11 must-have closet items to survive the Dutch weather

Whether you are a Netherlands newbie or a seasoned Dutch veteran, there’s one thing that keeps everyone on their toes: the weather. 

Best known for its wind and rain, the Netherlands often experiences all four seasons in a single day. But how do you prepare for such an unpredictable forecast? Keep reading for the ultimate guide on what clothes to keep in your closet in the Netherlands!

Year-round faves

Some clothes are only needed in the chilly Dutch winter — but the Dutch weather changes rapidly, so there are some items you’ll need to keep handy all year long.

1. Comfy pairs of sneakers are your new BFF

Most metropolitan areas in the Netherlands have lots of concrete and asphalt, in addition to mediaeval cobblestones and uneven bricks. 

Navigating these types of sidewalks by foot or bike can be tricky in anything but a pair of comfortable shoes with arch support and rubber soles — leave the stilettos at home! 👠

You don’t have to be a runner to wear running shoes! Image: Freepik

Worried about looking too informal? Don’t! The Dutch are known for keeping the vibe lowkey and practical, so sneakers or walking shoes are perfectly acceptable in most Dutch workplaces, shops, and restaurants. 

2. A heavy-duty bag to protect and serve

Investing in a durable, lightweight bag is a must. A backpack or a crossbody bag are both hands-free options that let you keep both hands on your handlebars.

Bicycle messenger bags, dubbele fietstas, or bicycle panniers. Whatever you call them, this is a convenient way to carry your stuff! Image: Cjp24/Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0

You’ll also see multiple bicycle commuters with handy canvas saddlebags (dubbele fietstas) attached to the back of their bikes to keep their precious items secure and dry. You can pick these up at HEMA or your local weekend market. 

TIP: Dutch weather is infamous for being unpredictable, so choose a waterproof design with plenty of zippers and pockets. 

What’s in my Dutch bag

  • A small, leakproof water bottle, or a collapsible cup.
  • A retractable umbrella for potential rain.
  • A bottle of sunscreen (don’t let the gloomy Dutch clouds fool you into thinking you don’t need it!)
  • An OV-chipkaart (public transit card). The personalised version can even give you travel discounts!

3. An umbrella, ready to go

Take it from us — a packable umbrella is an excellent purchase in the Netherlands, and you’ll thank yourself multiple times when you’re shielded from one of the many surprise storms the Dutch weather loves to throw our way.

Protect yourself and your barbecue. Image: Freepik

You can get a reasonable retractable version at discount stores like Kruidvat or HEMA. If you find yourself in more windy conditions, you may want to invest in a windproof umbrella that can withstand strong winds, repel rain, and won’t flip on you. You can easily get these online. 

4. A warm, waterproof jacket or sweater for midday changes

The erratic Dutch weather means layering to stay warm and dry during the unpredictable winter and spring seasons is essential. 

Be prepared with layers for when the sun decides to come out! Image: Depositphotos

Start with a base layer, like a long-sleeve shirt or thin sweater. Add a chunky sweater (we love turtlenecks! 🐢), a vest, or a cardigan to bundle up on your commute, then remove it when you get to your school or office. 

Where needed, top it off with a windproof, waterproof jacket with a hood, add a scarf and gloves, and you’re ready to face the Dutch wind head-on!

5. Socks for every season

Whether you like to keep it practical or get funky, socks are a great way to add function and personality to your wardrobe. 

You can never have too many socks! Image: Depositphotos

Because Dutch weather demands different gear for different moods, keep your sock drawer stocked with socks for knee-high boots, thick wool socks for rain boots, cushiony sneaker socks, and no-show socks for the days you want to peep a little ankle. 😉

6. Biking shorts

Now that we are in the Netherlands, can we discuss your nether…regions? While it’s true that bike shorts aren’t a daily closet essential, long bike rides or a windy day prompt a conversation about our bottoms. 🍑

Invest in a pair of biking shorts to keep you covered! Image: Pixabay

It’s a good idea to invest in a quality pair of bike shorts, either to wear on a long bike ride through the park or on a day you decide to wear a skirt, and the wind picks up later in the day. How do we know? Well, let’s say, um, experience. 

Seasonal tunes

Dutch autumn and winter (and sometimes spring) can be wet, windy, and cold. These closet items will keep you warm and dry:

7. A pair of strong, high boots that will withstand time and weather

Don’t skimp on a well-made pair of boots! A good pair will take you from autumn to spring with little effort. Waterproof construction is a must with all of the puddles and mud that you’ll be wading and cycling through all winter long.

