I Hated Boise Winters Until I Learned these Key Tips!

So, you want to move to Boise, Idaho from a state with a warmer winter climate but there is one thing holding you back… the colder winters. Or maybe you already made the move to Idaho from a warmer climate, and now that you are here, you haven’t figured out how to dress for the cold and still stay warm. My friends, don’t laugh. This is a real problem, and one I am asked about all the time. And not only am I asked about it, but I also personally went through many cold winters, either hiding in the house or freezing outside, before I finally figured out how to dress for the colder winters so that I could still enjoy being outside. So today, I’m going to show you how to dress, what shoes you’ll need, and give you some tips and tricks so that you can not only survive the Boise, Idaho winters, but actually enjoy them as well. 

I’ve lived here over 20 years now and having grown up in both Southern and Northern California, I was actually excited to move to a climate that had snow in the winter, but I was completely unprepared. So, a short little story time for you…we moved here for grad school at BSU, and the first winter, we were so excited every time it snowed. The snow wasn’t really the issue. The issue was how long the cold lasts here.  You know, in Northern California, you can have some cold snaps, but it doesn’t last too long, so you just stay inside for a few days and go back out when it’s warmer again. So, the first winter we were here, I had a friend who was also here for grad school, and she was from Hawaii. We treated winter here like a cold snap, like if we stayed inside, it would go away, and we could go back outside. But it didn’t go away, it felt like it dragged on forever, and I remember in March, we were still waiting for it to get to what we thought was warm enough to go outside. So, we pretty much sat inside all winter and to us, it felt like the longest winter ever, but it was really just a normal Boise winter. 

There are two things I wish I knew then that I know now.

One – perspective on what the definition of cold is and two, how to dress to stay warm outside. So first, perspective, that can really only be gained over time and experience. Now that I’ve lived here long enough, I don’t feel like it’s cold unless it gets in the 30s, and that can be okay if the sun is out, and the wind isn’t blowing. The 20s can also feel either very cold or okay, depending on other conditions. And we do have some days here that are just bitterly cold, in the teens, wind blowing, gray sky. You might want to stay inside those days, and those would be our cold snap days that will go away. My first winters here, I think if it was under 60, I would have said it was cold. 

But your perspective changes as you learn how to dress correctly outside. And when you have not grown up in cold winters, there is a learning curve of how to dress, especially so that you can continue to go to the park with the kids, walk the dog, go running, even go spend hours at a football game. And dressing correctly really is the key to enjoying winter here.

A couple of disclaimers, I am not affiliated with any of the name brand items I may mention, and also, I am not a fashion guru, and this is not meant to be suggestions on fashion but on practicality of staying warm. Also, this information is coming from the perspective of someone who loves the hot sun and who’s toes go numb if I’m wearing flip flops when it’s under 60 degrees. However, I will also include what my husband wears, and he loves the cold. And even though we don’t have young children anymore, we raised our 3 kids in the cold winters here, so I will mention what you’ll need for the kids as we go along. One thing is for certain, when you move to a climate with a cold winter from a climate with a mild winter… you will need to budget for more clothes. Especially shoes and jackets. 


So let’s start with the footwear, as it is the most important for staying warm, and you will need a surprising variety to deal with all the different conditions here. 

When to wear each.

What to look for. 

My favorite all around winter footwear for my teens and even us are Vans…they have a variety in the MTE line for kids and adults, boys and girls, and they are lined, waterproof, have great traction, but still look like a regular shoe. 

Pro tip – make sure you have a thick enough rubber sold to insulate your foot from the cold ground, have good tread, and they should be waterproof, and have some sort of lining. 

For kids, it gets expensive to have a full variety of shoes since they grow out of them so fast, so they really just need tennis shoes, I always had some kind of insulated waterproof shoe, and snow boots that they can also wear to school. Kids will get sent outside at recess here when it snows, and they will be playing in the snow at recess. So, they do wear the snow boots to school sometimes. You’ll want to look for snow boots that are easy on and easy off. 

Just a note about the beloved Ug boots. They are great to wear around here when it’s cold and dry. Buy they are not waterproof and will be ruined by snow. 

