10 Must-Have Items for an Extreme U.S. Winter

(Warner Bros.)

The less skin showing, the better as seen in 1983’s A Christmas Story. (Warner Bros.)

If you’re in the top half of the U.S. over winter, you’ll notice that it gets a tad cold. If you’re new to the U.S., let me assure you that no, you never get used to it.

Here are ten things you really must have in such situations:

1. A big ole parka. Sadly, most British coats don’t really cut the mustard. Veteran snow dwellers have a collection of parkas for the varying levels of “how cold?”. All parkas must cover your bum, but for the dangerously cold stuff, you need one that goes down to your boots. A duvet will suffice if you’re really stuck.

2. Winter accessories. Don’t even think of going out bareheaded or un-gloved. Within five minutes your hands will become claw like and useless and your ears will start stinging. When it gets down into single digits (Fahrenheit) the scarf should be wrapped across as much of your face as possible; balaclavas do the job nicely too. (And seriously, no matter how vocally your kids protest, don’t let them go out under-dressed.

Me walking the dog.

Me walking the dog. (Toni Hargis)

3. Ugly boots with grippy soles. For all but the truly dedicated, fashion goes out the window during North American winters. Even if it’s “not that cold” there’s often a lot of snow-melting salt around which is death to a fancy leather boot. And leather soles are just an accident waiting to happen in slick conditions so make sure you have tractor treads down there.

4. Thermals (or fleece tights). No longer the domain of great-grandfathers and babies, long underwear is highly recommended if you’re outside, especially if you’re standing around. These days, they are light and silky; you really don’t feel anything but the benefit. And for skirt-wearers, fleece-lined tights provide “warmth without the bulk”.

5. Layers. This is the North Americans’ mantra; according to Weather.com, “In general, the three main layers are wicking (next to the skin), insulating and weather protection.” Start with a thermal, then a light fleece, then a protective shell or parka. In the unlikely instance that you overheat (say, on the bus or in school), you can whip off the parka and still be toasty.

6. Chap stick (lip balm). In many cold places here, it’s also extremely dry, which leads to much chapping of lips. In our house everyone has at least one chap stick in each coat pocket. Make sure you don’t lick your lips to moisturize them as this makes everything ten times worse.

7. Moisturizer. The cold, dry air will similarly dry out your skin faster than you can say “what’s that white flakey stuff on the inside of my socks?”. Moisturizer is a must for every part of your body, but make sure it’s as simple as possible if you want to avoid further, stinging pain. Many people get cracked feet and finger tips for which you’ll need an extra thick cream or, as my doc recommends, chap stick.

8. A hair dryer. Hair dryers come in very useful when the thermometer plummets. You’ll quickly learn not to go out with wet hair as, like everything else (including nostril hair) it freezes. Hair dryers can also be used to keep your home warm or lower your energy bills. If your windows let the cold in, you can buy insulator kits that are basically plastic sheeting and tape, made more airtight with the help of a hair dryer.

9. For kids in strollers, a giant footmuff. If you have small kiddies, it’s important to keep them warm and dry in wintery weather. You’ll see many tots bundled up in plush, thick footmuffs, that actually cover the entire body. If it’s really windy you might also want to consider a plastic cover that goes over the entire stroller.

(Toys "R" Us)

Bundle up the wee ones. (Toys “R” Us)

10. Common sense. Brits, this is not the U.K.; this may well be the coldest weather you’ll ever experience. Listen to the locals and listen to the weather forecasts. If the nice TV meteorologist tells everyone to stay indoors, that means you, your children and your pets. If it’s cold as soon as you step outside, it’s not going to warm up much and prolonged exposure is what causes all the problems. Frostbite is a reality and is not pretty. Here, forewarned is forearmed, as they say.

Do you have any additions to the list? 

See More:
Winter is Coming: How to Cope with the Cold, American Style
Brits in a Cold Climate
8 Situations When Brits Behave Differently from Americans


Toni Hargis

Toni Summers Hargis is a British author who has lived in the USA since 1990. Toni blogs as Expat Mum and is the author of Rules, Britannia - An Insider's Guide to Life in the United Kingdom and The Stress-Free Guide to Studying in the States; A Step-by-Step Plan for International Students. She has made frequent appearances on radio and TV discussing US/UK matters.
View all posts by Toni Hargis.
  • gn

    An “extreme” winter here would call for T-shirt and shorts.

