No Such Thing as Bad Weather: Dressing for a Minnesota Winter

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winter dressing

As a Minnesota transplant, I was unprepared to truly navigate the Minnesota winter experience. However, 17 years later I have come to embrace the truth of the saying, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!” New to Minnesota or looking to improve your winter gear game? Here are some tips and a round-up of Rochester Local personal favorites!

Note: Dressing for a Minnesota winter can be a bit pricey. Winter coat hand-me-downs between friends and neighbors are a great way to save some money.  A lot of kids will only wear their coats for 1-2 seasons before needing the next size.  Be sure to check Facebook Marketplace and some of the children’s consignment shops (Once Upon a Child and Children’s Exchange) as well as some of the second-hand stores around town…we regularly find incredible deals at these shops!

Layers, Layers, Layers

Layers are your friend. Whether you are heading to work, running errands, or grabbing dinner with friends, living in Minnesota means there will be days your body has to be comfortable at -20℉ and then at 75℉ a few minutes later! Dressing in layers lets you transition between indoor and outdoor temperatures comfortably. This also works if you are recreating outdoors and working up a sweat midway through that cross-country ski adventure.

The Bottom Layers

Base Layers and Thermals

If retaining heat is your goal you are going to want a nice pair of thermals in your drawer. If it’s in your budget, merino wool will both wick moisture away from your body and help you retain heat. This is important if you will be active outdoors. If simply retaining heat (think sitting in the bleachers) is your goal and you won’t be working up a sweat there are many synthetic options that will do nicely.  Pick base layers that are formfitting so that you can easily layer other pieces of clothing over the top, but don’t make them skintight. You want to be able to move comfortably while wearing them.


  • Whether you’re looking for a warm legging to run in or something to wear underneath waterproof pants, these fleece-lined leggings are perfect! Rochester Mom contributor Kim suggests you order up a size for these.
  • This set is really lightweight and moisture wicking so you won’t have to worry about it bunching up underneath your clothes OR getting too sweaty
  • Cuddleduds are your go-to for thermals and base layers for the entire family! They will have exactly what you need to keep you warm and are so soft and comfortable.


If you plan to hit that sledding hill with the kids you will want a pair of waterproof pants. You can either choose a traditional style of snowpants which combine a warm layer with a waterproof one or choose just a waterproof pant to layer over your base layer and regular pair of pants. Bonus of the waterproof pant option is that when spring and warmer temperatures come they are useful for continuing to get outdoors during the thaw and keeping dry while exploring.


  • Staying dry is so important when dealing with MN temps, but breathability needs to be a factor when you’re going to be moving around quite a bit. These Columbia Rain Pants are a Rochester Mom favorite.
  • Becky loves these bibs for going out in the snow with her family. Whether they are sledding, hiking, or snowshoeing, these bibs will keep you warm and toasty AND you don’t have to worry about snow going down your backside!
  • Rochester Mom contributor Tricia grabs these LLBean waterproof insulated pants when she heads out to nearest sledding hill with her kids! They keep her warm and dry no matter how much snow is thrown her way!

The Middle

You will want a few staple midweight items for your upper body in your closet to get you through the season. While a traditional style sweatshirt will do, consider adding a few items that offer a quarter or half-zip. This allows you a bit more control of airflow without completely removing your outer layer when outdoors. 


The Coat

There are two items that you will want to invest in and this is one of them. Many Minnesotans swear by the down coat as it offers maximum warmth with minimal bulk. However, there are many great synthetic options on the market. Things to consider when selecting your coat are: length, pocket accessibility, hoods, zippers, and vents. Want to feel like you are wrapped in a blanket when you brave February? Choose a longer coat. Need to be able to move around easily outdoors? You might want a coat with a two way front zipper and side vents that can be opened and closed. Another great feature is a detachable hood so that you have the option of removing the weight and bulk of the hood (especially while driving!) and packing a hat instead. 

Tip: Many retailers have their coats discounted for the season by December. If you are looking to replace a coat you can get great deals after the Christmas season. 


