Winter isn’t over yet! That’s why whenGabrielle Gardiner approached me about sharing her article on preparing a winter emergency kit, I jumped at the chance.Below, Gabrielle tells you what you should have on hand to prepare for the worst should you get stranded in a winter wonderland.
Life on the road is liberating and exciting, but it’s not always easy. There are countless unpredictable challenges you can face, especially in the winter. Road conditions tend to be more hazardous. Frigid temperatures can interfere with the battery and mechanics of your vehicle. You need to prepare for the worst to mitigate your anxiety about potential emergencies while traveling alone in freezing temps.
Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prepare for being stranded roadside in the winter. The first thing you can do is read The Survival Mom‘s article “How to Survive a Blizzard in your Vehicle.” Secondly, it’s wise to pack an emergency kit to protect yourself, if only to put your mind at ease. When you learn survival skills and feel ready for anything, even the most inconvenient or dismal scenarios won’t seem so bad. Naturally, you should still opt out of traveling during severe winter weather conditions to avoid low visibility, icy or impassable roads, and an increased risk of accidents.
Don’t know where to begin to pack your kit? Make it easy for yourself and use a checklist so you don’t forget any essentials. Try this awesome winter car emergency checklist that you can download and print here.
Just like taking care of your mental wellbeing while living a nomadic lifestyle is important, it’s crucial to empower ourselves through preparedness. In the following sections, let’s outline some of the most important tips to keep in mind as you prepare yourself for a safe and enjoyable winter season on the road. Pack the items into a big duffel bag or storage container and leave it in your vehicle all winter long.
Food & Water Essentials
Packing a hefty supply of non-perishable snacks can be a lifesaver. Your emergency kit could include favorites like jerky, granola bars, and trail mix. When you’re stuck roadside in a pretty isolated area, the last thing you want to deal with is feeling miserably hungry. Keep in mind that whichever snacks you choose, be sure they don’t freeze easily. You won’t be happy trying to consume something that’s rock solid frozen with little chances of defrosting. Of course, water is another essential item to keep in your car kit. Again, to prevent it from freezing and being undrinkable, keep the water in a soft-sided insulated container and wrap that container in an emergency thermal blanket.
Snow Tools & Safety Items
If you don’t already have an arsenal of snow tools, you’ll want to invest in some for your kit. Buy a collapsible snow shovel so you’re always ready to dig your tires out of the snow, or in more serious circumstances, uncover your snow-engulfed car so it is visible to rescuers. Reflective triangles could help you become more visible, too. Plus, you’ll need ice scrapers to keep your windshield clear. A supply of basic tools in a toolbox could also come in handy.
When it comes to safety and staying warm, include an emergency thermal blanket as well as plenty of extra socks, gloves, and winter clothing layers in your kit. If your battery dies and you have to go without heat, you’ll be thankful you have the attire and protection to stay alive. You also can’t forget a flashlight, batteries, and matches for situations when you don’t have light or heat. Be prepared to treat your own minor injuries if necessary, and keep a first aid kit on hand as well.
One of the best ways to feel self-sufficient and empowered is to know how to jump your own vehicle. Otherwise, you have to rely on the kindness of strangers helping you out, or you’ll have to get a tow truck involved. If you’ve never jumped a car, you can learn how to do it. It’s not nearly as intimidating or complicated as it might seem. Take a look at the steps on how to do it here. Also, be sure to invest in some jumper cables before you hit the road.
Other key additions to your winter emergency kit: portable cell phone power banks, an emergency contact sheet (because no one memorizes phone numbers anymore), and kitty litter (even if you don’t have a cat.) Kitty litter might seem surprising, but it’s great for tires trying to gain traction in the snow. Or, you could also use sand, road salt, or snow mats to get unstuck.