  • John H Harris

    One thing to consider, in this “gadget age”, is texting gloves. Most of those on the market just won’t cut it in the biting cold, and the ones that do are prohibitively expensive for most people. I suggest a good pair of insulated gloves, and a few coats of a product called “AnyGlove”. Yeah, it can get messy when applying it, but it’s an economical alternative.

    • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

      That’s good to know. My teens are complaining that the texting gloves are useless. I just don’t understand why they need to be constantly texting!

    • Woolhatwoman

      Now THAT’s interesting! Thanks for the tip!

  • YankBird

    Hello,Toni from the NorthShore area,you have adjusted to the area brilliantly. Lol! Not too mention the best deals for snow boots, scrapers, hats, and gloves are before December. Why wait for disaster, when you can stock up before and be prepared for ice,sleet, and snow when it strikes. Always have an extra pair of gloves on you I do. Stay warm that Lake effect wind is terrible. Cheers!

    • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Toni Hargis

      Yup, that lake effect snow is a killer.

  • Angie Poole

    I grew up in the Los Angeles area and now live in Syracuse (in the heart of the snow belt) and I think some of this is spot on and some of it is personal preference.

    Good treads on your shoes is a must. When you get pulled down by your 10 pound dog when the ground is a little bit icy, you realize tread matters!

    Moisturize early and often. Winter itch is so hard to get rid of once it strikes, and dry skin is more prone to random cuts that you have no idea how you got.

    I almost never wear scarves, though. I hate the way they feel, so I don’t do it unless we’re in subzero temperatures (which is also the only time I wear anything I’d call a parka, and it most certainly does not go more than a few inches past the bum). A fair warning, though, is that you can’t feel your nose, and may find out when you walk back inside that your nose is running, so carry facial tissues if you don’t want to be seen that way ;). Gloves also don’t go on til the temperatures are below 20F unless I’m going to be out for a while (cleaning snow off of the car may or may not warrant gloves, depends on how long it’s going to take), and I don’t wear long underwear of any kind. Winter temperatures tend to be in the 20s and teens for most of the year, so it’s not as big of a deal as it would be in colder areas, or for people who like winter sports. I go from building to car to building, so I dress in such a way I won’t get too hot. Layering is a single long sleeved layer under the coat, because I’ll start sweating otherwise! Dress for how cold YOU get, and don’t assume because you weren’t raised in it you won’t be able to handle it. And, yes, you can get used to it.

    • Crysania

      I live in the Cuse too and totally agree with this. I don’t wear long johns here. I discovered, however, you really need them in some places. I went to school in Potsdam and my first year the weather hit a bunch of record lows…of like 35 below and lower. Long johns were a MUST (as were scarves, a long coat that made me look like the damned Grim Reaper, hats AND earmuffs, and far more clothing than I’ve ever had on since).

  • Meisha

    out of curiosity, where do you live in the US? I’m from Idaho and it can get colder than Alaska here in some places, I don’t follow half of this stuff, in fact I hardly ever need my actual coat, i can get by with a decent hoodie.

    btw i love this blog 😀

    • sara

      I think the author is 100% spot on with everything listed and hasn’t exaggerated anyting. There is a huge difference between simply scampering from your heated house to your heated car to a heated shop and back again versus walking the dog, walking to the shops, shovelling the sidewalk and driveway, etc. If you truly spend time outdoors in the northern wintery parts of the US you need everything she mentioned. If you can be outside without a jacket or gloves for more then 2 minutes then this list would not apply to your situation. For others unaccustomed to the frigid and often dangerous winter conditions this article is perfect.

      • maggie

        I agree Sara. I don’t walk my dogs anymore if the temps are below 20. If it is too cold for me then it is too cold for them which is a mantra here in NH. Another necessary thing to do if you have dogs wipe down their paws with warm water when you come in from walks in order to remove the salt, used on roads. Mind you I’ve seen some hardy New Englanders out in shorts and even flipflops when there has been snow on the ground.

        Carry cat litter in your car, it can be a godsend on ice which I found out during my working days

        • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Toni Hargis

          My dog has very hairy paws and her breed is apparently “made for snow and cold weather”. However, I quite often find that the snow packs in between her paws and forms solid, sharp ice clumps. That, and the salted paving always causes problems, but I’ve just discovered Mushers’ Wax, which is brilliant. You smear a thin application of the wax onto each paw and it stops the ice sticking as well as protecting against the salt. (No way will she let me put the booties on her.)