Jackets and Coats

Pro tip- Get a jacket that covers your backside for extra warmth. Also get one that fits fairly snug or has an internal cinch. You will be colder in a loose coat that the cold air can fly right up inside. Also, make sure the zipper has a little fabric protection up around the neck or it will be super cold on your skin. 

For kids, you always want to keep it as simple as possible, so if you can get a jacket that has a few zips in layers, you know, one that has a fleece jacket that zips into an insulated thicker coat with a hood, that is ideal. 


Pro tip – get a beanie that is fully lined with fleece, or the wind will whip through it and your ears will be cold. 

Kids and accessories can be tough, but they will also need at least a beanie and light weight gloves for playing outside and insulated waterproof gloves for school. Costco usually has a good selection of insulated gloves for kids for a decent price. 

And what about pants?

You’ve got your jeans, cotton or canvas type pants, base layer tights…., fleece lined tights or outdoors pants, and then snow pants. 

For kids, it’s pretty tough to get them to wear different types of pants. I did try to make sure my kids had thicker, fleece lined pants or leggings. If you can get them to wear pants in the cold, you’ve won already. For some reason, kids try to wear shorts as long as possible and have a hard time transitioning to pants season. When you move here, you will be making the rule that when it goes under 45 degrees, your kids have to wear pants. And of course, they will need some insulated, waterproof snow pants for sledding and skiing. 

Shirts and Sweaters

And then shirts or sweaters, you’ve got your long-sleeved shirt, wool layering shir, thick sweatshirt, mid weight sweater, heavy weight sweater, fleece outer layer…

And similar to the other items, it’s hard to get kids to wear more than one shirt. So usually if they have a long-sleeved shirt on and a thick enough jacket, they are fine in the classroom or at home. 


Now let’s put it all together and talk about layering. Layering is absolute key to staying warm as we head from fall to winter, and of course our springs are all over the board, so you need to master the art of layering. So, when do you layer? You know for the most part, if you are just going to the grocery store, you’ll just wear jeans, and sweater or sweatshirt, the right shoes and jacket for the weather that day, and maybe a hat and gloves if it’s very cold. And really, for most of the winter and your normal comings and goings, an outfit like that is really all you need. 

But a tip – Do not be that person wearing a full-length puffy coat with Ugg’s to go to the grocery store here. Not even if it’s below freezing. It’s a dead giveaway that you are not from here. 

So, when do you need to layer with all the clothes I just talked about? So, if you are going to be outside for longer than 15 or 20 minutes, you’ll want to think about the right layers. So, I wear my thin base layer fleece lined leggings under jeans or under my thicker fleece lined pants when it is very cold, so for me, like under freezing with no sun, when I go walking, or go to an outdoor activity, things like that. I would also make sure to layer with a long-sleeved shirt, a fleece or thicker sweater, an insulated coat, the fleece hat, thicker fleece gloves, and if it’s really cold, the neck gaiter. And depending on the activity and if there was snow, I would either wear waterproof tennis shoes, or wool lined boots. 

And of course, when you go sledding or other snow activities, you will layer with a fleece or wool blend undershirt and tights or leggings, then the snowpants, then a fleece, then a coat, hat, gloves, helmet, and for goodness’s sake, do NOT send yourself or your child out into the snow with 100% cotton thick jeans or sweatpants or sweatshirts as either base or top layers. They will get sopping wet, be freezing, and take forever to dry. So, make sure you are using wool or synthetic fast drying fabrics. 

And I cannot emphasize enough, that regular outfit of jeans, sweater, the right shoes, and the right coat. That will be your staple for the whole winter. But you do have to have the extra boots, accessories, and coats just in case we do get frigid weather like we did a few weeks ago. And you know what, we’ve even had winters where I never even wore my waterproof insulated boots or thickest sweaters because we just didn’t get cold enough. But preparation is the key to success in anything, and that goes for successfully living in and enjoying a colder winter climate. 

So, if this sun loving girl can do it, you can too. If you have questions about moving to Idaho, remember we have tons of videos for you to check out on my YouTube channel, so make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss them,  and if you are thinking of buying a home here, you can give us a call or text, you can reach out to us at our website and download all kinds of free information there, you can check out our detailed community pages to see where you might want to live, and of course you can follow us on Instagram for more daily Boise Housing Market and Boise Area living information. Thank you so much for watching, and make sure you stay warm out there! 

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