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Essentials for Battling a Minnesota Winter

Not sure how to dress for the Minnesota winter? Short answer: put on lots of layers.

Not sure how to dress for the Minnesota winter? Short answer: put on lots of layers.

I am sure that every Carleton student, before coming here, has asked the following question:

“How cold is it in Minnesota?”

As someone who grew up in a southern city, I swear to you that it’s not that bad. It’s just a little bit colder than Antarctica…

screenshot of my friend’s story

But don’t panic! Such a situation only occurs around once a month. As long as you get the right winter essentials, you will survive. In this post, I’ll share how I’m surviving the extreme cold here as well as what I recommend!

Sweaters, Hoodies, Vests

The inner layer usually consists of fabrics that hold your body heat. Since sweaters and vests are often tight, they are capable of keeping your body warm while not taking up too much space. Depending on the weather, I might go out with only one sweater and a hoodie (when it’s above -5°C/23°F) or wear as many as four inner layers (when it’s below -25°C/-13°F).


A big parka is a must for winter. While a normal jacket does not do much for your legs, a parka usually goes down below your knees and covers almost all parts of your body. It’s always windproof and well-insulated and acts as a barrier between you and the outside world. Since indoor areas all have heating systems, you can easily slip off your parka as the temperature changes. Almost everyone on campus has a heavy-duty parka jacket. It helps the most in resisting the intense cold. The only problem with the parka is that it’s super heavy. Every time I put on my parka, I feel like carrying a heavy load on my back….



Personally, I don’t wear long underwear under my pants because I’m too lazy to put this on… During normal school days, I just put on a pair of thick pants. When the temperature is abnormally low or when I’m going skiing, I’ll put on extra leggings to keep me warm.


On snowy days, waterproof boots make it easier for you to walk in the snow. Even when it’s not snowing, the ice on the ground does not melt and stays there for the entire winter. To avoid slipping on the icy sidewalks, it’s also good to have your boots on.

ice skating
Here’s a standard winter uniform for Carls (for ice skating and everyday wear)! Puffy coats, hats, winter gloves/mittens.


Your hands and ears are the places that get cold the easiest. So, it’s necessary to wear some warm accessories. Gloves keep your hands warm especially when you need to carry items. Hats effectively protect your head and ears and prevent headaches. A scarf and a mask keep your face covered. Lastly, thick socks keep every part of your body, including feet, warm and dry.

winter wardrobe
The Winter Wardrobe is an invaluable resource open to all Carleton students who are in need of warm clothing!

An anecdote: the first time the temperature fell below 0°C/32°F, I wore five layers of clothes outside and still felt super cold. But now I can confidently walk out with only four layers of clothes on even when the temperature falls below -20°C/-4°F. Everyone here gets used to the cold quickly (well, we’re forced to!).

Some other tips for the winter season: always remember to look at the weather report before going out, don’t stay outside for too long, don’t underestimate how painful it can be if you don’t follow my advice (jkjk)…… Again never be scared of the winter here! On the bright side, by living in Minnesota as a Carl you will acquire new life skills, such as learning how to cope with severe cold.

And, as we all know, “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”

Stay warm!

Sherry is a first-year student from Hangzhou, China, and holds a real passion for travel and food. She is thinking about majoring in Mathematics, but would also like to explore more in Economics, Computer Science, English, and French. Things she likes to do in her free time include hanging out with friends, taking photos, writing random stuff, and finding the funny in everyday life. She also got started with alpine skiing and is always ready for the trip to Welch Village every Friday! Meet the other bloggers!