25% of the year (more or less) is going to be uncomfortably cold. Most of us don’t realize just how cold it gets because we have car heaters and furnaces and so on. If you live close enough to the equator that you don’t know what I’m talking about then you’re one of the lucky few that doesn’t need to read this article. Congratulations! You’re all set to survive “winter!” For the rest of you there are a few things you can do to make winter survivable.
Know Your Limits.
I remember several occasions where I thought I was prepared for the cold weather only to find out how wrong I was. That’s the first thing you need to do to survive the cold – Be Prepared and know you’re limits. If it’s too cold out for you to go tromping around, don’t risk it.
If You Don’t Have To, Don’t Go Outside.
You’ve likely got some kind of shelter built (temporary or permanent) that protects you from the elements. If you’re warm inside your shelter, don’t go out unless you need to.
Go South, Young Man!
Follow in the footsteps of your grandparents. When winter starts creeping in, start heading towards Florida. The further South you get, the less inclement the weather will be. If you get far enough, you won’t have to worry about staying warm.
In my opinion, if you’re out in the elements, there is nothing more important than staying dry. If you are soaking wet (from falling into a pond for instance), it is better to strip out of your wet clothes and rub off the excess moisture from your skin with snow than it is to stay in the wet, rapidly cooling clothes. Your socks will get wet quickly and often, it is important to make sure your feet stay dry so change your socks when you can.
You should wear several layers of clothing. Be constantly aware of your body temperature and adjust your clothing accordingly. If you start getting a little warm, take off a layer. If you start to get a little cool, put a layer on. If you get to warm, you’ll start to sweat, the sweat will eventually cool off, making you cold and miserable (and possibly dead).
Cotton is a great material in the summer time because it soaks up your sweat and allows it to evaporate rapidly, leading to a cooling effect of the skin. This is the exact opposite of what we want in cold weather. It is better to wear undergarments made of synthetic materials like polyester because these materials having a wicking effect that draws your sweat away from your skin, thus avoiding the cooling effect of cotton.
Keep your Hands and Feet Warm.
It is important to keep your extremities warm. When cold, your body draws most of your blood into your core to keep your vital organs protected. If your hands and feet get too cold, you’ll get frostbite and potentially lose fingers or toes. Wear warm boots and socks, and wear warm mittens. Gloves are okay, but mittens are better because your fingers stay warmer when they are all together. There are mittens you can buy that the top half on the mitten flips off so you can use your fingers for particularly dexterous tasks.
Keep your Head Warm.
Similar to the previous point, it is equally important to keep your head warm. Your head accounts for 1/3 of your heat loss from less than 10% of the surface area of your body. This means that if your head is warm, your whole body will feel warm (or at least warmer). If your head is cold, it will precipitate limited blood flow to the extremities and heighten the risk of hypothermia/frost bite.
When you exert yourself, you expend energy. Particularly, energy in the form of heat. Simply moving around will be enough for you to start to warm up.
Being in the cold can sap your body of moisture just as quickly as being in the hot sun can, but it doesn’t feel like it. Staying hydrated will stave off any ill effects of the cold.
Pee and Pee Often
You’re body spends a great deal of energy keeping your core temperature at around 98.6 degrees and that includes your bladder. If your bladder is full, that’s even more energy being wasted on something that you’re going to get rid of anyway.
Breathe Through Your Nose
You have four pairs of sinus cavities that connect your nose to your trachea. This isn’t a coincidence. These cavities filter, humidify and warm the air as it enters your body. If you breathe in cold air, by the time it gets to your lungs, it’s warm. If you breathe through your mouth, you get a lungful of cold air which robs your core of warmth, expending more energy to keep you warm.