The best way to Survive Winter in New York + The best way to Costume for New York Winter
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We’ve been in NYC for about two months now and needless to say, it’s been a struggle adjusting to the cold. We’ve spent the last few years in much warmer weather, and I’m pretty sure the two years living in SoCal may have ruined us forever.
If you’re visiting or moving to NYC, we’ve put together a practical guide on how to survive winter in New York and what to wear on those frigid days in January and February.
HOW TO SURVIVE WINTER IN NEW YORK
WHAT WE COVER [ Click Links to Skip Ahead ]
- How to Dress Like a New Yorker in Winter
- New York Winter Essentials + Winter Packing List
- How Cold Does it Really Get in NYC?
- How Much Snow Will I Have to Deal With?
- 15 Hacks and Tips on How to Keep Warm at Home
HOW TO DRESS LIKE A NEW YORKER IN WINTER
We have warm outdoor gear for hiking and snowboarding in cold weather from our trips to Patagonia and Iceland, but nothing appropriate for city life in NYC. We had multiple people ask where we were visiting from since we stood out like a sore thumb in our red jackets. Here are some basic rules on how to dress like a New Yorker but still keep warm.
- It’s an Umbrella City – When we were in Portland, not many people used umbrellas. They just braved the rain in rainjackets. Here, it seems like everyone has an umbrella. Don’t buy or bring your expensive umbrella. Those gusts of wind will break them in no time. I like the clear ones, so you can see where you’re walking, but we do see a lot of black umbrellas.
- The Style – People are very monotone in this city. Just walk the streets and you’ll see mostly a sea of black (especially in the winter). If you want to blend in, think blacks, dark grays, and neutral colors. Or you might not want to blend in. I do love that in this city you can wear just about anything and people don’t bat an eye.
- Get a Long Jacket – Your winter jacket or coat should be warm, windproof, and cover as much as possible. Bonus points if it happens to be waterproof too. We both ended up getting parkas that cover our butts and a portion of our legs. It helps so much to have that butt covered! Some people have ones that go to their ankle and sometimes I envy them.
- Cover All Extremities: Always wear a hat, gloves, scarf, and sometimes a balaclava. Get lots of gloves! Apparently, NYC is a bottomless pit for gloves. We have yet to lose ours, but everyone we’ve talked to go through them like crazy. If you have multiple jackets, it helps to have a set of gloves for each jacket. You can keep them in each jacket to ensure you don’t forget them when going out.
- Keep Track of Everything – Since you’ll be stripping down every place you go, try to have a designated spot for all your loose items.
- sNOw Thanks – It has already snowed twice here and we’re expecting to see plenty more. Snow is really magical the first few hours, but after that, it just becomes a dirty gray slush. You’ll start running into huge puddles or black ice, and that initial magic disappears. Maybe I walk funny, but it’s impossible for me not to splash up mud on my pants.
- Always Wear or Pack Layers – Most buildings and restaurants will keep the indoors warm. Have layers so that you strip down when you’re inside. Layering also traps warm air and keeps you warmer. We use the same rules for hiking as we do in the city: a synthetic sweat-wicking layer first, then an insulating layer, and an outer shell for snow, rain, or wind.
- Don’t Forget Your Shoes – Remember all that gross slush I mentioned earlier. You don’t want to step in that and have wet feet the rest of the day. Waterproof shoes really help and high boots help keep you warm.
NEW YORK WINTER CLOTHING GUIDE
Here is what our typical OOTD looks like. Are you missing our pop of red already?
Disclaimer: We received the 3-in-1 parkas from Patagonia to be included in this post.
Esther’s New York Winter Essentials + Winter Packing List
- Winter Outerwear: I have a 3-in-1 Parka that performs well and looks great in the city. You can wear it 3 different ways, but most of the time, I keep the insulating and shell layers zipped up together for maximum warmth since I get cold easily.
- Midlayer: I usually wear either my Polartec fleece or Sharmbaa fleece depending on how active I know I’m going to be
- Base Layer (top): I wear the men’s because I like it better than the women’s version.
- Base Layer (bottoms): I mostly wear these ones from Uniqlo, but I rotate a few of them. I also have Omniheat ones from Columbia, but apparently, I don’t generate any heat to be reflected back to me. It’s pricier, but I’m going to try these Polartec from Mountain Hardwear next!
- Jeans: These ones are from Boulder Denim. They’re great for everyday use, but they’re also incredible for climbing (use code: LOCALADVENTURER for 15% off).
- Boots: Love these waterproof Danners, but if I know I’m going to be walking through lots of snow, I wear these snow boots.
- Socks: The heavyweights work the best for me.
- Gloves: I’m all about Polartec after our trip to Torres del Paine.
- Beanie: It’s Omniheat ftw on this one. I guess my head does just fine with generating heat.
- Balaclava: I wear it on the most frigid days to cover more of my face.
- Cute Scarf / Wrap: I’ll wear a scarf around my balaclava, so I have both form and function. I like multi-purpose things, and this scarf happens to transform into a cardigan, shirt, and more.
- Hand Warmers: For really frigid days.
- Wet wipes or baby wipes to wipe down the mud you kick up on yourself especially on those slushy days.
Jacob’s New York Winter Essentials + Winter Packing List
- Winter Outerwear: We both have the same 3-in-1 parkas, but the women’s version is longer and goes down to right above the knees.
