HomePosts Tagged "winter"

Surviving winter used to be a much more literal scenario. It was only a couple hundred years ago that winter meant death for many. The cold would take them or starvation. Illness was another big killer during the winter months.

Much of this was attributed to malnutrition.

A lot has changed since then, but winter is still a tough season to deal with. It only takes a small emergency for you to be reminded of the power and effect of cold weather. Here are some of the biggest concerns for the modern day winter survivor.

  • Power Outage
  • Automobile Breakdown
  • Blizzard

There are several ways that you can prepare for these instances, but you must put some work in ahead of time. Let’s look at a number of things that you a do to prepare for next winter, starting today!

Your Car Kit

To deal with the automobile breakdown or flat tire in winter you need to have a winterized car kit. This kit can stay in your trunk during the winter season, but it will make all the difference when you need it.

What kind of items should you include in your car kit?


Heat is Paramount

How do you heat your home? Is it time to consider using alternate methods of heating your home? When the power goes out and your heater stops running you realize just how vulnerable you are to the cold.

As the night moves in it gets even colder and the warming power of the sun disappears on the horizon.

In those cold moments you start wondering about things like a wood stove. A wood stove offers you several benefits. The right model will warm you and it will give you a means of cooking food. These are powerful heating elements that give you another option when it comes to keeping warm in the winter.

A smaller model can be had for around $300 and will easily keep your family warm in the winter, when all else fails.

This spring you should get some quotes an consider adding a wood stove to your winter arsenal.

Preparing for Winter Weather

Outside of clothing and heating systems you are also going to want to consider the hardware of winter. What do I mean by hardware?

  • Shovels
  • Salt
  • Ice Scrapers
  • Snow Blowers

These are very simple items to have on hand, but most people must rush out and buy them when they are needed.

Rather than wait for the winter storm to go to the hardware store, you should create a winter stockpile of salt, shovels and ice scrapers that you always have on hand. That will put you in a place where you can have success and do not need to rush out into the panicking masses.

Cold Benefits

Its not all bad. If you have a warm home and have prepared for winter, there is real beauty in the season. Many people are taking intentional plunges in cold water or cold showers in the morning to increase vitality.

There are several benefits in this. One of the most important is the boost in immunity.

It’s much easier in the winter and you can find yourself outside early in the morning taking advantage of that terrible cold.

A great way to start your day is to head out side in your skivvies before the sun comes out. Spend 5-10 minutes out there and focus on taking deep consistent breaths. This is a great way to wake up, get your cold benefits and start your day.

Boosting immunity is important in the winter because of flu season. This can help but so can a number of other things. Ralph La Guardia penned an incredible book on immunity, health and treating injury and illness.


It’s called The Doomsday Book of Medicine and is everything you need in a home medical resource. Follow this link and learn how to put together your own medicine chest. 



Canning and Preservation

Our ancestors would have depended heavily on what they could can and preserve for winter. This canning would take place in the spring and summer but would be called upon when fresh foods were all gone.

While you have the ability to run to the market and pickup up those disgusting hot house tomatoes, you might use Spring and Summer to focus on canning and preserving your own home grown tomatoes. These are very important aspects of self-reliance.

As your harvest comes into season you can eat a percentage and can a percentage. We all reach a point where

If we are looking to maximize nutrition, canning our own vegetables will assure we are getting the best possible produce in the winter. No, it will not be fresh, but it will be high quality.

Get your hand a good canning book or preserving in general. Salted meats are another great way treat in the cold winter months.



Its not that we must prepare for the next winter as though modern society will fail, however, you will find much deeper satisfaction in being prepared. The truth is, we never know when the next big storm or power outage is coming and if we depend solely on modern amenities it can be to our detriment.

Winter can be a monster but if you use it as motivation it can take you a long way.

This push towards self-reliance and independence is real. Its hardly a fad. We spent the last 50 years on an increasing wave of convenience, and we are now living with the consequences of that. We can see the affect on the planet and on our mental and physical health.

Owning your existence is an important part of our future and future generations. We were never meant to depend on others for things like personal preparedness. There is fulfilment in being ready for all seasons and all situations.