          • maggie

            One of mine is a husky who does not like the cold and my other has very hairy feet too and he doesn’t like the cold either. We do have a large enclosed area that I let them out in to go potty if they don’t get their walks or trip to the dog park. There is no way I am going out when it is cold and icy as I can’t take a chance of falling as I have osteoporosis.

    • saxonchap

      Meisha, the blog is written to warn people from the UK – we have absolutely no idea what real snow (think several feet) and real cold is like. It’s a bit like when we all go off racing to Spain for summer holidays – instant burn because we simply aren’t used to all that hot sunshine! The UK, for all it’s rain, is really a mild-weather climate – no extremes as in the USA – and all the points Toni covers are excellent – and necessary!

      • Ruthie615

        Saxonchap is that you Richard!!!

        • saxonchap

          Damned … outed 😀 You know it ls, gorgeous :)

          • Ruthie615

            hahaha – I knew it was you – you are the only Saxonchap I know – there couldn’t possibly be two – unique in every way!!!

  • Kat Polking

    Iowan here. This is a great list; I’d agree with everything on it. I’ll add a couple of additional tips:

    Chemical hand warmers/toe warmers: These are fantastic for long periods outside in the extreme cold. The toe warmers will fit inside your boots/shoes, and the hand warmers can be placed across the backs of your hands inside gloves or mittens. They will save your extremities from frost-bitten misery in truly cold weather.

    Don’t forget the driving issues–winter driving in the northern states is often dangerous. Pay attention to the forecast and road conditions. Make sure your vehicle has good tires with plenty of tread. Keep emergency supplies in your car-blanket, survival kit, shovel, and a bag of sand or cat litter (for traction) are great to have with you when needed. A block heater for your engine can help make sure your car will start on the extreme-cold mornings.

    Favorite accessories: I second the long-underwear! For extreme cold, mittens will keep your hands warmer than gloves. A stocking cap will do the best job keeping your head and ears warm. Buy your boots a little on the big side and add a pair of warm socks underneath.

    Great article and advice.

    • http://beautifulsynthesis.com Andrea

      Long underwear is WONDERFUL. I have a pair of black silky ones that I wear under my choir dress for winter concerts. No one can tell!

    • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

      Thanks for taking the time to supplement the info.

  • MC Pickard

    Interlock your layers, this will help keep cold out. For example, in my Sorrel snow boats I’ll put on a pair of sport socks, slip over my thermals, slip on pants, slip over heavy winter socks, slip over snow pants, then I’ll put my feet in my boots. My snow pants will then be slipped over my boots. Helps keeps warm in/snow out.

    • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

      Nothing worse than snow down yer boots. *shiver*

  • Grand Poobah

    When you’re walking on ice in slippery footwear, keep both feet on the ground. Shuffle your feet around rather than pick them up. Basically do everything your mum taught you not to do while walking. You tend to fall when one of your feet is off the ground.

  • Elizabeth L.

    With moisturizers, I highly recommend non-facial moisturizers that have ingredients like shea butter, mango butter, cocoa butter, etc. Unless you have extremely dry skin (you’d need Eucerin or prescription from a dermatologist). Ingredients like this are VERY moisturizing and keep your skin soft too.

    • Woolhatwoman

      That’s very good, and I found by accident that the balm for cracked heels, that contains urea, is fantastic for healing cracked fingertips too. Put it on at bedtime, rub it in & let it sink in & dry.

  • Monica Derr

    Socks. Socks socks socks socks socks. Always wear thick socks, or layers of socks if you don’t have thick socks. Or if you’re wearing tights, put on socks over your tights. You and everyone around you will be so much happier when you have warm feet.

    • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

      A friend once bought me a pair of cashmere socks, which seemed like a bit of a “luxury” item. Oooh, they were the warmest socks I’ve ever had and I’m having the hardest time finding more.

    • Woolhatwoman

      Monica, I have found that cotton socks worn inside nylon tights keep your feet warmer than socks over tights!

      • Monica Derr

        That’s genius! I never would’ve thought of that!

  • lucky turtle

    I went to England for the new year a few years ago. My friend (a local) told me to bundle up becase it was 2 degrees (Celsius)… at this same time it was 20 degrees (Fahrenheit) back home in Mass. I got over heated pretty severely & threw up twice that day (once at the art museum, not the mordern one.) By the end of the day I had just a t-shirt on & it was 44 degrees (Fahrenheit.) Everyone we passed looked at me like I was a mutant. I miss it, can’t wait to go back some day.

