I’ve lived in southwest Michigan all my life, only a few miles away from Lake Michigan. We tend to get very cold winters, with tons of wind and lake effect snow. Lake effect snow is unpredictable bands of fluffy snow that can deliver snow falls measured in feet in a period of only a few hours. As a frugal person, over the years I have scrimped on properly preparing for the winter and have suffered as a result of it.
The winters of 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 were miserable. we had severe cold for months on end and the snow never stopped. Even as a hardened winter warrior, there were days when just stepping outside it hurt my face to physically be out there at all. From this experience I decided to step up my game on winter gear to be warmer, safer, and more efficient with my work outdoors.
John C.’s Top 10 Winter Survival Items
1. Proper Winter Gloves: Usually I make do with a cheap pair of gloves, but once they get wet, you’re done. Winter gloves need to be waterproof, dexterous enough to shovel snow, and of course heavily insulated. This winter I was able to pick up a pair of Ironclad Tundra Gloves on a half off sale, and they have been worth every penny. I have a couple fingers that get chilled to the bone really quickly, and these gloves have made a big difference in how those fingers feel while working out in the elements. The cuff on these is also nice because it covers up the sleeve of my coat.
2. Winter Coat: A winter coat with a hood is a necessity. Up until last year I wore a “coat” that I bought in high school with a sweatshirt in the winter. This coat is little more than a windbreaker and had no hood on it. It looked cool, but was not very practical. I finally went and bought a real coat and it makes all the difference. I bet my current coat weighs 5 times what my old coat did. Having a hood to protect against the wind makes an amazing difference in how long you can stay outside. I picked up a Berne coat at Tractor Supply Store. These are every bit of as good as Carharts and quite a bit cheaper.
3. 36″ Plow shovel: I hadn’t seen one of these until I worked a snow removal job at my local nuclear plant. These plastic shovels work just like a plow and are ideal for light fluffy snow under 3″. If you have wet heavy snow, these will work on maybe an inch of snow, depending on how far you need to push it. That heavy stuff bogs it down, because you end up pushing a couple hundred pounds with it after 5 feet! Since we get a lot of fluffy lake effect snow, these things are a great addition to have to a normal shovel. I can move snow probably 5 times more efficiently than with a shovel, and I avoid all the repetitive motions. I would much rather shovel the driveway with this 3 times at 5 minutes each time during a snow fall, then shovel once with a normal shovel for an hour. The problem I had was a couldn’t find one ANYWHERE, I checked Lowes, Ace, Home Depot, Meijer, Walmart, and found nothing. Thankfully Amazon has them.
4. Winter boots: It drives me crazy to see people walking around in impractical footwear in the winter. Roads and sidewalks are icy. Driveways are icy. Ice + smooth bottom shoes = falling on your ass. At the place I work despite the fact that we shovel frequently and use tons of salt, we still had two individuals fall and hurt themselves at the beginning of the year. One of these people broke a rib and the other broke an ankle. Ice can be dangerous and wearing inappropriate footwear greatly increases your risk of an injury. If you must wear heels or shoes with no tread at work, at least switch out between real boots, or grab a pair of yak traxs.
5. Sno Brum: These things store easily and are great for clearing off all the snow from your car in way less time than a brush. One of the most dangerous aspects of driving in the winter is people who don’t fully clear off their vehicles.
6. Boot dryer: Last winter when I started working this snow removal gig, even though my boots claim to be waterproof I found out very quickly that that was incorrect. Having wet socks and wet feet while working out in temperatures below 0 is extremely uncomfortable. Mrs. C. picked me up a boot dryer for around $30 and every day after work I throw my boots on it. When I go in the next day my boots are bone dry.
7. Battery Jump Pack: Batteries just don’t like cold weather. The last thing you want to do is go out to your car and have it not start, especially when there is no one around to give you a jump. These jump packs work great and store easily inside your vehicle.
8. De-icer: If you don’t switch from normal windshield wiper fluid to de-icer your lines will freeze up. It doesn’t take long for the salt and dirt from the road to inhibit your ability to see through your windshield. Having a tank full of de-icer at the beginning of the winter season is an important safety measure.
9. Car Shovel: When the roads are icy and the shoulders are full of snow, the odds of getting stuck greatly increase. Having a snow shovel in the trunk allows you to free yourself, and to help others who you come across who are stuck as well.
10.Children: Okay, so this is optional, but in the long run it is a winner. My dad had about 6 years where he didn’t have to shovel the driveway. My oldest boy just turned 12, and by next year should be able to shovel the driveway by himself. with the youngest being 2 years old now, it looks like I will have a stretch of about 16 years of not having to shovel my driveway! See, there is a bright side to having the worst possible spacing in ages between kids, lol! Kids are also great to have around because then you have an excuse to build snow forts, have snowball fights, and go sledding.
Now that winter is over, it is probably a great time to stock up on winter survival items on sale for next year. What else would you add to the list of necessary winter survival items?