Don’t forget to include the following in your winter emergency kit:
Snow shovel & ice scraper
Flashlight & batteries
Emergency thermal blanket
First aid kit
Living nomadically is incredible, but it can be a nerve-racking and unpredictable experience sometimes. You owe it to yourself to be prepared for anything. Hopefully, this guide to putting together a winter emergency kit can help you out this season.
Gabrielle Gardiner is a digital content creator who is passionate about developing helpful and compelling stories. She calls Manhattan home but loves escaping the big city to experience nature as often as possible.
Thanks to Laura-Marie of dangerous compassions blog for asking me to write about staying at a comfortable temperature.
#1 Wear enough
clothes.When we were kids, if my
sibling or I complained about being cold, our dad would immediately look us
over to see how we were dressed. If we were wearing short pants or a
short-sleeved t-shirt, he’d send us to put on appropriate clothes before he’d
consider turning up the heat. (Dad was also fond of saying, What you gonna do when winter gets here?
meaning it wasn’t even cold yet, so we shouldn’t be complaining. As a smartass
teenager, I took to answering this question with one word: Freeze.)
Some mornings when The Man gets out of bed before I do, I
hear him in the living room complaining about how cold he is. Often when I peer
out of the bedroom, I see he’s wearing a sweatshirt (good job!) and shorts. Put some pants on, I mumble from my warm
nest under the covers.
In any case, if you’re cold, follow my father’s directive and try putting on adequate clothing. Wearing a sweater or a jacket can really help keep you comfortable when it’s cold. And for goodness sake, if you’re chilly, be sure you’re wearing pants!
#2 Wear warm socks.When I moved to the Midwest from
the Deep South, a friend who’d lived in Minneapolis for decades advised me to
invest in warm socks. Good advice! Keeping your toes warm will definitely help
keep you comfortable during a chilly day or night.
#3 Wear a hat too. You may have heard people say you lose 50% of your body heat through your head and wearing a hat keeps that heat in. The Live Science website reports
At most, according to a 2008 report in BMJ, a person loses 7 percent to 10 percent of their body heat through their head…
but I feel a lot warmer when I’m wearing a hat. Hat hair be damned! I wear a snug hat on cold days and on cold nights as well so I can conserve as much of my body heat as possible.
#4 Keep your ears
warm. Cold ears are unhappy ears, as far as I’m concerned. Ears exposed to
frigid winter air are also susceptible to frostbite, so I keep my ears covered.
I like to keep my ears warm even when I’m sleeping. If my ears get cold while
I’m asleep, I tend to bring my shoulders way up, as if I could bring them up high
enough to shield my ears from the chilly air. Having my shoulders in this
unnatural position at night can lead to a daytime ache between my shoulder
blades. I like to wear a hat I can pull down over my ears, but you can achieve
the same results by wearing earmuffs, ear pops, or a scarf wrapped around your
#5 Dress in layers.
I hate hate hate dressing warmly enough for the outside weather only to go
inside (a store, the library, the laundromat) and find the heater is turned up
too high for my comfort. Dressing in layers is the best way to deal with the
difference between the outside and inside temps. Simply putting a t-shirt or
tank top under your sweater means you can peel off a layer without exposing a
socially unacceptable amount of skin.
#6 Throw a blanket over your lap when you’re sitting around during the day. A lap blanket can help hold in your body heat and keep you cozy whether you’re reading, talking on your phone, or doing crossword puzzles. If you have access to electricity, consider using an electric blanket to keep you toasty warm while sitting still. According to the How Stuff Works article “How Much Does It Cost to Run an Electric Blanket?“
An electric blanket might consume 200 watts (depending on the setting). So if you leave it on for 10 hours, it consumes 2 kilowatt-hours. That would cost between 15 and 30 cents, depending on your location.
#7 Share body heat. Whether it’s day or night, if you have an pet or human companion, consider cuddling to maximize body heat. Invite your cat or dog to sit on your lap or your best friend or sweetheart to sit close and share a blanket with you. Personally, if I’m under a down comforter with The Man and the dog, I usually get too hot and have to throw the covers off so I can cool down.
