Cold Weather Safety Precautions: How To Stay Safe Outdoors

January 16, 2022

Trees in winter covered in snow

We love the winter season - our favorite snow sports are finally in play, and we get to bundle up at the end of the day. But, with cold weather comes plenty of risks. Just freezing temperatures themselves are cause for concern.

Failure to plan for extreme cold weather can result in dangerous consequences. Some of these include health problems such as hypothermia and frostbite. If you want to keep yourself and your family safe, you need to prepare for cold weather ahead of time.

If you live in a state that experiences extreme cold weather, such as Minnesota, Wyoming, Montana, and so on, you probably know how to prepare for cold weather. But in case you need a refresher, this guide contains everything you need to know about staying safe during extremely cold weather conditions. All while still enjoying your favorite activities!

Preparing for Cold Temperatures: Best Practices

Cold weather can be unpredictable. You don't want to be caught off guard in case you experience winter storms, this is why you should always prepare for the winter weather ahead of time. We suggest you start preparing for winter as early as September—don't wait around till December. That said, here's what you need to do to prepare for winter weather:

Preparing Your Home

Being inside your home is not a guarantee that you'll be safe from winter storms. You still need to take certain steps to ensure that your home is an adequate shelter for whatever the cold weather might bring.

We know what you're thinking - I have a fireplace and a thermostat. But, with this mindset, you're not preparing for a worst-case scenario where you're stranded without power or resources for an extended period. Yes, this is unlikely - but you came here to learn how to prepare for the unexpected, right?

Start by winterizing your home by installing weather stripping and storm windows. Add extra insulation to your walls, especially around the plumbing pipes. Doing so will keep your pipes from freezing and getting damaged.

Cleaning out your gutters from debris will also prevent snow buildup from damaging your walls, ceilings, and eaves. Have your HVAC system cleaned professionally and ensure that it's working properly.

If you have a fireplace and a chimney, clean these out as well. But, we highly suggest that you find a safer heating alternative such as electric heaters. Fireplaces are known to cause possible carbon monoxide poisoning, even if it is wood that you're burning. Carbon monoxide is deadly, odorless, and colorless. You won't know it's there unless you get a carbon monoxide detector.

Preparing Your Vehicles

Antifreeze is a must for your vehicles during the winter season. Make sure that your antifreeze levels are maintained to avoid damaging your radiator. If not properly cared for, the radiator could prevent your car from operating at all.

If your car doesn't already have all-weather tires, replace them or get snow tires. When cleaning your car's windshield make sure to use windshield cleaners with winter formula. And always keep your gas tank topped off as you can to prevent your fuel lines from freezing.

Preparing For Emergencies

Winter storms tend to cause power outages, so always make sure to have your phone fully charged and keep a spare battery pack with you. To keep yourself from freezing make sure to have a portable heater or a generator prepared. Do not place your generator anywhere inside the house or garage.

Generators should be located at least 10-15 feet away from your house to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. If your carbon monoxide detector alerts you, get out of the house immediately and call 911.

Always have food and clean water stocked in your pantry for emergencies. Choose food that doesn't have to be cooked or stored in the fridge such as canned goods, crackers, ramen, etc. An emergency cold-weather safety kit is also essential and must contain the following:

  • Battery-operated flashlights and lamps
  • Batter-operated radios
  • Spare batteries
  • First-aid kit and medicine
  • Baby items
  • Sand for icy stairs or walkways

Have an emergency kit inside your home and inside your vehicles at all times. You never know when you may need it!

Preparing For Winter Sports & Recreational Activities

If you're reading this guide, you're likely planning to do some outdoor activities such as sledding, skiing, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling over the winter weather. Trust us - we're outdoor enthusiasts ourselves, so you can bet we'll be doing the same this season!

But, it's important to make sure that you're prepared with the right safety gear and clothing. Goggles, gloves, helmets, and padding are essential gear for all winter sports.

For beginners, make sure to stick to the resorts as backcountry tours are a bit more advanced. Resorts ensure all their slopes and trails are free from all kinds of hazards. If you're already confident enough to go on backcountry travels, make sure to never go alone. Always bring avalanche safety gear with you.

Backcountry tours take you into the heart of the great outdoors, which is beautiful. But, it comes with a bit of elevated risk. These areas are more prone to avalanches, especially after winter storms. If you aren't prepared with the right knowledge and tools, you might find yourself in life-threatening situations.

So, just remember to bring your avalanche airbag backpacks, transceivers, probe sticks, and portable snow shovels. Having these on hand will not only save your life in case of an emergency but also the lives of your friends.

