11 cold weather gear essentials for women

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Having fun in winter is all about having good gear. After all, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear. Am I right? Gear up for winter with these 11 must-have cold weather gear essentials to brave winter’s chill in style and comfort.

This winter clothes for women gear guide offers tested and trusted advice about essential and best cold weather gear to help you actually enjoy staying outside.

11 cold weather gear essentials for women

The secret to loving winter? You need to dress properly, just like your mom said. That means merino wool, layering, accessories and great outdoor gear. I know a thing or two about the great outdoors, having done several seasons of winter camping and spent decades skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing and ice climbing.

This winter clothes for women gear guide offers tested and trusted advice about essential and best cold weather gear to help you actually enjoy staying outside, whether it’s winter in Hokkaido, Japan, or carousing at Carnaval during winter in Quebec City.

lady in red coat snowshoeing

Wear base layers: best cold weather gear to stay warm

Yes, it’s all about the base. Layers, that is. What they now call base layers used to be called long underwear. But the objective of winter clothing for women is still the same – to stay warm and dry in the cold.

Merino Wool Base Layer Top: I swear by my Icebreaker merino wool underlayer top. It’s super soft and 100% wool to keep my core warm and arms free. Base layers are key pieces of winter clothing for outdoor activities.

If you want a heavier base, try this heavyweight base layer top with zip for maximum warmth. Both my husband and sons have and love this Icebreaker long sleeve crew shirt.

Merino Wool Base Layer Leggings: Again, soft 100% merino wool comfort leggings that are breathable, comfortable and insulating in the cold. You can find the men’s version here.

And don’t forget about the kids. They need to keep their limbs warm as well, and these soft wool top and bottom layers from Helly-Hansen don’t have the dreaded itch factor.

Wool Socks: What’s with all the wool? Wool works in the cold. It insulates, breathes well, and keeps you warm even if it gets wet.  Choose higher wool socks that cover your calves for winter activities and keep your muscles warm and dry.

lady in red coat skiing at sun peaks resort

Winter clothes for women: tops and pants

Flannel Shirts: I love my flannel Salomon and Mountain Hardware ski shirts. They’re my ski and winter-fashion Go To item of choice. Anything that fits over the layers and my Kit & Ace technical cashmere turtleneck is a win in my book.

Winter Pants: For outdoor activities like downhill skiing, fat biking, dog-sledding and snowshoeing, choose insulated snow pants that will keep you warm and dry.

For cross-country skiing or winter hiking, the less bulky the better. I love Fjallraven Abisko hiking leggings. They give greater freedom of movement when you’re walking, and are excellent cold weather running gear.

Winter Coats: Your choice of outwear coat is going to make or break your winter experience. I pack a colorful Mountain Hardwear stretch Ozonic jacket on my winter outings. It’s perfect for all my active adventures. The jacket has underarm vents so when I get overheated hiking or skiing, I simply zip the vents open and cool off.

If you have lots of light down jacket layers, you can choose a lighter outer shell jacket. I’m a fan of Swedish brand Stellar Equipment for their inner and outer layers. They provide maximum environmental protection and are cute winter clothes for women, too.

lady in blue Mountain Hardware coat at frozen waterfall

Keeping hands and feet warm and dry in cold weather

Our extremities – hands, heads, feet – are more exposed and get colder faster than the rest of our body. Learning how to dress for cold weather is key.

Winter Boots with solid treads: Choose well-made, waterproof winter boots that are insulated, comfortable and offer water resistance. Good winter boots are essential women’s winter clothing.

I have a pair of North Face Thermoball boots that are ideal for dry, cold weather. For waterproof boots, Columbia’s Ice Maiden II Snow Boot is fabulous. Both choices are perfect for how to dress for winter in Canada!

Warm Hats: A warm hat is a necessity to ward off the chill on urban streets or snowy ski resorts. I’m partial to pompom hats and slouchy beanies, and usually pack several hats for different occasions. Because fashion!

Scarves: Keeping your neck warm is just about as important as your head. Wool scarves are a great option, as are fleece neck gaiters. Make sure they’re washable. You’ll want to wash these after a long day on the slopes or weekend winter camping.

Gloves: You’ll need a good pair or two of warm gloves to protect your hands from the cold. Extremities can become frost-bitten in minutes. It’s happened to me and I do NOT recommend. I pack a couple pairs of gloves for winter trips.

I love my Swamy ski gloves for their maximum warmth and durability. They’re great for two reasons: they have an extra interior fleece glove within the mitten for extra warmth. And the gloves have an exterior zipped pocket that fits hot pockets. They offer extra heat for up to 8 hours, providing a warmth boost for really cold conditions.

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Want to play in the snow but the cold is keeping you from the fun? We're sharing tips about winter clothes for women in this cold weather gear guide, complete with tested and trusted advice about essential and best cold weather gear to help you actually enjoy playing and staying outside.

Do you have a favorite cold weather gear or clothing? Share your pick in the comments below.

Claudia Laroye
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