Brrrrrrrrrrr-illiant gift ideas needed!
December 7, 2011 6:36 AM   Subscribe

Gift ideas for someone who is moving from somewhere very warm to somewhere very cold.

My sister is moving from someplace where it is nice and warm year-round to someplace with cold, snowy winters. For Christmas this year, we want to get her a number of small gifts that will help keep her warm in January. So far, we've got some hand-knit mittens and a hot water bottle with a fun cover, but we're looking for more ideas. I think we're leaning towards a bunch of small gifts that can be put together, but something bigger (so long as it isn't too extravagant) might be possible too. Our budget is around, say $50.
posted by synecdoche to Shopping (44 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If she'll be living (sleeping) alone, perhaps a cute flannel sheet set! They are exquisite to slide into on a cold night.
posted by Sayuri. at 6:42 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's not very cute, but Under Armour is how I survive in the colder months here in Ohio. I'm not big on the sillier branded sweatshirts and such, but the "ColdGear" base layer stuff and mock turtlenecks are good magic, and around $50.
posted by aaronbeekay at 6:42 AM on December 7, 2011

Will she have a car? A nice windshield ice scraper would be great and something she probably won't think about until the minute she needs one. Ones with a longer reach, durable plastic scraper, and a brush on one end are the best.

Warm clothes are also invaluable -- you mention mittens, but a variety of warm socks, hats, and scarves are also great. Ooh, you could also maybe get her some socks with those little grabby spots on the soles like in hospitals so she can wear socks in the house without slipping on floors. Slippers would also be good.

You might need to order them online, but hand warmers, reusable or not, are sometimes good if you're suffering through an awful cold snap.

Packets of nice hot chocolate and maybe a mug will keep her warm inside the house at night.

If you want to be silly you could get her a Snuggie so she stays warm in the house, or just a thick blanket to bundle up in at home. Bed Bath & Beyond generally has a wide variety of cheap heavy-duty blankets that would fit the bill. Just be warned their prints generally aren't the most stylish.
posted by lilac girl at 6:46 AM on December 7, 2011

Heavy wool socks make life so much better in cold places.
posted by lookoutbelow at 6:48 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Socks! *Lots* of wool socks (smartwool is especially nice) in multiple sizes. Similarly, fleece lined and wool tights are essential for wearing skirts in the winter.
posted by susanvance at 6:48 AM on December 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Seconding a good pair of long underwear. REI has a reasonable selection. A cozy hat and/or ear muffs would be nice too. Wool socks.
posted by radioaction at 6:48 AM on December 7, 2011

Scarves are the absolute must have in the colder climes. Knit her one, buy her a nice one, or maybe get her some knitting supplies with scarf instructions?
posted by Think_Long at 6:52 AM on December 7, 2011

I guess "very cold and snowy" is all relative but I'm worried that hand knit gloves might not work as well as she needs in January in a very cold place.

There are a few necessities in life to get you through a winter in the north:

A good car survival kit - they sell them everywhere in Canada - nice bag that fits in your boot and has a back up blanket, some non perishable food supplies, a flashlight, jumper cables etc etc

A back up set of toque, mittens, scarf and a blanket for your car in case you get strafed

A good strong extension cord for plugging your car in to keep the engine block from freezing - maybe she isn't going to a place that is so cold and needs that but if you're going to the mid west it's essential.

A great service plan for a mobile for or better yet and subscription to on-star - this could save her life if she is ever caught in a blizzard and stranded in her car.

A good shovel that will help her move snow out the way rather than straining her back - shovelling snow is a national pass time in the north.

A nice throw for the couch to help keep her warm whilst watching TV.

A really good scraper for the car - most of them are terrible.

Some great scented candles so she feels like snuggling up with a book when she gets home after a cold snowy day - or decides she isn't even going to bother going out.

A slow cooker - so she can make a bunch of comfort food.

A pair of great slippers.

Oh, I could just go on and on - a lightweight but warm fleecy, a dog to sleep at her feet, gourmet hot chocolate...the list goes on and on.

