Cold Weather Basics

Temperatures are dropping into the bitterly-cold range of things. I’m back in winter habits and thought some discussion on cold weather basics would be good for today. Everybody likes to stay warm, right? Keep the warmth you have – Invest in a good set of thermal underwear.  Women, this isn’t as easy for us, the commercially available options trend towards the Cuddle-Duds side of things instead of the more practical options like the Men’s Merino wool set I wear.  (Justin Charles, for the record. Love. Them.) My advice is to spend the money on this.  I’ll admit, I’m not a big buyer of clothes, certainly not brand new top of the line clothes.  But, for this, I make an exception. The cheap options available, usually cotton or poly or a blend there of, just aren’t as nice. They don’t regulate temperature as well, and they don’t hold up as well.  If you start with a good base layer, the other layers are easier.  Good thick winter clothing over the long underwear, I assume everyone can handle that. Over that, I highly recommend you keep fingerless gloves, knit caps and scarves/shawls handy.  This is all for inside wear, I might add.  If you keep yourself warm, you won’t have to pay as much to the utility company to do it for you.  Or, if the SHTF you can survive longer on your emergency warmth source. Choose your outer wear carefully – Consider what your specific area usually dishes out in cold weather.  Do you get a lot of cold rain? Or mostly snow, to the tune of 10 foot drifts?  Are you more likely to deal with a large body of water? Or grassy plains? Or mountains? I have an outer coat that sheds wind, isn’t harmed by tough prairie plants, and keeps me warm into the low negatives.  It can shed a little bit of moisture, but not a steady rain.  We get lots of snow, wind and bitter cold, and most of the surrounding land is commercial farmland or tall-grass prairie. We don’t usually get actual rain during winter. I have a poncho I can put on top, but it’s a tight fit and not easy or long sleeved.  But, pick what will work best for you. If you have mountains, make sure you can climb after you get your layers on. If you deal with more liquid water than I do, make sure your outer layer can shed that. I wish this could go without saying, but I’m guessing it can’t.  WEAR YOUR GEAR! Don’t get complacent because you’ve got remote start on the car and you’re headed into the heated office. Mobile sources of warmth – I love the little chemical hand warmers.  Those are great for emergencies.  If you know you’ll need to deal with the cold, there are DIY versions that you can heat up in advance from your stationary heat source (fire/heater/stove).   Sew some little fleece pockets and fill them with anything from cherry pits to uncooked rice or beans.  Placed near or in a heat source, they’ll radiate heat back for quite awhile, depending on the size. Warm drinks can help keep you warm. Dogs can be warm, if you can keep them dry and close. :-D So can partners, sharing body heat can mean a much warmer night. :-D Every Day Carry – I make sure to add blankets and extra hand warmers to my car kit when the cold weather comes around. It greatly increases the size of the kit, since I add 3 blankets to cover all of us, and at that point the kit takes up as much room as a small child. I also have an extra pair of adult gloves, and extra de-icing fluid. What about you? What changes in your emergency preps for winter?  Found anything you can’t live without? – Calamity Jane
14 comments… add one
  • No More Mr. Nice Guy December 27, 2012, 3:43 pm

    A small bottle of Crown Royal to take the edge off

  • irishdutchuncle December 28, 2012, 8:49 am

    … be ready to remove/unzip layers. perspiration reduces the insulating value. Wool Socks!
    no untreated cotton. (water resistant MILSURP parka shell ok, but goretex probably better)

  • Jarhead Survivor December 28, 2012, 12:43 pm

    Cotton kills, irish! You’re right on that.

    • irishdutchuncle December 28, 2012, 11:57 pm

      that’s what I’ve always heard.

      and yeh, what John Brown said. (see below) wool blanket within reach, in the car. (or a winter sleeping bag)
      and as I say every year, you need some type of “ice creepers” if you’re going out on foot. (not necessarily glacier crampons)

      … and forget the cat litter, please. cat litter is made from mud. sand is much more effective for traction.

  • smokechecktim December 28, 2012, 2:05 pm

    why do we prep??? read about whats happening in the midwest right now. power outages, people without food and getting cold.

  • Jason December 28, 2012, 3:12 pm

    This damn San Diego weather … it’s sunny & a chilly 65 degrees. Better break out the gloves & wool hat. What’s next, long pants?

    • Jason December 28, 2012, 3:14 pm

      Update – just turned on the a/c in the car. There goes the gas milage …

  • John Brown December 28, 2012, 11:30 pm

    > Found anything you can’t live without?