  • TheMrs

    I agree with everything on this list. The only thing I would add is warm up your car at least 5 minutes before you go somewhere. Keep at least one blanket in your car in case something should happen such as getting stuck in a ditch. Keep your cell phone charged in case you need help while stuck in a ditch. You may also want to consider something bright to attach to your car antenna like a flag in case you get stuck in a ditch with a bunch of snow dumped on top of you so you’re easily picked out.

    • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

      ..but for god’s sake make sure the garage door is open when you warm the car up. Don’t breathe in those fumes.

      • Woolhatwoman

        And, PLEASE don’t leave the car warming up & go back indoors as the car is likely to get stolen …

    • GoldenGirl

      As long as you are in the car. In some states it is illegal to leave a car running even if it is in your driveway. If you are in the garage do what Toni says below.

  • RayG

    No need to shuffle. If you are walking where other people have trampled the snow, don’t. It will be slippery and icy underneath. Walk along the edges of the trampled area or in the unpacked snow next to it. Your footing will be better, along with not having to play path roullette with someone coming the other way.

    • JR48

      Especially true in a neighborhood. If snow has turned to ice on the sidewalk, walk on theedge of the lawns or the street. Same in parking lots. Easier to walk in the fresh snow covered mulch than the skating rink of the lot.

      • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

        Just be careful it’s not a thin layer of snow over ice. That’s deadly.

  • jennifer scheller

    I have to agree with layers. I am in Lancaster PA right now and just finished 2 hours of shoveling. I wore two pair of pants 2 shirts and a coat 3 pair of socks 2 pair of gloves a large hat that covered my ears and tied around my chin and a neck warmer. That is the only way you can stay warm and nobody cares what you look like because they are all bundled up too.

    • maggie

      OMG I must be getting used to the cold, after 15 years of it. I also have just finished shoveling snow like you about 2 hours and I only had one pair of gloves, a scarf, thick jacket, woolly hat. tee shirt and sweat shirt, NO socks though my boots did have a thin thermolite lining.

      • jennifer scheller

        I would have not been bundled up so much if it weren’t for the wind gusts. Dear lord those things suck,one was so strong it took the shovel out of my hand and blew it away.

        • maggie

          We had gusts too. I was using my electric shovel and snow kept blowing back in my face a lot of the time but ti was fun and good exercise.

          • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

            Wow – that’s a new one – an electric shovel. Will have to Google it, it sounds fab!

          • maggie

            got it at amazon together with heavy duty extension cord for cold weather.. It is called an electric power shovel. I got the Toro one and I love it.

  • kabienvenue

    If you don’t have good boots, what I do is tie a plastic bag around my foot and then put my shoes on. It keeps your feet dry and actually pretty warm!

    • Woolhatwoman

      Good tip. If you’re wearing boots, try a pair of cotton socks on under tights – the cotton keeps your feet warmer than nylon tights & is softer to walk on, too.

  • Kellykins

    I’m an American and I’ve never seen a footmuff on a stroller. Ever. You just throw a blanket over them.

    • Woolhatwoman

      We used a footmuff with a stroller here in Northeast England – it was named “CozyToes” and worked well, especially when used with the clear plastic over-everything cover.
      (Caring parent effect slightly marred one day when I didn’t clip the stroller correctly into the Open position & my son’s shoulders gradually crept up round his ears as the stroller tried to fold with him in it. He has forgiven me!)

  • JR48

    As a west coast transplant to the midwest, this is a very good list. I would say that it takes you about a year to ‘get used’ to the idea of major seasons. That first winter was the coldest winter of my life, even though since then, it’s been colder. LOL When you’re not used to dressing seasonally or dealing with extremes, it’s sort of dramatic. I didn’t even own a hat or gloves.

    Dry skin, stay hydrated. Deep moisturizing shower gels can sometimes have you skip a step. Love Alba’s Sugar Cane Body Polish. Smells like the beach, exfoliates and leaves a layer of oil. Pat dry. Hand moisturizing is important because between hand washing during the cold and flu season or alcohol hand gels, dishwashing, you can end up with ripped hands. Use it religiously, especially before bed. You will thank yourself.

