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Here's what you'll need to survive winter in Chicago

Lip balms, gloves, plane tickets and more items for not just surviving, but thriving during the winter in Chicago

Written by
Grace Perry
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Every winter, we Chicagoans love to beat our chest and brag about living inside a freezer. But, let's be honest: it’s really fucking cold in this city for four months each year. There’s no need to be dramatic about it—just accept that that’s a side effect of living in one of the greatest cities on the planet and bulk up with some deep dish pizza. That said, folks who have been here for a long time have picked up some must-have garments and tools for not just surviving, but thriving during these icy months. If this is your first winter in Chicago—or if you’ve been totally miserable during past winters—we recommend picking up these absolutely essential survival items.

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Essential items for surviving winter in Chicago

A great pair of boots
Photograph: Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

A great pair of boots

Every Chicagoan has a pair of winter boots that they absolutely swear by. Now, there’s a difference between snow boots and everyday winter boots. Sorrell makes absolutely clutch snow boots—the kind that allow you to walk directly through a snowbank and keep your feet dry as a bone. That said, they’re pretty heavy and should be reserved for actual snow days. Blundstone makes fantastic, lighter weight boots perfect for everyday cold weather use.

A winter hat with a built-in balaclava
Photogaph: Courtesy Seirus

A winter hat with a built-in balaclava

Seirus makes a lifesaving winter garment for seriously cold days. These cute winter hats have built-in balaclavas that protect your neck and face (except your eyes) in the harsh Chicago winter wind. But don’t worry, you don’t have to look like an arctic bank robber all winter long. When it’s not too cold, you can pop the neck warmer back into the top of the hat.

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Solid everyday gloves

Solid everyday gloves

A good pair of gloves can make all the difference in the world. Thinsulate makes incredibly warm, versatile gloves that keep you toasty but don’t feel like oven mitts. We also love everything by Fownes Brothers, who make great touchscreen-friendly gloves (so you can text without getting frostbite while you’re waiting for the El).

An insulated water bottle
Courtesy: CC/Flickr/@yourbestdigs

An insulated water bottle

Radiator heat: It’s real, and it can be brutal. If you’re one of the many Chicagoans whose building uses this old-school form of warmth, chances are you’ll spend the winter months extremely thirsty. We recommend investing in a nice insulating water bottle—S’well makes a fantastic one that we love, or you can go for the less expensive version at Simple Modern. These stainless steel bottles will keep your H2O icy cold, so your middle of the night gulps will be extra refreshing.

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Long underwear (yup)
Photograph: Courtesy Smartwool

Long underwear (yup)

Yeah, you thought we were kidding about this one, weren’t you? Patagonia makes amazing thermal bottoms, as do the winter weather gurus over at Smartwool. But don’t worry, it’s not an everyday garment. When we dip into Polar Vortex-level coldness, you’ll be thanking your lucky stars you have an extra layer under your jeans.

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A warm-weather trip on the horizon
Photograph: Courtesy Pixabay

A warm-weather trip on the horizon

Most Chicagoans can survive December and January, but by the time February kicks in we’re itching for some sunshine. Do your mental health a solid and book a trip to a warm-weather destination—you can’t go wrong with a weekend in Florida, Mexico or L.A. Treat yourself to a few days when you can leave the house without a giant puffy coat. You’ll feel like a human again. You can even book with Time Out.

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