Dealing with the cold weather requires planning, as well as a good coat and gloves…
The frigid cold gripping most of the US recently looks like it will be with us for a little longer, which means staying warm will be tougher than usual. Below we detail some ideas we’ve found for staying well-prepared for the coldest weather this winter—and most of these tips won’t cost you much money or time!
WHEN YOU’RE OUTSIDE
Beyond breaking out your warmest sweaters and mittens, there are a lot of ingenious ways to keep warm. Just remember that no amount of clothing or other warm-up tips will work over long periods of time—never stay outside in temperatures below freezing any longer than you absolutely must. Here are some great short-term ideas for staving off the cold:
- Make a reusable hand warmer. Stuff the toe of an old sock with rice, cut it two inches above the level of the rice, roll the edge down and sew it together. Then warm it up in the microwave for about a minute, put it in your pocket, and you’ve got a cheap hand-warmer for when you have to walk to the subway or the bus stop.
- Dress in layers. Layers of clothing are surprisingly warm, because they trap warm air. You can always remove some of your extra layers once you get to work or school.
- Stay dry. Wet clothing is a serious hazard in cold weather, because the water will wick warmth away from your body quickly. Get waterproof winter boots, and remove wet clothing as soon as possible if you get wet while outside.
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol dilates the blood vessels, which increases heat loss. Also, you may be less able to recognize signs of hypothermia if you’ve been drinking.
- Exercise. Even just walking around, clapping your hands, or stamping your feet increases blood flow and improves circulation, which will warm your body. It also can help prevent weight gain.
WHEN YOU’RE IN YOUR CAR
Every fall, it’s best to get your car prepped at the garage for cold weather. And in the unlikely chance you get stuck in your car, always keep a winter emergency kit. If you have not yet put together your road emergency kit, do it right away! Must-have items include:
- A full tank of gas. Fill your car up more often in the winter, so if you get stuck somewhere, or have to leave for a warmer location you won’t be at risk of running out of gas.
- First aid & hygiene items. Pack a first-aid kit, tissues, personal hygiene items, and hand sanitizer—which can also be used to de-ice locks. Also stock your car with extra diapers and wipes if you have a small child.
- Safety equipment. Pack road flares, a high-visibility vest, reflective tape, and a flashlight. The tape may be used to make clothing reflective, or to re-attach mirrors or bumpers. Get a hand-crank flashlight if you don’t want to have to stow extra batteries too. An extra USB phone charger is also a good idea, as are traction cleats for your shoes.
- Snow and ice equipment. Pack a small/folding snow shovel, window brush and scraper, and a small bag of sand. You can also stock your car with store-bought de-icer for your windshield, or make some with rubbing alcohol and a few drops of dish soap in a spray bottle.
- Warming items. Pack a change of clothes and extra hats and gloves, wool and/or reflective emergency blankets, and chemical hand and foot warmer packs. The hand warmers can also be used to de-ice locks or warm food.
- Water and food. Pack a cooler bag with water bottles—keep this in the passenger compartment and not in the trunk. Also pack non-perishable food: jerky, trail mix, nuts, fruit leather, protein bars, military-style MREs, and powdered sports drink or protein powder (to mix with water).
WHEN YOU’RE AT HOME
Keeping warm in your home may usually be fairly simple, but there are a lot of ways to save on your heating bill and be prepared for possible weather-related emergencies:
- Prevent pipes from freezing by disconnecting hoses and insulating outdoor faucets, and insulating pipes in your basement. On very cold days keep a couple of faucets slowly dripping from both the hot and cold taps, and open cabinet or closet doors where pipes are hidden. Know where your water shutoff valve is (typically in the basement or near the road), in case the worst does happen.
- Change your furnace filter every month or two to keep it working at maximum efficiency.
- Reverse the direction of ceiling fans to run clockwise—this pushes warm air down from the ceiling.
- Bake something. Make a loaf of bread or bake some cookies, then crack the oven door to let the heat into the rest of the house. This will warm the room you’re in and might cut down your heating bill a bit.
- Keep blankets in every room. If there’s a blanket nearby, you’re less likely to go nudge up the thermostat and use up more of your heating budget on a cold day.
- Make tea. Keep water in a tea kettle, and instead of turning up the heat in the whole house, make a nice cup of tea to warm up. Plus turning on the stove will add a little extra heat to the room.
- Keep a home winter emergency kit: a charged fire extinguisher, sand, ice melt, a snow shovel, flashlights, electric lanterns, and batteries (in case of a power outage). Also have a safe alternative heat source: a generator, wood stove, or fireplace. If none of these are available, have a plan for where to go in case your home’s heat goes out.
Stay warm this winter! Send us your tips for dealing with cold temperatures at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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