LIFE IN NEW JERSEY: For many new expats, working out what clothing you will need to buy for winter in New Jersey can be a bit of a guess. Many Australians and others from warmer climates often have no real experience with the bitter cold that accompanies a Northeast USA winter. You know that it’s going to be cold but you just don’t realize exactly how cold.
When we arrived in NJ, we had the warmest coats and gloves we owned from Australia. These were deeply inadequate though for the weather at the end of February, just after a major snowstorm. We had no shoes that were practical for walking through snow. So we ended up with very wet and cold feet after navigating unshoveled pavements covered with snow and ice.
To understand what ‘new’ clothing you will need to buy for winter in NJ, it helps to appreciate how the weather and temperatures change.
Temperature Changes in NJ
Towards the end of fall, the weather cools significantly over a period of 3-4 months. Temperatures in October reach daytime highs of approximately 15C to 20C and nighttime lows of 5C to 10C. By January, these decline all the way down to daytime highs of approximately 5C to 0C and nighttime lows of 0C to -10C. Temperatures can be as low as -15C in very cold periods.
Weather Range in NJ
Late fall is when it really starts to get cold, and uncovered shoes such as flip-flops (thongs) and shorts are no longer needed. Even in October most people start to cover up with long sleeves and long pants. By November, it is necessary to start wearing sweaters (jumpers or pullovers), light jackets and sometimes hats and gloves.
Winter, which technically starts in December can provide snow, icy rain and ice-storms. These conditions occur usually in Jan-Feb, although snow has been known to fall in late October. Wind chill from cold, icy winds can also decrease temperatures experienced outdoors. Colder weather occurs for a fairly long period of around 4-5 months every year between late October to March. The more northerly the area you live in United States, the earlier these changes occur and more intense the weather can be.
Indoor Temperatures are warm
The counter-balance to outdoor winter temperatures is that indoors are nearly always very warm. Central heating is used widely in nearly all modern buildings, houses and shopping centers. Not only are these places heated, they are often super-heated. Public schools however, vary in their warmth level depending on age and the school district where you are.
The most practical way to handle the large temperature variances between outdoor-indoor and vice-a-versa is to wear layers of clothes. Then clothes can be removed to adjust for the situation. For instance, you may wear a short sleeved shirt or a long-sleeved shirt, a sweater or a lighter coat, underneath a heavier coat. Lined boots will also keep you very warm outside but can serve to overheat you if indoors in it is well-heated.
For children this is also something to consider, as schools can be very warmly heated inside. They particularly need clothing that can be taken off in layers, to manage both indoors and outdoors. Due to having heaters turned up high, school buses can be a rather stifling experience for kids if they are well-bundled for outdoors.
Clothing You Will Need to Buy for Winter in NJ
Choosing clothing to purchase for wear depends much on what you are going to be doing. If driving to work, where you are outdoors for only a short time between the office and car, you probably won’t need extremely warm clothes. However, if you must walk to the train station or the office, during a very cold period, then you will need more protection. If you are walking around outside for an extended time, then you will need something quite warm.
Probably the most important item you will purchase for yourself and your children will be at least one heavy winter coat. As the coldness increases over time, you may find it useful to purchase possibly an additional coat or two to cover different situations depending on how much time you spend outdoors. There is a large variety of coats, jackets and parkas available both in style and price.
Popular styles include puffer jackets of varying lengths e.g. covers you to below the waist, mid-thigh, below-the-knee and down to the ankle. Commuters who travel to NYC for instance often choose longer versions to shield from the cold while walking to and from public transport locations. Some well-liked brands include Uniglo, Lands’ End, North Face, Patagonia, LL Bean and Columbia.
Pea coats and other larger wool coats can also be very useful. However, these may suffer from getting wet when snowing or ice pellets/rain is falling. These can be purchased from most department stores such as Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Century 21, as well as JC Penney, Sears, TJ Maxx and Kohl’s.