#8 If you feel cold, eat or drink something hot to warm you up from the inside out. Drinking hot cocoa, coffee, or hot tea should warm you right up. If you are avoiding calories, sugar, or caffeine but still crave flavor, drink herbal tea or add a slice or lemon or lime to hot water. If you make a big batch of your hot beverage of choice, you can store it in an insulated bottle for sipping throughout the day or night.
Do I even have to mention the warming benefits of hot soup? You already know the benefits of hot soup, right? Actually, any hot food should help you feel warmer, but there is something special about hot soup on a cold day.
#9 Get active. If
the weather outside is frightful, you might be tempted to sit around indoors
all day. If you’re cold even inside, try moving around a bit if possible. Do
some stretches. Jog in place or do jumping jacks if you have room. Maybe you
can even bundle up and brave the elements for some outdoor activities. When I
lived in the Midwest, I sometimes went out walking in 16 degree weather so I
could experience a change of scenery and get some exercise. After a brisk walk,
my blood was pumping and I was warm, and as an added bonus, the indoors felt
toastier when I came in from the cold.
If you’re living nomadically and you can swing it, go to a warmer climate. Both the Sonoran and Chijuajuan deserts tend to stay warm in the winter. If you want to be even warmer, stay in Mexico until spring. (For tips on living in the desert, read my post “10 Tips for Surviving and Thriving in the Desert.”)
#12 When you go to bed at night, cover yourself with good blankets. Down blankets are super warm. I haven’t been cold at night since I scored a down comforter at a Goodwill Clearance Center. If you don’t have a down comforter (or don’t believe it’s right to use animal products), consider sleeping inside a sleeping bag. I spent quite possibly the coldest night of my vanlife on public land outside of Mt. Shasta, CA. I’d spread my sleeping bad out like a blanket, and thought I was going to freeze to death. (I didn’t really think I was in danger of death, but dang. I was uncomfortable that night.) The next evening I zipped the bag on all three sides, crawled inside, and spent a warm and comfortable night in the same spot. Sleeping in the cocoon of the sleeping bag keeps you inside a bubble of your own nice, warm body heat.
#13 Sleep with clothes on. It’s a persistent myth among some overnight outdoor enthusiasts that sleeping nude within a sleeping bag will keep a person warmer than sleeping in the bag while wearing clothes. However, this myth was busted by several hiking and backpacking websites. The Columbia blog , Section Hiker, Backpacker and Outside all say wearing clothes to bed is a good idea. As the Columbia article “Is Sleeping Naked Really Warmer?” explains,
[t]he more layers of air you can create around your body, the warmer you’ll be. So wearing clothes inside of your sleeping bag will help you stay warm.
#11 Change your clothes before bed. When you’re all snuggly warm in the garments you’ve worn all day, changing clothes may not seem appealing, especially if your living space is cold. However, even if it’s imperceivable to you, the clothes you’ve been wearing are a little damp from your sweat. The dampness of your clothes is going to make you cold while you’re sleeping, so put on clothes that are warm and dry. At the very least, change your socks.
[y]ou wear wet clothing which compromises the insulation in your sleeping bag as the heat of your body dries it. The moisture in your clothes doesn’t just disappear: it gets trapped by the sleeping bag’s insulation which degrades its effectiveness…
The best practice is to wear a dry base layer (top, bottom, socks, and hat) in your sleeping bag at night…to keep you warmer in cooler weather. These should be loose-fitting to prevent your hands or feet from getting cold due to loss of circulation and to help trap warmer air near the surface of your skin.
#14 Pee if you have to pee. We all know it’s a pain to leave a warm spot (in bed or on the couch) to go to the restroom, especially if the restroom is cold and we have to remove a significant portion of our clothing to do what has to be done. It’s even worse if we have to move in the dark and/or go outside to get to where we need to go to relieve ourselves.
