Surviving the Wisconsin winter

It seems that winter is coming early this year, and besides making Game of Thrones references, we want to ensure that all of our international students are well prepared for the blistering Wisconsin tundra that awaits us around the corner. So, here are some tips that will ensure that you stay warm and healthy while making the Wisconsin winter a lot more bearable.

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Make sure to wear layers of clothing. 

There’s nothing like the biting wind blowing through your jeans or your dress! So, make sure to wear layers underneath your main clothes. Some good options are buying thermal leggings, long underwear (also known as long johns or thermal underwear), and long socks. These are all good options of clothing that can fit underneath your everyday clothes.

Additionally, another great way to add layers is by investing in some cardigans or sweaters to put on top of your t-shirt or blouse. This will ensure that you stay warm, even in the classrooms, as sometimes they can get cold!

You’ll also want to choose the right socks. The best options have a wool base with some cotton and nylon mixed in. Additionally, do not layer your socks, as this will compress your feet making it difficult for your blood to flow properly to them. Your winter boots are built to keep your feet warm with one pair of warm socks.

You can find good options for purchasing socks and thermal leggings/underwear at the stores listed below.

Invest in winter attire

Walking to class or the bus stop can be a bit of a trudge already, but the Wisconsin winter can make it that much worse! So, make sure to invest in appropriate winter attire to out stand the cold on your walk.

  1. A warm winter coat. The best winter coats will be labeled as “fleece,” “thermal,” “down,” or “insulated.” These coats have a layer of extra material that will help keep you extra warm and cozy. Additionally, look for coats that are labeled “water-proof,” “water resistant,” or “windproof.” These will help keep out the biting cold from wind or snow/ice/cold rain.
  2. Hats. You lose most of the heat of your body through your head, and additionally, your head is one of the most sensitive body parts. So, make sure you are covering it up with a nice and cozy hat. Materials to look for when you are purchasing a hat are wool and cotton.
  3. Invest in gloves (or mittens). Keeping your fingers warm are essential because exposing our limbs to cold temperatures for long periods of time can lead to maladies such as wind burn and frost bite. Frost bite can even lead to limbs needing to be amputated (cut off) if not treated quickly or properly. So, it is highly important that we keep our fingers warm and wiggling. The best materials for gloves or mittens include wool, cotton, and polyester (for the outside). Mittens are also known for keeping your hands warmer, as they ensure that your fingers keep close together. Again, look for gloves that are labeled “water-proof,” “water resistant,” or “windproof.”
  4. Invest in scarves. Scarves are a fantastic way to keep your neck, chest, ears, and face warm without sacrificing style. The best kinds of scarves to help keep you warm are either knitted scarves or blanket scarves. In addition to keeping your neck and chest warm, blanket scarves can also act as a small blanket to wear across your legs or a shawl while you are sitting in class.

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5. Invest in warm, winter boots. Having wet feet in class all day is no fun and makes it more likely to get sick. So, make sure you have the appropriate foot wear to trudge through snow, ice, and sludge. Here in Wisconsin, you’ll see people sporting their “duck boot,” a very popular style of boot that is a great choice for walking through snow. Even if the duck boot is not your thing, any boot that is “water resistant” or “water proof” will do. You will want to make sure that your feet will stay dry. Additionally, if you look for boots that have “sterling lining” or “gortex,” these boots come with an extra layer of protection to keep your feet cozy and dry. Leather or nylon with rubber on the bottom are the best materials for your winter boots. Additionally, you should try to avoid suede, as suede is not very friendly with snow, ice, or rain.


Some great brands that make top quality winter apparel are:

    • The North Face
    • Patagonia
    • L.L. Bean
    • High Sierra
    • Columbia
    • Canada Goose
    • Eddie Bauer
    • Fjallraven
    • Isotoner (gloves, hats, scarves, and slippers)

Additionally, as college students, we know that your wallets aren’t overflowing with cash, so here are a list of second hand/thrift stores where you can search for your winter items at a much discounted price.

  • Goodwill
    • 2830 N. Oakland Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53211
    • 3900 N. Palmer St. Milwaukee, WI 53212
  • Retique Store
    • 190 N. Broadway St. Milwaukee, WI 53202
  • Value Village
    • 729 S. Layton Boulevard Milwaukee, WI 53215
    • 3100 E. Layton Avenue St. Francis, WI 53235
  • Swanky Seconds
    • 2223 East Capitol Drive Milwaukee, WI 53202
  • St. Paul’s Thrift Shop
    • 1324 N. Marshall St. Milwaukee, WI 53202
  • Sole Salvation
    • 1693 N. Humboldt Avenue Milwaukee, WI 53202

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If the winter weather is too much for you though, there are some online second hand options as well.

