Questions about winter gear from an incoming Maine student

I come from a state where it only snows consistently through winter once every couple of years, so I am somewhat familiar with what Maine winters will be like.

In terms of shoes, I want to invest in practical boots that are warm & usable in rain/mud/snow but not too bulky for class. I’m not thrilled at the idea of bean boots, but I guess they’re popular for a reason, so would they be a good purchase for my described needs? Are there alternatives? Blundstones perhaps? Also–I know that the campus sidewalks will be cleared continuously, so is it necessary to get actual snow boots? I don’t plan on going on any winter camping trips or anything like that.

As for winter coats, I wouldn’t ever buy a canada goose because of the price tag, but I have one that my brother gave me after he no longer needed it. These coats are pretty divisive (with regards to class, ethics, etc) and I don’t want to send the wrong message to anyone by wearing it. It doesn’t have any fur, so at least no coyotes were killed for this specific coat, but it still comes from a brand which is infamous for unethically sourced fur. I know this is a very privileged concern to have, but considering that my college is environmentally/ethically progressive, would I be judged for wearing it? Or would it be worth it to invest in another coat?

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You might want to check out Sorel boots. They come in many styles and are very warm.

Wear whatever coat you want to wear. My opinion!


I also like Sorel winter boots, as well as Merrell. I prefer both to LLBean, whose boots I find don’t have as good traction.

I expect some other students will have Canada Goose coats. But if you would rather get something else, Columbia, The North Face, and REI brand have good jackets/coats in a range of price points.


Thank you! I think I’ll get a pair of Sorel boots–they look like a very practical/versatile pair of boots.

Thanks! All very helpful info

Would Sorel boots be light enough to wear to class when it’s raining, but also sturdy enough to be used as snow boots when not walking on cleared sidewalks?

One issue is that when you show up in late August or early September the temperature will be very pleasant and you will not need any of this other than a light jacket. About the same time I will probably be sitting on a deck overlooking the ocean in Maine, probably with just a t-shirt and jeans (and maybe or maybe not a very light jacket). You will have time to purchase gear after you arrive.

Also, there are stores in any significant sized city which will sell a pretty good assortment.

I like boots that have a decent grip on the ground. There will be ice and a little bit of snow far more often than there will be deep snow. You want boots that will make it at least a bit less likely that you will slip. I agree that the Bean boots that I have do not have particularly good grip. I agree with the “not too bulky”. I go most of the winter with boots that are not all that high. I have a pair of boots which are probably at least 10" high, but I do not wear them much. Most winters I probably do not wear them at all, or perhaps only when I am shoveling snow, which you might not need to do at all. My lower boots I wear very often in the winter. Comfort is quite important. Of my two favorite pairs, one is Cabela’s (presumably purchased either at their store in Maine or on-line), and the other is Merrell’s. I used to have a pair of Sorel’s that I quite liked also. The specific boot and fit will matter more than the make when you are choosing from among several good brands. I like to try them on before purchasing.

In terms of coats, I mostly wear one of two. One is fleece and is inexpensive. The other is significantly warmer. You will need to deal with a range of temperatures and will probably need at least two coats (but one will be not all that warm, nor all that expensive). One daughter had a Canada Goose coat but had it stolen. She replaced it with something less expensive and has not had a problem. I would be cautious about having a Canada Goose coat on campus.

Don’t forget your hands. On the really cold days I wear a pair of light silk gloves under my much bulkier mittens. Then I have normal warm gloves that I wear most of the time. Here again there will be a tradeoff between staying warm on the coldest evenings or early mornings, versus being comfortable in normal weather, versus having a big pile of gear versus keeping things simple. Also particularly with gloves you need to take some care not to lose them since you will be taking them off when you enter a building.

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My D21 survived her first real winter with several deliveries and shopping days once on campus. Your first month or so will allow you to figure out what you will want/need initially and then you will want additional layers :wink:

She ended up with a few different weight coats and fleece options that served various purposes. One longer one that got her through the coldest days.

Keen hiking boots or similar waterproof brands have better traction than bean boots if you decide you want something in addition to the Sorels.

Hats will save the day along with some gloves with the grips on the finger tips for your phone.



The Canada Goose brand is probably less well known regarding ethics of fur than for being expensive. Any judgement you may encounter from wearing a non-fur item from the brand may be more likely to be the assumption that you have a lot of money and spend it on expensive-brand clothing.


Columbia, Merrill, and Sorrel are my recommendations too but don’t forget the most important part of keeping feet warm and dry - great socks!

