Winter in Wisconsin can last until April or even May! Prepare for a long season. Here are tips on how to choose the best winter clothing.
Choosing a Good Winter Coat
Insulation - When shopping for winter coats, you will be looking at one of four types of insulation: wool, fleece, synthetic or down. Experts agree that the winner of the warmest insulation category is down.
Type of down - Down coats have a "fill power," and the higher the number, the warmer the coat, but pay attention to how much down is actually used. For example, a coat with 500 fill power and 10 ounces of down may be warmer than a 800 fill power jacket with 5 ounces of down. Goose down is generally better quality than duck down.
Windproof and water resistant - This is a minimum when looking for a warm jacket. Gore-Tex is the most well-known of the waterproof technologies, but it is usually more expensive and not a necessity.
Hoods versus hats - This is a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer a hood attached to their coat. Others prefer to wear a "beanie" hat. Either way you choose, the more your hood or hat covers your ears and protects from the wind, the warmer you will be.
Length - All other things being equal, the longer the coat, the warmer you'll be.
Choosing Good Winter Boots
Warmth - Look for good insulation. Sometimes boots will advertise temperature ratings. Some boots will have special insulation in their sole as well.
Room for sock(s) - Many people wear thicker, warmer socks during the winter. Some people even wear multiple socks! When you try on boots, make sure you wear the socks that you plan to use during the winter. You may need to buy a larger size of boot than what you normally wear in shoes in order to accommodate for thicker socks.
Breathability - If you will be wearing your boots indoors for long periods of time, like attending classes, or walking for extended periods of time, consider a good "breathable" boot. This will help make your feet more comfortable and keep them dry.
Comfort - Good boots should feel comfortable! There is a "wear-in" period when your boots will stretch after you first start using them, but your feet should not hurt when wearing your boots. Helpful tip: Keep the tags on your boots and wear them indoors at home for a couple hours. If your feet start hurting, consider returning the boots and finding a different pair.
Traction - Look for deep lugs and good quality rubber. This will be important when walking on snow and ice.
Waterproofing - Your boots will accumulate snow and ice as you walk, and they will get wet. Good water proofing will help keep your feet dry and warm.
Take the bus, and leave the driving to us - Instead of driving yourself, let the bus system take you where you need to go. Did you know that UW students get a free bus pass? Note that buses may be running late due to the snow. Make sure to check the bus system status on their website.
Stay at home - In the middle of a snowstorm, it is dangerous to be driving, especially if the roads have not been plowed yet. Plan ahead. Buy enough groceries for a few days, so that when the snow comes, you don't need to drive.
Wear your seatbelts - This is the law in Wisconsin and required.
First is worst - In the first storm of the season, most drivers have forgotten their safe winter driving skills. They’ll drive too fast and try to stop too quickly. Go slowly. Increase following distances. Drive defensively. Relearn your skills. You may want to practice in an empty parking lot before going out on the roads.
Go slowly - Drive well below the posted speed limit. Posted limits are intended for summer months on dry pavement. Avoid sudden, sharp turns. Use light braking by gently pumping the brakes.
Plan ahead - Plan on trips taking extra time. Leave earlier. Consider an alternate route. Stay home if conditions are too bad.
Use your head, use your feet - Never use cruise control on slippery roads.
Lighten up - Turn on your headlights. To prevent glare, avoid using your high beams during a night storm.
Give snowplows room - Snowplows are wide. They often need to operate very close to the center line. Sometimes they throw up clouds of snow, which affects your vision. Slow down and give them as much room as possible. On roads with a posted speed limit of 35 mph or more, the law requires drivers to stay at least 200 feet behind a snowplow when its red or amber lights are on.
Keep a full tank of gas - Cars actually start better when you have a full tank of gas, which is important during the winter because the cold weather can make cars more difficult to start. Also, it is dangerous to run out of gas in a snowstorm.
Be prepared - Keep some basic supplies in your car, such as a snow shovel, kitty litter (for traction if you get stuck in the snow), and a cellphone charger.