    Dealing with commuting/travel/errands. You may not want to wear everything all of the time, but HAVE IT WITH YOU. Car batteries take a beating with extreme cold and heat and that shortens their lifespan. You may not think that you need all of the gear to go to the store or work, but you would if you were to be outside for a long time. Well, if that car breaks down and you don’t have the gear, you can be in trouble. So when the temps are extreme, or you have weather either happening or on the way, prepare for the worst. Have supplies in your car that include jumper cables, a blanket, some bottled water, and your winter gear. Get AAA service. Cheap and worth it.

    Bringing gear especially applies to kids who will argue “the bus is heated”. Yeah, but you won’t be heated if the thing blows a tire or whatev, and you’re all standing on the side of the road, waiting 30 minutes for a new bus. Expect to have arguments about this, and hold the line. We’re all doing it as parents. They acclimatize much more quickly than we do to ‘local behavior’, and part of that usually includes ‘we’re from here, we’re tough’. Yeah, I don’t care how tough you are, skin freezes at 32 if you’re out in it long enough. They will roll their eyes. Roll em right back and hand them their gear.

    Animals: If it’s too cold for you to hang out in the weather, it’s too cold for them. You will learn the difference between long walks and ‘potty breaks’. Check paws for cuts/ice build up. Have a stash of old towels (“dog towels”) to dry them off when them come in from outside, especially their feet. The dogs will warm up faster, and your floors will take less of a beating.

    Btw, park your car in covered parking whenever possible. A car overnight in a closed garage is warmer than one left outside. If you go to work and it’s going to snow, either get a cover for your windshield OR pop your windshield wipers UP after you park. They won’t be frozen with ice when you come back out, and it’s easier to scrape. Invest in a sturdy snow brush/ice scraper combo. Have a can of ice melt spray for key locks and let that car warm up before you drive. You’ll also get that heater pumping faster. And don’t park on the street if you expect snow plows unless you want to risk getting sideswiped or buried. A large bag of kitty litter in the trunk puts weight in the back of a small car, but can also be sprinkled on the ground if you’re having trouble getting traction out of an icy parking lot.

    • JR48

      Btw, if winter precip is sporadic in your location, pay attention to the weather reports. Go to http://www.weather.gov and learn to use the website. Sometimes the best way to deal with the weather is to modify the timing of your plans until roads are dealt with.

  • Erica Glocken

    It was -7 f (yes thats a negative) on my way to work this morning. My heater works very poorly to the point that its no use even using it for my 25 minute trip. I work my coat liner (no actual coat), a pair of gloves and my shoes, mary janes with no socks. Yeah it was a bit cold but only my hands. The rest of my body was just fine. I grew up here in Michigan and when you live here your whole life you DO get used to it :).

    Oh and my one thing to add is a bag of regular cat litter. When you are stuck you can poor it on ice or slick snow for traction and in the meantime it gives a bit of weight for your trunk.

    • http://beautifulsynthesis.com Andrea

      The trunk weight would really only work for rear-wheel drive. Though now I think about it, maybe if you’re driving alone in a lightweight car, it might help to put the sack of litter on the floor of the front passenger seat!

  • sgtgwn

    It’s 5 degrees (F) out right now in central Illinois. Layers, layers, layers are your friend! Also, good boots and socks.

    • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

      Have just flown back to IL and it’s going to be -11 actual temp in a few days. (Fahrenheit) Argh!

  • Scottiesrock

    Hair dryers are great for thawing frozen pipes as well. ANY really warm coat will work; and don’t even begin to contemplate that if the sun is shining brightly (on that snow outside) that it is warm. Listen to the weather reports and dress accordingly. Pay attention to something called “Wind Chill Index”. The faster the wind, the colder it feels. Some of the coldest days in the Midwest are accompanied with the most blindingly sunny, cloudless skies, and what they call gale force winds. My experience is Missouri.

    • http://beautifulsynthesis.com Andrea

      Not any really warm coat: wool coats can’t stand up to wind, no matter how warm they are. Any really warm coat with a windproof shell. (And yeah, those winds are wicked!)

      • scottiesrock

        Mine is a wool calf length coat with a wind proof lining. That is the key. And not all parkas are equal. Down filled are best but there are good nylon filled ones. Just don’t cheap out on that coat. I personally hate trying to drive in a parka, which I have to do as a long distance commuter. I hate the slickery nylon shell on most parkas. Hoods aren’t good for driving either, so stick to the stocking cap with or without earmuffs. Earmuffs can be a God send. They keep the ears warm, and the wind out.

