Tips for Grads: Staying warm when it gets cold

By Olivia Gacka, PhD Student

It is my official opinion that it is beginning to get cold. That means it’s time to start thinking about ways to keep warm, and everyone has an opinion (are you Team Gloves or Team Mittens?). Whether you’re a Wisconsin native or moved here from a place where the winters get down to 60 degrees at best, let’s take a moment to talk about some of the basic tools for avoiding icicle status:

  • Layer up: To keep warm outside without sweating inside, focus on layering up, starting with the thinnest layers on the inside and thicker ones as you go along. Being able to shed a layer or two once you get to class or work where the heat is blasting will make the indoor/outdoor transition easier.
  • Mind your materials: The materials you choose for your layers are important. Some classic favorites include wool, flannel, and fleece, but you’ll also find that many clothing labels that sell winter wear have their own proprietary fabrics that they swear by. My personal favorite fabric for the winter is merino wool, since it’s also temperature-regulating and moisture-wicking.
  • Pick a favorite hot beverage: Whether you’re a coffee or a tea person, making a little time to drink something warm will be a big help to you when you go outside. I have a six- minute walk to my bus stop, and when it’s really cold I like to make sure I drink as much of my tea as possible right before I head out the door (without, you know, burning my tongue off). Some people suggest bringing a to-go cup with you to keep your hands warm outside, while I prefer to leave it at home so I can keep my hands in my pockets. Either way, drinking a steaming cup of your favorite drink will help keep you warm inside-out.
  • Keep your electronics warm, too: To all my fellow folks who use their time waiting at the bus stop to scroll through Twitter, did you know that if it gets cold enough, your fully-charged phone battery can die in a matter of seconds? While things have gotten better as new iterations of phones have been released, it’s still a good idea to keep your phone in a pocket closest to your body and as warm as possible in freezing temperatures to avoid losing charge.

I’ve also found that some of the best tips for keeping warm in the winter come from asking my classmates, colleagues, professors, and supervisors. While there are certainly some universal rules of thumb, most everyone has their own special hack for surviving the winter. There are tons of perspectives and in the end it comes down to personal preference, but you never know where you’ll learn a new trick that makes your winter more bearable!

Tips for Grads is a professional and academic advice column written by graduate students for graduate students at UW­–Madison. It is published in the student newsletter, GradConnections Weekly.