The "living in cold places" advice thread - share yours!

Lived in Texas for thirty years, moved to Michigan right as the pandemic hit (!) and will be bravely facing my first “real” winter up North now.

What advice and tricks do y’all have?

Yes, I have a snow brush & ice scraper in my car. Yes, I have warm socks and a down-filled parka. Yes, I know to drive gently, and to waddle like a penguin, to avoid slipping on ice.

But what ELSE do I need to know?

How do y’all get multiple inches of ice off your cars? (I do not have remote start.)

Can I just leave the trash bin at the curb till spring?

All cute little tips and tricks appreciated.

Park in a garage. We didn’t have one when I was growing up, and scraping ice was a regular chore if going out in the morning. I didn’t appreciate how amazing a garage was until I had one and had to commute every morning. It’s fantastic.

If people around you generally get snow tires, you need to do that. It’s expensive, but totally worth it. Where I grew up that wasn’t a normal thing, but where I live now it is. They truly do make a big difference when conditions are cold and anything but bone dry. Studs are not necessary and can be counterproductive in some common winter conditions.

Any time you leave the house in the winter, take enough warm clothes so you can stay warm if the car breaks down. If you drive to the store, hurry in, hurry out, and drive home you may never have need for really warm clothes, but if something goes wrong on a back road you will be glad for the heavy boots and parka.

Heating your house will be expensive.

Give yourself extra time to get to places, walk more slowly over ice and snow and use your garage.

Don’t leave your trash can by the road all winter.

Ear muffs are wonderful things.

Neck Warmers too. I have one of these:

I swear by real fur for extended time outdoors:

Make sure you have a plan for if the power goes out. Your heat may go out with it.

If you have a manual transmission, start in 2nd when roads are very slick. You want to decrease the torque delivered to your tires as much as possible.

Snow tires do little good on ice. Everywhere I’ve lived it’s ice that’s the major problem, not snow. If you have icy roads every winter you should buy studded snow tires. They’re bad for the roads but the best for safety. Even RWD vehicles do okay with studs.

YMMV but I always found those shrink-film window insulators a big help. (You put the clear plastic film over your whole inside window frame, then shrink it up tight with a hairdryer; about $25 for a kit)

Never pour hot or even warm water over your frozen windshield. If it’s not a million degrees below zero, you might get away with pouring cold water over it.

A genuine chamois cloth is the best thing for wiping the fog from the car windows on the inside.

This may have been true at one time, but no longer. Snow tire technology has come a long way in the last few decades. See this 12-year old test (and the tech has only improved since then):

Studs may still have a small edge on actual ice, but where I live snow and slush are far more common than actual frozen ice. Also, studs actually reduce handling ability in dry conditions.

If you have modern windows, this is not necessary. My windows leak something terrible though, and I use the film too. It’s a pain in the butt, but does help reduce the drafts. One of these years I’ll start replacing windows instead.

When it is snowing/sleeting/etc I like to look out the window and mutter, “fucking winter wonderland”.

If you think, “It’s not snowing that hard. Maybe I’ll go anyway.” and get halfway down the road, don’t be afraid to turn around and go back home instead.

Flip your windshield wipers up off the glass after you park for a while, especially if it’s snowing. The warm windshield will melt the snow that falls, then pretty soon the windshield cools off freezing your wipers to it if you leave them down. Great way to rip the rubber off of otherwise mess up the wipers.

Get a snow shovel, and keep the walkway clear. Tramped down snow turns very hard after a few weeks and you’ll have to wait until spring to remove it (or chip it away).

Garbage cans… there will still be small scavengers out all winter (ravens/crows etc, or furry ones like cats and dogs) that like tipping over and eating garbage, so no bring them in.

Keep a pair of gloves and an extra coat/blanket in your vehicle; you might get stuck and have to wait a few hours for help with no engine running.

If you have to park outside and a bunch of snow builds up, start the car first and then brush it off. It won’t warm up much but there is a difference when you get in. Brush the snow off the hood at least; many types of vehicle seem to have the interior air intake located in a place that when the wind starts blowing that snow up over the windshield some of it gets sucked in and blow into the vehicle. Watch for snow build up covering your licence plate; you could get a ticket for having an obstructed plate (though not common).

this is vital!!! and it isn’t only for remote back roads. Even on an urban highway, your car can skid off the road and end up in a ditch, or on a sloped drainage channel which requires a tow truck with a chain to pull the car back onto the asphalt.