You’ll thank us when your ankles are dry after biking in the rain. Image: Depositphotos

Black is often the de-facto colour for everything here, but if you want to stand out, do it with flair! 🌈

8. A trusty winter coat

A Dutch person without a parka is like a sheep without its wool — freezing! Investing in a proper winter coat may be the best decision you make all year. From puffer jackets to parkas, a quality winter coat can last for several Dutch winters. 

A good coat makes all the difference. Image: Unsplash

Wool coats are always available in short and long styles, with or without a hood, sometimes a belt, and various lapel options. Down is also always a good choice, preferably in a waterproof design.

No matter your style or material, many Dutch bikes also come equipped with coat guards on the back wheel to keep water or mud from splashing on your stylish jacket. Handig! 🚲

TIP: To prolong the life (and look) of your coat, consider a fabric shaver. You can use it on any pilling fabric to remove those annoying bumps on your jacket and the rest of your wardrobe. Your lint roller will thank you for it. 

9. A reusable poncho for when you need extra protection

We all know vertical rain, but rain in the Netherlands has a habit of going, well, horizontal. Ya know…the kind that rips you in half and makes cycling into the headwind almost impossible? If you don’t know, you will soon. 🌊

It’s not the prettiest garment, but you’ll be happy when you’re dry. Image: Depositphotos

Many discount stores and market vendors have foldable (and reusable!) plastic ponchos for sale at a reasonable price. These can easily be folded and stored in your backpack for when the weather turns on you — which it will, often. ☔

TIP: When it comes to ponchos, invest in thicker plastic and consider sizing up. This way, if you’re carrying a bag, you can easily tuck it underneath the poncho! 🌧️

10. A variety of hats, gloves, and scarves to keep you covered

Don’t let that morning sunshine fool you  — the wind chill of even the slightest breeze is enough to send the most seasoned Dutch cyclist reeling.🌪️ 

Hats, scarves, and gloves keep you covered head-to-toe! Image: Depositphotos

Since most of your body heat escapes from your head, protect it with a fleece-lined beanie or headband in the depths of winter. Get one to match your coats and jackets, and never leave home without it.

Meanwhile, are you truly Dutch if you don’t have a selection of thick, bulky scarves taking up more space than they should in your closet? 

TIP: Wide, flat scarves can double as a hat when you’re least prepared. Tie it around your neck and loop the fabric over your head to keep it covered. 

Scarves are a Dutch fashion staple and come in various colours, patterns, and textures. Opt for a length that can be wrapped several times.

Although some locals swear you need to expose your fingers to the cold and rain to build your Dutch stamina, spare yourself the trouble — and the misery — and pack a pair of gloves. Bonus points for touchscreen compatibility, so you don’t have to remove your gloves to send your Tikkie

READ MORE | Dutch quirk #8: dress the same as every other Dutchie (aka the Dutch uniform)

Whether you choose classic mittens or modern fingerless gloves, fleece-lined and windproof are the way to go when it comes to protecting your fingers from the harsh Dutch wind. 👋

11. The best for last: rain pants

Rain pants are an integral part of the Dutch wardrobe. Image: Depositphotos

There’s nothing more embarrassing than showing up to the office or class with a watermark on your crotch after cycling through the rain on your commute. 

Protect yourself from this mortifying scenario by picking up a pair of trusty rain pants. Most can be worn over jeans or leggings, with styles varying from tapered to flared. 

READ MORE | How to survive the Dutch winter: weather, clothing, and more

A pair from HEMA (or your local market vendor) will work perfectly fine, but sporting goods stores or speciality outdoor shops will also carry a selection.

Just make sure you don’t wear them while you are walking — the Dutch will make a point to tell you that you are doing it wrong. 🙃

Rotating your wardrobe to reflect the Dutch seasons (and the moods in between) will help you survive the elements in the Netherlands. 

Did we miss any Dutch wardrobe staples? Tell us in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in April 2022 and was fully updated in November 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Unsplash
Megan Witkin
Megan Witkin
Previously never living more than an hour away from her home in Colorado's Rocky Mountains, Megan's quick immigration to the Netherlands left her saying "Bring on your (rook)worst." A woman of many talents, Megan is not only a former English teacher but is fluent in memes, TikTok, and (now) writing about the Netherlands.

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  1. I miss the part it tells you to layer your clothes. I would wear under garments, a t-shirt, a sweater and then my winter jacket. Long johns, a thick pair of pants and boots. Gloves, Scarf and hat, thats how I had to bike to school. Sometimes we needed to wear a ski mask, that’s how cold it can get. I was born and raised in the Netherlands, left when I was 41, I’m in Florida now.

  2. Hi, my husband and I are moving to Netherlands and the question is : which shoes to where to office work during winter? Maybe one for the commute and another to the office? I would appreciate if you could help us with this challenge haha


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