Safety Tips For Extreme Cold Weather Conditions

We've finished discussing the preparations you need to make before the cold weather hits, but what do you do during the winter weather to keep safe? What if you're on a cross-country skiing trip and an unexpected storm rolls in?

Or, maybe you're just out running errands and get trapped in a blizzard. Whatever the case, we've got you covered with tips to stay safe and warm. Here are some everyday cold weather safety tips to keep in mind during the colder seasons:

Eat healthily and keep hydrated

Staying well-nourished during the winter can help your body temperature stay warmer. Drinking lots of water is also important. This is because our bodies get dehydrated a lot faster during the cold winter weather. Dehydration and lack of nutrition can cause fatigue, dizziness, and headaches.

Nutritionists advise eating food that takes longer to digest to promote thermogenesis in our bodies and keep our body temperatures up. Seek out food such as sweet potatoes, squash, red meat, oats, bananas, ginger tea, and coffee. These all help to raise our body temperatures and keep us warm in winter weather.

Stay warm and dry

Staying warm and dry will help you avoid cold-related health problems such as frostbite and hypothermia. Both of these conditions are caused by prolonged exposure to very cold temperatures and improper clothing.

Hypothermia occurs when we have an abnormally low body temperature. If the body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit it is considered an emergency and requires immediate medical attention. Some signs of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, drowsiness, and blue-tinted skin.

Should you notice someone showing signs of hypothermia, respond immediately by bringing them into a warm room. Make sure that the center of their body such as the chest, neck, head, and groin are warmed first. Remove wet clothing and keep the person dry. Wrap them up in warm blankets. Ensure that the head and neck are wrapped as well.

Frostbite, on the other hand, causes numbness and loss of color around the face, fingers, and toes. The skin may turn white or grayish-yellow, and it will feel firm or waxy. People who aren't wearing enough warm clothing and have exposed skin are more prone to frostbite.

If you experience frostbite or see someone who is, go to a warm room and soak the afflicted area in warm water. Use your own body heat to warm them up at first if possible. We recommend avoiding using a heating pad on the affected areas.

Avoid exertion

If you have heart problems or high blood pressure, avoid exertion in extreme cold weather conditions. This could be as strenuous as hiking or as low-key as shoveling snow.

Cold weather can put extra stress on the heart and might worsen any heart conditions you might have. If you have no choice but to do some chores in the cold weather, do them slowly. You can also stay warm while doing your chores by wearing tightly woven sweaters on top of a moisture-wicking base layer.

De-ice your steps and walkways

Icy steps and walkways can lead to nasty falls and injuries, especially for older adults. to help avoid bruises, broken bones, and/or concussions, make sure to de-ice your walkways using rock salt, sand, or other chemical de-icing compounds.

Take note of wind chill advisories and warnings

The wind chill index is the temperature your body feels when the air temperature is combined with the wind speed. The faster the wind speed the more heat loss from exposed skin. Before you head out for the day make sure to note any wind chill advisories or warnings from the National Weather Service. This alerts the public of possible extreme cold temperatures.

Stay Warm & Safe In The Winter With Outdoor Play Snow Apparel and Safety Gear

For many of us, this is the most wonderful time of the year. We love winter sports and recreation, and who doesn't enjoy the holiday season? But, winter weather can be dangerous and lead to life-threatening health problems if you aren't prepared. You need to be properly dressed and armed with the right gear if you want to avoid putting yourself and your loved ones in harm's way.

Don't worry, because you can find all your winter weather essentials, from snow apparel to safety gear, here at Outdoor Play!

Avoid hypothermia and frostbite with our collection of insulated lightweight clothing. These pieces are perfect for layering with our fleece or down jackets and vests. We even have winter hats and gloves to keep your entire body warm.

Have plans for any outdoor activities this winter season? We have all the accessories and equipment that you'll need to enjoy all kinds of winter sports and recreational activities. Make sure to have avalanche packs, transceivers, probe sticks, and snow shovels with you—you'll thank us later.

With Outdoor Play apparel and gear, you don't have to worry about winter weather. Remember to stay informed, plan ahead, and dress warmly, and you'll get through any winter storm.

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Stacey JohnsonCustomer Experience ManagerStacey has been with Outdoorplay for over 17 years, sharing wisdom from her years of experience and passion for all kinds of kayaking (whitewater, recreational, and touring), stand-up paddle boarding, and rafting. When she's not out on the water, Stacey also enjoys camping with her family and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the Cascade mountains.