The first snowfall has already happened and the officially "first day of winter" is December 21. Are you prepared? I definitely wasn't when the snow first started falling. I've experienced 22 Illinois winters, but the first snowfall always seems too early and unexpected, no matter when it happens.
I've learned a lot from my winters though, so I wanted to share some tips on items I've found essential for surviving the sometimes brutal cold and deep snow. You can find all these items in one easy place: Amazon!
What to wear
I've never really been a hat person, but not a day goes by between December and February that you'll see me outside without a hat. I highly recommend any hat from Love Your Melon. They're adorable AND they donate 50% of their profits from each hat to pediatric cancer research. I have three of these hats, so trust me when I say they're pretty much the perfect winter accessory.
The higher the boot, the better for you. During the middle of winter the snow can seem endless around here. It can really pile up, so having a good pair of tall boots can help keep the snow out and help your feet stay dry and warm. Any brand works, but I especially love these ones from Columbia. They're comfortable and adorable.
Temperatures can drop far below zero in the winter, and it often feels even colder when the winter wind is blowing on you. A heavy coat is really non-negotiable, bonus points if it's windproof and waterproof. You never know when you'll get caught outside in the snow and staying dry means staying warm(er).
What to keep in your bag
If this is your first winter in Illinois, you probably don't realize just how dry the air can get. You'll want to stock up on lip balm to keep your lips from getting chapped and cracked. It may seem like a minor inconvenience, but painful lips can be really distracting. When looking for something to protect your lips, any brand will work but I personally love Vasoline. Whatever you choose, grab extras because you'll go through them quickly.
An extra pair of gloves is always a good idea. Maybe this is just a personal problem, but I always lose at least one of my gloves. I never pay a lot from them because of this, though. I found an affordable brand that I absolutely love AND I can wear them while using my phone. OZERO has gloves for men, women and children and all sell for around $16. Doesn't hurt to get a couple pairs to stuff in your bag, coat pockets and car just in case.
What to keep in your car
Driving in the winter can be a lot like playing Mario Kart blindfolded. You have no control. When winter storms happen and you're out on the road (or know you'll have to go out eventually), these are a few essentials you'll need.
No matter what type of car you have, whether you have four-wheel drive or not, you're going to get stuck. Illinois snow could trap a Transformer if it wanted to. I used my dad's advice on what shovel to get, and I don't regret it one bit. (I think he made the suggestion because he was tired of digging my car out, but that's not important now.) This shovel has an adjustable length and is extremely durable. I've had it for years. Even better? I found it for $20.
You won't make it more than a week during the winter if you don't own an ice scraper. You certainly won't be able to take your car anywhere without one. My favorite scrapers have a built-in mitten warm while you're out there peeling ice off your windshield. It's the perfect scraper, and I paid less than $7! If that's not a deal, I don't know what is.
Whether this is your first experience with a midwest winter or you're a seasoned expert, these items will help you last through the season.