3 Tips for Dealing with Extreme Cold


There is no doubt that extreme cold temperatures will be impacting the Midwest of United States over the next 48 hours.  Schools, businesses and government buildings are closing down in an attempt to help people “safe.”

The fact of the matter is that life can’t always just stop because of the weather.  Sometimes there are things that we want to do, or even need to do, and were forced to do those things at a bad time.  It could be rain or snow. High winds or high water. Intense heat or extreme cold.  The fact remains that when you need to get a loved one to a hospital, help a friend, or just plain get things done sometimes you need to press on.

Here are some tips to help you deal with extreme cold:

1. Dress Appropriately

One of the best ways to ensure your own safety when it comes to extreme cold weather is to dress appropriately.  The concept of dressing for cold temps goes much deeper than simply throwing on a coat and a hat.  

The first important principle to understand is that your body produces plenty of heat and your job is to dress in clothes that help contain that heat in a layer around your body. If you can do that, you can stay warm in just about any temperature.  So how do you go about creating a layer of warm air that you can continually heat with your body?

Starting from the outside make sure you have a windproof shell. The more wind there is the more important your shell is. The more the air moves the more you have to reheat the new, cold air that enters your space.  That uses energy.

There are plenty of fabrics out there today that act as an outstanding shells.  You can spend hundreds of dollars on high-tech fabrics but keep in mind that in a pinch an adequate shell might be as simple as a garbage bag with a hole for your head to poke out.

Keep in mind to truly stay warm you need to contain the heat around your entire body not just your trunk.  Don’t forget about your head, hands, legs and feet.  They all can benefit from a windproof shell.

A shell by itself isn’t going to do much good. Between your skin and the shell need to be some quality layers that can trap air for your body to heat.

Layers are helpful because they help trap air in between your body and your shell. Layers are your insulation and they are flexible. When you become more active you can remove layers when he become you become sedentary you can add layers.

When you’re selecting layers understand that fluffier layers tend to trap more air than dense layers and your layers need to fit in a way that doesn’t overly compress them. A compressed layer provides less insulation.

There are plenty of synthetics out there that do a fabulous job of keeping you warm, or you can go with natural fibers like wool.  Most importantly avoid cotton at all costs.  Cotton holds water. When it’s cold outside the last thing you want next to your skin is water.

2.  Be Prepared
Murphy is out to get you, especially in the cold.

When you do go out, make sure you have everything you need and then some. Remember that shell and those layers? Have extras, especially for your head hands and feet. Have food and water so you can stay fed and hydrated. Don’t forget that in an extreme situation providing help for someone else might be called for. The extras can come in handy in that situation as well. Remember, it’s not just about you. It’s about everyone in your vehicle so make sure you have spares for your kids or any other passengers that might be a long for the ride.

Remember when things are extreme the consequences when there is a problem are increased and the likelihood that there’s going to be a problem in the first place is increased. You definitely need to be top of your game.  

3. Communicate

When things get tough tough guys call their friends.  It isn’t any different in extreme cold weather. Make sure you have your cell phone. Ensure your phone is charged. Do you have a cable to keep it charged? Keep in mind, cold-weather can make it difficult for batteries to hold a charge. If you need to, get it inside your coat underneath the layers to help warm it up.

Communication shouldn’t just happen when things go wrong, I t should also happen before you venture out at all. Let someone you trust know where you’re going, when you’re going there and when you expect to arrive. Make sure you communicate when you get there. You might want to include them in the details including your route, what vehicle you’re taking, etc. If things get really bad and you don’t show up where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there, someone is on the lookout and can send help.

I’m a firm believer in doing what it is that needs to be done regardless of the weather. With common sense and some simple precautions, we can get a lot accomplished even when the weather turns bad.  What’s the best way to learn how to deal with extreme conditions? Take the steps that we outlined and get out there for simple tasks over short durations and give it a try.

2 replies
  1. Kim
    Kim says:

    This was good information that I had trouble getting through because of the many typos. (I’ll cut you a break on the chance that your fingers were so cold your couldn’t spellcheck.) Regardless, hopefully people will heed your warnings. We tend to minimize weather threats, and these extreme temperatures are very hazardous, even during short excursions.

    • PaulCarlson
      PaulCarlson says:

      Kim- Thanks for the comment. I used a new workflow to make this post which included speech to text and editing in a new word processor all on my iPad. I certainly missed a lot of missing words and improper substitutions on edit. Obviously with speech to text I will need to edit much more carefully as errors can be very distracting to the reader.

      Hopefully on my new edit that I just posted I corrected most of the errors.

      Stay safe out there and have a great day!


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