How to Survive the Cold | Preparing for Extreme Cold Weather

how to survive extreme cold weather
Image Credit: Kezadri Abdelhak

When winter weather sets in, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself from the cold. Extreme cold can cause hypothermia, frostbite, and other health problems. It does not matter if you are at home, in your car, or out in the elements; there are steps you can take to prepare for and survive the extreme cold.

Dress in layers, have waterproof matches, stay hydrated, and keep emergency supplies on-hand or nearby. Building a fire, staying active, and avoiding the open winds are going to further improve your chances of surviving the extreme cold.

However, this is just the start of a complete plan of action.

It is essential to plan in advance when it comes to extreme cold. Some of the points below might seem obvious, but when the time comes that extreme cold shows up, you don’t want to be thinking about them then – think about them now! Proper preparation can save money, unnecessary inconveniences and even save a life. Therefore, we have put together the ultimate guide to help you prepare for extreme cold so that you will know how to survive the cold in almost any situation.

Preparing Your Home for Extreme Winter Temperatures

Being indoors during severely cold weather is the optimal situation to be in when trying to survive the cold, experiencing the least amount of discomfort. There are several different aspects to consider when preparing for cold weather, and we will cover each of them in detail below.

Winterizing the Inside of Your Home

  • Protect water pipes – Wrap pipes in insulation and keep the faucets running with a slow drip to keep them from freezing.
  • Keep alternative light sources nearby – Candles, flashlights, or solar-powered light sources are vital in a power outage due to extreme cold.
  • Manage your thermostat – Keeping your home between 68 – 72 degrees Fahrenheit is enough to keep the house comfortable in cold weather without putting too much stress on the heating system.
  • Upgrade water heater – Using a tankless water heater is better in extreme weather since most come with built-in protection from freezing temperatures. Many models can also be used as an emergency heat source.
  • Prepare for alternative options for heat – Thick blankets, natural gas heaters, radiators, solar air heaters, and keeping dry wood available for fireplaces is vital since there is a chance of losing power during extreme cold.
  • Create a fire safety plan – Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are essential, especially when using alternative heat or power sources. Ensure that both detectors are in working order and have fresh batteries installed.
  • Store adequate food and water supplies – Staying well fed and hydrated is critical to surviving freezing temperatures. Several weeks of nonperishable food and water supplies are crucial aspects of dealing with frigid temperatures. It’s a good idea to prioritize food that requires no cooking. Make sure that you have a manual can opener and disposable plates, cups, and eating utensils.
  • Close the chimney flue – When you are not using the fireplace, keep the flue close to keep cold air out.
  • Keep an emergency kit in the home – You can easily find a good emergency kit online or in many retail stores. These kits will contain many essential items you could use in an emergency including, flashlights, batteries, candles, matches, first-aid supplies, a multi-purpose tool, and more.

Winterizing the Outside of Your Home

  • Set up alternative power sources – Use a generator or solar power access to improve the likelihood of maintaining power throughout the severe weather.
  • Properly insulate the entire home – Make sure the attic is adequately protected and all of the windows and doors and properly sealed so no air can seep in or out of the house.
  • Remove dead trees and lose tree limbs – Remove all trees and tree limbs that could fall on a home in a cold storm or inclement weather.
  • Keep the gutters clean – It is vital to have a clear pathway so that melted snow or ice can be directed away from the home.
  • Keep the driveway free of ice and snow – Use green products, rock salt, or other chemical deicers to keep the driveway clear in case of an emergency.

Preparing Your Car to Survive Extreme Cold Weather Conditions

A winter storm can hit at any time, and for some people, that time might be while they are in their automobile. When you’re driving in winter weather, it’s essential to be confident in your vehicle’s abilities and prepared in case something goes wrong. Many people have experienced these freezing conditions while traveling in remote areas. Having your car prepared and carrying the necessary supplies is essential to ensuring your survival. Let’s review some of the most important elements to address to help you survive the cold.