Saving Money on Winter Gear
An option that will help avoid big cash outlays is Burlington’s Coats. These are an excess stock retailer that sell not only winter coats of various well-known brands but also many other clothing items to boot. Nordstrom Rack is also a good low-cost option. Consignment stores also sell second-hand coats, often with well-known brands and in good condition. Some people find cheap winter gear at local garage sale. For children it is often helpful to have at least two coats so that they can be rotated e.g. one can be washed while the other one is worn.
The other major addition for your wardrobe is a pair of snow boots. These will offer the benefit of not only being water-proof but also provide good traction for walking on icy ground. Some brands combine all this with hiking capabilities. Snow boots should be high enough to keep your ankles and lower leg dry if plowing through snow – something pedestrians and walkers experience frequently during winter. Children particularly can find having cold, wet feet painful and uncomfortable. So snow boots are something that most of your family will find useful. This is particularly true if they have to walk any distance to school or work.
Like coats, there are also many styles and price-tags available. Popular brands include Hunters, Sorrel, Baffin, Pajar and Merrell boots. Other boot makers include LL Bean, Lands’ End, North Face, Columbia and Patagonia. Cheaper shoes can also be bought at Burlington’s Coats and some consignment stores.
Of course, during winter, there is a large variety of other boots available which both adults and children wear when snow is not present. Leather boots are plentiful in all clothing retailers. Ugg boots are a big fashion item here too, and are available in long and shorter versions, although these are not so useful for walking in snow.
Clothing and Accessories for Body extremities
Hands are a body extremity that are very prone to suffering cold. One thing you should never leave home without during the cold months is a good set of gloves. Even if driving to work, the car can be quite cold, and gloves make it more bearable. If outdoors in winter, you risk great discomfort and worse, without gloves.
Like coats there are a number of styles and price tags. Woollen gloves and mittens can be useful but vary in their ability to keep out deep cold. Lined gloves (leather or alternative) are a better option. Waterproof gloves such as those worn skiing are less practical for doing anything with your hands such as using your phone but are probably best for protection from cold, snow and ice. I have at least two-three sets-usually one for driving and a set of thicker waterproof gloves for outdoors. I always keep a spare pair handy as losing gloves is quite easy. There are now also many gloves available with patches on a few fingers to use mobile phones.
It is a normal part of life for children to lose gloves, so it is always useful to have at least 2-3 pairs. This way you are never stuck when they come home from school with one glove missing because you have a backup supply.
Scarves and Earmuffs
Scarves are a useful and low cost addition that help keep cold wind out and help keep warmth sealed in your jacket. Ears are another one of the body’s extremities that suffer in the cold. Scarves can help protect ears but some people prefer earmuffs or use hats with earflaps. Hats can be useful for covering ears if you buy the right style.
These are protective covers for either the neck area or for legs. The neck gaiters are sold individually and are used to keep out the cold, wind and snow. Neck gaiters can be very good for children as they are easier to manage than scarves. They don’t need rearranging to keep your child’s neck warm. However, these are most useful when it is cold and windy when you are outside for a lengthy period. Scarves have the advantage of being easier to take off at school, so good for everyday wear.
Boot gaiters from ankle upwards over the lower leg. are worn to keep snow and ice out of boots.
In situations where you are outdoors for extended periods (and not able to access warm indoors), then long underwear, particularly for the legs, is an important item to consider purchasing. My children both wear long underwear or leggings underneath their jeans during winter to stay warm.
Buying accessories is somewhat easier than coats and boots. Many of the websites that offer coats and boots also offer these accessories. Companies like Patagonia, Lands’ End, LL Bean, Sears and Columbia can offer almost any clothing you will need to buy for winter in NJ.
Department stores always offer a good range of nearly all winter clothing. So usually it is not too hard to find something suitable. Be warned though – do not leave it too late to buy winter clothing. Well-known brands sell out early in some sizes and in popular colours and designs.