  • Contributor Kim says she loves Eddie Bauer parkas. They are cute, waterproof and rated for serious warmth!
  • Rochester Mom contributor Tricia took advantage of early winter season sales this year and invested in an LLBean water proof parka. She says it has kept her warm and dry through endless snow fort buildings and cross country ski adventures!
  • Columbia is known for their 3 in 1 interchange jackets. They are perfect if you’re looking for one piece that will be useful throughout a few different seasons. They’re also great for when you’re outside working up a sweat and needing to shed a layer!
  • Many of our contributors cannot stress the importance of a down jacket enough when facing a Minnesota winter! One favorite is the Patagonia Prairie Down Parka– “so warm while not being so bulky!”

The Boots

This is your other investment piece. If your feet are cold, the rest of your body won’t matter. Minnesotans adopt an entirely other mentality when it comes to “fashion” and feet in the winter! It is perfectly acceptable to tromp into a formal event dressed to the nines and sporting your winter boots. In fact, expect the coat closet to be full of them as women switch to heels upon arrival! There are many choices here, but important considerations are how much of the boot is waterproof, weight and the height of the boot itself. It is not uncommon to encounter snow in a parking lot that comes up to your knees so take that into consideration when making this purchase. If you plan to get outdoors for winter walking you will want a warm, fully waterproof, and lighter-weight boot. 


  • Many Rochester Mom contributors listed Sorel boots as a must have. They have many styles to choose from. One contributor stated “For me, it will always be a pair of Sorels for dealing with snow.”
  • Big snow boots are a must, but you may want to go for a lighterweight waterproof boot for everyday wear. Rochester Mom founder, Becky, likes these Kodiak boots to run daily errands. Parking lots can get quite wet and slushy, so she uses these to keep her feet dry when out and about! Another great option is water resistant chelsea boots with a lug sole.
  • Other contributors, find UGG waterproof boots to be the warmest boots they use in the winter! And a side note: in Minnesota we have made wearing Uggs fashionable (we’re talking about the OG’s!) in the winter no matter WHAT current trends say.  So, you go ahead and wear those Uggs.
  • Columbia is a household name for Minnesotans, so it’s easy to believe Rochester Mom contributor, Sara, would find the Columbia Omni-heat water proof boots taking center stage in her winter wardrobe!
  • If you’re a mom, you know easy-on and easy-off is best when doing school drop offs and pick ups. That’s why Rochester Mom contributor, Molly, tends to grab these Chookas every day!

The Socks

Just like the rest of your body, layers on your feet are also important. Wool socks in a variety of weights will get you through most of the season. The add warmth, wick away moisture, and come in a variety of colors, styles, and weights. 


  • When Rochester Mom contributors were polled, Smartwool socks came out on top! Wool in general is what you need to keep warm, but Smartwool does a great job with a variety of styles to go with whatever outfit you choose for the day! Wool socks can get pricey, but they last for years so you know you’ll be making a good investment.
  • Another great choice for wool socks would be Carhartt. You can grab a variety pack so you are ready for several days of warm toes!
  • Nothing screams Minnesota like a pair of wool lumberjack socks with canoe paddles on them! Sota will help you find cute (and warm) MN gear!

The Accessories 

Hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, gaiters, fleece-lined leggings, flannel lined jeans, oh my! Can we just say that we are eternally grateful to whoever made the blanket scarf a thing?!?! 


  • These The North Face mittens have that classic cable knit look with the added benefit of a fleece liner.   They really keep your hands warm!
  • Gordini mittens are so warm and cozy! Contributor Molly, says they are her favorite!
  • A new find for us this year is electric hand warmers.  Plug this into any USB charger and they will stay nice and warm for up to 12 hours.  They have a few heat settings too depending on how warm your hands need to be!
  • A winter hat is a must.  There are a million different fun styles to choose from: we love Coal, Carhartt, and Herschel beanies for a no-fuss beanie that does the job.

Favorite local businesses to find warm winter gear:

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Megan is a former researcher in biophysical optics turned mom of four. She spends her time giving ridiculously long answers to questions like, "Why can a bird sit on an electrical wire and I can't?" Megan believes strongly in the power of being in nature, service to others and a good cup of coffee.