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  1. As a person living in northern New England, I deal with some level of Winter for anywhere between 6 weeks and 6 months every year. Really, it’s gotten that erratic where I dwell. I truly enjoy the nature of this site. I will say this, while we are all preparing for what may come, we must try to spend some energy living in the present moment. Winter time outdoors doesn’t have to be only to develop skills for what may come. Winter is it’s own reward, and makes me feel adventurous just being out. Way before I became a prepper, I came to really enjoy the challenge of camping and hiking and being outside in true Winter conditions. While we don’t know what the future will bring, I really believe it’s important to keep a foot in the present moment, and revel in the relative ease of N. American life at current. While many of us have seen frozen wage growth through our adult lives, we still live in opulence by comparison with other human beings on this planet. Get out and stay out, everything is out there.

    1. I’ve been watching the weakening Gulf Stream since the the BP oil spill. It is now so weak in the Northern Atlantic that it cannot regulate the Jet Stream as it once did. I believe the the unseasonable weather, even here in NW Montana is caused at least in part by this. Here is a video that one can see just how obvious the problem is. I would say more, but have to remove some tire chains and fix a flat….

      The North Atlantic’s Mystery Spot
      20,600 views•Aug 15, 2019


      1. Btw, I am not a proponent of Global Warming. The solar minimum we are entering is the dominate force. Even in the video, these Climatologists do not discuss the lack of regulation the Jet Stream this now provides, due to this “mysterious spot” in the North Atlantic. The now less unpredicatable Jet Stream may even be the cause of the warming over the North Pole. But that is not discussed. The lack of integrity, and intellectual honesty in our society, has bled over into science. Scientists are only people. The jet stream is not being given the attention it should, by either side in the debate.

  2. Some fun-filled winter injuries I’ve observed:

    -The tough biathlon racer refusing to wear hand protection at -11F. Next day he had huge puss-filled blisters on the tops of his fingers from thawing frozen flesh.

    -Mountaineers with painful sunburn INside their nostrils from walking across snow for hours on a beautiful sunny winter day. Goggles prevented eye damage, but sun reflected upwards did amazing things.

    And one that I experienced: frosted lungs from racing as hard as I could at -10F in a 50K biathlon race. Remember, even if experiencing a TEOTWAWKI winter season event, you could share that semi-permanent injury which is pretty debilitating for subsequent physical activity. In my case for a few years.

    Think Snow.

    1. I have pieces of my ears removed (freeze faster than toes/fingers). Doctors warn another case of frostbite can mean losing fingers/toes/ears. When acclimated below 0f cuts can not bleed until warmed.

  3. Definitely a timely piece. When I woke up this morning and came to work the thermometer said -41 Celsius (which is also 40 below Fahrenheit) With wind chill it’s about -48 Celsius (54 below Fahrenheit) Activities when it’s this cold out are always a challenge – I mean it’s literally too cold to snow. I know a lot of you will have trouble believing that we are out on a job site, working in these conditions. As I keep telling the young guys – It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure!

    Working and living in these temperatures is just a normal winter thing for many of us raised up in Western Canada. The one item that you covered, but is overlooked by many, is snow-blindness. The sun reflecting off the snow can cause temporary, or even permanent damage, and if you are alone, and blind, in cold weather you are as good as dead. The other item to always remember is hydration. The air can be so dry that it will suck the moisture right out of you.

    One old adage that I will pass on when it comes to cold weather: COTTON KILLS
    There are lots of new wonder fabrics out there, but wool is still one of the best options in really cold weather, even if it is a little heavy.

    Looking forward to the rest of the series on this.

  4. In the Swedish Army it was once a court martial-able offence to allow one’s self to become injured, and ineffective because they become battlefield ineffective due to frostbite. This avoidable condition puts the lives of others at risk, because you can not do your job, and protect, or care for your fellow soldiers. There are simple ways to prevent it, and the first step is to be aware of the risk, and be proactive. Act to protect your feet, and hands at the first signs of discomfort. At the first signs of discomfort, change socks, or move to where the feet can be warmed up, or both. Next time, whether inside the house, or out and about, and your feet become chilled, change your socks and see what happens. You will be pleasantly surprised. In a warm house, the feet can easily become damp with the slightest amount of moisture, and can become cold in a warm house. Just before going outside to work, put on dry cold socks and boots, and you’re feet will stay warmer and longer.

    Feet and hands are the usually the most susceptible, and the first to become cold and frostbitten. Soldiers in WW2 would carry up to 4 pairs of socks. Socks can be worn on the hands as well. It take hours sometimes to dry out the moisture making many pairs necessary for rotation, and there must be at least one pair that can be worn. 100 percent wool is the best, and some wool and weaves are better than others. Nose and ears are actually the most susceptible, but usually receive attention right away. Most garments and socks are now wood blends that can be less effective. Look for percentages, and then examine the sock. Much of the polyester/nylon might be located in the area of the ankle, but not in the foot, making that sock acceptable. However, the best socks will contain at least 90 percent wool. Wool will keep you warmer when slightly damp, whereas synthetics will not. If we can keep moisture away from the sock, then it will continue to insulate rather than draw the heat from your foot to the outside of the boot. Water is an excellent conductor of heat. A very small amount of moisture greatly reduces the effectiveness of any sock, including a wool sock to insulate. If the feet become cold, immediately change socks and dry out the first pair.

