Cold snap – Another one on the way

Yesterday we got hit with some weather warnings, telling us that another cold snap was on the way this week. As usual, some media outlets have gone into (meltdown – no pun intended) about the ‘arctic’ conditions that will sweep across the country.

In reality, what we face in the UK is laughable compared to other countries across the world. Canada, for instance, measures snowfall in feet, not centimetres. I heard people say there that if the snow is not above your knee then it hasn’t really snowed. Cold Snowy Richmondshire Sign

What to do during cold weather

It sounds so obvious but the most important thing to do is keep warm. This could be done by wearing extra layers of clothing. Remember, each layer provides a trap for your natural body heat. The more layers, the more heat retained. If you find yourself at home, but on a budget where you cannot afford to keep the heating on all day (let’s face it, that is getting more and more common these days), venture out to places like public libraries. Spend your day perusing books or using their computers in the warm. Have regular warm drinks throughout the day. This will top up the warmth you feel from the inside.

Travelling in cold weather

The first thing to do is reconcile in your own mind that whatever your journey, it is going to take longer in cold weather. On public transport such as trains, you may face cancellations or delays due to a number of reasons; snow on overhead wires, tracks blocked by snow that has fallen from an embankment or even trains failing to grip iced over rails. There is very little you can do when faced with cancellations or delays as you are at the mercy of the train operating companies, however, the one thing you can do, especially if you need to be somewhere by a particular time, is to start your journey earlier.

The same applies if you are travelling by bus or in your car. If you’re driving, reduce your speed and ensure you drive as smoothly as possible. No sudden breaking, accelerating or turning the steering wheel. Keeping your driving style smooth will ensure you get maximum grip on the road surface and will greatly reduce your chances of skidding off the road or into the back of the vehicle in front of you.

Extra equipment for your car for cold weather travel

One of the worst places to drive in snowy conditions is the UK Motorway network. This may surprise many drivers, but if you think about it logically, if there is a blockage due to a breakdown or accident in front of you, you have very limited options to leave the carriageway. When there is a blockage, traffic queues build up very quickly and you may find yourself stuck for several hours. If that happens, what do you think you should have in your car to ensure you can get through those hours with any degree of comfort?

When driving in snowy conditions I have:

  • A Folding Shovel. This allows snow to be dug out from under the tyres so you can attempt to get a better grip and as the shovel folds, it takes up minimal space. Army surplus stores sell British Army entrenching tools which are ideal.
  • A Sleeping Bag. You should have one for each person making the journey. If it looks as though you will be stuck for several hours, or even overnight, you can jump into the sleeping bag to provide extra warmth.
  • Drinking Water. Bottled water will keep you hydrated. Also, the empty bottles provide a receptacle if you find you have been caught short. How much water you take is up to you, but I usually take enough for 24 hours.
  • Food. A pack of high energy food can provide great comfort when you are stuck in traffic for an extended period of time. Think about any special dietary needs you have and again, take enough for 24 hours for each person travelling.
  • Gloves and a Hat. We feel the cold in our extremities first and most of the body heat we lose is through our head. A pair of woollen gloves and a beanie style hat take up minimal room in the car.  Again, a set for each person who is travelling is required. You could also use hand warmer sticks, but keep in mind they only have a limited amount of time once activated.
  • De-icer and Scraper. After sitting for a while, particularly with the car engine and heater off, you may see a build-up of ice on the outside of the car windows. Make sure you have a full can of de-icer and a scraper so you can remove the ice fully before setting off again.

All of the above items can fit into a medium sized holdall which just sits in the boot of the car until needed.

You may feel carrying a ‘cold weather bag’ in the boot of your car is an over-reaction. My challenge to you is to consider how comfortable you would be without it?

Finally, keep an eye out for weather warnings from the Met Office.

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