Winters can feel long in the north so adding comfort is really important.
posted by YukonQuirm at 6:57 AM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Shearling mittens are a wonderful way to keep your hands warm, especially when shoveling and doing other outdoor things. I just ordered these which are very reasonably priced at $40 and really quite nice, although they run just a tiny bit small. I can't wait to wear them (yeah, right)
posted by DrGail at 7:00 AM on December 7, 2011

Seconding socks and a hat. No matter how bundled up you are if your feet and head are not warm it's the pits. If you want to make the gift a little giftier then include some nice teas or mulled-wine spices in pretty packaging.
posted by seriousmoonlight at 7:05 AM on December 7, 2011

Thirding a quality ice scraper. You really have no idea how critically important it is until you've had to scrape your windows with a CD case. I personally prefer the brush and scraper at opposite ends with a foam padded handle.

A nice thick scarf. I was given an awesome thick handmade scarf last year, about 7' in length and almost a foot wide. It's saved my ass twice now during early morning middle-of-nowhere car breakdowns. Being able to wrap my head with length leftover for extra hand insulation made the situations bearable.
posted by Perthuz at 7:07 AM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Socks! I found some cashmere socks from the Gap that were reasonably priced. Long sleeved t-shirts that she can layer. Target has great ones from Columbia and also reasonably priced. $50 should get you three shirts and a pack of 3 pairs of socks!
posted by Yellow at 7:07 AM on December 7, 2011

Fleece sheets, under $50 depending on what size bed she has. It's like sleeping between blankets.
posted by mgar at 7:09 AM on December 7, 2011

All of these are good suggestions -- I would only add that having two or three sets of mittens/gloves is very useful in snowy climates, especially if you don't have a wood stove to dry them out every night.
posted by gauche at 7:09 AM on December 7, 2011

Packet of nice hot chocolate (and a mug?). Good quality fleece sweater.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:09 AM on December 7, 2011

Oh, and hand cream is a must in cold weather!
posted by seriousmoonlight at 7:09 AM on December 7, 2011

Hot water bottle! And I love the slow cooker and hot chocolate ideas too.
posted by SymphonyNumberNine at 7:25 AM on December 7, 2011

If she ever spends time waiting around outside and has a smartphone, gloves you don't have to take off are pretty nice. 180s makes a variety of pairs (I own one they don't make anymore).

Also the same company makes my favorite pair of earmuffs; they go under your head instead of over.
posted by nat at 7:25 AM on December 7, 2011

Nthing wool socks. Patagonia capilene under layers.

Nice lip balm.

This is what Montanans use for hand lotion. Don't be put off by the name.
posted by desjardins at 7:27 AM on December 7, 2011

Silk underwear, silk glove liners, and especially silk sock liners to go under wool and cashmere socks!
posted by jgirl at 7:28 AM on December 7, 2011

Smartwool and Icebreaker clothing. When it drops in temp outside I throw on the layers of wool and I'm good to hang at a bus-stop, even in sub-zero, for 30 minutes easy.

I don't suppose you can tell us where she will be making her home? REI is great and all if you know what you're looking for, but their staff have basic knowledge so you can easily be steered wrong if you don't talk to someone who has specific knowledge of what you're asking. I would look for a local outdoor retailer (Midwest Mountaineering is one of the best in the nation and in Minneapolis) and maybe buy her a giftcard to there.

good luck
posted by zombieApoc at 7:32 AM on December 7, 2011

Silk long underwear! (on preview: GMTA, jgirl!)

Good ice scraper, as many have said, and a good car emergency kit. (I always make sure my husband's has granola bars in it.)

Door snakes keep drafts out.

This may or may not be her kind of thing, but I love my Sunbeam Hotshot for winter. You fill your mug with water, dump it in the hotshot, wait around 60 seconds while you dig around in the cabinet getting your teabag and finding the sugar, then fill your mug from the hotshot. Basically it heats up to 16 oz. of water super-fast, for tea or hot chocolate, instant soups, oatmeal, whatever. It's lovely for winter if you drink a lot of hot beverage, because being able to do just one cup at a time is great. We stow it away in the summer so it doesn't take up counter space, but in the winter we always have it out.

