Brad Harvey: Don’t be caught unprepared in the cold

January 7, 2014 

With temperatures falling this week to lows that I can’t even remember experiencing around here before, we’ve all been inundated with news reports reminding us of what we should be doing.

Keeping a light on in a well house, dripping our faucets so that pipes don’t freeze and taking care of outside pets are always some of the first things that come to mind.

But we tend not to pay attention in some other critical areas that can mean the difference between life or death for ourselves.

The most often overlooked area in this regard? Surprisingly, it’s proper planning for cold-weather emergencies in the car.

Cars have heaters. There’s really no need to give much thought to this unless we’re taking some sort of trip through a blizzard in a far-off northern climate, right? Wrong.

Even a short trip to the store and back can slap you upside the head with something that you never saw coming, and it only takes a few minutes in these extremely cold temperatures to find yourself in a life or death situation.

You may be just fine with slipping on a winter coat to run from the door of the house to your car but that’s not going to cut if something unforeseen arises and you find yourself stuck in the vehicle for any length of time without it running.

Every time you leave the house in the winter, you need to be properly dressed for it.

Just like when we’re out hunting, wearing layers is the way to go. Everyone, whether they’re an outdoorsman or not, should own at least one pair of a synthetic base layer that traps warmth against your body while allowing perspiration to escape by wicking it away and helping it dissipate.

Even if you’re just carrying them with you, gloves or mittens are a must if you find yourself stuck somewhere in the cold. In just a matter of seconds, frostbite can attack your digits and the pain that is associated with it is nearly unbearable.

It doesn’t hurt to take this a step further and have a pair of polyester glove liners to wear inside your gloves as well. These allow an insulating layer of air to be trapped between it and the outer gloves, working in the very same way that wearing other layers on your body does.

Ladies, I know that the last thing you want to do is to mess up your hair, but a hat is necessary to keep warm. Keep in mind that more body heat escapes through the head than any other part of the body; you have to understand the importance of paying attention to protecting it.

Wearing that fleece or wool stocking cap might not put you on anybody’s “best dressed” list, but it can make a huge difference in keeping you warm enough when it matters most.

And guys? Do you typically pull on those cotton athletic socks every morning? Forget them. A thick pair of hunting socks, whether made from merino wool or some synthetic, with a thin sock liner, is a must.

At some point we’ve all experienced the misery of having our feet get too cold and it happens that much faster when the weather has gotten this crazy.

Throwing together a kit

Smart folks already have some sort of “emergency kit” in their trunk. This usually includes things like jumper cables, but rarely includes a few things that will help you survive the cold.

This is why having the foresight to toss in a few basic things is of the utmost importance.

Staying hydrated is something that we think more about during the warmer months, but it’s just as important when the mercury is reading low. Keep several bottles of water in the back so they’ll be there should the need arise.

A few high-protein energy bars or packs of jerky need to be included as well. The process of digestion actually raises your core body temperature, so it helps to eat whether you’re hungry or not. Just don’t bother with candy bars or other sugary snacks. They break down in the body too quickly to provide any real help.

Pick up several packs of hand warmers at any local sporting goods store or Wal-Mart and keep them in the car. These little dandies will last for up to eight hours and can make a huge difference.

A sleeping bag and a wool blanket are perfect additions as well. Besides using them to keep yourself warm, keep your snacks and water wrapped up in them while stored and you won’t find them frozen solid when you pull them out.

Last, but certainly not least, remember to have a flashlight at your disposal, and LED lights are the better choice. These last longer than traditional flashlights, shine brighter and can be the difference between someone seeing you stuck on the side of the road as opposed to them just driving by.

There ya go. Pretty simple isn’t it? I hope that everyone will take a few minutes to throw just such a kit together. It’s inexpensive, takes only a few minutes and simply makes sense.

Y’all stay safe out there!

Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at or follow on Twitter @BHarveyOutdoors.

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