        • http://beautifulsynthesis.com Andrea

          I’ve got a Columbia parka: the outside has a texture to it, so it’s not slippery. I agree about the hood, though. Can’t drive with my hood up!

    • Butch Knouse

      Another use for hair dryers is if there is heavy freezing rain and your car door locks or the ENTIRE door freezes shut.

  • TNgal

    I’m from Tennessee and my husband is from West Yorkshire, UK. We went o visit his family a yr ago in the summer and I froze almost the whole time I was there. There was maybe 2 or 3 days that it was really warm but I wore a coat the whole time. I can’t believe it ever being colder here than over there. Of course I’m from the south and haven’t been up north in the winter. It was 90 + degrees Fahrenheit when we got home, and it’s always very humid here in the summer. When his parents came to visit us, we were having some cold weather and his parents were wearing shorts and t shirts, while I was wearing pants and long sleeves.

  • sagriver

    I live in northern Alaska and the most important thing I own is a pair of carhartt overalls. I’m 5’1 so it was a challenge finding them small enough but it was worth it. I also agree that if it is below zero and you will be spending time outdoors covering the face is a must. I find that a neoprene face mask with goggles works better than a scarf and the goggles protect you from Sun blindness (if it is bright out).

    • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

      Cannot imagine living in that cold!

  • frozen01

    Absolutely true. My SO is from the northern part of England and when he came to stay for good he pretty much tut-tutted my “no, seriously, it gets REALLY cold here” (we live near Chicago).

    Recently, we’ve had entire weeks in the single digits (F) and below 0 (not including wind chill), and it’s been snowing nearly non-stop. (Just checked out the 10-day forecast for Manchester, and the lowest it’s going is 33F. Meanwhile, this weekend is going to be a low of -18F here. Yippee!)

    So, Brits, please believe us when we tell you it’s going to be cold! We really mean it!

    • Thor

      i live near there and yes it has been really cold so far but for the days the temp decided to change to 40F then drop back down for the next day

      • Tracy

        All the better to make you sick.

    • Woolhatwoman

      Some of us believe you! It’s been strangely warm here so far, the last few years we’ve had cold, snowy winters but this year is just mild, wet & very windy. So far!

  • gritsinmisery

    Humidify the indoor air somehow — below-freezing temperatures mean low humidity, and British Islanders are used to the air being damp. Not only will it help with dry skin, but also with your throat and nasal passages. Whether it’s a attached humidifier if you’re in forced-air country, wet towels over the room radiators, or just a pot of water barely simmering on the stove, you’re going to have to force moisture into the air or you’ll end up with a runny nose and a dry tickly cough all winter.

    • JR48

      Find relief in the shower. Turn it on full blast hot with the door shut, then shower or bath normally. Making soup in the kitchen is a good thing too.

    • Puuuhhleeze_09

      My mom told me of a trick that her mom and grandparents told her to do. Take a metal can, a good soup can washed out works great, fill it with water and place it on the furnace vent (usually forced air vents are flat on the floor and that is what this trick works best on) and be sure to check the water level often. As the heated air comes out of the vent, it not only warms up the can but it also will evaporate the water and that adds it to the air. It really does work. My oldest does this in their own home (in their bedroom) and it really has cut down on bloody noses for them.

      Also adding just a touch of petroleum jelly (Vaseline) on the nostrils and just inside the nostrils can help with keeping your nose from feeling dried out at night during the winter time. My mom also told me that that was another tidbit passed down from her mom and grandparents

      • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

        Those nosebleeds! I’ve just come back from Colorado (9,000 feet) and had terrible nosebleeds. Bought a gel called Ayr that goes up the nostrils and it worked really well.

  • mwellman

    I honestly thought this was going to be ridiculous but I live in the north of the US and this is all accurate. Though as you become more accustom to the cold you might end up being one of those crazy people wearing shorts in negative degree weather lol .

  • Scott Haynes

    Don’t wear anything too tight. Layers are good as long as they are not binding. As someone else said, mittens are better than gloves. A cold wind will find its way up your pants legs or through your sweater. Be careful of your ears. Nothing quite like the pain of your ears thawing out. Anything “fur” lined is your friend.

    • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

      And forget jeans – they transmit cold and stick to your legs!

