Fall Prep 101
We have talked about preparing for winter in past articles such as our (ode to George RR Martin’s next novel) https://www.americansocietyofpreppers.com/blogs/Winter_is_Coming_-_the_Solar_Minimum_and_You but Fall is a great time to be thinking about what you have done to prep for winter. Of course you can always go binge watch Alaska – The Last Frontier to bring it into sharp focus: they are always in a race against time in the short summer to get everything done before winter comes.
But here in the continental United States, we are not scrambling to stock pile eight months of food but there are some basic areas that you can and should be looking at in the event you end up with a weather event that results in loss of power or leaves your stranded outside your home. While we hope these interruptions are short duration – they can lead to longer outages. Are you ready for that?
Let’s start with the house: If you have not already, you should have at least one alternate method of heating your home. For me, propane is my primary to heat water and the living space so I don’t have to worry so much about a power outage (at least a short one – we still get the tank topped off every month) so electric could be my backup but if you have the ability to have a wood burning furnace or stove – that means with a sufficient amount of wood, you can heat your home through the winter. We previously estimated that a 2000 sqft house would require 3-5 cords of wood in a normal winter. Add or subtract if your insulation is poor or the house is drafty or the weather will be unusually harsh.
And that brings us to the second point – what have you done to winterize or insulate your home? Windows on the south side of the house should permit heat from the sun in, windows on the north or shady sides should have a higher R factor. At night, curtains can be drawn to reduce heat loss through windows. Need some extra insulation in To conserve energy, are there some portions of the house that can be closed off during the winter (either are not heated or where you set the thermostat much lower)? This may be required if your heat source gets restricted.
Let’s move to the next layer: where you sleep and what you wear. Of course you should have appropriate clothing for inclement weather based on your climate. I grew up in Minnesota and we got plenty of opportunity to experience the cold.
Sleeping area first: below you the thick mattress of your bed insulates you from the cold floor, above you your blankets retain heat from your body, around you the walls of the room keep you out of the wind and over you the roof keeps you dry and protects you from snow, sleet, or rain. If for whatever reason you are unable to sleep at home in your bed – how do you recreate these four elements? While you might not carry a ground cloth, sleeping pads, tents or tarps, and a sleeping bag around with you… you might want to insure your vehicle has these items in the backseat or trunk. I would hate to need it and not have it.
Clothing: Plan your wardrobe for the worst conditions, even if you are going to a nice dinner party. Your inner layer should wick moisture away from your body but if for whatever reason this layer gets damp – you should have an extra set and change into it. When we got in patrol base in Ranger school (I was a Winter Ranger), I would always strip down naked and change my inner layer – a few minutes of chill and I was toasty warm the rest of the time. Your next layer provides the insulation – this could be a wool sweater, a synthetic fleece but particularly if you are not going to be active, the thicker the better. The last layer is your shell to protect you from wind and rain. Ski pants, bib overalls and hooded shell parka are more than enough. Just remember that this layer keeps moisture out but also traps it inside, open up if you are active and close it up when you settle down.
Protect your feet with a good set of boots or hiking shoes as appropriate. You can get sock liners to wick moisture away and then a nice heavy set of socks for insulation. Socks still get damp even if you are not active so have a spare set to change into before you settle down for the night.
Even a set of light gloves will reduce your thermal loss from contact with tools or anything you have to touch but have some heavier duty ones for the rest of the time. As your body cools down your system will automatically reduce circulation to the extremities.
Your brain housing group requires a lot of blood and as such, you can lose a significant amount of heat if you don’t have a hat. My basic go to is a watch cap: it can be wool or a synthetic blend. But for extreme cold go with the Russian style thick hat with the ear flaps.
Other items: you might want to have some gaiters if you have to walk through snow. I also like a neck gaiter or a dickey in lieu of a scarf. And although lots of folks use ski mask or hooded balaclavas, I prefer the neoprene face masks that allow your breath to vent out (the moisture to escape) and still cover your nose, cheeks and chin.
Now if you have to venture out into the storm, you have clothing for even the most extreme conditions. Keep these items (particularly your middle and outer layers with hats, gloves, etc) in one location by the door so you don’t have to scramble to find them. Even if you are going to that dinner party, you might want to throw these items in the back seat in case your get stranded unexpectedly.
Finally, let’s talk about the car and what additional gear you should put in your vehicle for the winter.
Your vehicle emergency kit should already have some basics to get you moving again if the vehicles stalls or gets stuck, you can review those items in our article at https://www.prepper-skills.com/blogs/Building_Your_Vehicle_Emergency_Kit . In addition, you should put some sand bags in the trunk where the weight will give you more traction (or to spread on the icy road as needed to get moving). Going over the mountain pass – some roads require chains, you might wish to have them just in case.
If you do get stalled and can’t run the motor to keep warm (be cautious of keeping the exhaust pipe clear so you don’t end up with carbon monoxide poisoning), then your normally toasty car has just become a heat sink (although it keeps you out of the wind, it’s insulating properties and almost none). You will be glad if you have thrown a sleep system in the car and those cold weather clothes mentioned above. At a minimum get you a couple of bivy bags or emergency blankets that you can wrap around you.
Since you are not so worried about weight and space – have plenty of chemical hand or foot warmers in the glove or trunk. These will produce heat for 8 hours or more and you will appreciate them if you can’t run the heater.
You should also keep some rations and water in the car. A nice insulated mug filled with coffee, tea or soup can be replenished at every gas stop (you won’t be too interested in a frozen case of water in the trunk). I don’t recommend freeze dried rations in this case unless you can boil water to prepare them. Dry rations or canned goods may not be hot but they will be edible.
So we looked at your home, your body and your car in our fall prep for winter. Here’s hoping your winter is cool (not cold) and you are toasty warm through the entire season.
De Oppresso Liber