- Midlayer: I like the Columbia Half Zip Fleece. They’re warm cover parts of my neck on really cold days.
- Base Layer: Always wear these performance tees.
- Base Layer (bottoms): The Uniqlo Heattech tights work really well for me. I have a few that are just regular Heattech and a couple extra warms ones. On really cold days, I may or may not double up on them.
- Jeans: Also from Boulder Denim since they perform well and are comfortable (use code: LOCALADVENTURER for 15% off). I also like these comfy Kit Culture Pants
- Shoes: These Danner Boots are amazing at keeping me dry and comfortable.
- Socks: I have some midweight socks and heavyweight ones for cold days.
- Gloves: We both love these Polartec gloves.
- Beanie from Mountain Hardwear (you don’t even notice the wind. The guy who sold it to me said he was in 60 mph winds and couldn’t feel it. Will let you know if I’m ever in 60 mph winds) or if you don’t mind being that guy wearing the hat with earflaps.
- Scarf / Neck Warmer: This one is incredibly warm, but it’s sometimes hard to breath when you have your face covered.
HOW COLD DOES IT REALLY GET IN NYC?
We’ve been to Patagonia in the winter and Iceland in February, yet NYC feels even colder. When I started looking into the weather itself, though, the numbers don’t make sense.
Why does NYC seem so cold?
I loved reading this NYT article about a native Icelander describing the cold in New York. For those of you who don’t want to bother reading it, a big part of why NYC feels so cold is that the cold lasts for a long time. It’s one thing knowing you’ll be really cold for a few days, but when those days turn into weeks and months, then those chills in your bones never seem to disappear.
In addition to that, you end up spending a lot of time outside here. You can absolutely hop in a cab everywhere you go, but eventually, that takes too long or costs too much, which means you’ll be walking or taking the subway. And don’t even get me started on the wind. For whatever reason, the buildings have created wind tunnels that blow the cold air straight through you. Just this past week, I’ve been walking 3-4 blocks a day running errands and by the time I reach my destination my face, lips, and fingers feel like they are going to fall off. I really miss having my car now.
Let’s look at the numbers. Here are the temperatures during winter:
Now keep in mind that those are just the averages. As I write this post, it’s snowing buckets outside at a 45-degree angle, which means the wind makes it feel even colder. Also, check out the weather for the upcoming week…
HOW MUCH SNOW WILL I HAVE TO DEAL WITH?
It doesn’t actually snow a ridiculous amount in NYC. The snow days are magical, but soon after it turns into a gray slush. Then when it gets really cold, that snow starts turning into black ice and everything is extremely slippery.
We’ve experienced snow twice within the first month of our time here. A couple of weeks ago we even had a 24-hr period of constant snow resulting in one of the largest snowfalls in a long time. People keep telling us that this was the worst year to move here and that they’ve never seen so many snow days in the low 30s. Bad weather seems to follow us everywhere.
15 TIPS TO STAY WARM AT HOME AND KEEP YOUR HOUSE WARM
Lately, I’ve been obsessed with anything that can help keep us warm. Even though we leave our thermostat on higher temps during the winter, I work next to a giant window, which keeps this side of our apartment cold. Here are some tips to help you be as warm as possible at home.
- Wear more layers even at home. I’m covered from head to toe in fleece even as I’m writing this. I also always have a blanket draped over my chair in case I need it.
- These down booties have been a lifesaver since my feet are always cold. We used them while hiking Patagonia, but now I use them around the apartment every day. I may take it a step further and get these heated slippers or this pad for under the desk or this for a massage too. Is it too much with the massage? Which shall I choose?
- Electric blanket or heating pad to heat up our bed right before sleep.
- Let the sunlight in during the day. Even with our large windows, the sun is still warmer than the amount of cold coming through the windows.
- Hang insulating shades or curtains on windows to reduce heat loss. These thermal insulated blackout curtains are perfect for most homes during the winter. Unfortunately, we have really high ceilings and floor to ceiling windows.
- Hang blankets on any cold walls or windows for extra insulation on extremely cold days. Right now we have a blanket rigged up on our floor to ceiling gigantic windows for after the sun goes down. It doesn’t look the best though, so I’m looking for some alternative solutions that will work with our extra high ceilings.
- Carpets and rugs help insulate wood floors and reduce heat loss and will be less cold on your bare feet.
- Clear shower curtains will let the sun in but also provide an insulating layer.
- Use candles. I have one going on my desk at all times, and it surprisingly emits a decent amount of heat.
- Bake more often, and leave the oven door open after you’re done to get all the heat. I always have room for more brownies.
- line the inside of the surrounding walls with radiator foil. It will reflect that heat back to you.
- Reverse your ceiling fans so that they are blowing the hot air down to you.
- Close doors will keep heat in rooms that you use more often.
- Space heaters are a great option to add heat to your rooms. You can go with a directional one, this circular one, or a heater that can also be a fan when it’s hot. Keep in mind that space heaters can be a fire hazard.
- Have a pet on your lap! Luckily, both our cats are lap cats, so I always have a little personal heater on my lap.
Have you used any of these hacks to keep warm? Do you plan tropical getaways during winter? Do you try to avoid traveling to cities during their winter season?
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ESTHER + JACOB
Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, which is one of the top 50 travel blogs in the world. They believe that adventure can be found both near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city every year and are currently in NYC.
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