I like to always have a pair of simple stretchy gloves, a pair of heavy mittens, and a pair of driving gloves. Different hand-warmers for different tasks. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:35 AM on December 7, 2011

Oh, if she's going to be somewhere snowy (but not working outdoors) and will only SOMETIMES want ice traction for her feet, YakTrax work pretty well. They slip over your shoes so you can bite into the ice better. If she'll be spending significant time outdoors, she'll want appropriate boots, but if she just sometimes wants traction on the ice for getting from the parking lot to the building or whatever, YakTrax are great. (There is always someone who complains they wore them for a six-day backcountry ice-bear hunting trip and THEY WERE NOT ADEQUATE. Ignore those reviews, these are for city and suburban types who need to get the garbage can to the bottom of the icy driveway.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:40 AM on December 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

She'll be in Michigan.
posted by synecdoche at 7:40 AM on December 7, 2011

Seconding the long underwear and woollen socks. My mother (who moved from Pakistan to Michigan in the 60s) still talks about how much of a lifesaver it was when a new friend took her shopping for warm longjohns and woollen socks. Until then she just stayed huddled indoors, under her quilt.
posted by bardophile at 7:53 AM on December 7, 2011

As much as my family teases me for them, I wearing love my down booties. Thick socks don't do much for my icy feet, but these do.
posted by jsmith77 at 7:53 AM on December 7, 2011

Going from cold and windy outside to warm inside buildings means dressing in layers that can be peeled in warmer temps... so Cuddle Duds or silk long underwear under a lightweight pullover sweater and jeans, covered by a down or heavy wool coat with a hood. Don't know how it is in Michigan, but in Alaska I couldn't live without real fur -- beaver mitts on a tether that lets them hang free or fasten behind my back when I don't need them over knit or leather gloves and hand and foot warmers for most weather. Good snow pac boots or leather shoes with "spikeys" (like YakTrax but with carbide bits for traction) that can be slipped off when you go inside. The Native women wear a fur lined kuspuk (sort of like a dress with a fur lining -- fur side facing the body -- over jeans) complete with a fur-lined hood. Apologies to the animal rights folks, but until you've experienced -40 plus windchill, it's tough to grasp the realities the Native Alaskans have understood for generations. To avoid getting sweaty/chillled, just remember -- layers, layers, layers. And don't drink alcohol before going outside -- it makes you feel warm, but it's an illusion. Lots of people freeze to death that way.
posted by summerstorm at 7:57 AM on December 7, 2011

I live in the frozen north and the best thing I own is my heated thermal fleece underblanket. Turn it on 20 minutes before going to bed and it feels like you're tucking yourself up into heaven every evening.
posted by hazyjane at 8:01 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also a good down comforter for her bed... and a TempurPedic mattress that conforms to your body and retains body heat. Ahh - makes me want to crawl back in bed right now!
posted by summerstorm at 8:05 AM on December 7, 2011

There are some great suggestions above. I would add a selection of lip balms to whatever you get for her--being indoors with the heat on can dry you out something fierce.
posted by corey flood at 8:10 AM on December 7, 2011

Definitely get her a car emergency kit as YukonQuirm suggests. She'll feel like a dope for a really long time keeping that stuff in her car, then one day, she or someone else will need it, and she'll realize it's brilliant.

As far as the wool socks, yes to that also. Costco right now is selling three packs of women's wool blend (I think they're wool and silk) socks that are just amazing. Possibly Wigwam brand, but I can't find any branding on mine now. I'm a big fan of wool socks, and these ones are just perfect. They fit snugly, are super-warm, and they aren't itchy or uncomfortable. I've adopted these as my default winter socks this year, and I still find myself thinking "DANG I LOVE THESE SOCKS" at least once a day.

And here is a very positive review of a $2 ice scraper on Cool Tools. I don't have one myself, so I can't vouch personally, but that guy loves it.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:16 AM on December 7, 2011

Knee-high socks in particular are fantastic. If I go out in my standard coat/scarf/hat winter gear, my shins are usually the coldest part of me, and tall socks under pants make a huge difference. Plus they're way easier to manage than long underwear.

A backup hat and pair of gloves is a good idea; I lose a hat every winter.

High quality lotion/hand cream/body butter will be super-valuable. It's dry in the winter! If you want to go utilitarian, Gold Bond Ultimate Healing is my go-to. If you want something posher, pretty much any bath-y store or cosmetics counter will have something.

