent SAD, and it can also boost your mood and energy levels. Try to exercise at least 30 minutes each day, and consider joining a gym or taking a class to keep you motivated.
  • Eat a healthy diet: A healthy diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins can help prevent SAD and improve your mood. Avoid processed foods, caffeine, and alcohol, which can interfere with your sleep and mood.
  • Stay socially active: Staying socially active can help prevent SAD and boost your mood. Make plans to spend time with friends and family, or consider joining a club or group that interests you.
  • Get enough sleep: Getting adequate sleep is important for preventing SAD, so aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. If you have trouble sleeping, try using a white noise machine, avoiding screens before bed, and sticking to a bedtime routine.
  • Consider therapy: If you’re struggling with SAD, consider talking to a mental health professional. Therapy can help you develop coping skills and strategies to manage your symptoms, and can also help you identify and address any underlying issues that may be contributing to your SAD. Take advantage of campus resources, such as counseling services or support groups, if you need additional help.

8. Embrace winter activates

In addition to dressing properly, staying active is also important for coping with winter in Canada. Exercise and outdoor activities can help boost your mood and energy levels, even on the coldest of days. Here are some fun winter activities for international students in Canada:

  • Skiing or snowboarding at a local resort
  • Snowshoeing in the mountains
  • Ice skating at a local rink
  • Tobogganing or sledding at a park
  • Building a snowman or having a snowball fight
  • Visiting a local ice festival
  • Going dog sledding or horse-drawn sleigh rides
  • Taking a scenic winter hike
  • Visiting hot springs or a spa

If you prefer indoor activities, there are plenty of options, including festivals, concerts, food events, or indoor sports, such as basketball or volleyball, or try out a new hobby, like painting or cooking. Winter in Canada can also be a time of comfort and enjoyment. Embrace the cold and enjoy traditional Canadian experiences, such as hot drinks, comfort food, and cozy indoor activities.


Winter in Canada can be a challenging time for international students, but with the right preparation and mindset, it can also be a wonderful experience. By following these tips, you can stay warm, healthy, and comfortable during the cold winter months in Canada. Don’t let the cold weather hold you back from enjoying your time in Canada – prepare ahead of time and make the most of your winter experience!

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