How to dress for an Island winter


The sun’s been out and the weather’s been pretty tame, but let’s not get carried away: those crazy winds will eventually come. Everyone in Victoria knows they can’t trust weather apps. It’s better to just look out your window and hope for the best or have that one jacket that gives an “Up yours!” to the sky. I’ve seen students braving the cold in hooded pullovers, light anoraks and even plain ol’ tees. I don’t know about you, but I definitely need something more than that.

Looking for quality outerwear is difficult, especially when it comes to the cost (but don’t get me wrong; it’s not my intention to promote just the frugal products — sometimes, only sometimes, it’s all right to give yourself a little leeway and spend a bit more for quality).

Oh, and we shan’t forget the perpetual rain. That’s winter for you on the West Coast. What you want in good outerwear is resistance to wind and rain.

Now, it’s important to realize that there’s a difference between something being waterproof and water-resistant. Those raincoats your parents pulled over your tiny head when you were little? They weren’t just adorable; they were waterproof. Anything rubber or plastic, obviously, will ensure you stay dry. (Rain boots, baby! I’ll get to that in my next column.) Leather is a bit sketchy, but hell, leather jackets are too badass to pass up when you finally meet the perfect one (I have yet to). While it would be nice for designers to develop some new kind of hydrophobic outerwear for us Islanders, we’re mostly stuck with merely water-resistant coats.

I recently came across a Swedish brand called Fjällräven, and while their prices are rather steep (most of their outerwear spans the $300–$500 range), their products are made with real quality. I’ve already seen a few of their pieces on the backs of students walking down the paths of our lovely campus. They use a material called G-1000 — a 65 per cent cotton and 35 per cent polyester mix. The thing that really grabbed me was how they advised you to wax your jacket in order to increase its resistance against the rain. Just heat up some wax and rub it all over your jacket so the raindrops slide right off. That was a neat tip I thought could be applied to other jackets. Apparently it’s been done with bags for a long time, so why not? However, Fjällräven recommends Greenland Wax, a wax made of paraffin and beeswax, so don’t just pick up any candle and assume it will work.

I’ve also seen a lot of Sitka, Columbia, Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) and North Face jackets, and even a couple of South Butt coats. All of these companies make wonderful, quality products. If you’re new to the Island and desperately need something that works, my advice would be to get something basic from one of the top adventure brands, like North Face. Sport Chek at The Bay Centre on Douglas Street provides a generous range of such brands. Invest in something light — it doesn’t get that cold here — or, if you, like me, are used to a warmer climate, get something thicker or even insulated (give it a year or so and you will master embracing the cold).