    When I use to go off road in Maine in the snow, a good hat AND a good hood to me were the most vital things. As long as you are moving, in the short term, you can suffer with cold feet, a wet coat, or cold hands. But, as soon as your ears become frozen or your head cold enough so it hurts, things start not being so fun any more.

    So, even in GA I carry a warm knitted face mask/hat and a baseball cap (for rain) in the knap sack.

    As a back up for matches, I decided to invest in a real Swedish Steel since it was recommended here. The thing is awesome. It lit pine shavings for the rabbit fairly easy. I think this might be one of my “must haves” now along with my folding knife. I put some fuel line over the steel so it would not cause an accidental spark in the knap sack.

    A most vital prep to me is a compass in cold weather, especially in the woods. Once the snow gets deep enough, it is easy enough to walk completely off a road, never mind a trail, in a snow storm and get turned around. I would not walk 50 feet from a camp for a pee in the dark without one.

    One thing to consider is the “what if” as in “what if” my trunk gets frozen shut with ice and I can’t get at my blankets and food. You should have a plan on being able to access it by removing the rear seat or prying open the bed tool box in a truck. So, we use to have my wife keep a nice warm blanket right in the back seat. Sometimes in an accident, you might not be able to move from your seat, but, you can still grab the blanket for warmth.

    That is a change from summer driving where more water is required instead of more blankets.

    Extra wiper blades I would consider almost a must have over summer. I rescued one woman in a heavy snow storm stuck by the side of the road because her wiper blades broke, by putting a spare set of gloves on the wiper arms and zip tying them in place. Not, the best way to drive, but, it got her home.

  • Jason December 28, 2012, 11:33 pm

    Holy cow Jane – that Justin Charles stuff is awesome! The super high quality is quite obvious, I will buy some stuff from them. Great tip!

  • smokechecktim December 29, 2012, 12:20 pm

    hey jason: about 40 miles east of you and 4000 feet higher. 26 right now with snow tonight. I’ll really save on a/c today. time to huddle around the soapstone stove and drink hot drinks and soup.

  • Steve December 29, 2012, 8:39 pm

    An empty soup can with a series of holes on it. I use a can opener to punch 3 rings of holes in it one towards the bottom, middle and top. Couple cotton balls full of vasoline (great fire starter) half a dozen pieces of match light charcoal and a bundle of oak kindling split from the fire wood pile. This is in my pack anytime I hike in the winter. The cotton balls light the wood up well. Once going put in a piece or 2 of the charcoal. Not much of a fire but you can sit right on top of it. Pluss you don’t have to contend with snow if it’s on the ground.

    Don’t forget rock heated by a camp fire work awsome when it’s cold. I keep heavy work gloves so I can get them out and move them. Once the rocks cool I put them in my lap an eventually in my jacket once they cool enough. Make a huge difference.

  • Ray December 29, 2012, 9:43 pm

    The news calls 25f daytime and 16f at night “bitter” and “arctic”, Y’all get that in november don’t ya ?!! Seriously WOOL, WOOL, WOOL, With a windproof and a set a helly-hansons. That and my old Micky Mouse boots. Better still ,Stoke the wood stove, have a wee dram and sleep under my flanel sheets and hudsons bay point blankets.

  • Jon Lorisen January 6, 2013, 4:58 pm

    It’s all about merino wool, best socks I’ve ever worn and worth every penny. Wool underwear in bad weather is a must.

    Nothing tops good boots either, comfortable to walk in that match the environmental conditions. Love my muck boots for pretty much anything except true winter cold. The Sorel Intrepid Explorer boots are the best winter boots I have ever owned.

    A neck gaiter is a must for me too, lots of exposed skin around the neck. A thin and long wool one can be pulled up as an extra layer around the ears and face too.

  • izzy January 7, 2013, 4:11 am

    Fake fur & padded bras! (hey, it’s true…) For women, if you can’t get wool longjohns, don’t overlook wool tights/pantyhose (apparently men in Russia have been known to wear them), with a lightweight wool sweater on top. I have found cashmere/merino sweaters for a tenth of the price of Smartwool! because they are a fashion item, but the fashion set keeps the thermostat high & don’t need them. Wool sweater vests are warm, if you don’t mind looking dorky. Mountaineers used to wear wool dress pants till the 50’s. Wool dress socks are a handy thin extra layer too. I like to carry a pair ‘just in case’. Old Navy has cheap polarfleece, if you’re in a financial bind.


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