Taking the chill out of winter, How to stay warm without power

How to stay warm with no power

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Brrrrrr….No one likes to be cold.  Most of the time we go from a warm house to a warm garage to a warm office, etc.  Warmth is all around us and we expect that.  But what if it wasn’t that way?  What if there was no power to warm those places?  Then what?

Our bodies are wonderful creations, they are warming factories and usually do a very good job.  We can do our part by holding on to that energy and heat that they produce.

For your reading pleasure, here are several ways to stay warm when it’s cold outside (or even inside)

Stay Hydrated to stay warm

Drinking water is tough to do in the winter, I know I’d rather have a nice warm mug of hot chocolate than a glass of water, but keeping ourselves hydrated will go a long way to helping us stay warm.  Our bodies do a better job of regulating body temps if they are well hydrated. When it’s warm outside and we start getting dehydrated our body says “You’re thirsty” and we take a drink.  It doesn’t work that way in cold weather so we are less likely to drink water and more likely to get dehydrated.  On top of that we lose water through our breathing.  That breath we see in the cold is water vapor that is escaping every time we exhale.


Stay Dry to stay warm

Staying dry in cold weather is critical.  Cold+Wet + time = Hypothermia.  Hypothermia is the body’s inability to maintain body temperature, and can lead to death.  You may have heard that “Cotton is a killer” when it comes to cold weather.  If you have a son that has ever gone to a Klondike Derby with his scout troop, hopefully his Scout leaders told him this.  This isn’t because cotton is inherently bad, it’s because it holds on to moisture.  And we don’t have to have fallen through thin ice and be soaked to the bone either.  Remember our body puts off moisture just by living and that moisture gets trapped in Cotton clothing and lowers our body temps.


Dress for warmth

Layer, Layer, Layer to stay warm.  We’ve all heard it but layer what?  Layers are important but the kind of layers are more important.  Good luck getting teens to do this…I’m amazed that I still see kids in shorts and t-shirts at the school bus stops on frigid winter mornings.

A great way to remember how to ‘layer’ in cold weather is to remember the three W’s.

  1. Wicking

  2. Warm

  3. Wind

The first layer, the one that’s next to our skin should be made of a fabric that has wicking properties.  These fabrics take the moisture from our bodies and move it away from our skin where it can evaporate.  These are fabrics like Silk
, Wool (not that itchy wool sweater you’re thinking of), and man-made poly’s.  Polypropylene is the best poly for wicking properties.  It’s inexpensive and very effective.

The second layer is the warm layer, This one is where the insulation is.  It also holds a layer of air to help keep us warm.  Cotton can work for this layer if it stays dry, but remember that our bodies give off moisture, so a better choice is fleece or wool.  Wool is the traditional fabric of choice for this layer because it holds its insulating properties even when wet and because it’s also a wicking fabric, it dries quickly.  Fleece  has very similar properties to wool but doesn’t absorb so much moisture instead it passes through to evaporate more quickly.  It’s also much softer against skin. I find the thrift store a great place to get these.

The third layer is there to keep the elements out so the other two layers can do their job.  This layer works best if it’s water proof yet breathable.  We want that moisture from our bodies to be able to get out but at the same time be able to keep wind or rain water from getting in.  This is our shell.  Everything from a pvc Rain Coat to a Gore-tex outer layer fits in this category.  If you choose the rain-coat type, make sure that it has venting areas so moisture can escape, otherwise you’ll be wet (and cold).

These layers will help keep your core warm and if our core isn’t warm we are fighting a losing battle, but also don’t forget about the tootsies.  If my toes are cold I really can’t think about anything else.  I hate frozen toes and fingers.  Heat is lost quickly in these areas because the blood flows so near the skin where the cold air is.

Feet, Hands, and Head.  Layering also works on our feet and hands.   Polypropylene sock liners work great under wool socks.  Be sure to buy the knee-high length in both liners and socks, I noticed a distinct difference in temperature at the top of my calf vs the bottom when I had half-height sock liners on my last winter camp-out.  Not to mention the tight band mid-way up my calf.  That reduces circulation and leaves an ugly indentation.

When buying wool socks make sure to look at the content.  A lot of them have cotton as one of the fibers, pass on those and get the blends with poly’s or nylon, no cotton!  Same thing with glove liners, polypropylene ones are inexpensive and work well.

I’ve also learned to buy boots a size or two larger to leave wiggle room and air space.  If you have a couple of pairs of socks in your regular sized boots your foot is going to be squished in there and that makes circulation tough.  When our winter camping adventures began we decided to splurge and get some really good boots, These are Chuck-Norris-cold-toe-defense-ninja boots if you ask my kids.  After researching a bit we landed on a model of Sorel Boot that is rated to something like 100 degrees below zero.  That works for me, no more cold toes.

Later, imagine my delight when I found an identical pair, in my son’s size at the thrift store.  My eyes locked on them and I made my way, in haste, to claim them.  I’m glad I didn’t have to tackle anyone,  cause I just might have. It would have been a gentle tackle though.

Last but certainly not least.  In fact this may very well be the MOST important key to staying warm in the cold.

Cover the noggin. “If your fingers are cold, put a hat on”  What?  a hat on my fingers?  No Silly, a hat on your head.  We all know that heat is lost more quickly from our heads than any other part of the body.  It’s for the same reason that we bleed a lot (more than it seems like we should) from even a small cut on the head.  There are lots of blood vessels very close to the skin on our head and heat is lost from contact with the cold air they are exposed too.  So by keeping our heads warm, that blood stays warm and then the rest of our body is warm.

I hope that this helps you stay just a bit warmer this winter, especially if you find yourself without power like many have in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy 🙁  I’m sorry but this post won’t help with that pile of coats, boots and snowpants by the front door, you’re on your own there, but I’d be happy to entertain solutions to that problem in the comments below.




  1. Melody says:

    I’ll be anxiously awaiting comments about what to do with the pile at the front door. 🙂

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