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10 Tips on How to Survive the Frozen North
aka Fuckshitdamn It's Cold


I have randomly decided to impart my knowledge to you all. Inspired by recently spending several days without power in below-freezing weather, and also by the fact that this happens every goddamn year and yet we still don't have a backup (SERIOUSLY DAD CAN WE JUST FIX THE CHIMNEY), I will tell you what I have learned about staying warm when it's fucking cold and you have no power (though most of these tips also apply to staying warm WITH power!). Having lived my entire life in the Frozen North in a 100-year-old-house with original windows and doors that all leak like sieves, I have learned a thing or two. Or ten, apparently.

First: the principle of loft. This one thing is the most important thing I can tell you. Essentially, loft is what makes your bed a warm cocoon of delight at night. You want to create an airy layer between yourself and your heaviest (tightest + thickest weave) layer. This can be lesser blankets, a comforter, a quilt, whatever. Your body heat fills that space and reflects back all over you instead of being trapped directly against your skin. This principle also applies to clothing, particularly layers of clothes. This is why wearing heavy stockings under jeans doesn't help, but waffle-weave long johns are toasty. The stockings trap your body heat right up against you, but the waffle weave keeps the heat through all the space between your skin and the jeans. Loft is a little counter-intuitive, but it really makes a huge difference!

Second: socks will keep you warmer than any other item of clothing. Get good, warm socks and layer them on. I had the most amazing socks once - I could walk in a foot of snow in just those socks and never feel a chill. You want those socks. Why are feet the human thermostat? Who freaking knows, just take advantage of it!

Third: sleep naked. Socks should be the only item of clothing you wear to bed. No, seriously! Remember loft? Pajamas (or, worse, all the layers you put on during the day) will completely defeat the purpose of blankets. If you're cold, sleep naked and wear socks and you will be toasty.

Fourth: when you're naked under the covers, getting up to breath-stopping cold will suck. The solution? Bring tomorrow's clothes into bed with you. Just don't wear them in bed! XD They'll be warm in the morning, making things a little more bearable.

Fifth: DANCE. Shovel, sweep, whatever, just stay in motion. If you must sit still, keep your extremities close. The parts of you that are coldest will change depending on your level of activity. Be ready to adjust your layers accordingly. If you sweat (and yes, you can sweat while freezing!) it will turn into clammy cold awfulness very quickly. Don't just pile on layers blindly, pay attention to where you're cold! An overall chill is better treated with more socks than with another hoodie.

Sixth: your environment can be manipulated. A single candle can warm you ever so slightly, especially in a small room. If you're burning stuff, oxygen demands will be high! Don't ever seal yourself in a room with a candle. The air that comes in around your doors and through your vents should be enough; don't block those, even if they leak cold in. I do recommend heavy curtains though. They trap a layer of cold air against the window rather than letting it pour all over the floor. Use body heat to your advantage, too. If there are multiple people in the house, gather in one room. If it's drafty, keep interior doors cracked just a little - this creates separate cells of air that have to be individually chilled rather than having the breeze shoot straight through your house, while also keeping oxygen circulating.

Seventh: shove your hands in your crotch. No really, your crotch and armpits (and possibly just below your sternum if you're well-endowed in the chest) are the warmest exterior parts of your body. Don't breathe on your hands to warm them, the moisture of your breath will cancel out any warmth you manage to impart.

Eighth: light sources are nice, because the sun rises after you go to work and sets before you get home. Candles, clearly - oil lamps are nice too, especially since you can adjust the level of light. Make sure you get clean-burning oil though. If you get cheap oil, get a cheap lamp, because that crap is a pain and a half to clean. For candles I love the glass pillar candles from the grocery store, but make sure the wick doesn't contain a metal core. If you get any other kind of candle, make sure you have a holder it can be absolutely secure in so you can carry it from room to room. Keep matches in your pocket at all times, and keep a candle or lamp by the front door for when you come home in the dark. I guess you could have a flashlight instead but where is the fun in that I ask you?! Also the fire actually will give you a teeny bit of radiant warmth and a flashlight will not.

Ninth: don't open the fridge or freezer until you absolutely have to, and then empty it out. Two days without power and the meat in your freezer is fully thawed. Three days and it's so questionable I wouldn't risk it. Leftovers are done for by the second day. Vegetables vary. Most processed foods and condiments are nearly shelf-stable and will be fine, unless they contain meat or dairy. Eggs will be fine for several days, but use them up quickly after that if you can. Keep an eye on temperatures - food may keep better in a big locking bin outside than in your fridge, or even tucked into a dark corner of the house. If you keep it outside, pile snow around it (helps insulate and stabilize the temperature) and make sure wildlife can't get in. You can keep small items cold by stashing them between your window and screen, too! If you have hot water, you can get canned food lukewarm by putting it in a bigger container filled with hot water. I did this for the cat's food, and to thaw out the Nutella. XD Don't run to the store to get water, milk, or bread. I don't know why people do this but it's stupid. Get fruit, vegetables and a shelf-stable dip/dressing, or whatever else you can think of, but don't do it the first day because everyone will be there buying milk and bread. Dumbasses.

Tenth: it doesn't take much equipment to make all this advice needless. A way to cook and a way to heat a room are all you really need. Do some research, make sure you have proper air flow, and get a carbon monoxide detector. Maybe you can DIY a solar-powered space heater, or put out a solar stove (the day after a storm will be gorgeous and bright!), or set a camp stove on the porch, or plop a cheap fire pit in your parking spot, or even just make a fire in the fireplace! If you have a fire, all you need for food is a grill and a pan (NOT nonstick! the teflon may overheat and release toxic fumes! try some cheap cast iron instead). And lastly, the thing that helped me make it through days of seeing my breath inside my house: a hand-crank radio. I don't even like listening to the radio, but having something cheerful (and a way to get information about power restoration!) made it bearable, and it gave me something to dance to.

SUPER BONUS TIP: Winter wind comes from the north because of the goddamn arctic jetstream. Stay on the south side of the house/flat/whatever. This is also the side that actually gets sun, because our winter sun rises and sets in the south, not the east and west. For at least the first day after the storm, the weather will be clear and you'll get actual sunbeams. Use them wisely.
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