Winter is nearly upon us – and some are already shoveling out from the first of many winter storms. Those of us who have always lived in the northern climes may be old hands at preparations, but in this mobile society, there are some who do not really know how to prepare for the cold season ahead. So for them, or as a “refresher checklist” for the rest of us, here are some suggestions:
Wear Long Underwear
Unpack the long johns, or stock up on them if you don’t have any. Also called “long underwear” or “thermal underwear”, these should be standard garb for anyone who doesn’t like to be cold. You can buy them in cotton blends, which is okay if you are mostly going to be wearing them around the house. Cotton isn’t good for outdoor winter sports, though, as cotton absorbs the sweat and holds it next to your skin, which will make you cold. For outdoor sports enthusiasts, invest in either wool (some find it scratchy) or nylon thermal underwear. You can find both at sports stores like Dick’s Sports, Gander Mountain, and Bass Pro shops. The more common cotton long johns can be found at most major department stores, and in a variety of colors and cute prints. I’ll add that the silk ones are very thin, and don’t make you look ten pounds heavier, but they will keep you toasty warm even if your home is drafty or your spouse insists on setting the thermostat lower than you’d like. It is MUCH cheaper to wear long johns than to heat your house to 72 degrees, and another benefit – if you’re wearing long johns, then every time you have to run out to the car, you don’t get as chilled. I love winter, but I hate feeling chilled.
Dress smart – layer clothes.
Over the long johns, wear a turtle neck, flannel or cotton knit long sleeved shirt. Then a vest or pullover sweater, then your coat. Long johns on the legs, then either pants or a skirt, and snow pants if you are going to be outside for any length of time. Boots are best if you get the kind with thick felt inserts. No zippers in boots, as snow gets in the zipper, melts and chills your foot. Also, frozen zippers break.
You must wear a hat, if you don’t want to be cold. We lose a lot of heat through our head. The hat is easy to pull off if you start to feel too warm, or pull on when you feel chilled. Train your children to wear hats. Spoil them with the hats they want, so they’ll wear them. I know it isn’t “cool” to wear hats in high school, but frost bitten ears is so not cool, either.
And finally – mittens! Gloves are okay if you are driving, but your fingers will be warmer if kept all together. Knit mittens are fine for going places, but for outdoor play, you’ll want thicker mittens – leather with liners, or poly-filled nylon. Do not allow yourself to sweat. Remove layers, loosen layers, or button them back up as needed to keep warm without sweating. Be warned! If you plan to do some outdoor camping, that many outdoor clothes are not flame-retardant! The typical nylon ski or snowmobile suit will melt to your skin. Wool is best for camping.
Get a boot dryer.
Unless you have slab heat in your floors, your boots may be wet inside all winter. Boot dryers are cheap and practical. You slip an inverted boot over the the post, which gently circulates warm air to the inside of the boot. Wet boots stink and won’t keep your feet warm.
One -Piece Snowsuits Are Best for Young Children
One-piece snowsuits are better for young children, but harder to find. Most stores now sell snow pants that fit like overalls- coming up over the shoulder, then a separate jacket. That is so the child can wear just the jacket if not going to play outside, but when is that? Schools send children out for recess every day, until the temp is 3 degrees below zero. Then they stay inside. If your child has a one-piece snowsuit, he won’t ever go outside without the pants part.
Wear socks or slippers in your house.
If your feet are warm, you will feel warmer all over. Don’t pad around barefoot like you did in the summer. Winter can be a time to pamper your feet. Slough off the hard callouses, rub in some thick moisturizing cream, and wear slippers. By spring time, your feet will be pretty again.
Putting Clear Plastic Over Your Windows Can Cut Down on Drafts
If your house is drafty (most are), you may want to plastic the windows. This is best done sometime after Halloween and before Thanksgiving in many northern areas. Some plastic goes up on the outside with a staple gun. Some types of plastic go up on the inside with double-stick tape and a hair dryer. The plastic can cut down drastically on drafts, save on your heating costs, and keep you all more comfortable. However, it does cut down somewhat on the light in your house, which affects people with SAD (seasonal adjustment disorder). With the plastic, wearing long johns and slippers, you can be warm inside with the thermostat set somewhere between 65-68 degrees.
Winterize your car.
Check the radiator fluid, the air in the tires, the washer fluid. Cheap washer fluid can ice up and won’t clear your windows once a semi sloshes muddy water on your car. Hardware stores and auto parts stores sell a more expensive washer fluid that won’t freeze. If you can afford it, make sure the undercarriage of your car has been rust-proofed. Road salt chews away at cars in the north. If you can’t afford that, then make sure you wash your car often in the winter. The car wash bays are open except on the coldest days.
You will also want to prepare an emergency kit for your car, in case you become stranded. There are many guides and lists of appropriate items to include, like bottled water, hard sugar candies (for energy), blankets, flash light, first aide kit, and more. Keep this in your car all winter long! And don’t forget the jumper cables. Every car that drives in cold weather should carry a set of jumper cables. You might never need them, but they cost under fifteen dollars at most stores, while a single tow to the garage can run closer to two hundred.
Finally, depending on the type of car you have, you may want to put sand bags in the trunk over the rear axle. You do not do this for front-wheel drive vehicles! But especially in pick-up trucks. The extra weight gives you better traction on slippery roads, and if your tires do become stuck, you can split open the sand bag and sprinkle it under your tires. You can find sand sausages at many garages and auto parts stores for around $7.00 apiece.
Stock Up on Ice-Melt
Get some fertilizer to sprinkle on your front door step to melt the ice. Some homes use salt, which is harmful for the environment. Fertilizer works, too, and won’t damage your lawn. It’s still not great for the environment, but its better than salt. Plain sand works, too, and many people mix sand and fertilizer for ice-melt. You will need a snow shovel and maybe an ice chopper for the sidewalks. If you don’t keep your sidewalk shoveled and ice free, you can get a ticket if you live in town.
Get Outside, Get Involved in Winter Sports
Finally, check the resale stores for used ice skates, snow sleds, snow boots, extra scarves, hats, mittens, etc. If you don’t want to hate winter, and suffer SAD (seasonal adjustment disorder, a type of depression that affects northerners from lack of sun exposure in the winter) then get outside and enjoy the snow! EVERY DAY. If you have little ones, take them to the playground. Slides work just as well in winter, yet the playgrounds are ghost towns once school starts. Snow suits make slides even faster than sweaty summer legs in shorts.