How to pack for a Montréal winter holiday

Parc Jean-Drapeau - sliding
Isa Tousignant

Isa Tousignant

This article was updated on March 4, 2024.

Montréal in winter? Magical. It’s like winter in the movies: a twinkly snow falls over white-blanketed trees, shimmering in the shining sun… but it can get COLD! Visitors from warmer countries may find it hard to imagine exactly how cold the cold can be. So here, from the experts, is a list of what you’ll need to pack — without investing in a whole expensive kit.

Start from the inside out

Well, not “inside” so much as “under”! The key to lasting warmth in winter weather is layering. If you want to avoid spending upwards of $500 for a heavy-duty jacket you’ll only wear this one time, the key is to add warm layers under your usual clothing. Think thermal long-johns and long-sleeved undershirts made from moisture-wicking textiles like polypropylene, merino wool or silk. The perfect fit will be skin-tight but not constricting — as a second skin, it creates an insulating layer between your body and the fabric. Some great places to shop for thermal underwear in Montréal are MEC or Sports Experts.

 

Manteaux Desloups - Ladie's parka

Think thin

Thin, warm layers are the key to both comfort and adaptability. In order to transition from outdoor (for a walk up Mount Royal) to indoor (for dinner by a fireplace) without having to stop back at the hotel, the best is to wear many layers you can remove or add as needed. Once you’ve got your undergarments sorted, add pants and one or two long-sleeved tops that are thin and made from either manmade textiles like nylon or polartec, or natural textiles like wool. Something you can unzip is ideal. For your final layer, you can invest in a serious winter coat by Montréal brands like Kanuk, BEDIQuartz Co or Desloups (which makes jackets using 100% virgin wool felt with a quilted inner lining for cozy comfort), but you can also avoid the expense and go for a thin shell like a raincoat that will keep your under layers dry. 

Bank on accessories

They say most of your heat escapes from your head, so make sure you keep it covered! A soft, thick wool hat is an absolutely must in Montréal. Gloves are also essential, preferably lined, as well as a neck tube or traditional scarf to keep the breeze out of your nooks and crannies. For extra warmth, tie a shawl around your neck over your coat. If you have trouble getting your hands warm, order a pair of Québec-made Hot Poc reusable hand warmers. Speaking of local goods, you’ll find a stylish selection of warm accessories at the made-in-Canada store Roots, and to add extra fashionable flair to your comfort, check out the Montréal stores m0851 or Rudsak.

Put your best foot forward

Winter boots are an ideal, but if you’re only in Montréal for a week or two, that’s another area you won’t want to invest so much in. Use the same principal as for the rest of your body: layering, starting with the warmest socks you can find. (A department store like The Hudson’s Bay Company is perfect for those.) As an extra precaution, add a pair of legwarmers that will bridge the area between your pants and your socks. If you’ve got waterproof hiking boots or sneakers with insulating textiles like Goretex, those will work perfectly! The idea is to keep moisture out. In a pinch, a pair of very sturdy leather work boots will be fine too, tough you may want to double up on socks.

 

LOCAPAQ

Rent equipment from the pros

If you show up in Montréal without any prep, worry not! Keep it simple and kit up in one fell swoop by renting a whole winter wear outfit from Québec Fatbike. Their starter kit includes a winter coat, snow pants, gloves or mitts, a tube scarf, a tuque, winter boots AND ski goggles in case you feel like adventuring in a sporty way. LOCAPAQ, a rental agency specializing in outdoor equipment such as tents and sleeping bags, is a great option if you feel like camping (even winter camping!). The agency is also involved in the organization of canoe trips, skiing, winter camping trips for budding or experienced adventurers, all year long. Poubelle de Ski also offers warm clothing for rent or for sale cheap, in addition to sporting equipment like skis, snowboards, toboggans, skates and more. 

 

Lachine Canal multipurpose path

 

Now that you’re kitted up, there’s no stopping you from all the winter adventures Montréal has to offer, from ice skating to sledding, or simply walking for hours along the Lachine Canal, up and down Mount Royal, in Parc Jean-Drapeau or throughout all the city’s pretty neighbourhood streets. 

 

MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE

Little extras that make the difference

If you’re planning a real adventure outdoors, like a full day at MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE or a dance night at Igloofest, there are special gadgets like hand or foot warmers that can really make a difference. Stay active to keep your blood flow going. And finally, bring fatty snacks (like granola or nuts) that digest slowly and will fuel your body’s furnace, along with a thermos full of a hot beverage — like cocoa made with rich coconut cream — you can sip on all day. Happy wintering!

Isa Tousignant

Isa Tousignant

Isa Tousignant is a Montréal-based editor and storyteller with a curiosity that runs deeper than most. She has chatted life philosophies with celebrity chefs, gemologists, arena rockers and furries. (All were transformative.) Her free time is spent designing jewellery and laughing at her husband’s jokes.

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