A Guide to Surviving Winter on the West Coast

Winters on the West Coast have a reputation for being long, dreary and the best time to live here. As winter on the coast approaches, I’ve finally started to consider all of the advice and good luck wishes that have been bestowed upon me. For anyone looking to survive the winter in Tofino, I’ve compiled a list of winter wisdom from seasoned locals, personal logic and things that just seem like they’d help survive a rainy winter season.

  1. Have Good Rain Gear

Having finally purchased my first set of rain pants, gumboots and inherited a proper West Coast rain jacket, I can say with confidence that this is a necessary first step to survival. When there’s sheets of rain coming down and you’re finally forced to leave the house, or want to enjoy a rainforest walk, they’ll come in handy.

  1. Get a Winter Wetsuit

Avid surfers will know that the only way to get out there when it’s colder is by having a thick enough wetsuit. For anyone that thinks the first forecast of great surf in the winter will have them aching to get to the beach, this point is for you. Hoods, booties and gloves are a necessity, too, and if I were a good enough surfer to find joy, rather than terror, in big winter swell this would probably be number one on the list.


Photo by: Danusha Skrzypek

Photo by: Danusha Skrzypek

  1. Warm Layers

Like winter wetsuits, warm layers are a necessity. Unlike the dry, snowy cold, there’s something about the damp cold on the coast that settles deep into your bones. Keep it out with plenty of warm layers. Thermals, toques and wools are preferred and a Cowichan Sweater is a basic household item.

  1. Make a List of Local Friends

These are the people that will keep you sane when you have cabin fever. They will be your surf buddies that drag you to the beach and your drinking pals when holiday beverages come knocking.


Photo by: Laurissa Cebryk

Photo by: Laurissa Cebryk

  1. Find Friends with Dogs

More important than a list of friends is a list of friends that have dogs. A healthy dose of puppy love on a particularly dreary day makes it all the more bearable. Endorphins and oxytocin are naturally released when snuggling with a cute fur baby. Dogs will also ensure you get outside for some fresh air, even on the rainiest days. If you can’t have a dog of your own, a friend with a dog is the next best thing.

  1. Invite your List of Friends to Potlucks

Winter is a time of coming together on the West Coast. Now that no one is too busy racing between work and the beach until after dark, there’s plenty of time for sharing meals together at the dinner table. Plus, unless the surf is great, they’re less likely to bail for something better to do.

  1. Buy Fun Board Games

After you’ve eaten and are trying to stay up later than 9pm because it’s already dark out, a riveting board game makes for a good time. Settlers of Catan, Mexican Dominoes and Cards Against Humanity are a few that come to mind. Of course, winter beverages are always an option to keep them interesting.

  1. Stock up on Candles

For power-outages and cozy vibes, candles are crucial. Not to mention, they add a little something to a dinner table setting as well… Perhaps at something like a potluck?



  1. Stock Up on Wood

For many locals, the wood fire place has been burning through firewood starting as early as July (sometimes we get cold snaps…). To keep electricity bills low and happy holiday vibes high, a good stockpile of dry, cut wood for the fire is a necessity. Getting rid of the damp winter chill is substantially easier when seated next to a roaring fire.

  1. Big Batch Soups

Comfort food often comes in the form of thick fall and winter soups. Why not get ahead of the game and stock up the freezer with them? Then, instead of running out in the rain for last minute ingredients, all you have to do is take a container out to thaw in the morning. When you come in soggy, cold and hungry from a surf or a rainy walk, you’ll be grateful for the big pot of chilly just waiting to be heated on the stove.

  1. Buy Bailey’s

Bailey’s and coffee, Bailey’s and hot chocolate, Bailey’s and peppermint tea…. Nothing combats a crisp winter morning, or makes for the perfect rainy evening, like a hot beverage with a bit of extra oompf. Of course, if Bailey’s or drinking isn’t your thing, any hot, cozy beverage to beat the cold is good to stock up on for the winter season.


  1. Get Netflix

Or keep using that ex’s parent’s Netflix account. Endless shows for endless rainy days sounds like a perfect match.

  1. Compile a List of Movies to Watch

Old favourites, new releases, Netflix Originals… Make the list, and tick them off with each rainy day and early evening in. Guilt-free indoor days are a reason to celebrate with movie watching and hibernation snacking.

  1. Start a Long TV Series

Winter is the perfect time to start watching one of those “major commitment” TV shows. Tackle the seven seasons of Game of Thrones, or take on Breaking Bad. With no need to go outside, this is what the weekends were made for. Plus, now that your outdoor commitments have come to an end, there’s a little more room in your life for something new. For added survival, sign up your significant other, winter snuggle buddy, or best friend for the binge-watch marathon.


Photo by: Laurissa Cebryk

Photo by: Laurissa Cebryk

  1. Book a Sunny Vacation, or Staycation

Endless rain can bring even the sunniest person down. Sometimes, all that’s needed is a dose of natural Vitamin D and a break from the rain. If a vacation isn’t possible, spend some time under a Happy Lamp, treat yourself to a spa day, or create a staycation to feel like you’re somewhere new. Finding some cheap (thank you winter rates!), luxury accommodation in either Tofino or Ucluelet could be a solution to kick the winter blues back out.

Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk