How to Prepare for Extreme Winter Weather

Winter can be the most wonderful time of the year, and one of the most adversed. Whether you’re traveling, adventuring, or spending some time inside, preparing for the unexpected is key! Make sure you’re ready for the cold season ahead with our tips for staying warm in unexpected winter scenarios.

Things to keep in your car for winter

Once the snow starts to fall, driving can get dicey! From the steep streets of Seattle to the high mountain passes, it is critical to be prepared for whatever winter blows. Here are a few items to have in your car:

Ice scraper and snow brush

For those early mornings after a storm, you’ll be thankful for having this tool! Be sure to scrape your windows thoroughly so you can see clearly when driving. 

Shovel

While it’d be nice if the snow only landed on our windows, that’s never the case: Sometimes, you’re going to have to do a little digging. Whether you’re clearing your parking spot in the city or trying to get your car unstuck from a ditch after a spin-out, having a shovel in the trunk is necessary. 

Tire traction

Speaking of getting stuck, let’s talk about how to get out. While digging the tire clear is a good start, you most likely spun-out from slick conditions. So giving your tires some extra traction is going to be key. While carrying chains is mandatory in most mountain areas, also consider having some road salt, sand, or even kitty litter on hand. Sprinkling a little bit of this around your tires will help them get some grip and get you moving again.

Emergency reflectors  

When the unexpected happens and gets you so stuck, you have to wait for additional help, be sure to set out some emergency reflectors. Not only will this alert other drivers that this is a scenario they need to navigate around, it also ensures they see you in harsh weather conditions.

Blanket or Sleeping Bag

Hopefully it doesn’t ever happen, but there’s always the chance that you’ll get stuck in a winter storm in your car for longer than expected. In which case, having something to keep you warm isn’t only a thing of comfort, but of safety. Be sure to keep a blanket or sleeping bag, as well as some extra layers like hats, gloves, and jackets in your car. You never know if you’re going to need them.

How to prepare for a winter hike

One of the most important elements of staying safe during a winter adventure is checking the forecast. If conditions look unpredictable or extreme, it’s best to rain-check your outing for another day. However, sometimes weather predictions aren’t accurate, and less than ideal conditions can happen in a *snap* in the mountains. Here are a few things to carry and tips to try should this happen to you:

Dress appropriately

Step one to winter preparedness is having a preventive mindset. Instead of reacting to weather conditions, try to anticipate them. This means having waterproof and wind-resistant gear, insulated footwear, gloves, a hat, and plenty of layers. You can always take layers off and store them in your pack if you get warm, but you can’t put on extra layers when you get cold if you didn’t bring them! Also, look for water resistant or wicking fabric, such as synthetic blends or wool, and try to avoid materials that retain moisture, like cotton.

Have plenty of food and water

When internal temperatures drop, your body is going to start burning more calories to fight the cold, which means you’re going to need more food when trying to stay warm. So if you get caught in less-than-ideal conditions, having extra calories to fuel your body is going to be critical, as well as plenty of water.

Extra emergency items

Any experienced hiker will tell you, carrying a first-aid kit is essential. And when winter hits, pack a few extra items:

  • Good light source with extra batteries 
  • A space blanket
  • Hand/feet pocket warmers 
  • Small propane, stove, and lighter for melting snow for water 
  • Therm-a-Rest pad to serve as an insulated layer between you and the frozen ground

Winter power outage tips

Storms don’t only wreak havoc in the mountains, they can impact our daily lives at home. Sometimes, that burly winter weather can knock out our power for several days. Here are things to have around the house:

Emergency food supply

If the storm is really bad, reaching a grocery store isn’t always an option. Even if you can leave, the store won’t necessarily have power and supplies. For longer outages, having an emergency food supply at home can be critical. Consider having a stash of dehydrated meals, like these kits offered by Mountain House Meals

Back-up heat source

Look into how your home is heated, and try to brainstorm ways to make sure it stays operating if electricity is cut off. For example, if your house is on an electric-based system, consider having a small propane-fueled heater or stove with extra fuel in storage. Otherwise, when an outage hits, you better have lots of blankets on hand!

Headlamps with extra batteries

Headlamps are a great option during outages because they free your hands to do other things. Have extra batteries on hand for flashlights and headlamps. 

Candles

In addition to your headlamp or flashlights, having some candles around can help it feel a little less frightening. Heck, it can even arguably add some ambiance! Grab a stash of long-burning candles and lighters and turn the storm into a romantic evening at home. 

Prevent Damage

The last thing you want after losing power, is for it to come back on and damage your electronics. Protect against possible voltage irregularities when power is restored by unplugging all sensitive equipment. This includes your TV, stereo, microwave, and computer.

Image by freemixer

Brooke Jackson

Brooke Jackson is an internationally featured writer and photographer based in Seattle. As the founder of Wandering Trails Media, she specializes in travel, outdoor adventure sports, and environmental studies. Brooke also instructs for REI Outdoor School, where she finds joy in educating others on how best to get outside in a responsible and sustainable way. See more of Brooke's work at www.WanderingTrailsMedia.com