You may be only a 15 minute walk from the nearest building, but you’ll need warm clothing and shoes to survive those 15 minutes.
Keep the extra clothes easily accessible in the car, not in the trunk-- which might be unopenable, because it is frozen or dented.

When you brush your vehicle off, brush it ALL off. Roof, lights, license plates included. It really sucks driving down the road and you get white out conditioned by the vehicle in front of you, who did not.

To help clear your windshield, when you crank the defrosters up, put your visors down. It’ll keep the air directly on the window rather than going through the cab. Flip the defroster on high, then clear snow.

Make sure your phone is charged when you leave your house.

At home, if you don’t have a portable heater or two, maybe invest just in case your furnace decides it is done. I just have two small electric fan heaters - won’t heat a ROOM, but will keep me warm.

Revel in soup season.

Keep your gas tank at least half full throughout the winter:

Old school said to keep a candle and an empty metal coffee can (maybe with an inch or two of sand in the bottom) in with your emergency supplies (blankets, water, non-perishable food, matches, etc.). In an enclosed space (with a cracked-open window), you’d be surprised the warmth that candle can put out.

Thin gloves inside of heavy (and larger) gloves or mittens can afford dexterity when you need it and warmth when that’s what matters.

Stay dry. Perspiration can be tough. Being overdressed causes perspiration. If you’re going to be active, then dress so that you’re a bit cold when you start out; otherwise, you’ll almost surely be too hot.

Get some really, really warm boots, no matter how ugly they look. Mine are rated to -80F, and when it’s just ugly out … my feet are perfectly warm.

Wool socks with sock liners (thin, wicking inner socks).

Layers. Generally … layers. Base layer, insulating layer, shell. Volumes written about this one.

Good luck !

And none of us have mentioned sand/salt. You want this for your front stoop at least. It will be slippery and you want the option. Salt will actually melt the ice right off in all but the coldest of temperatures. Some towns have a place you can go and get buckets of sand or sand/salt mix for free. Do this, or buy some salt.

What part of Michigan? Southeast Michigan is much milder than up North. The upper peninsula is even worst.

Wind chill matters! It’s a measure of the lowering of body temperature due to increased air motion and it’s not to be taken lightly (even though I refuse to credit ‘wind chill temp experiences’ in threads about “what’s the lowest temperature you’ve experienced?”).

Wind chill can turn uncomfortably cold temps to flesh-damaging or deadly cold quite quickly.

wind chill survival chart

Wool is your friend–it keeps you warm even if it gets wet. Scarves, beanie hats, gloves (I like fingerless mitts and keep a pair in every coat and hoodie I own), socks, neck gaiters, sweaters, get the lot and get multiple options. I like to crochet so I make my own mostly and it’s a lifesaver when we have a cold winter.

Knitted silk or merino longjohns are awesome for layering and don’t add much bulk. So lovely and warm.

When you drive don’t panic and death grip the wheel, that will encourage you to overcorrect and skid. Keep a light grip and do everything as smooooothly as you can possibly do it, like you had full crystal champagne glasses on every flat surface of your car that will cost you a grand for every one that spills or breaks.

Get a humidifier or multiple ones for your house. Otherwise, you’ll get non stop electric shocks all winter long. You won’t believe how dry the area is.

Wool has its place, but you want your outer layer to be wind proof. Makes a huge difference.

I, too, recommend garaging your car. I grew up with a garage. I spent one winter without. When we bought a house, “garage” was high on my list.

But of course even if you do that, you’ll need to clear snow off the car sometimes. Use a large metal shovel for around the car, but use a small plastic shovel or a brush to clear the car itself. You don’t want to scratch up your paint. I keep a small plastic shovel in my trunk. It’s large enough to clear snow from the wheels if need be. (Like when I get snowed in in the parking lot.)

Don’t forget to enjoy the snow. Fresh snow makes the whole world look bright and clean and sparkly.