It's that time of year again where shoveling the driveway or struggling through deep snow is expected. If you've got winter warfare looming on the horizon, operations that will be affected by snow, or will be enjoying your favorite outdoor sports and hobbies this winter—you've got to prepare. Cold weather can soon turn from a chilly day to an all-out killer, especially if you are underprepared and find yourself exposed to sub-zero temperatures with little warning.
This winter, arm yourself with the know-how and the proper clothing and equipment that will comfortably brave nearly any cold-weather condition on the planet.Prepared at Every Layer
There's a reason why you'll find us and everyone else always talking about dressing in layers. The layer system is one of the most effective means of protecting your body from the cold as long as possible, and with the proper layers, it could mean the difference between frostbite or worse.
Three layers of clothing should be worn at the bare minimum when you expect to find yourself in a cold-weather situation. That's a base layer, insulating layer, and outer layer. Your base layer should allow your skin to breathe and wick away any moisture, keeping you dry. The next layer over the base is the insulating layer, like a feather down jacket, or wool, to trap warm air against your skin and then your outer layer. Outer layers should be waterproof or water-resistant and windproof to keep the wind chill at bay.Protect Extremities and Skin
Exposure to cold weather and 30-mile-per-hour wind in whiteout conditions without having something to protect your hands, face, and head is a sure-fire way to find yourself in a bad situation quickly. The skin on your face will be rapidly brutalized in the freezing wind, and your hands will go numb within a minute or two if not protected. Every inch of bare skin is a crack in protection against the frigid cold, so once you've got your layers for your arms, legs, and core, make sure you've got protection for feet, hands, face, and head.
If dexterity is not required, skip gloves or mittens with individual fingers. Separating each finger sacrifices more surface area to be exposed and a greater chance for fingers to get cold.
Additionally, bring chapstick. Sometimes it's the tiniest things that can make the most significant difference between comfort and injured, cracked and bleeding lips in the cold.Eye Protection
Always bring eye protection against winter conditions such as wind and the intense glare caused by snow. If you don't want to go all out on a pair of wind-blocking cold weather ballistic goggles, at least bring a pair of sunglasses. Sunglasses will serve two very fantastic purposes. One, they create a barrier between your eyes and the biting wind. And, two, they prevent eye strain against an all bright-white environment.
If you know you're going to be out in some of the most extreme cold-weather areas in the world, then you should do your research and invest in specialized glasses for prolonged cold weather exposure. Not protecting your eyes in winter conditions could lead to:
- Blood vessels in the eyes contract or constrict, freezing the cornea, which is painful and compromises visual clarity, leading to double vision, blurred vision, or loss of sight.
- Cold wind exposure is likely to lead to dry eyes. Untreated, pain and inflammation can cause the eye to become red and swollen.
- UV rays are more prevalent in winter due to snow and ice reflections. Sunburn and UV damage done to your skin and eyes are a genuine threat even in the middle of winter.
Getting wet is one of the quickest means to find yourself suffering from frostbite or a severe cold weather injury. If you're going ice fishing, make sure you always have a towel and an extra set of dry clothing. The dangers of getting wet and how quickly it can turn hazardous is one of the many reasons you'll see many experts reiterate how crucial having base layer clothing that wicks moisture away over and over again.
If you know you're going to be doing something that will make you sweat, don't ignore the advice about a wicking base layer.Shivering Is Not a Positive
If you or someone you are with is shivering, that's the body's way of trying to generate heat via rapidly moving muscles. Shivering is a defense mechanism to help regulate body temps, just like sweating. However, it's not a good sign if you're shivering from the cold, and it means something is wrong. If you're dry, layered correctly, wearing protection for head, hands, feet, and face, you shouldn't be shivering. Listen to your body when it comes to the cold. If you're shivering, get out of the cold ASAP.Stay Hydrated
Despite all the warnings to stay dry, we don't want you to avoid drinking water while fighting the cold. It can be more difficult to notice how much you've sweated in the cold and with moisture-wicking clothing, so it is essential to drink water throughout your cold-weather excursion, no matter what it may be.Other Cold Weather Tips & Tricks
- Keep a flask of hot water and top it up frequently. It can be used as a warmer at any time, and make sure to drink hot brews throughout the day.
- Balaclavas, multi-wraps, or a shemagh can be a versatile, multi-use piece of cold-weather equipment. Use them as scarves, face masks, and hats.
- Wear wool wristlets to keep any gaps protected and help keep wrists warm—excellent means to promote better circulation to your hands, too, when dexterity is a must.
- Go wool for socks. Merino wool is incredibly excellent.
- Short term, your leftover MRE heater after use can be handy to warm up hands for about an hour. Keep it enclosed in a pocket, however, or heat will dissipate fast.
- Don't skip out on eating. Make sure to eat plenty of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Your body burns a surprising amount of calories in the cold.
Remember these cold-weather tips and tricks to stay warm for hours on end in the field or on any cold-weather outdoor trip you take. Prepare for everything and be ready for anything!