Minnesota winters are no joke! But they can be fun with the appropriate gear. I've met some people who have seen pictures of 5 feet snow falls and think it's fun or crazy, but that's not the part of winter I'm concerned with. The snow is the least of my worries. When you see that the weather reports indicate a temperature of -20 or less that's when things get risky.
It's true last winter was mild, but that's no the norm in Viking's land!
Seriously! it is no light matter, and even if you're on a limited student budget like most of us here don't be cheap and risk getting pneumonia, frostbite or any other number of horrible things. But this is no tetric blog, i mean it to be an invitation to go on a fun and thorough winter shopping trip while on a srudent budget.
I've read and heard people say just bundle up, but allow me to give you some tips on how to bundle up for a Minnesota winter from the point of view of the wisest person in earth according to me, my mom who lived to the U of M 20+ years ago before I was born.
The following list is for the coldest day, which should be what you prepare for, since after that everything should be a joke if you have good clothes. Also don't wait till it's freezing cold to start buying clothes!
Both bottom and top. It sounds unnecessary but there will be at least a couple of weeks each winter when waiting for the bus or walking to school will be like standing outdoors in the North Pole! I got mine for about $20 at Herberger's. There are a couple of locations around town, so just google it and find one near your place.
Why wool? Because they're extremely warm and if they were to get wet they dry up really fast. However normal wool can be extremely uncomfortable for some people and sometimes to big and if you love hiking like I do you might be familiar with the "smart wool" brand, they are the most comfortable sock fabric ever and they're not overwhelmingly warm! Plus they last forever! Just make sure they are boot length, otherwise there's no point!
You can buy smartwool socks online, or at hiking and outdoor activity stores like REI. I'm lazy so I prefer online: http://www.smartwool.com You can buy a pair for about $12.
Even if it doesn't snow your feet will get extremely cold if you're only wearing warm socks. As a matter of fact when it snows it doesn't get as cold as when the skies are clear and the wind is freezing. So... What I mean by good snow boots is that they are labeled to be good for bellow 32 degree temperatures and they are waterproof so that the snow won't freeze your feet and they have good traction on the soles so you want slip when walking on eyes.
They might not be the cheaper ones but as an avid hiker I recommend Columbia boots. They're way cheaper online than at the stores. Try amazon, or sometimes the Columbia site has good deals.
On below freezing temperatures dressing well has nothing to do with fashion! You can look good, but stupidly freeze. Make sure whatever you buy is cotton, wool, polar tech or fleece and is a tight fabric. Those cute fluffy scarfs with holes are the worse idea ever! You can find good and cheap scarfs almost anywhere. I personally love kniting so I make my own, but Ragstock is my favorite spot for buying student budget scarfs and base layers. Or clothes in general... Just make sure that they are big enough for you to wrap your neck and face around a couple of times.
Try Ragstock and tell me if you agree with me that it is the coolest clothes store ever! http://ragstock.com/
It is so easy to freeze if the only part of your body you don't cover is your head. And if you keep you head warm, everything else will feel great. So make sure again you find a nice warm tight fabric, and make sure you ears are covered. When it gets really cold a few seconds outside without the appropriate gear could cause frostbite which is basically damage to your skin and tissues due to freezing, and your ears and nose are the parts most at risk.
Don't be cheap with these cause you will use them everyday! Make sure that their label says they're good for very cold temperatures, once again that they are of a warm fabric, and that they have an outside waterproof layer. When it snows if you hands get wet you're in trouble, but if they're not you can actually enjoy the snow and play around with it. Even as a young adult I still get as excited as a 5 year old when it snows and I can go play outside, make snowmen, snow angels, etc... Why else would we come to Minnesota?
Mine are fleece with an outside layer of leather. The best ever! I bought them at a little boutique in Alexandria MN, but department stores, and places like Columbia and even Amazon.com have equally amazing options. Mine were around $55, and you should plan to spend around that amount for something lasting and warm.
I personally think they look ridiculous and cute at the same time, but this January there were a few days when I was extremely happy to have them, because even a good had won't fully cover your ears. And believe me! Ears get cold extremely fast and it's painful and uncomfortable when that happens. Again look for something made of some nice warm fabric and you'll do great.
You can still wear your cool t-shirts and blouses during the winter time, but remember always to have at least one nice and warm sweater, over your t-shirt, and a sweatshirt on top of that. Or at least wear a long sleeve shirt and then a sweatshirt, unless you're already wearing long sleeve underwear.. Make sure that at least two of these layers don't leave any skin uncovered in between the them and the gloves because cold air creeps in amazing ways, and that your base layer (long underwear) is cotton. So with this in mind is a good idea to tuck your layers. The logic behind layers is that you will create air pockets in between each layer which is insulated by your body heat.
Your outer layer will shield you from rain, hail, snow, crazy freezing winds and the cold. I would certainly not be cheap when buying a jacket. And please don't buy a short one just because you think it looks cool. Make sure it goes below your hips at least a couple of inches, and that it has a hoodie to cover your head. The ideal jacket is definitely a goose feather one cause they're super comfy and warm. You can get anything from the super fluffy ones to really compact ones. They also vary in prices from anything around $80-$500 or more. Just make sure you like it, it's warm, covers your arms well and its good quality cause you'll use it a lot.
I got mine at Herberger's for about $120 and I love it. I personaly love the fluffy ones cause the compact ones make me feel naked. However I do have a lighter one for hiking and other outdoor adventures.
10. Enjoy the crazy Minnesota weather
Buying good clothes will definitely help you enjoy the weather, now make sure to always have them with you and have extra gloves and scarfs in your bag in case you loose them. Personally for me this is drastically different from rainy and humid tropical Guatemala City where I grew up, but it is nevertheless exciting. Make sure the weather doesn't stop you from going and out, hanging out with friends and doing all kinds of fun things outdoors. Staying active is key to a good mental health during the winter months! Once you have the right gear you can enjoy outdoor winter activities like snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, hiking, to even snow camping and blaying broom ball with friends for the more adventurous ones.
You can rent special gear for really good prices from the U of M Center for Outdoor Adventure. http://www.recsports.umn.edu/coa/rental.htmlUseful links!