How to pack for a Montréal winter holiday

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’s COLD! Visitors from warm 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.

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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.

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) temperatures 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 textile like nylon or polartec, or natural textiles like wool. Something you can unzip is ideal. For your final layer, rather than invest in a serious winter coat (though if you’re tempted, Montréal brand Kanuk or Arc’Teryx have some great cruelty-free choices), 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 absolute must in Montréal. Gloves are also essential, preferably lined, as well as a traditional scarf or an infinity scarf to keep the breeze out of your nooks and crannies. For extra warmth, tie a shawl around your neck over your coat. 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 principle 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, 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, though you may want to double up on socks.

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Little extras that make the difference

If you’re planning a real adventure outdoors, like a full day at Fête des neiges de Montréal 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.

Isa Tousignant

Isa Tousignant, blogger

Isa Tousignant is an art and lifestyle writer based out of Montréal’s eclectic Park Ex neighbourhood. She is Contributing Editor for Canadian Art magazine and freelances full-time for a wide variety of magazines and brands. She’s also a jewellery designer and passionate about animal costumes and their role in contemporary art.

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