I once read in a guide to winter camping (something like the Backpacker website’s article “15 Cold-Weather Camping Tips to Keep You Warm While You Sleep“) that people tend to feel colder if they try to hold their urine instead of leaving the tent (or bed) in order to pee. It would be a bad deal if the urine in your bladder froze because your body was working to keep the rest of you warm. To avoid such a situation, your body works hard (and burns calories) to keep the urine inside of you warm. Get rid of the urine, and your body can use its resources to keep the rest of your comfortable.
#15 Keep your kidneys warm. A friend once told me about keeping my kidneys warm to keep the rest of me warm when we were camping out. She maintained that if one’s kidneys get cold, all the blood passing through the kidneys gets cold too. When the cold blood flows through the body, it makes the entire body cold. Her solution was to wrap something warm (a blanket or a scarf, perhaps) around the area of her kidneys. (While researching this post, I found out a product–the Haramaki–exists especially for this purpose). My friend also recommended using a sleeping pad under a sleeping bag for added warmth. I think this tip would be especially important for people sleeping on the cold ground or the cold floor of a van.
So there you go—15
tips for staying comfortable when the weather is cold. What do you do to stay
warm in the winter? Please leave your tips in the comments section below.
Please remember that Blaize Sun is not responsible for your safety and well-being. Only you are responsible for your safety and well-being. If you are in a dangerously cold situation, move to a warmer location. Ask for help if you need to. Frostbite and hypothermia are no jokes, friends.
The beginning of winter is upon us. To help you prepare for cold weather sleeping, especially if you sleep alone in a van, car, or poorly insulated RV, here’s my story about how an improvised hot water bottle saved my cold butt.
You grow up with movies, books, television shows, and advertisements
telling you that when you find a romantic/sexual/love partner you’re going to sleep in the same bed. You learn the cuddling and snuggling (not to mention the s-e-x) will be amazing, and it is, until one of you (me) starts snoring and the other person (a light sleeper) can’t get any rest.
The Man tried using earplugs, and they helped for a while, but my snores apparently penetrated the orange spongy foam and hit his eardrums. I tired Breathe Right nasal strips (and their inferior competitor Clear Passage nasal strips) to stop my snoring. Again, they helped only for a while.
His tossing and turning while trying to get back to sleep
woke me up, and if that wasn’t enough to disturb my sleep, him saying Honey? Honey! and asking me to roll over
onto my left side certainly was.
Sleep deprivation brings out a demon in me. Lack of sleep makes me not just grumpy but downright angry. I think The Man harbors the same type of demon. We both knew it wasn’t my fault I was snoring, but he seemed to take it very personally. I knew he was only waking me and asking me to roll over out of self-preservation, but still I was furious at him for interrupting my sleep.
I went off to house sit for two weeks, and each of us got a
fortnight of blissful sleep uninterrupted by snores, tossing, turning, the
middle of the night bathroom needs of another person, or calls for dream
analysis in the wee hours. We were both well rested and no longer angry at each
other, so we tried sleeping together again.
We didn’t even have one happy night together. My first night
home, I passed out and started snoring before he even drifted off. He woke me up
several times in the night asking me to roll onto my left side, which I did.
I’m a natural back sleeper, so I always returned to my back (and my snores) as
soon as I reached a deep level of sleep. At 4am, The Man clicked on the light
and exclaimed that our sleeping arrangement wasn’t working for him. It wasn’t
working for me either. Our sleeping demons were back.
During my childhood my maternal grandparents slept in twin
beds across the room from each other. This arrangement always confused me.
Every other married couple I knew—my parents, my aunts and uncles, the people
on TV—shared a bed. Didn’t my grandparents love each other? I realize now that
it’s possible to like and love someone and not want to spend 8 hours out of
each 24 in bed next to that person. (I also realize that the sleeping
arrangement of my grandparents may have come from the desire to be good
Catholics while feeling like their seven children were all the mouths they
wanted to feed and butts they wanted to diaper).
