Shimer College

March 18, 2014

On Surviving Winter in Chicago, or: the importance of fleece-lined leggings.

This winter has been, by all reports, significantly harsher than the average winter in Chicago. My first exposure to winter in Chicago was last year, which mistakenly lead me to believe that all the long underwear I had purchased in anticipation of my move here was a bit of a waste. Sure, I needed some of it but not nearly as much as I had on hand.

I flirted with the idea of donating it or selling some of it to a resale shop – I had a few items that had never been opened, let alone worn!

And then January happened. With January came below freezing temperatures and wind chill that make me want to drop out of Shimer and run away to a tropical island somewhere. I didn’t need an education, right? What I needed was my hands to stop feeling like they were going to drop off any second.

Obviously, I have not taken a leave of absence from Shimer. I’m still here, and I’m going to be here for some time (even if I do still fantasize about warm beaches and precious, precious sun); and while a huge part of that is my love for Shimer, the liberal arts, and our pedagogy, another part of it is learning how to adequately prepare myself to navigate Chicago weather.

Obviously you’ll need a nice warm coat; I have two that I switch between all winter. One is from North Face, which you’d think would be the most effective option, but you’d be wrong. By far the best coat I’ve used all winter is a long wool trench that covers me from neck to ankle that I purchased from a local thrift store for less than twenty dollars.

Other than the obvious necessity for a coat, here are a couple tricks I’ve learned for survival here in Chiberia (everyone seems to hate that term, but I find it adorable). First: Purchase some fleece-lined tights. Leggings work too. Either/or, really; the point is they will save you. I purchased some for five bucks a pop from Walgreens last year. There are days where the only reason I have managed to not show up to Hum 4 suffering from frostbite are the layers upon layers of fleece-lined tights. They are soft and warm, but thin enough that I can wear two or three pairs under my real pants. You’ll stay (comparatively) warm, (kind of) comfortable, and they help cut wind chill!

Second: Hats are cool, but double-scarves are even better! See, sometimes it gets really windy here, and I’ve had to walk around gripping my hat to keep it on my head. That means I don’t get to keep my hands in my pockets, where they are significantly warmer. So what I started doing was layering one scarf around my neck, looping one around my head a couple times to cover my scalp and ears, and tying the ends together. Trust me; there is no Chicago wind that is going to take them from you. If you can fit a hat over this, props to you; I’ve found it to be mostly impossible.

Third: Please, please, please get boots that have some sort of rubber or waterproofing. Your Ugg-esque boots will be less than useless – they will ACTIVELY HARM YOU. They will get soaked, you will have wet feet, you will be miserable and sad. You can just wear thick socks in rain boots if you want; I’ve done that a couple times and it worked out pretty well.

Chicago winters are very cold and very bitter. But you can survive it, and summer here is absolutely gorgeous and makes struggling through winter worth it.

Anna Horn ‘17