  • mswindsor

    OK folks – PANTYHOSE – even men wear them under their pants, especially hunters.
    Also, keep a nice big candle in your car with a box of matches. One candle burning can heat the interior of a car for days, until help comes – hopefully. You also need flares, a space blanket, high protein snacks, cat litter (for traction – or you can use your floor mats), a shovel and a flashlight. You should never let your gas tank run low – you may need to periodically start your engine to produce some heat if you are trapped. Also, make sure that the exhaust pipe is clear of snow before you do this so you don’t die of carbon monoxide poisoning – this is one of the reasons why you need the shovel! Stay off the roads when you know a storm is coming and you won’t have to worry about this.
    In your house – Stock up on supplies, have an alternate source of energy for heat and a cooking source that doesn’t require electricity, have an oil lamp and oil, and an emergency kit with supplies. If the power goes out it could be days or weeks before it is restored. Get a generator and learn how to use it properly.
    I live in a very remote cold part of the country. I love it when people come to visit from elsewhere and are wearing little leather boots!! Where do they think they are – the Bahamas, or do they just like losing toes to frostbite??? The best boots are LLBEAN snow boots – great traction and they keep you warm to something like -32 degrees F. Also there are rubber attachments that have spikes on the bottom that you can put over your boots for added traction on ice.
    Great article!!
    Until you have experienced below 0 zero weather conditions, you have no idea exactly how it feels. To be caught outside without the proper preparation can be fatal.

    • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

      Yup – forgot about the pantyhose. Great tips.

  • Mona Everett

    Undergarments–shirts, pants, socks, glove-liners that wick moisture away from your skin–you do not want to be wet with sweat under all those layers! Visit a good outdoors store such as REI and get advice from the helpful employees and stock up. If you use a cane or walking stick get an ice tip for it or you’ll slip. Ice tips are also great for walking on wet grass, muddy areas, and uneven terrain–I used mine a lot in Wales even when it wasn’t cold. You can find these at medical supply stores and maybe some pharamcies in cold climates and can leave them on year-round, as the tips retract. Also, mittens are better than gloves for warmth. A hair dryer is great for warming up the sheets before crawling into bed, too! Carry a cell phone for emergencies. If you drive, take along some kitty litter and a shovel in case you spin out. Also, pack a blanket and some food and water.

  • http://beautifulsynthesis.com Andrea

    As a Nebraskan, I endorse this list!

    Other items:
    1. Humidifier – Some houses here have a humidifier attached to the furnace. Others don’t. If you have the furnace kind, turn it on when winter hits. If you don’t have one on your furnace, buy the portable kind and run it in your main living area. Either way, change the filter regularly. You’ll be more comfortable and less vulnerable to colds and the flu.

    2. Flannel sheets – Quite possibly the most awesome thing ever to go on beds.

    3. Blankets – lots and lots of blankets. Knitted, flannel, fleece, quilted, whatever. Wear one while reading or watching TV, sleep under a pile of them, drape them over baby carriers to keep the baby warm, keep one in your car in case of emergency, offer them to guests… the list goes on.

    Mittens are warmer than gloves. Yes, they look silly. But on the coldest days, if you’re outside for any length of time, you’ll want them.

    Unless you’re shoveling snow or going sledding, leather boots are fine. I wear leather riding boots which have a nice broad heel, and I tuck my jeans into them. Just be sure to add some insulation (warm socks, etc).

    Natural fibers keep you warmer. A little polyester won’t hurt, but you’ll want to wear things that have a fair amount of cotton, wool, silk, etc in them.

    A blanket’s not the only thing to keep in your car. Cold weather saps car batteries, so keep a set of jumper cables on hand. Also, get a nice sturdy ice scraper and a small shovel – around here, snow storms mean spending half an hour “digging out the car”. If you’re traveling far, add some hand warmers, granola bars, and a flashlight. Just in case!

    • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

      Great points, thanks.

  • Dedra Kaye DeHart

    I would add saline sprays for the nose and drinking plenty of water, just plain water–hot coffee/tea/cocoa usually has caffeine in it and will dehydrate you–to keep healthy and keep the moisture in your skin.

  • Ellen H.

    Depending on the temperature, you’re going to want at least two pairs of socks. I usually do a thin crew as my first one and a thicker athletic or woolen one as my second. I also buy boots about a half size larger to accommodate the extra sock. If I’m going to be outside very long or may have to walk, I wear a thin pair of gloves under mittens.

  • Laura Ramey

    map to California :)

  • Tiffany

    I’m from Alabama. We don’t get crazy cold temps here. This is the coldest winter I have seen in a very long time, and our lowest point has been 10F so far.

