3 Things to Make Winnipeg Winters Easier

Having lived in Winnipeg since 1995, I’ve learned a couple things about surviving the ridiculously cold winters.  Layering is key.   That way you can remove top layers when you get too warm.  One layer that I added during Christmas last year that has kept me wonderfully warm is electric.

1.  Heated hoodies.

Having kept me warm for three seasons now, these are indispensable.  With a battery that has both standard USB and Micro USB, it can not only be charged by the old Android standard, but also charge a phone.  It has three different heat settings.  On low, it can keep me with heat for a good 8 hours.  It has a warm up cycle and then defaults to medium heat which can give me 4-5 hours of warmth.  On high it will give me 2-3 hours of continual use.  I usually just use medium when I’m outside and turn it off when I’m inside.  However, I work in shipping and am frequently on loading docks where the line between outside and inside is very blurred.  I find that as long as the wind is shielded, I can navigate frozen 53′ trailers with a lot of warmth.  Even without the heated part it is an extremely warm hoodie.

Made by Ororo, there are a few different colors available.  My navy one goes with jeans and other work pants.

Heated hoodies can be difficult to find locally.  The Milwaukee brand you might find at a Mark’s Work Warehouse, Tuff Duck or other outdoor work garment store.  My Ororo brand one was an amazon purchase.

Between the heated hoodie and a windbreaker, I’m good for down to -20C.  For colder temperatures, I put a jacket liner over the heated hoodie and then my high visibility windbreaker shell.  When there are windchills of -37, my core stays entirely warm.  It’s my hands and face that get cold.

2.  Boots with spiked soles.

A purchase from last January, my steeltoes are meant for a ‘transitional’ environment, which means getting in and out of work sites and trucks.  They are ‘Korkers’ which have a patent on a novel solution for replaceable soles.  There are a bunch of different soles for different situations, but the soles I have are for snow and the other for ice.

The snow one is rubber and gets great traction on it’s own.  I use it in the warehouse at work.

When I wear the ice one I feel like Spiderman on the ice.  It just sticks.  Sometimes I need to tap my boots together to knock caked snow off, but it walks over ice like it’s not there.  I mention to the guys I work with when I see ice, because it can be misleading when I walk over ice and don’t slip and the guy behind me does.

You know that tensing of the leg muscles you get when walking on ice to keep your feet under you?  Yeah that’s no longer necessary with these soles.  However, there is a trade-off: I do have to tense my legs when I stop in coffee shops on my way to work.  Cleats on stone tile is like walking on ice without spikes.

These are quality work boots and as such are indeed expensive to anyone who isn’t familiar with the pricing on good steel toes.  At $260, they are about average for quality steel toes.  That said, these have become my outdoor boots even when I’m not working.  They keep my toes extremely warm, are waterproof and come up over my ankles.  A pair of snow pants that comes down over them makes these a better choice than the Sorrels that have been my winter boots for a few years.

Additional soles are available from the Korker website for $20 – $50, so I can get replacements if something wears out or breaks.  There are even fishing soles with super grippy rubber that would fit.

Before buying the Korkers I had done a quick search to see what people thought of them.  Part of what sold me were the high rating people gave them.

Wearing these for my bus ride to work is fantastic.  The ice on the Winnipeg sidewalks vanishes.  And if you’ve been through a Winnipeg winter, ice is everywhere.

If $260 is too steep for a nice pair of winter boots with spikes, there are $20 cleats that wrap around any boot that can be found at Costco.  I got a pair for Julia and they are just fine for her use.  The thing about these is that because they wrap around, they are prone to shifting and stretching during use.  They are the PPE that work provides.  Boots with spikes in the soles work much better.

3.  A Bluetooth Toque

We call warm hats toques in Winnipeg.  This has been one of my go-to hats for just being outside in cold weather.  An easy pair to any phone, they eliminate wires.  And if you’ve ever got wired up and tried to play outside in the snow, those wires pull the plugs out of the ears easily with the bulk of warm jackets.  Wires also ‘freeze’ and loose their elasticity, making them awkward.  Bending frozen wires can cause breakage.

Many jackets have interior pockets meant for phones, and they work great when you don’t have to get to your phone.  A Bluetooth Toque means your headphones aren’t limited by wire length, and can go in any pocket, including easy access exterior pockets.  Basic controls for play/pause, previous track/next track and volume up\down give you more control on the toque than the buttons on a wire.

Another thing, they are open air headphones.  Unlike earbuds, you can hear the people around you.  Turn it up loud enough though and you can drown them out.

It does have a microphone, but it really isn’t good enough for decent phone conversations.  Unless you are all alone you are still going to want to take calls using your phone.  Which is why I suggest keeping your phone in an exterior pocket.

Any one of these can make a tough, cold winter–like Winnipeg ones–a lot more bearable.

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