Because The Man and I didn’t have the luxury of space enough for separate beds (much less the separate rooms it would really require for him to get away from my snores), I offered to sleep in my van. He protested, but it was really the easiest solution. There was already a bed in my van, but his camp cot had been folded and taken out of his minivan. My van was a mess, and it was easier for me to clear a small space on the bed for my short self rather than clean up the whole space so he could be comfortable. Also, The Man likes to wake up early, make coffee, and meditate. I sleep late and don’t move around before sunrise, so it made more sense for The Man to stay in the fifth wheel (where we were living at the time) where he could stand up and use the stove. I had no doubt I would be totally fine in my van. After all, I’d slept in my van before, and I knew someday I’d sleep in it again. Apparently, the sleeping in it again day had come sooner than I had expected.
Unfortunately, my return to the van coincided with an epic cold snap. Down in the southern Sonoran Desert where we were staying that winter, temperatures seldom drop below freezing. However, the first few nights I slept in my van, temperatures went down to the high 20s. Brrr!
I had plenty of warm clothes. I put on Cuddl Duds leggings,
then pulled on flannel pajama pants. On top I wore a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, and
the matching flannel pajama shirt. I put warm socks on my feet and a warm hat
on my head. I was suited up for winter.
My bed was suited up for winter too. I have a down comforter
that I scored for a great price at a Goodwill Clearance Center in Phoenix. (Whoever
brought it to the desert learned they didn’t need it.) This comforter often
keeps me too warm if the temperature is over 45 degrees, so I knew it would
keep me toasty on a freezing night. The only thing I worried about were the
long minutes after I slipped into bed and before my body heat warmed up my
surroundings. The mattress was going to be cold. The sheets were going to be
cold. The comforter was going to be cold.
I harkened back to my days living in the Midwest. I’d seen
snow there and temperatures as low as -16 degrees. I lived in a series of
poorly insulated homes, and in attempt to save money, never set the thermostat
higher than 68 degrees. Nights were cold, even when I dressed warmly and slept
under a pile of blankets. To stay warm, especially when I first crawled into my
cold bed, I’d take a hot water bottle under the covers with me.
Back in the Midwest, I used a hot water bottle I’d gotten in perfect condition
at a thrift store. I’d bring a pot of water to almost boiling (measured with a candy thermometer which must have come from a thrift store too), then carefully pour the hot water into the red container. I’d slip the hot water bottle into the polar fleece (acquired at the thrift store, of course) cozy I’d hand sewn for it and slide it into my bed to warm things up while I brushed my teeth and washed my face.
In my fifth wheel in the desert, I had no hot water bottle, no candy thermometer, no polar fleece cozy, but I knew a bottle of hot water would make the beginning of each night much more comfortable. I looked around for what I could use. Because of a lid that can be screwed down tight and the thick plastic it’s made from, a Nalgene bottle would have worked great. Alas, all of my Nalgene bottles were in use holding ice in the cooler we used since we had no working refrigerator. I remembered I’d just thrown away an empty plastic bottle cooking oil had come in, so I fished it out of the trash and washed it while my water was heating.
The plastic the bottle was made from was fairly thin, and I
didn’t want to melt it, so I only heated the water until it was quite hot to
the touch. Then I poured it into the cooking oil bottle and carried it out to
the van. I slipped the bottle full of hot water under my comforter, then went
back inside to brush my teeth. When I returned to the van, my sleeping area was
nice and warm. The water bottle stayed hot for hours and if any part of me (my
feet, my butt) got cold, I just moved the bottle to the spot that needed some
heat. I was awake using the internet on my phone for a couple of hours, and I was
perfectly warm under my comforter with my makeshift hot water bottle next to
I slept great that night. If I snored, I never knew. The Man
said he slept great too. He got out of bed when he was ready and didn’t have to
worry about bothering me. In the nights that followed, we sometimes missed
cuddling, but not as much as we would have missed a night of good sleep.
