Any self-respecting prepper will tell you that relying on the government to help you during a crisis is an exercise in futility. The best way to survive any contingency (such as the power going out during winter) is to be prepared.
Indoor stoves, thermal blankets, battery-operated lanterns, ready-to-eat meals, etc. will come in very useful when you have no electricity and it’s freezing outside.
But what do you do if you’re not prepared?
In this article, we’ll look at a few ways you can survive the cold, even if you lack the usual survival gear. It won’t be easy… but it can be done.
* Layer your clothes
This is probably the most obvious step and yet, people get it wrong. Start off by wearing innerwear that’s not made of cotton. If you sweat under your layer of cotton clothes, your perspiration will conduct the cold better and you’ll feel even more chilly.
It’s best to wear some thermal innerwear that wicks away your perspiration… followed by a few shirts on top of that, mittens, socks, etc.
Wearing gloves and socks is CRUCIAL to staying warm because your extremities tend to get cold faster due to the reduced blood circulation. Over and above that, when your hands and feet are cold, your entire body will feel cold.
Never stand barefoot on the floor during cold weather. Your body radiates heat and it will be absorbed by the ground and you’ll feel colder. It’s better to wear shoes or rubber slippers which don’t conduct cold as well.
* Smaller is warmer
Ideally, you should stay in just one bedroom that has a connecting bathroom/toilet. The smaller the room, the easier it will be to keep it warm. Try and get all your family members to stay in this room throughout the day so that their body heat radiates out and raises the temperature of the room.
It would be a good idea to stay in a room upstairs in your house because heat rises up. It may not make that big of a difference, but every bit helps.
Keep the room of your door closed and place a towel at the bottom of the door to prevent cold drafts.
Even within the room, you can get ‘smaller’.
What does that mean?
It means you should set up a foldable (pop-up) tent in your bedroom and huddle up inside the tent. Now your living area has become even smaller and the heat from your body is trapped within the tent.
Covering up with a pile of blankets (preferably wool) will help to keep you warm. Cold weather has a tendency to seep into your bones. It actually feels like that, but if you use blankets and layer up, you’ll raise your core temperature and feel warmer.
You may even wish to use a sleeping bag then cover yourself with blankets while staying inside the tent. Once you understand the principle of trapping heat within a micro-environment, you’ll know what you need to do.
* Wear a mask
Masks are just not for COVID-19. By wearing a mask, you prevent your body from radiating heat (as much). So, you’ll stay warmer. It also helps to cover your face and keep it warm. Use a cloth mask.
* Wear a balaclava
If you have one, wear it. Period.
* Use a hot water bottle
Heat water up in a mess tin or in some cookware and pour it into a hot water bottle. Of course, since the power is out, you’ll need to use a portable stove to boil the water.
This is why it’s of paramount importance to be prepared and have all these crucial items ready for you to use when the proverbial ‘sh*t hits the fan’. Or in this case, when life hits you with freezing weather and a power outage.
* Methods to heat up the house
If you have a wood stove, you can use it.
Alternatively, if you have a terracotta clay pot (usually used as a flower pot), you can place it on top of three bricks (arranged in a square with an opening) so that it’s elevated. Now light 2-3 small tea light candles and place them under the pot.
The pot and the bricks will get hot and emanate heat throughout the room. You’ll be amazed to see that this method can actually heat up an entire room.
If you don’t have a pot or bricks, lighting a few candles will help to heat up the room. As long as there’s an open flame, the air in the room will heat up to some degree.
It’s IMPERATIVE that you have a carbon monoxide alarm in your room/house, if you’re using indoor generators/wood stoves, etc. Carbon monoxide is an odourless gas that can knock you out (and even kill you) without you being aware.
This is why portable generators should always be placed away from the house. But of course, you need to be prepared enough to own one… and unfortunately, not many people are well-prepared.
Do get a portable generator and the fuel (NOT electricity) to power it. It’s one of the best decisions you could make as a survivalist.
* Keep cold out
Besides just doing your best to stay warm, you’ll also need to be proactive at keeping the cold out. Close the doors of all your rooms. Hang thick blankets on windows to prevent the cold from seeping in. Place towels at the bottom of all doors to prevent drafts.
* Other points
Besides the main ones mentioned above, there are a few other points that will serve you well. Always remember that every measure counts.
Men can grow beards to keep warm.
Hydrate often even if you’re not thirsty. If you can drink warm water, that’s even better.
Avoid coffee. It indirectly makes you feel colder once the effects of the caffeine wears off.
Liquor can be used to make you feel warm temporarily… and is best used ONLY if you’re cold to the point where your teeth are chattering and you feel weak.
A peg of bourbon may make you feel warm quickly BUT this is just a short-term measure if you’re feeling very cold.
Alcohol is a vasodilator and will actually make you feel colder once the effects wear off. If you sweat, you’ll lose heat. It’ll affect your body’s natural temperature regulation.
So, consume it minimally and only when in desperate need – and quickly layer up with clothes and follow the pointers above to stay warm.
Eating will also help to raise your body’s temperature. Appetite may be the last thing you have when you’re feeling colder than the neighborhood snowmen, but you should eat regularly. It’ll not only fuel your body but also keep you warm.
Light exercise will help raise your body temperature and get your blood circulation going. Doing a set or two of burpees or squats will be extremely helpful. Alternatively, 2 minutes of skipping will do the job as well.
Always remember not to exercise for too long. Short bouts will raise your metabolism… but if you start perspiring, you’ll lose heat and your efforts will be counterproductive. Less is more.
In conclusion, always remember an old Malay proverb – “Prepare the umbrella before it rains.”
Get your portable stoves, thermal blankets, fuel, candle, packaged meals, thermal innerwear, portable generator, hot water bottles, tents, mess tins and whatever else you think you’ll need in order to stay warm.
When the weather gets freezing cold and the roads get icy, not only will the stores be closed or empty of supplies, but trying to get what you want delivered may not be possible.
Use the pointers in this article, and stay warm and safe.