    Here are some tricks. Layers of socks can be helpful. In a large boot up to 3 layers can be use. The first layer can be a thin synthetic or wool sock, with one or two layers thicker socks over that. Thin wool socks for the summer are still sold in Sweden, and these might be available on line. These are the best, yet 100 percent synthetics tend to be the thinnest and works. The first sock will tend to absorb the moisture, and keep it away from the outer insulating socks. If the feet become cold, change the inner sock or remove it, or replace it. If very cold replace all the socks. And here is a very effective old and forgotten trick to use when all other techniques prove inadequate. Use the thinnest sock, moist or not, and then place the foot inside a plastic bread bag, and then use an outer layer of preferably a wool sock. It is very effective for hours or when exercising, but only use this in very cold and challenging situations, and make sure that the feet are thoroughly dried out in the evening, or risk trench foot and other issues. Do not allow the feet to become too soft. And if the feet become dangerously cold, remove all socks and place the bare feet inside the arm pits of your partner, another old Swedish trick. Warming the foot next to a fire is very dangerous, because the very cold foot can not feel heat. Do not do this. Wool socks are also an advantage, because they will not burn or melt when place near the open flame of a fire. They smolder if in contact with a spark. However, they can be scorched, yet they tolerate high temperatures better, or with out becoming damaged. synthetics should be kept far away from open flames and sparks.

    When out there in rough and primitive conditions, wool is your best friend. In this modern era, where synthetics can be as effective for few hours we are exposed, if used around wood stoves and camp fires, these materials can be a serious hazard if not protected with an outer layer of either wool or cotton.
    Many soldiers have seriously burned when their synthetic clothing caught fire and melted onto their skin, and gave them 3rd degree burns. Cotton as a tight weave, a thin, tough, and protective from flame or sparks, and from the wind and dirt, can be used to protect synthetics or wool. But it because is absorbs and holds moisture, it should not be worn as an inner layer.

      1. Figured u ain’t done :O)

        I’m back in to dry out my clothing and myself before taking a sledge hammer to a rusted on wheel. Changed socks and everything… Of course I’ll be sensible about it, and will attempt to negotiate this situation first. Gotta let the penetrating oil work before using brute force. May loose the rim in the process.

    1. I agree with TR’s sock suggestions. Here’s some additional thoughts:

      Nylon is often added to wool socks to give them durability — it’s a tough fabric and helps minimize holes in heels and the ball of your foot. Less than 8 or 10% nylon is fine if the balance is wool.

      Acrylic is also a common addition to wool blends for socks, but in my opinion it is less useful. I speculate that acrylic is added to lower the cost of the fabric and make the sock feel softer.

      One to four percent spandex is also an OK addition to socks, in my opinion, especially if your socks are long. Spandex or Lycra will help them stay up on your calf all day. I like to put on my thermals and then pull up a long pair of socks over them. I have wool thermals in two different weights — they are teriffic!

      I have found that wool socks sold for alpine skiing are often very thin and can make a useful sock liner when layering socks.

      If your feet get cold from the bottom up, buy thick wool felt insoles, which can really help insulate your feet from the ground. Boots with Thinsulate are also a big help — 200 grams may be OK in the South, but 600 or 800 grams is better for northern climes.

  5. A timely series as we enter a Solar Minima. These past two weeks, we got about 4 feet of snow, more than usual for this area (middle of Idaho) in the last decade, but not in historical context. Things I was afraid would happen during the 1-2-3 systems that went through, like loss of power, did not. I was feeling very content because I’m stocked up, and have had lots of indoor projects to work on, even more than I could possibly do. I have electric baseboard heating, which is great at night in each bedroom, and a propane heat stove in the main area. I realized that both seemed to struggle a bit at keeping the cabin warm enough when the temps dipped down to single digits. So, I’m determined to replace my propane stove with a dual purpose firewood stove so I can heat up food when necessary. The propane stove will keep working during an electrical outage, but the fans that push the warm air around will not. And you can’t cook on top of it. Are there any recommendations for types of wood stoves? I’ve done some research, but would love to hear other’s experiences.

    1. SaraSue,

      I actually don’t cover wood stoves in this series – it’s more about outdoor activities in cold weather. That being said, home heating options and considerations would be a great topic for an article by someone with more knowledge and experience than me.

    2. SaraSue,

      I would not wait, and would purchase and install the best stove you can afford at this time. Get one, including all the high quality pipe you can, even if you cannot install it immediately. A wood stove is central to an off grid, self sufficient life. Without it, one cannot be truly be self sufficient. I’ve built several stoves, yet I am no expert. I would avoid the modern highly efficient stoves that are EPA approved. I suspect it is a compromised design that favors efficiency over reliability. The EPA has mandated and destroyed sensible designs from gas cans, chain saws, to wood stoves. The catalytic part of the design that makes it so efficient will eventually plug up on you.. Go with an older time tested air tight stove that is not one of the high efficient modern types, but of a known durable construction. I would also have several spare stoves, even if they are only antique cast iron, but a stove that I could trust my life on. I collect and repair old stoves too. Stoves do burn out in the back and have issues like anything else, so I have a life time supply that will also be priceless in the future.

      The stove I am currently warmed by was made in 1953, and designed in the 1930’s. I improved the design and made it ‘air tight’. It did have a problem that I had to repair, fortunately a couple of spot welds fixed it. If it fails again, I have another just outside the door that can quickly be installed. I would rather have two ugly old stoves in excellent condition, than one shiny new beautiful thing. A wood stove is so important, that your life may depend on it one day.

    3. SaraSue,you probably have insufficient insulation,your electric utility may have a program to help cover cost of improving insulation(my utility covered 100% cost). Heating cost reduced 1/3,eliminated drafts. Suggest kerosene heater in case extreme cold,power failure-safe/portable/easy to store fuel. Easy way to check is obtain a non contact thermometer(borrow or get cheap from Harbor Freight) and check wall/floor/window temps close to outside vs center of home the greater the distance the greater need for insulation(especially around plumbing)

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