Some basic winter advice from a Canuck:
- Stay indoors. Period. Shelter is an ABSOLUTE must. Whether that "indoors" is your home or your car or a small shack you happened along in your
travels. DO NOT venture out to find help unless you know for absolute fact that help is less than a 10 minute walk and you're wearing the
appropriate attire. Exposed skin freezes in literally minutes, so you must be able to make your destination within only minutes beyond that time
- Layers of clothing, blankets, etc are a must even inside your home if there is no heat source. And as the OP pointed out, keep your head covered,
hands, feet, and neck area... those are all the most vulnerable body parts to heat loss.
- Do not bbq in your home or use an unventilated open fire as a heat source (even with one of those mini hibachi types) unless you place it right next
to an open window and ensure that the smoke is being sucked out of it rather than being pushed back into the home. One way to ensure this is to open
a window that's in the opposite direction that the wind outside is blowing... and always keep a close eye on it to make sure the wind doesn't change
direction. Many people have died due to carbon monoxide poisoning (a non-smelling, non-tasting, non-detectable toxic gas) because of this very thing.
Carbon monoxide poisoning will kill within hours.
- Purchase yourself one of those little $20 dollar Hibachi grills
it stored where it's easily accessable. Those little suckers can be real life savers, believe it or not. They not only provide a means to cook on,
but they also provide a small, portable source of fire heat (the cast iron base on those things kick off a ton of residual heat too). Reminder again:
Good ventilation is a MUST in any closed space !!
- If you're stuck in your vehicle, keep one window (in the opposite direction the wind is blowing) cracked open a teeny weeny bit to ensure you have
a continuous exchange of fresh air. Only run your vehicle for a few minutes every once in a while to keep the chill out... BUT you must go outside
every 15 minutes or so to make sure that snow is completely cleared away from the exhaust pipe and that the exhaust fumes are freely flowing away from
the vehicle. Otherwise, the exhaust will back up into the car and you'll get carbon monoxide poisoning. Stay bundled up and wait for help to come
by. AGAIN, do not venture away from your vehicle. Passers by can easily spot a car on the side of the road, and you can quickly run out to flag them
- Never allow your vehicle's gas tank to be under half full at any time during the winter ! A fuller tank not only means the ability to run it
longer, but it also reduces the chance of your gas lines and tank freezing up. Be sure to only purchase gas that has a very low water content in the
winter (high quality fuel is a must in the winter). From my own personal experience here in Canada, DOMO Gas (a popular full service gas station here
in Canada) is the absolute worst crap you can fill your tank with.. they are notorious for having a high water content in their fuel !
- Always keep a winter survival kit in your vehicle throughout the season at all times. This kit should include: 1 or 2 warm blankets, emergency
candles, bottled water, energy/granola bars/hard candy, a pair of lined ski pants, an extra winter parka with a hood, a pair of winter boots rated for
-40 celcius temps, a pair of wool socks, warm mittens (mittens are warmer than gloves), scarf, toque, a warm winter sweater, a small multi-tool, small
flashlight w/ extra batteries, a portable shovel, a snow brush, gasline antifreeze, booster cables, fully charged cell phone w/ car charger and extra
fully charged battery, and an extra jerry can filled with gas (5 gallon is a good size to keep handy).
- Loose boots are warm boots. Flat rubber soles with a good grip. Always purchase your boots to be at least one size bigger than what you normally
wear for shoe size. You should be able to layer two pairs of thick socks inside and still have plenty of room to move your toes around without the
sides being too snug against your foot. Air flow is key, the warmth from your body heat needs to be able to circulate around your feet inside the
boot. Fashionable wear goes out the window in winter weather... avoid any clothing that's snug against your body EXCEPT the underlayer (ie: thermal
underwear). The feet and hands (and an exposed nose) are the first things to get frost bite... frost bite is NOT fun.
- If you do end up with frostbite, you must completely submerse the area in cold water
(NOT lukewarm or hot). The trick is to slowly bring
back up the skin and internal temp of the effected area. Do not "shock" the area into warmer temps, you will risk permanent nerve damage. Then,
once the temp of the body is about the same as the cold water, slightly warm up the water a couple of degrees to slowly increase the body temp... The
key here is slow temp increases. It just might save you from losing that body part depending on how bad the frostbite is. Another good trick to
combat frostbite from getting worse is to (believe it or not) grab a handful of snow with your bare hands and cover the frostbitten area with it (if
cold water isn't readily available), holding the snow onto the area with your bare hands... The body heat from your hands will slowly melt the snow
and this gradual temp increase will have the same effect as submersing the area in cold water.
- Shovel and pile the snow up against your house in the winter, it helps to provide an extra layer of insulation. And then shovel it all away from
your home once the spring thaw kicks in so that you don't saturate your foundation and end up with water in your basement. Yes, yes... it's a lot
of extra work, but well worth the effort in terms of insulation factor and it also helps to save you a few bucks in heating costs.
- Be sure to keep snow cleared away from all exterior doors on a regular basis. I'll never forget the one year (many many moons ago) that I woke up
and found a 5 foot snowdrift up against my one and only exterior door... needless to say, it was not fun trying to dig myself out.
- Right before winter season kicks in, you should be loading up on groceries (non-perishables) and sundries, filling at least a few 5-gallon water
containers and keeping it stored in a closet somewhere, filling a couple of jerry cans with gas, and various other "common sense" extra items to
have on hand (extra batteries, an over-abundance of emergency candles, etc.). This includes THOSE OF YOU who live in areas that don't normally get
seasonal cold winters !!
- Always be "in the know" of your local weather on a daily basis. This allows you time to prepare for any storm fronts that may be coming your way.
Never underestimate and poo poo any forecast for "flurries" and/or "cooler temps".
- Keep sheltered, keep warm, and keep dry.
A good motto to live by when it comes to winter weather: Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.