The Big Chill: 4 things to prepare for winter and where to find them

Article by XIANEASE

If you’re an avid reader of our magazine, you might be wondering why we seem to care so much about the weather. It’s for a couple of reasons: firstly, because the sharp and sudden changes in temperature are a pretty huge pain point for a lot of people who move here because, secondly, not all of you come from places that have all four seasons and, thirdly, even if you do maybe you weren’t able to pack for all seasons. We, your well-prepared friends at Xianease, hear from many people that the winter is particularly brutal for them, and we want to help ease your transition into the season. Here are four things you might need to get to survive the winter and where to get them. Act fast, because if you wait until December it might already be too late.

Winter Clothes

We’ll start with the no-brainer thing you’ll need this winter: warm clothes. Perhaps you’re finding that the jacket you thought would help you year-round is a bit too thin for the low Shaanxi temperatures, maybe the coat you brought with you is getting old and ratty or perhaps you don’t have one at all. Hats, scarves and mittens/gloves are rather prevalent, but getting that coat is key.

THE CHEAP OPTION: Army surplus stores

If you didn’t know there were army surplus stores in China, now you know. These small, inventory-crowded shops are dotted around the city (but especially prevalent on Hanguang Road) and have a lot of interesting items for you to peruse, and for startlingly cheap. For just a couple hundred RMB, you can get kitted out in one of those long, padded green overcoats, a floppy-eared hat, gloves and boots. You’ll be very warm, and it’s also a great conversation piece for you to bond with your neighborhood’s security guards over a shared sense of pragmatic fashion.


Name-brand stores

We get it: some of you are more image-conscious than the rest of us and are willing to pay a bit extra to both look good and to protect yourself from the elements. No judgments from us, you have to march to your own beat. For you, there are a few options. Stores like H&M and Uniqlo will flip over their inventory to more wintry items this time of year, and for those of you looking for modern, lightweight shells (like Gore-tex, for example), brands such as Columbia are moving into town and should have some eye-catching, functional outerwear. If you’re looking for thermals, check out your closest sports store, like Decathalon, which carries Under Armor and its competitors.


If you’re one of those defiant motorists that refuse to put their bike away for the winter, you’re going to need some extra accoutrements to get from Point A to Point B without freezing to death from the wind chill. Luckily, such things aren’t hard to find.


Just bundle up really good

This is probably not the answer you were looking for (sorry), but if you did a good enough job with your winter clothes, you should be able to weather the elements with that alone: a nice jacket, a scarf around your face, a good hat and gloves will at least keep the wind off you, which is more than half the battle.


“Expensive” is a bit of a misnomer for this one (since none of these items should cost you very much) but, logically, buying something is always more expensive than buying nothing. The industrious folks who sell you scooters know what’s up though, and there’s a surprising range of things you can purchase to make your chilly commutes more bearable. The basic kit would be to buy those mittens that go over your handlebars so you can forgo thick gloves (that would potentially cause you to lose dexterity on your controls) and a special-made blanket that goes on the front of your bike to cut the wind and warm your lap. If you really want to go for it, a full helmet does a lot to keep your head warm (and especially to keep your eyes and lashes from freezing up) and one of those cheap plastic windshields can do a lot to improve your driving conditions

Face Masks

If you’re into lung health (as we all should be, really), a face mask will be key this winter; Xi’an routinely uses heating fuel well over the rest of the province’s average rate, so when Heating Day comes in mid-November you can expect the air quality numbers to jump as well. There is a rather large range of options that are appropriate for both your budget and how much of a crap you give about your respiratory system.


Skip the paper surgical masks because they won’t save you here. At the very least, you’re going to want something made of cloth that fits snugly over your mouth and nose, and preferably has some sort of removable filter. These are fairly easy to find, most large supermarkets (i.e. Wal-Mart) will carry something to this effect and it shouldn’t cost you more than a few RMB.


Industrial-strength masks

This is one for the true winter warriors among us—some masks are very sturdily constructed with thick, removable filters that would even protect you from asbestos (should you need something like that). It’s a bold fashion statement for sure, but when it comes to things like this you’re going to have to make the choice between looking better or feeling better. Should you choose the latter, you can breathe easier this winter and perhaps have some fun trolling your friends about how you’re going to kill the Batman with your new, Bane-level facemask.

Air Filters

As all your friends with air filters are always telling you, if the air sucks outside then it’s not going to be much better inside. It’s always a good feeling to know that even if it’s apocalyptic outside, you’re breathing easy at home, so you might consider one of these for your apartment.

Smart Air Filters

We’ve written about Smart Air Filters before, so we will just give you the elevator pitch: they’re basically fans strapped to HEPA filters and run a little loud, but the price is rock-bottom and if you’re frugal, or just strapped for cash, it’ll do the job just about as well as anything else would. 228RMB will get you the basic model but, if you’re feeling cheeky or want a bit more power, definitely look into the Cannon model.

Xiaomi Intelligent Air Purifier

Xiaomi has diversified from smartphones into home consumer electronics as well, and if you’re looking for something a bit more aesthetically pleasing it’s actually cheaper than their high-end competitors. Typically you can find one of these for around 600RMB (and up), but the filters for it will cost you about 100RMB each. Either way, reviews for the unit are good so you can feel comfortable knowing that you’ve bought a reliable product.