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Winter Survival Kits and Extreme Cold Weather Gear

From Nick Wright - The Prepared -

Winter survival kits, extreme cold weather gear, and winterizing your home and car If you live in an area with severe winters, it's just as important to prepare for winter season as it is for people along the southern coast to prepare for hurricane season.

This guide covers the extra steps to take on top of your normal prepping foundation, including winterizing your home, winter emergency car kits, winterizing your bug out bag, and proper extreme cold clothing. Unfortunately, climate change is making winter and winter storms even worse, with more severe, frequent, and unpredictable events occurring in a wider range of places. Before long, people in northern Texas might need to carry tire chains because of polar vortexes that slingshot Arctic air down into the mainland. Nasty winter weather can happen as early as September in some parts of the U.S., but winter formally starts on December 21.

So if you live in an area where winter is a risk, try doing your annual preparedness review when the leaves start to fall. Although good emergency preparedness plans cover a wide range of situations at any time of year, there are specific steps and gear that help you handle extreme cold and winter storms.

This guide digs deeper into key areas:

* Last-minute tips in case a storm is headed your way

* Common risks in severe cold and winter storms, like hypothermia

* How to dress appropriately and tips on which clothing to buy

* Swapping/adding winter gear to your normal Bug Out Bags, Get Home Bags

* Swapping/adding winter gear to your normal Vehicle Everyday Carry

* Winterizing your home to prevent common damage

* What steps to take in your home and car as the storm arrives

Check out our separate guide to learn how to survive common winter emergencies, such as falling through ice or building wilderness snow shelters. How to last-minute prepare a winter survival kit In case you Googled this article as a bomb cyclone or polar vortex is headed your way, here are the best last-minute tips, right up front. We assume you're like most people: unprepared, with random/normal stuff around the house and only 1-2 days' worth of appropriate food and water. The main goal is to be able to comfortably survive in your home for two weeks without the grid or outside help. A blizzard or polar vortex usually doesn't last more than a few days, but the aftermath can disrupt life essentials for days and weeks after.

Items to buy:

* Groceries, two weeks of water (15 gallons per person) and food that doesn't require any/much cooking

* Two weeks of important medications

* Two weeks of pet and baby supplies

* Gas - top off your car, and a spare fuel can

* Snow shovel

* Bags of deicing salt or sand (or kitty litter)

* Ways to heat and light at least one room in your home that doesn't depend on the grid (space heaters and lanterns for camping that use cheap propane tanks are great)

* (Optional) chapstick, tire chains, window scraper, appropriate clothing Things to do:

* Have warm clothing, blankets, and space heaters ready.

* If you're using propane space heaters to keep warm, only use quality indoor-rated products (like the Mr. Heater Buddy's we recommend below), carbon monoxide detectors, and crack a window for ventilation.

* Make sure your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors work. Home fires happen more in the winter than in any other season, and heating equipment is involved in one of every six reported home fires. Generators can feed carbon monoxide indoors if not properly ventilated. *Gather all your flashlights and batteries in one location.

* Ready your generator. Keep it in a protected, well-ventilated place, like an enclosed patio. Does it have fuel?

* If you burn things for heat, make sure you have enough fuel stored inside where it's dry and accessible.

* Close off unused rooms.

* Block drafts with towels under doors.

*Let your faucets drip to prevent pipes from freezing.

*Try to stay inside as much as possible. If you must leave, see our driving tips.

* Shovel important walkways and driveways multiple times throughout large snowstorms. You save overall time and pain compared to doing one big removal.

Winter prepping uses a common foundation If you're new to emergency preparedness, start with our Prepping 101 Checklist. It covers two weeks of home supplies, Bug Out Bags, and Get Home Bags (typically kept in your car). It's the foundation that everything else is built on, and we don't repeat it all below.

The 80-20 rule is true in prepping, too - that basic foundation will cover you in almost any emergency scenario, including winter. On top of that foundation are some tweaks or additions specific to severe winter, which we cover below. Prepare your Bug Out Bag and Get Home Bag for winter

A good emergency bag shouldn't need constant attention. Outside of an annual prep review where you tear it all apart to check for expired items and so on, a good bag should sit quietly, untouched, waiting to be used. Ideally, this means that if you live in an area that has a full range of seasons over the year, your bags would have the 80-20 range of climate-appropriate clothing and gear at all times. The less you have to fuss with it, the more prepared you are.

Layering, which is the right way to dress for severe cold anyway, makes this even easier because the inner layers can also work in summertime. So it doesn't add much bulk to have the winter clothing, too. Our favorite mid-layer jacket, the Arc'teryx LEAF Atom LT, scrunches up into the size of a large orange. If you can't do this because you're limited in bag space or budget, then plan on swapping the clothing and gear in your bags twice a year, before the summer and winter.

Whether you customize your Bug Out Bag and Get Home Bag for year-round coverage, or you swap out the gear between seasons, if you might deal with extreme cold than you should consider adding these items:

* Clothing layers. Instead of bulky hoodies and wool sweaters, see the section on best winter clothing.

* Extra pair of thick socks. We like Darn Tough.

* Gloves or mittens

* Beanies or winter hats that don't take much space

* Thermal gaiters are versatile ways to cover your neck / face / head

* Chapstick

* Travel- or purse-sized tissue packs

* Hand warmers

* Compact all-weather blanket as a supplement to normal Mylar blankets

* A BOB/GHB should have them anyway, but sunglasses are just as important in winter as they are in summer. Look for glasses that wrap around your face to block out sun and wind.

* A waterproof bag or extra backpack rain cover. Snow can become a wet nuisance. How to prevent hypothermia and frostbite Other than being uncomfortable, the real dangers of severe cold are hypothermia and frostbite. Understanding how they work is key to preventing them. Hypothermia occurs when your core body temp drops too low (a few degrees below 98 F) and your organs start to fail. Frostbite usually occurs in the areas furthest away from your core, like your toes and ears, when ice forms in the surface tissue.

In both cases, the key to prevention is protecting your body heat. Your body loses heat three ways:

* Radiated heat from unprotected surfaces

* Direct contact with conductive elements like water

* Wind pulling heat off your skin Which is why the Rochester, Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic recommends the acronym COLD:

* Cover. Wear a hat or other protective covering to prevent heat from escaping from your head, face, and neck. Wear mittens instead of gloves.

* Overexertion. Avoid activities that cause you to sweat a lot. Cold weather plus wet clothing equals faster heat loss.

* Layers. Wear loose-fitting, layered, and lightweight clothing. Wool, silk, or polypropylene inner layers hold body heat better than cotton.

* Dry. Stay as dry as possible. As is the case with most cold weather emergencies, so much of the battle is in preparation - not much you can do about frostbite if you're stuck outside without fire, shelter, and proper clothing.