  • – This website is a second hand store with lightly used clothing of top brands and housewares. It is free to create an account, and items can be shipped directly to your home.
  • – This website is also a second hand online store with lightly used clothing, and it is free as well to create an account. This can be directly shipped to your home.

If shopping in second hand stores doesn’t sound appealing, there are plenty of options for finding your winter items brand new. We have two malls in the Milwaukee county area that can be reached by bus.

  • Bayshore Mall – Stores that are good for finding your winter essentials here include: Journey’s (for boots) and Kohl’s
    • 5800 N. Bayshore Dr. Glendale, WI 53217
  • Mayfair Mall – Stores that are good for finding your winter essentials here include: Eddie Bauer, Journey’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom, and The Walking Company
    • 2500 N. Mayfair Road Wauwatosa, WI 53226

Other good store options for finding winter essentials are

  • Target 
    • 2950 S. Chase Avenue Milwaukee, WI 53207
  • Walmart 
    • 401 E. Capitol Drive Milwaukee, WI 53212
  • Meijer
    • 11111 W. Burleigh St. Wauwatosa, WI 53222

Everyday body care

Now that we have your attire covered we want to make sure that you take even further steps to stay healthy this winter.

  1. Stay warm with hot liquids. It’s important that you try your best to stay warm throughout your entire day, so eating and drinking hot liquids is key. Soup is an excellent meal to have in the Wisconsin winter. You can buy pre-made canned soup at the grocery store. All you need to do is heat it up. The Union Station in the Student Union also serves a variety of soups every day. Additionally, drinking coffee, tea, or hot cocoa are all good options for staying warm. The campus coffee shops, Grind and The 8th note, both have a variety of options for enjoying hot liquids, with Grind having seasonal specials.
  2. Stay hydrated. When we are so cold, drinking cold water from a tap or drinking fountains doesn’t sound too appealing. However, making sure to stay hydrated will ensure that your skin doesn’t dry out as easily and that your body functions properly. Water is essential to making sure that your circulation is at its top performance. Good circulation (your body’s blood flow) is essential to keeping your muscles warm throughout the winter. Can’t handle drinking cold water in the winter? Try heating up your water as if you were making tea. You’ll stay warm and hydrated.
  3. Keep your skin hydrated. Your skin is your body’s largest organ, and if it isn’t taken care of then it can be the largest source of discomfort as well. The cold air and taking hot showers can both dry out your skin and cause some discomfort. Dry skin can cause uncomfortable sores. To help prevent this, you can use lotion and lip balm. Some great brands for lotion and/or lip balm include Aveeno, Lubriderm, Cetaphil, Burt’s Bees, Nivea, Carmex, Blistex, Eos, and Chapstick. All of these can be found at a pharmacy (Walgreen’s or CVS), Target, Walmart, Metro Market, and Pick N Save. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are also great organic stores that will have your organic friendly options.
  4. Eating well. Your body produces its own heat, which is great for the winter! However, you need to ensure that your body is getting enough energy from healthy foods to keep producing the heat and to avoid any sickness. Additionally, it gets really cloudy and snowy during the winter months, which much less sun! So, make sure to eat at least three meals a day, and eat foods that are rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin D, protein, zinc, and iron. Look at the list below for foods that are great for getting enough of these vitamins and minerals.
    • oatmeal (also known as oats or porridge)
    • sweet potatoes
    • tomatoes
    • red peppers
    • citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit)
    • red meats
    • lentils
    • leafy greens (spinach, kale, swiss chard, collard greens)
    • fish, eggs, cheese, and milk

Stay Warm in Your House

  1. Wear slippers around your house. Slippers are a great way to keep your feet warm and cozy.
  2. Layer on the blankets. Throwing a few blankets on your couch and bed are a great option for staying warm without having to turn up your heat.
  3. Invest in a hot water bottle or heat packs. These reusable items are great for warming up your hands, feet, or your beds before you go to sleep. You can buy one time use heat packs to put in your boots, gloves, or coats. These are great for when you are outside in the cold while hiking, walking around campus, or waiting in the cold for the bus or an event. you can generally find these online for cheap, such as on Amazon, or in stores, such as Walmart, Target, and Meijer. If you are feeling creative, you can also make your own reusable heat packs. You can do this by taking an old sock, filling it with rice, oatmeal, or corn barley, and tying the end. You just throw it in the microwave for a couple of minutes, and you instantly have a heated pack that you can throw under your bed covers.
  4. Other miscellaneous tips: Keep doors (inside and outside) closed whenever possible. Close curtains/blinds when the sun goes down to keep in heat.

The winter can be a fun and magical time as long as we take the necessary steps to survive. Follow these tips and you’ll make it through the winters of the north with flying colors. Stay warm out there!