Getting Your Car Ready to Deal with Extremely Cold Weather

  • Check the oil – Engines are susceptible to cold temperatures. Cold starts are more difficult for cars in the winter because of the oil viscosity. The engine depends on motor oil to keep it lubricated and running smoothly. Oil doesn’t flow as well in cold weather, so it is harder to start up an engine with low oil levels.
  • Add gasoline stabilizer – This product works best with fresh gasoline and helps prevent the formation of gum deposits in your engine so the car will not stall out.
  • Replace coolant with antifreeze – Antifreeze helps keep the engine cool and acts as a lubricant to keep your engine from rusting, especially if you live in an icy climate.
  • Install a trickle charger – Trickle chargers recharge your battery if it is accidentally drained or if you have not started the car for an extended period.
  • Top off all fluids – In an emergency, having low fluid levels in your car can cost you your life. This simple fix can help you avoid countless problems in an extreme cold weather situation.
  • Keep the gas tank as full as possible at all times – Fuel injectors are very sensitive to temperature changes. Keeping your tank full can reduce the likelihood of fuel injector failure caused by low temperatures. It also does not allow condensation to collect in a gas tank since gasoline with water mixed in will cause rust and corrosion inside your engine, which over time could prevent proper ignition at best or cause severe engine damage at worst.
  • Install a block heater – Block heaters raise the oil temperature so that when you start the engine, it doesn’t have to do nearly as much work warming up the oil before it can get moving down the road.
  • Check tire pressure – Keeping your tire pressure at optimal levels helps your ability to drive safely in cold and wet weather conditions. Depending on the area you live in or are traveling, it may also be necessary to carry tire socks, shoes, or chains.
  • Check battery terminals – Battery fluid is essential for your car to operate efficiently. A low electrolyte level can cause corrosion on your battery’s positive and negative terminals, preventing it from powering up when you turn the key in the ignition.
  • Change air filter – Air filters do not like cold weather either, as they also accumulate condensation during extreme temperature changes, so make sure you change it if it looks dirty or is very wet!
  • Pack warm clothes – Have heavy jackets, ski masks, warm gloves, scarves, thick socks, blankets, snacks, and a winter hat to keep warm if you need to remain in your car for longer than expected.
  • Stay up-to-date on maintenance – Stick with the car manufacturers’ suggested maintenance schedule so that critical car parts can be regularly inspected or replaced.
  • Keep a portable charger in the car – A portable charger will be able to charge anything from your car battery to your cellphone, an invaluable asset when facing an extreme cold weather emergency.
  • Change your windshield wipers – Winter windshield wipers are better equipped to handle cold weather conditions, including heavy snow or freezing rain.
  • Prepare an Emergency Roadside Kit – Many auto parts stores sell emergency roadside kits that will have almost everything you could ever need in a cold-weather emergency.

The Smart Way to Dress and Prepare for Extreme Cold Weather

Regardless of why you find yourself venturing into the cold on occasion, there are some important factors for you to consider beforehand so that your entire experience can be as comfortable and survivable as possible.

Excellent Dietary Supplements to Help You Survive the Cold

It is essential for everyone, regardless of their age or physical ability, to stay away from health problems during these months by eating certain foods and taking vitamins (especially Vitamin A, C, and E) and supplements containing antioxidants (to help fight against free radicals). There are many other vitamins and minerals that help promote a healthy lifestyle during the winter months, but it is crucial to start with these three:

  • Vitamin A helps maintain the integrity of epithelial cells (tissue/skin). Vitamin A also helps produce sebum (oil) which prevents water loss through the skin. 
  • Vitamin E nourishes and hydrates the skin and is an excellent antioxidant. When taken with vitamin A, it can help protect against certain cancers. It is also known to relieve respiratory problems such as chronic bronchitis and asthma.
  • Vitamin C has antioxidant properties that are important for tissue growth and repair. Vitamin C may also help in protecting cells from damage by free radicals.

Many different food sources contain these vitamins, but if you do not have access to them, it is best to take supplements instead. When facing extremely cold weather situations, it is also highly beneficial to drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration can occur quickly in cold weather, so drink plenty of water or other liquids to stay hydrated. Also, avoid alcohol and caffeine. These substances can cause you to lose body heat more quickly.

How to Dress in Extreme Cold Weather Conditions

The best way to survive the cold is to stay indoors as much as possible. However, if you have to go outside, make sure to dress appropriately. There are several key steps to preparing your body for frigid temperatures.

Step 1: Dress in Multiple Layers

The layering principle is crucial for any sport or activity in extreme cold weather conditions. Experts recommend 5-7 layers depending on how much insulation you are looking for. You want your first layer to be close to your skin, so no cotton here. The best material would be merino wool, but fleece works just fine if you don’t have access to merino wool base layers. Then comes a middle layer providing insulation. Go with goose down for this layer. Layer number 3 is your weather insulation layer, where you can choose between wind or water-resistant materials like Gore-Tex. Your outermost layer should be windproof and waterproof. For gloves, consider mittens instead of gloves to provide better protection for your fingers.

Step 2: Prepare Your Head

The most significant heat loss happens through the head because there are numerous blood vessels close to the skin on your head that get cold very quickly if not protected. So make sure you wear a hat (or ski mask) when outdoors in icy conditions to protect yourself against hypothermia and frostbite. Also, cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs from extremely cold air, which can cause shortness of breath or respiratory problems.

Wear ski goggles or to protect your eyes from the rays of the sun, which will prevent snow blindness, which can be pretty hazardous since eye damage may occur without any feeling of pain. They should provide a tight fit around your face so no cold air can enter inside them. Ski goggles are also helpful when there is heavy snowfall because they prevent snow from falling into your eyes. As far as ski masks go, make sure you get one that covers most of your face.

Step 3: Protect Your Hands and Feet

Gloves protect your fingers from cold and possible injuries during falls. When walking in snowy conditions, you may want to consider wearing mittens since they help retain more body heat than regular gloves. That’s why taking a pair of mittens along is always a good idea for people staying outdoors for extended periods.

Your boots should be water-resistant to protect your feet and toes. They should also be tall enough to keep snow from entering them (snow can get stuck between your toes). Make sure your socks are wool or polypropylene. If possible, avoid cotton at all costs.

Conclusion

While winter comes every year, sometimes it can be challenging to prepare for extremely cold weather. That is one reason why it is important to monitor local news sources throughout the day. However, weather forecasts are not always reliable, and neither is the accuracy of our perceptions of when conditions have gotten extremely cold and possibly even dangerous. This means that it is good to have a routine in place so you can survive the cold. It does not matter if you will be at home, on the road, or braving the elements yourself. A good plan and proper preparation will help you survive extremely cold weather and the problems that may come with it.

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