  • Porcelain

    I’d add YakTrax or a similar type of cleat if you need to walk on icy surfaces. I have a very steep driveway that faces north, so the ice can really build up. With my YakTrax, I can walk up and down with no problem. I’ve even done jumping jacks on the ice. :)

  • Westu-Hal

    It’s not that bad cold wise.I just get some gloves and a parka and i’m good for hiking in the hills.But the snow can get really deep. (we’re talking 45 inches up in Utah’s Wasatch mountains) And roads are a hazard too.

  • FemininePhysique

    Hooray for long underwear! I used to always get made fun of by my friends for wearing it, but I say go ahead and laugh. While you’re freezing I’ll be nice and toasty. :)

  • M

    Good grief. You people are serious weenies. Just stay over there. You’ll never survive.

    • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

      It’s definitely what you’re used to. There are a few Americans in the comments above commenting on how cold the dampness is in the UK which is something that doesn’t usually bother Brits – we’re used to it.

  • Kimiko

    I live in Lancaster, PA. It’s -2 right now. Although it does not normally get this cold, winters in PA can get very cold. Never underestimate cold weather and take it seriously. A lesson I learned the hard way is that serious cold is no time to be a fashionista. There are nice looking winter coats that are functional and attractive but in the end, functionality is what matters. I hate hats so I always buy coats with a hood. Not a scarf fan but will carry one to wrap around my head/face if it is bitterly cold/windy. My best cold weather gear is a knee length
    lightweight wind blocking toasty warm parka! Always best to prepare for the worst, if you don’t need the handwarmers or scarf, etc, fine…but if you had the foresight to bring them, you will be one happy warm camper if you do need them! You do get acclimated to it…when it gets up to 40 degrees, it feels like tee shirt & shorts weather! Woo hoo!

    • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

      Ha ha. When we finally get out of single digits here in Chicago it’s party time! Woo-hoo indeed!

  • Wisconsin Girl

    in a word, down. Anything feather filled but most especially your parka. Down feather beds, down blankets, etc. By the way, I’ll take my sub-arctic Wisconsin weather any day over the bone chilling damp cold I experienced in London in January! Never could shake the chill.

    • http://beautifulsynthesis.com Andrea

      I imagine it’s similar to the wet January chill in Oregon. I could not believe how cold it felt without actually being freezing!

      • crasher

        True that – I grew up outside Chicago but found winter in London to be truely bone-chilling. I hate the dry skin etc. of a midwestern winter but a damp cold is damned cold for sure (plus in my opinion most bldgs werent heated properly – maybe that was just me being a wuss, but i had to wear a hat to bed in a modern (1960s or 70s-built) college dorm). My winter survival tip is: forget layers – move to New Oleans! that’s what I did.

  • Bob Chase

    Laughed when I read this, Having lived in northern Indiana US for 50+ years, these are thing we learned a a child and do automatically.

  • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

    Some excellent additions to the information in the post. Thanks all.

  • GoldenGirl

    Haha Nice photo Toni. I can assure you even growing up with it we never get used to it.

  • Lesley

    snow pants/ski pants are an awesome investment if you are going to be outside clearing snow, sledging/playing in snow with the kids or even getting to the bus stop when it is -15c outside. Wet, cold jeans are not fun at all at this time of the year. Kids snow pants are eveywhere in stores in October and November, but you probably need a special trip to the sports store to find adult ones, they are so worth it!

  • Blgsgal

    You also need to be aware to wrap any water pipe that may be next to an “outside wall”. If you go to a hardware store, they will be able to sell you the correct kind for the area where you live.
    Make sure you keep you gas tank at least half full and a spare an of “Heet” to prevent “gas-line freeze” — you will be fine.
    One more thing. be sure to keep extra blankets, energy bars — granola, Clif, candy bars, or peanut butter and crackers if you get stuck, and extra dry mittens and sock in your car.
    As others have said, listen to the local weather — they will keep you up to date on what is happening in our area.

  • witchywomin

    4 wheel drive. It can go where cars can’t and get over snow quickly. I lived in ny, Nj, pa, and now in the desert. People who live in snowy areas know !it is great to have at least one 4×4. As for choice in boots, it would be timberlands. I had a pair for at least 4years. They have great treads on them. A l.l. bean catalogue has nice winter stuff in it too. My grandma always bought from them.