7 Urban Commuting Hacks: Weathering the Winter

Kelly Yazdani


Urban Commuting - Train Congestion

For Urban Commuters, the 10-20% of Americans who don’t use their own cars to get to work [1], staying warm, hydrated, and comfortable in the winter is a tremendous challenge.  From trains, bikes, to old-school walking, this article draws on the best practices of four folks just as serious about their commutes as their jobs: two New Yorkers (Amy - an elementary school teacher and Nathan - a hospital administrator), one DC suburban resident (Chad - a banker), and an expat in Hong Kong (Ethan - international business).  Here are their 7 favorite hacks to get you through the urban jungle this winter. 

Urban Commuting Winter Hacks
1. Weather Apps are Your Best Friend
2. Goose Down Insulation
3. Choose Your Pack Wisely
4. Ditch Your Water Bottle - Grab An IcePlate
5. Choosing the Right Umbrella
6. Keep Your Feet Dry and Warm
7. When all else fails, Uber/Lyft

  1. Weather Apps are your Best Friend

Aerial View - Winter Weather

We live in a technologically advanced age and staying up to date on weather trends has never been easier.  Spending time each evening reviewing the weather for the next day is a must. “I look at my weather app every night to figure out my game plan for the next day,” Nathan describes.  From RadarScope to The Weather Channel, there are a variety of apps that can give you meteorological information and access to constantly updated data.  This information is a huge advantage when pre-positioning yourself for the day.

  1.  Goose Down Insulation

Urban Commuter - Winter Coat

Most Urban Commuters have to trek through the elements before jumping on public transportation.  The ultimate goal is to stay warm and lightweight during the walk and eliminate bulk on the cramped train. Hats, gloves, scarves and even leg warmers can be helpful for layering, but add to the bulk.  Long underwear is useful for the walk, but once you get to work, you either keep it on all day (heat nightmare!), or go through the hassle of changing.

One solution comes in the form of Goose Down.  Goose Down is lightweight and provides a high warmth-to-weight ratio.  Several companies offer great products. REI offers options for both men and womenArc'teryx and KÜHL also offer a variety of popular choices.  Goose Down compacts easily, allowing you to easily stow it in your pack for the day while at work.

  1. Choose Your Pack Wisely

EDC Qore Performance IcePlate

Urban commuting involves carrying everything you need for the day on your actual person. These essential items include a laptop, wallet, earphones, phone, snack, water bottle, keys, and ID badges to name a few.  Carrying a backpack or sling is a must for our Urban Commuters (minimizes back strain and distributes the weight of these items across your core).  Vertx’s EDC Commuter Sling merges the professional with the practical.  Mystery Ranch’s Street Zen Pack is another popular choice.  The Street Zen Pack mimics the shape of the body (a great solution for the tight squeeze of the train or bus).  Ethan uses Mystery Ranch’s 3 Way Briefcase for his daily commute, involving a ferry and a train ride.

  1. Ditch Your Water Bottle - Grab An IcePlate

Vertx Qore Performance IcePlate

Winter dehydration is a real phenomenon.  When it’s cold and dry outside, our sweat evaporates quickly and our thirst is diminished.  In the winter months, it’s easy to not drink enough fluids and become dehydrated. The problem for Urban Commuters though is that water bottles are not space efficient and bulk up your pack, making you “super annoying” on the train, says Nathan.  The IcePlate, our awesome wearable hydration system, is super handy in these situations.  The IcePlate is 1” in width and can help trim down your pack for Commuters who need hydration on the go.  

Qore Performance IcePlate

The IcePlate can be worn one of three ways for the Urban Commuter. It can slip into the back pouch of your backpack, can be fixed to the outer back portion of your pack, or can be worn using the Safety Sleeve between your clothes and your outerwear.  Here’s a tip: If your commute is outdoors heavy, fill the IcePlate with hot water and enjoy the conductive heating from the IcePlate during your walk (in addition to the hydration benefits).  If you are concerned about overheating on the train, fill your IcePlate with cool or room temperature water to stay hydrated on public transport. Drink directly from the hose while commuting, avoiding the need to grab your water bottle from your pack.  

  1. Choosing the Right Umbrella

Urban Commuting - Umbrellas

Umbrellas can be a great asset or a great liability, depending on design.  Blunt Umbrellas are typhoon-proof and offer a robust warranty to prove it.  Bubble umbrellas (like the Moustache Bubble Umbrella offered by Hunter) expand around you like a semi-sphere and offer excellent protection during the rain or sleet.  AmazonBasics offers an Automatic Travel Umbrella with wind vent that is cost effective and practical.  The down side of umbrellas is that they get lost. Amy and Nathan tend to lose umbrellas and found that the investment isn’t worth it.  “I keep cheap umbrellas at home and the office. That way, I’m not concerned if I lose them,” Nathan says.

  1. Keep your Feet Dry and Warm

Urban Commuting - Waterproof Boots

What you wear on your feet matters.  When your feet are warm, your body’s warm (Can you hear your mom’s voice ringing in your ears right now?).  The two most important features here are insulated and waterproof.  Hunter continues to be a thought leader in winter boot design (comfort, look, and practicality) as well as Sorel.  What, though, do you do with your work shoes?  Leave them at work. Four out of four Urban Commuters agree.  You can keep your feet warm and dry while commuting, without damaging your dress shoes.

  1. When all else fails, Uber/Lyft

Urban Commuting - Rideshare Carpooling

There are times and days when you need to call for outside reinforcements.  What you lose in money, you’ll gain in time and ease. uberPOOL and Lyft rideshare allow you to minimize your costs by sharing your ride with other commuters.  It may take longer when you pool with others, but it can anecdotally reduce the costs by 20-35%.

Also, look into what commuting resources your company offers.  SmartBenefits is a program in the Washington, DC metro area that gives a tax break to companies and allows commuters to commute tax-free (this includes the use of vanpools).


Working and commuting in the winter months is no easy feat.  What other hacks do you use to stay warm, dry, and hydrated? How do you save space on public transportation?  How has using the IcePlate on your winter commute kept you warmer and hydrated? We’d love to hear from you!

#StayToasty this winter.

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