3 Tips For Working In The Cold

This is a guest post by Marjory Wildcraft

As you start to live more sustainably you will be spending more time outdoors. And in the winter it can be tough. Getting or cutting firewood, tending livestock, taking care of the orchards or greenhouse – all of these activities means you’ll be getting outside in the cold.

Here are my three best tips for staying warm and toasty during the winter months.

1) Wrap that neck! Your neck radiates more heat than any other area. The head and feet are next on the list, but really the neck is the most important. In my backpack (which serves as a purse) I’ve used the neck wrap I keep in there more times than I can count to keep me warm during that sudden cold front that sweeps in.

You know when you start to get that scratchy throat and start feeling just the edges of a cold or flu coming on? I will wrap my neck at night while I sleep and have found it seems to nip that sore throat in the bud. I am no doctor, but my theory is that wrapping my neck creates a mini fever in the area, which stops trouble before it can spread.

2) Stay hydrated. For some reason it seems harder to drink enough fluids when it is cold. But of the many signs of dehydration, getting a bit chilled is usually one of the first. (Some other signs are dry lips, dizziness when standing, and slower mental functioning). I find that making a quart of tea to sip on (from a mason jar) in the morning and then in the afternoon, helps me to drink more and keep track of how much I am drinking during the day. I find my body hydrates better with a tea versus straight water. The Grandmothers were always drinking herbal teas that were nutritive and tonics. Good health is best achieved with gentle nudges and sipping tea is a great way to help the process. Wildcrafting or growing your own teas is so easy and I’ll write about it in a future article.

3) Have a warm place to go. I picked this tip up when I got my permaculture certification more than a decade ago. It is a lot easier to go out and face the cold if you have a warm place to come back to. It doesn’t have to be a large room, or the whole house. But knowing that when you come back in there will be somewhere warm gives you a psychological boost that I’ve relied on so many years I don’t think about going out without setting this up first. Before you dress up and head out throw a few logs on the fire and set flue so you’ll have a warm spot to come back to. If you are not heating with wood, perhaps you might run a tiny heater in a small room to have a ‘warm area’ to return to. It might as simple as the greenhouse that you setup and keep warm. But knowing you have a warm spot to come back to after working outside in the cold is vitally important. And you never know. If you have an accident outside, having a warm space to work is case of emergency may be crucial to your survival.

Marjory Wildcraft is the creator of the video series “Grow Your Own Groceries”. Marjory can be contacted at her website www.GrowYourOwnGroceries.com .

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of TheSurvivalistBlog.net. He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Good tips, Marjorie, but I’d like to add few more learned from a life spent in MN winters.
    Dress for your activity. IOW, don’t overdress and allow yourself to build up sweat under your clothing. If you do sweat, don’t take off clothes to cool down, but get into that ‘warm’ place until you’ve stopped sweating, then remove some clothing before going back out. Caveat: some people say to remove a bit of clothing, or open your jacket to allow the sweat to disspiate. I’ve found by doing so causes me to chill too quickly and a mild hypothermic state sets in.
    Second point is that once we (generically speaking) begin our lives to include more outdoor activity, we’ll discover that we require less clothing to remain warm while working outside. Our bodies become acclimated to the weather and are bothered less by it.
    Also, don’t drink a lot of coffee or smoke before going outside: both close down the blood circulation enough that extremeties are affected more quickly by cold weather- especially noses, fingers and toes.
    Finally: wear a hat. You’ll be amazed how much heat is lost through your head. Grandma’s admonition definitely works: “If your feet are cold, put on a hat.” I’ll also add to insure your ankles are covered.

  2. Marjory,

    Good advice. Cold is a mean, unrelenting foe. Back in the late 60’s and early 70’s spent five years in Alaska with a communications installation and repair squadron. We serviced all the DEW Line sites. We generally stopped outside work a -20 F unless it was an emergency.

    We had an acronym for our cold weather (artic) gear;
    C Keep it clean
    O Keep it on (Parka, mukluks or bunny boots, gloves etc)
    L Dress in layers
    D Keep things dry

    Our unit also had place on a checklist where the Team Chief would ensure that everyone was drinking plenty of water. The Artic is cold, but it is very dry. Dehydration was a concern.