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Yes my son goes to college in Maine and has a collection of wool socks. He thinks this is key. He also has flannel lined pants from ll bean that he loves for walking around campus.


I can’t wear wool…period. So wool socks for me just don’t work. But if you have decent socks of some kind and shoes or boots where your feet will stay dry, your feet will be warm.


My D attended Bates. There’s a lot of great shopping in Freeport, and it’s where a lot of the BBC kids go to buy their winter gear.

My own kid wore an LLBean down jacket for all four years and a fantastic pair of Ahnu boots most of the time. Those boots still look new. She also just wore her Doc Martins and wool socks. You’ll get used to the winter. Not sure which college you’re at, but if you’re at Bates, it might be preferable not to wear the Canada Goose jacket. Many people at those schools have lots of money, but I know that the kids at Bates tend to lean on the less flashy side.

Agree with others that you can get winter stuff when you get to Maine.


Don’t even worry about it now, buy later. You might even be able to borrow. If and when you do buy, size way up. Extra room inside your coat and boots helps trap a layer of air which keeps you warm. So if your coat size is actually medium, buy large or XL. If your boots are 8, buy at least 9.


I would consider buying a couple of basics now only because it’s off-season and you can get deals on last season’s boots and coats right now. Buy a pair of boots and a midweight parka type coat that is waterproof and has some insulation (maybe look at “shells” that you can make warmer when needed by adding fleece inserts and layering.

Buy insulated boots that you can wear in both rain & snow (making them warmer in snow by wearing warmer socks). I don’t think you need a level of snow boot that someone would wear to climb Everest - you’re just walking to class. I also wouldn’t spend money on a Canada Goose.

I went to a very windy & snowy college on one of the Great Lakes in upstate NY and survived in a wool pea coat and a non-insulated pair of “pleather” fashion boots from a discount shoe store.


You might want to check out “snow clogs.” Merrill makes a nice pair. They’re not tall, so in terms of comfort and fit, more akin to shoes. But they are warm, waterproof, and have a good tread on the bottom for snow and ice. They’d been good for the majority of conditions on a northeastern college campus - plowed sidewalks with some snow/ice on them.

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Sorel boots as many have noted. Any down jacket will do. What you really need is a fleece gaiter and warm gloves. Also a good idea to invest in some good socks.
Tons of kids had Canada Goose jackets at the kids school. My kids weren’t interested. They thought it seemed dumb to pay that much for something everyone else had. But if you like it great.

There are some great icelandic brands that you can get in the US. They are made with warmth in mind. My kids and I like them not only for technical warmth ( skiing, rock climbing, outdoor winter running) but also for their style. Stuff goes on sale. That’s when we buy. My kids run outside in the Winter so they go for the technical gear that’s stylish and can be easily layered. They tend to make things in soft shell/hard shell and everything is waterproof. The Icelandic understand cold ( and rain).


Maybe look in a Thrift shop near campus?

Anything cotton is bad in winter. Retains moisture. Wind is also bad.

Wool or wool blends are great. Silk makes a great base layer. The newer stuff like Underarmor works well too.

Layering is key to staying warm. I used to have a bulky down parka. I like my wool pea coat better. I also like my Polartec vest with wind blocking materials.

If your head, hands or feet get cold/wet you’ll be miserable.

I like North Face gear but plenty of others are good . I also like Muck boots.

In a nutshell, layering to wick moisture, materials that block wind and outer shell that repels water.


Agree with the idea of thrift stores. I get all my winter gear from thrift shops.

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If only there were the perfect pair of boots, jacket, and glove option, we all wouldn’t own 6 jackets and 5 pairs of boots/shoes …

You’ll find something to work for each season, but it probably won’t be just one pair of boots or one jacket. My daughter went to undergrad (and now grad school) at Wyoming and could be wearing sandals one day and lined boots the next. One September it was 25 degrees and snowing one Thursday and 75 and gorgeous for the football game on Saturday. Some kids ride bikes to the gym in shorts and tennis shoes when it is snowing and 10 degrees while others are bundled up like they are on an arctic exploration.

She has all kinds of footwear but her favorite was a pair of boots she got at Macy’s (really nice). It’s LLBean in the east, Land’s End in the midwest and Eddie Bower in the west. Sorrel’s everywhere. I was at a CU football game and we looked down and 80% of the people in front of me had NorthFace jackets on (the logo is on the back shoulder). No one would look down on you because you weren’t wearing one, but it was clear the majority found that weight jacket to be the right one for that day. Another day, a different selection of jackets (or none at all).

Let the shopping begin (or use what you have)