How to Survive the Winter (Anywhere)

After living in Maine for about three weeks, I must say I am just about an expert on cold weather living. I am totally joking. I’d probably die due to hypothermia if I went outside for more than twenty minutes. However, the people here know their stuff. They’ve hiked the Appalachian trail and sea kayaked their way from Lake Champlain to New York City. They know what survival truly means. And thankfully, at least some of their wisdom has rubbed off on me. It is a very small amount, but it has.

So, how do you survive this universal thing we call cold. Science is at work here. Surprise! I’ve learned from my teachers here that you have to know what processes are going on in order to protect yourself from them. This can be as a simple as merely keeping warm air in your clothes or staying dry as a log.

These cold weather, winter tips are not just for camping/ wilderness trekking but everyday living as well. If you’re cold try some of these steps. Daily application is recommended. I personally will be using these in the future when I travel and do my field research. When I’m in Finland studying reindeer populations, Hokkaido, Japan researching indigenous peoples, and Antarctica observing penguins, I will have Chewonki to thank for teaching me how not to freeze.

Get ready for to learn How to Survive the Winter (Anywhere):

1. Layers on Layers on Layers

Cold? Yes? This is because you are not layering! Layering is the most simple tool for staying warm. If you are cold, put more on. However, don’t just put on heavy clothes. Start small, end puffy. This allows heat regulations. If you are hot, take some off, and since you layered, you will still be warm after removing that bulky sweater. Since there is more underneath, you’re fine. What type of clothes does matter however. Avoid cotton. It is so nice to wear, but it gets wet and stays wet. You don’t need water; I assure you. Try synthetics. Stuff that hugs your body tight will not let the thin layer of warm air between you and your body escape. It’s like a wet suit. While scuba diving, a layer of warm water between the suit and you keeps you toasty in frigid waters. It’s the same process. Don’t lose your unseen, air layer by wearing physical layers.

Not the best picture of layering, but synthetics now of days are key to staying warm. However, wool is amazing too. One faculty member here is so natural and granola that the only things she needs are her wool pants and giant sweater (with burn holes) to stay warm. Also, thanks to my friend Megan for posing.
(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

2. Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

How do we get our energy? By eating it! Food is so important in surviving the cold. Now if you are just hanging out in a cold place with an abundant amount of food, this tip may not be as useful. However, if you are like me and going to go camping in the winter for a few days, this one is super important. To stay warm, you must eat food! The type of food plays a large role in how you feel. If you are cold, try eating sugars and carbohydrates. They are easily broken down by the body (sugars are faster than carbs) and converted into energy to heat your body. Many would think protein would be important, but it honestly isn’t. Protein is great at building muscle, but you don’t need to build muscle, you need to maintain homeostasis.

Secondly, water is very important. Water is the activation energy you need to start the warming process. You are the chemical reaction that hydrogen dioxide kick starts, so even if you are cold – Drink water.

Also, don’t forget to be merry. Move, exercise, and stay active. Generate body heat and keep the energy up. You ate the fuel, drank the activation, so you need to move to keep it going. That is why people shiver! Motion is key. If you curl up and pillbug position yourself, you will get cold. However, do not exercise enough to sweat. Sweat is moisture you are losing and it will take so much energy to heat yourself up again after making yourself moist from your own fluids. That was a gross stray of words. Sweating is disadvantageous in this situation. It is easier to conserve heat than make more. Be prudent.

Change your socks! It turns out a pair of dry socks can change your life and attitude. It really works! The change between damp socks and warm ones is astounding. Also, insulated boots are amazing weapons of warmth. Try adding some warm material, inner lining as well because boots can freeze. (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

3. Accessorize

Balaclava and scarf it up. Wear gloves or mittens. Don a beanie. Ear muffs? Wear comfortable things that cover your body. It sounds like a simple concept, but people often forget simple things like jeans (especially skinny jeans) aren’t the warmest.

No matter how hot you are, heat escapes from your head if you have short hair, your neck will get cold in the wind, and your hands are necessary and frost bite-able. All these little frigid annoyances will add up into a freezing, nippy nightmare. You might feel stupid, but you will also feel warm. Personally, I now use at least a scarf and hat to keep relatively toasty. It’s your decision. If you aren’t roughing it, you may opt for some more fancy attire, but it really doesn’t matter. Just cover up like a sinner in church.

Keep in mind that the extremities the body don’t focus on heating when you’re cold. Your torso and core will be warm, but your hands will be cold. Choose wisely what to wear.

You may think this doesn’t apply to you because you aren’t camping, but central heating is an amazing concept the whole world hasn’t caught onto yet, or is even able to at times. Keep in mind your amenities at home may not be the same abroad or even domestically.

Thank you Chewonki teachers and life experience for teaching me these skills. I will use them in the distant future, and near. We are going on wilderness trips next week, so I will be in the woods for about 5 days using my newfound abilities. It doesn’t sound too difficult. I will also be in a yurt, which means I am going to be prepared for Mongolia; if I ever make it there. More posts to come about traveling in general and food! Travel safe and stay warm.