    Always amazed me how many homesteaders, GI’s and city dwellers died from the cold or had severe frostbite because of complaceny. Cold is an unforgiving enemy, once your core temperature starts dropping recovery is slow. I learned that lesson the hard way.

  3. Millie in KY says:

    Wear wool socks. Living in MI for 30 years taught me this. Even if they are damp, they are still warm. I even wear them (now) here in KY and the winters here are nothing like the ones up north.
    Good article, thanks!

  4. MY big one is dressing in layers, but I have to agree with Eagle, as the rest is important too.

    One other thing is to not stress yourself out. Tired people make mistakes, and cold is a multiplier when you make mistakes.

  5. Used to work outside 90% of the day and was in and out of the cold in the winter. You have to dress in layers and just regulate as you go thru the day. Also regulate your activity level to not get too hot and then sweat, going in and out of cold weather the layers also helped, if you would be inside for 10 min or so you could just unzip the outer layer and then go back out , if longer take the outer layer off and go from there. I wore one to two pair of socks with thin merino wool liners, the main thing with feet if you wear layers is to not get them tight , you stll have to have good circulation. The worst I got was frost bit on the tips of my middle three fingers on the right hand . Worked to long with the gloves off when I should have taken a break, not bad just lost a few layers of skin, that was 4 years ago and I still have problems with those fingers and the cold, have to keep them covered in cold and it takes a lot longer for them to get going in the cold.

    • I frost bit my finger tips in 94 they still hurt when they get cold. All I can say is keep them warm. ( Oh it was a mild case too ) Cowboy

      • Hunker-Down says:


        I have the same problem. A hand surgeon told me to go to a hardware or sporting goods store and buy the biggest package of hand warmers I could find. Since I bought them I used the snow blower to clear the driveway 4 times so far this winter. They work OK.

        I am taking an idea from the experience of using O2 Absorbers in Mylar bags for food storage. Since the O2 Absorbers are just mini hand warmers that need to be stored in a sealed jar to keep them away from oxygen, I put the hand warmers in a canning jar with tight lid today. Since the hand warmers are supposed to last 10 hours I hope to be able to use them the next time I use the snow blower. The jar didn’t seem to warm up, so it may be a failure. We’ll see.

  6. Marjory, great suggestions. I look forward to your article about growing your own teas. Please hurry. I’m thirsty, and itching to garden. 🙂

  7. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    I agree with the socks suggestion – I can walk outside and not feel much when dressed, BUT the cold coming through the ground through the soles of the boots – Wow – I really feel that.

    Definitely easier to stay warm with loose layers of clothing, especially when thick wool is involved. A good wool or insulated canvas vest really helps cut down the bulk while providing good warmth to your trunk.

    • As a transplanted Texas who grew up surfing on Christmas Day, deer hunting in shorts and swimming in the tanks to cool off in December and now lives where it snows (nasty evil snow), I’ve learned to use thick felt insoles during the winter. Even inside. Stops the cold from seeping up through shoe and boot soles and helps a lot to keep the feet warmer. And they’re cheap.

      Also learned that those fleece head band/ear warmers make a decent throat warmer without a lot of loose ends flopping about and getting in the way while I’m working outside.

  8. And, do not leave alcohol outside thinking it’s a good way to get it cold. I served as an umpire on a military exercise back when, and two soldiers put a bottle of vodka in the snow near their tent. The temp was well below zero. They came back and took a huge swig of the really cold vodka and froze their esophagus… As I recall, they died. Get yourself some of the white military surplus “Mickey Mouse boots.” They work!

  9. I have not tried the hand warmers, but I wear insulated gloves in the winter. When it’s cold and I’m riding the Hog I wear ski gloves to keep the finger tips warm. If I’d been smart wouldn’t have frost bit my finger tips in the first place. Young & dumb . Cowboy

  10. Multiple layers that can go on or off as needed to keep warm but not to the point of sweating,aclimation to the weather, staying dry,staying covered…bare skin can damage in seconds,especially when working with tools or weapons. But it’s really nice to have a place to get warm,woodstove,fireplace,heater of some sort,other than just the radiator, baseboards,or vents.Something that can ‘heat you to the bone’ can be a big lift in spirits.Hot food,soups,tea,are comforting as well as helpful to stoke the internal fire,and always stay hydrated.

Before commenting, please read my Comments Policy - thanks!