With the southern United States in the grips of another round of freezing temperatures, snow and ice, I thought now would be a good time to offer some cold weather survival tips. I've been living in a cold climate all my life and teaching outdoors year round for thirty years, so I have a few tricks up my sleeve. You don't need to spend a lot of money on fancy gear to survive, and even enjoy, cold weather. Here are my top 10 tips:
1. Remember the 4 Ls: Lots of Light, Loose Layers.
Layering clothing is better than having one heavy coat. It allows warm air to be trapped, adding insulation, and it's easier to adjust your temperature by adding or removing a layer.
Legs - leggings, pajamas, lounge pants, sweat pants all make good layers
Arms & torso - long sleeve t-shirts and sweatshirts work just fine if you make
sure to increase the sizes as you add layers
Head - scarves or even a ball cap will keep some heat in. It’s even better if it covers your ears.
Hands - don’t have mittens? A few layers of socks will do.
Feet - look for socks that are not cotton to be near your skin. Cotton will freeze your feet if they sweat much.
2. Stay dry and block the wind
A windbreaker or raincoat is a good outer layer. Being wet makes it almost impossible to stay warm no matter what you’re wearing, and the wind can cut right through other fabrics.
Also beware of getting too warm. Sweating will make you just as wet and cold as the rain or snow will.
3. Stay active
All your layers won’t help if you’re not making heat. Some jumping jacks, jogging in place or even pacing will get the inner furnace going.
4. Stay hydrated
Cold air is very dry even if it’s raining or snowing, and you need to be hydrated to make enough heat.
5. Get cozy
Two people under one blanket are warmer than one person under two blankets. Make the most of what you have available and share! It’s much more cozy that way too.
6. Know your heat source safety
If you’re using a heat source that requires fuel, like a propane heater, follow all the manufacturer’s instructions while you’re using it. These devices can be a source of carbon monoxide, which can be lethal.
If you’re running your car heater to warm up, be sure to run the car outside the garage. Just leaving the door open isn’t enough.
7. Know the signs of hypothermia
Confusion, sleepiness and slurred speech are all signs that a person is too cold and needs an outside heat source and possibly medical attention. Follow CDC recommendations to offer that person the care they need.
8. Be kind
Helping others is a good strategy to maintain your mental health during a crisis, not to mention good for your family and community.
But don't forget to be kind to yourself too. While your body is working hard to maintain your equilibrium and make enough heat, your higher reasoning will be inefficient at best. It’s ok not to be very productive or efficient, even at tasks you do every day. Be kind to yourself and those around you. Give the grace and space to focus on what matters most.
We survive crises by helping each other through them. I hope these tips will help my Southern neighbors stay a little safer and warmer in the next few days.