Living in one of the coldest countries in the world has it's own distinct challenges. For many of us in Canada it is impossible to avoid going outside during the winter months. On an agricultural opertation like Silver Prairie Stock & Poultry Farm, with livestock to tend and other day to day activities refusing to abate for the increasingly lowering temperatures, it is important to do one's level best to keep themselves warm while doing what is necessary.
Let's begin with clothes. The way you dress in preparation for your time outdoors will make or break you. IIn fact, it's a case of too much is better than not enough. When exposed skin can freeze in mere minutes it becomes a matter of life and death in certain circumstances.
These days we are all too familiar with masks, and while it is important to protect one's face from the cold, it is actually your neck and chest that you should be focusing on. Your neck radiates more heat than any other area of your body, followed by your head and your feet.
Your body protects it's core temperature first and foremost. If it is really cold your body will "shut off" the heat to things like your fingers and other extremities by limiting blood flow in order to keep your vital organs from freezing. By keeping your core warm your body will be able to spare some blood to keep your fingers and toes warm as well. Using a sweater or a vest is a good way to keep your core warm, a hoodie or another first layer of that sort will suffice, and a good warm undershirt wouldn't hurt either.
Some people even use compression kidney wraps to simulate their bodies response by adding insulation around their internal organs and increasing pressure in their core area. Then additional blood flow is not required to keep your organs warm. Which means in turn that you get to keep the blood flow going strong from the top of your head, to the tips of your fingers and toes. That makes you feel warmer all over.
Bottom line, you are going to want to dress in multiple layers of clothing to adequately maintain your body temperature, and the more the better really. Avoid wearing clothes that do not fit well over other clothes. The material is more restrictive and because it is tighter to your skin and there is little air space, it actually serves to make you colder even when you do have more layers on.
Wear a tight fitting undershirt under a loose fit shirt. Wear long underwear under your pants and be sure to put on some warm socks, wool is best. Cover that with your kidney wrap if you desire and then put on your sweater layer. You can double up gloves but be sure to wear a fitted pair covered by a pair that is a size larger, and that easily accepts your hand with the first gloves on without too much resistance. These small allowances for space act as insulating pockets of warm air when you begin to warm them up with your own body temperature. Add to this a one piece snowsuit or insulated coveralls and maybe even another coat over that as well.
You can always take a layer or two off if it turns out that you are too warm or sweating but you can't put them on once you are already frozen. It is much easier to stay warm than it is to get warmed back up. Anyone that has come in after being chilled to the bone will tell you as much.
You lose heat faster when you are wet. If you happen to get wet then it is important to get dry as soon as possible. Head in and change into some dry layers and then head right back out. You'll be happy that you did and the short break won't hurt you either.
In fact, breaks cannot be overlooked as a great means to maintian body temperature. Work for periods of time broken up by breaks and when you take a break actually go into a warm area and take off at least some of your layers. Let your body breathe and warm up. Your layers will also get a chance to warm a bit as well. Sitting in a warm area with all your gear on will only exacerbate the issue and you will be adversely acclimated to the warm environment once you return to the cold again. It will take longer to get your daily activites done but you'll avoid getting sick or losing your fingers in the process.
Regardless of how many layers you choose to wear the outer layer MUST be of a wind-resistant material. The outside layer doesn't have to be warm even, just wind-proof. This will help contain your body heat while keeping you free from windchill and draft.
Be alert for signs of frostbite. Check for numbness or white areas on your face and extremities (ears, nose, cheeks, hands and feet). Get medical assistance immediately if you notice signs of confusion, slurred speech, stiff muscles or uncontrollable shivering. These are signs of hypothermia, a potentially fatal condition. Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can generate it. Thankfully it's easily avoidable in most scenarios.
This cannot be stressed enough. For some reason, it seems harder to stay hydrated and drink enough fluids when it is cold outside. Of the many signs of dehydration, getting a bit chilled is usually one of the first to appear. Avoid this by drinking plenty of fluids to ensure hydration. Try a warm tea while taking a warm-up break for example. Tea seems to help keep the body hydrated better than just drinking straight water but plenty of water still remains one of the best preventative measures.
Lastly, be sure to have a warm place to return to. This is especially true if you are using an area to warm up for your breaks that is lower in temperature than typical room temperature, like a crewshack, barn or vehicle, perhaps.
It is a lot easier to go out and brave the cold if you have a warm place to come back to. It doesn’t have to be a large room or even the whole house. But knowing that when you come back inside there will be somewhere warm gives you a psychological boost. Knowing you have a warm place to come back to after working outside is vitally important. And, you never know: If you have an accident outside, having a warm space to return to during an emergency may be crucial to your survival.
Hopefully these tips and tricks will serve you well. We've left out things like hand/foot warmers and the like but they are excellent tools as well. So are heated gloves and boots. We consider these to be bells and whistles though. Not everyone has them or can afford them. The information above can be used by anyone and can prevent frostbite and other issues without the use of these "extras".
Fair thee well out there... stay warm, stay hydrated.
With a bit of luck it will soon be spring!
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