I recommend a hot water bottle for anyone sleeping in a cold
climate, whether you sleep in a van, a house, an apartment, or an old RV. Use a
bottle with a tight-fitting lid. Make sure the lid is tightly closed before
throwing the bottle into your bed. Be careful that the water is not hot enough
to melt the plastic of the bottle or burn your skin. If the bottle is too hot
to touch, wrap it in a towel, shirt, or other random piece of cloth you have
lying around. Depending on the size of your bottle, it may fit in an old
(clean!) sock that’s missing its mate.
If you are living in your vehicle and are parking for the
night at a truck stop, you can find hot (usually very hot) water with the coffee dispensers. If you don’t feel right
about filling up your bottle with hot water without permission, ask the cashier
if you can have some and offer to pay.
Please remember that Blaize Sun is not responsible for your safety. You are responsible for yourself! Hot water can be dangerous! Be careful! Don’t melt your bottle. Don’t spill hot water on yourself. Don’t burn yourself on a hot bottle. Don’t flood your bed. Please, please, please use common sense.
Each of these three pink and purple cuties is extra large and has a rolled edge. They cost $15 each, including shipping.
I’ve been on a hat-making kick. I love to see the way colors come together and working with colorful yarn allows me to have such an experience. I like to keep my hands busy when I listen to a podcast or do a Spanish lesson, and making hats is good for that too.
Both of these hats are extra large and have a rolled edge. Either can be yours for only $15, including shipping.
At the end of last winter, I’d said I was out of the hat business. Rolls of yarn seemed too bulky to store in the van, and I had so many hats already in stock. I don’t really get a good financial payoff from selling hats either; because it takes me over an hour to make a hat, I barely make minimum wage on my labor when I sell a hat for 10 or even 15 bucks. Making more hats barely seemed worth it to me.
These three greenies will take you through to St. Patrick’s Day! Each is extra large with a rolled edge. Each will keep your head warm and save you from being pinched for only $15, including shipping.
Then, in the spring, a sweet New Mexico friend cleaned out her craft larder and offered me all the yarn she decided she wouldn’t use after all. I couldn’t turn down her kindness, and I was back in the hat business.
This hat is brown and yellow and pale blue. It’s extra large for a comfy fit for the big of head or hair and has a rolled edge. It can grace your head for only $15, including shipping.
I noticed the last few times I set up my sales table, the extra-large hats were getting all the attention. Very interesting. Most people, it seems, want a loose hat. Personally, I like a snug hat I can keep pulled down over my ears, but as my dad used to say, if everyone liked the same thing, there wouldn’t be enough to go around. Because more people seem to be interested in extra-large hats, lately I’ve concentrated my efforts on making extra-large hats. I’m asking a couple dollars more for the bigger hats because making them requires more of my time and materials.
Red and grey and brightly colored, both of these hats pop! Each is extra large with a rolled edge. Each will cost you only $15, including shipping.
Most of the hats you’ll see in the this post are new, handmade by me in the last few weeks. Each is extra-large and has a rolled edge. Each costs $15, including shipping. (As always, if you buy more and I can consolidate your items into one package going to one address, I’ll give you a break on shipping.)
The money job was slow one day, so I made a purple and blue hat while I was stuck there. It’s extra large, with a rolled edge and was made from yarn my friend sent me. For only $15, including shipping, it can keep your head warm now and into the future.
If none of these hats entice you, have a look at my newly updated Hats for Sale page. All of the hats shown in this post are also shown on that page, as well as plenty of large hats for folks with smaller heads or those who want a snugger fit.
On another slow day at the mercantile, I whipped up this colorful cutie with more yarn sent by my friend. It’s extra large, with a rolled edge. You can wear it on your head for only $15, including shipping.
Winter is coming, yes, but you can keep your head warm with a hat from the heart and hands of the Rubber Tramp Artist.