(I wasn't a fan of YakTrax - they're good in snow but they don't work indoors. Which is totally fine and how they're supposed to work - except I commute by train, and what I gained in outdoor traction I lost in subway-platform slipperiness. If she's going to be outside for long stretches, they'll be awesome, but they're less than ideal for outside-inside-outside-inside trips.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:18 AM on December 7, 2011

Smartwool socks.

Neck gaiter. Way better than a scarf.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:28 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing Smartwool socks (they're $15-$20 a pair, and awesome, so they really are a nice gift. My vote is for the ones called "ultra-comfy" or something like that.)

Nthing hand cream -- nice stuff, e.g. from L'Occitane, that she probably wouldn't buy for herself.
posted by kestrel251 at 8:46 AM on December 7, 2011

Lots of great suggestions so far (the wool socks! fleece-tights! car kit!)

I'd add to the list: a high quality cape/poncho/wrap in a nice fabric to keep in her office for fluctuations in indoor temperature during the day. It's usually oppressively hot in buildings (especially when you're dressed for outside) in cold US states. But a nice wrap to toss on as you get a little cooler in your office is wonderful. They also make nice transitional pieces between seasons and are very in style right now.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:49 AM on December 7, 2011

When I lived in an uninsulated, electric-heat (=pay-to-freeze) apartment during the winter it was too cold for the presidential inauguration, I had also just lost about 80 pounds. I was constantly cold, often when others were not (due to the loss of fat).

I started sleeping in a hooded sweatshirt with hood up. I slept like a baby! I continue to look for sleepwear with hoods (rare) or hooded t-shirts. So, consider hooded robes she could sleep in, hooded jammies or gowns if you can find them (and tell me where).

I think someone here once posted that they sleep wearing a cashmere hat, so there's that, too.
posted by jgirl at 9:12 AM on December 7, 2011

Oh, a friend here in Chicago looks forward every year to it being cold enough for her footed PJs.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:20 AM on December 7, 2011

Nth-ing the handwarmer/footwarmer suggestions, especially if she has to walk regularly for her commute. You can buy little packets that heat up when you shake them, or you can make them with fabric and beans to be heated up in the microwave & reused. They make early morning winter commutes bearable.

Three or four pairs of those cheapo thin stretchy gloves you can find everywhere in a million colors. They're good emergency gloves and it's not upsetting if you lose one.

These are some things that won't keep her warm, per se, but will make being cold less miserable: Multiple tubes of Burt's Bees chapstick. One for her bag, one for the car, one for her pockets. Speaking of pockets, get a bunch of those little tissue packets. If she has a car, I must must must suggest a tiny can of lock de-icer. She'll probably never need to use it, but it'll fit in her purse and offer peace of mind if nothing else!
posted by Fui Non Sum at 10:38 AM on December 7, 2011

This Canadian says help her layer up!

Get her tights and patterned pantyhose instead of long underwear, they help immensely under pants but are cute and she can wear them with skirts, so she can still make use of her skirts/dresses. Knee-high socks look great over them, leg warmers too. Buy them in an assortment of neutral-ish colors so she can layer them up and have them match her outfits. Nice little details on the socks/legwarmers will be great touches, like brass buttons or wool tassles.

Wearing scarves and knitted caps indoors is perfectly acceptable, by the way. Try knitted headbands to cover her ears. Pashminas or other shawls to wear over her lighter clothes. Getting her a variety of all these things will let her match things to her wardrobe, looking cute and stylish while keeping warm!
posted by lizbunny at 11:25 AM on December 7, 2011

Can I ask what part of Michigan? There's a big difference between, say, Ann Arbor and the UP. Is she going to get massive amounts of lake effect snow, or is it just a general northern US winter?
posted by nat at 3:09 PM on December 7, 2011

She's going to need a snow block mold and a snowball maker, to build a snowfort for all the snowball wars she is going to get into.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:21 PM on December 7, 2011

A really warm robe- it helps with getting out of the bed or the shower.
posted by kamikazegopher at 3:27 PM on December 7, 2011

Really nice leather gloves. Could get pricey though.

If she has a smart phone, maybe touchscreen compatible gloves.

More modest, but still cool and useful: Zippo handwarmer.

Fun toys: Snowball crossbow, snofling.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:13 PM on December 7, 2011

Anything Merino wool would be great.I know, i am freezing always moving to a cold place from extreme warmth.
posted by pakora1 at 9:00 PM on December 7, 2011

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