Surviving winter used to be a much more literal scenario. It was only a couple hundred years ago that winter meant death for many. The cold would take them or

As another summer slowly dies, colder weather is going to start creeping its way into our lives again. In my area this is my favorite time to go backpacking. Less creepy-crawlies, beautiful changing foliage, and not brutally hot during the daytime. A lot of other people feel the same, and outdoor treks may be more enjoyable soon in your area too.

However, the cool that makes being outside more enjoyable can also bring deadly consequences. So what can we do to protect ourselves from bitter cold?

If you get stuck in a survival situation, or want to avoid putting yourself in one while you’re camping/backpacking/canoeing/whatever these are the things that you need to remember.

Cold Basics

The human body runs at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Once we get chilled to the point where our temperature drops to 95 degrees hypothermia sets. The very first thing you need to remember about cold is that you must stay dry. Wet clothing can conduct the heat away from your body up to 50x faster than dry clothing. As a result, getting yourself soaked by rain, covered in snow, or drenched in sweat is a definite no-no.

Do what you can to avoid such situations. Whether that be utilizing snow shoes, wearing a poncho, or taking breaks in manual labor when you start to feel yourself beginning to sweat, do what you must to stay dry.

Proper shelter is often the primary key that will keep you from getting wet, and at the base level that starts with the clothing that you wear.

Clothing Choices

In the backpacking world there is a saying: “Cotton kills.” Once cotton gets wet, as clothes are known to do in outdoor weather, it completely loses all insulating properties. It does not regain them until it is completely dry which takes a long time. That is why when choosing outdoor clothing (hunting/fishing/hiking/etc.) you should avoid cotton at all costs.

 This:  Not This: 

Wool is the number one natural fiber that will still keep you warm despite being wet, but it has a reputation for being itchy. Merino wool and alpaca fleece are natural alternatives here. Both are incredibly soft, not itchy, and will still keep you warm when wet.

When it comes to synthetic fibers polyester blends and polypropylene are some of the best out there. Fleece, Gore-Tex, and DryLete make great choices in clothing fiber type.

Keeping the “wet makes you miserably cold” principle in mind, buy boots that are waterproof. There are plenty of manufacturers out there making high-quality boots that don’t look like waders which you’ll appreciate. It can be hard to have fun when you can’t feel your toes.

It’s also important to realize that up to 30% of the body’s heat is lost through the head and neck. This being the case, you should wear a hat at all times when out in cold conditions, and do what you can to keep your neck covered. Cold hands? Gloves definitely help, but are inferior to mittens for warmth. Gloves keep each finger isolated, as well as the warmth emitted from each finger. With mittens, the fingers are allowed to warm each other. I’ve used old military surplus ones in incredibly cold conditions and they work great.

How to Sleep in the Cold

When it comes to camping in winter weather buy a bag rated as cold as you can get. I know some people get worried about overkill here, but they seem to quit worrying about that when it’s 3 AM and their teeth are chattering. If you get overheated with an “overkill” bag, it’s a very easy fix. That isn’t the case in reverse.

Secondly, mummy bags are much better at retaining heat than your traditional sleeping bag. A mummy bag has a tapered foot at the bottom meaning that you will sleep with your feet close together (like a mummy. Get it?). Yeah, you won’t be able to move about, but the smaller interior area means that there is less space within the bag that your body has to heat up. You stay much warmer as a result.


I avoid down-filled bags, as once down gets wet it loses the majority of its insulating properties. It’s definitely not a filler that you want to take on a canoe trip with you. Plus, down tends to clump up meaning there are going to be spaces within your bag that are not properly insulating your body from the cold.

Don’t expect to not have a miserable night if you don’t have a sleeping pad of some sort as well. The ground is cold, and it is going to want to suck all of the heat out of you that it possibly can to make itself warmer. It’s like a warmth vampire. A sleeping pad between you and the ground keeps your body heat in your body and away from creepy dirt vampires. They also provide a thin layer of cushioning between you and the ground as well, so it’s a double win for you to use one.


Anytime I’m out in the woods in the cold, I always carry HotHands and a space blanket with me. (I’ve never understood why they’re called ‘space blankets’. Is it because they don’t take up a lot of space, or is it because it looks like something an astronaut would use?)

I’ve found both to be surprisingly effective. On one ham-mocking trip I took, I woke up at 3 AM shivering like crazy thanks to cold butt syndrome (It’s a thing. Look it up.) Thankfully, I had a space blanket with me. Within minutes of wrapping myself up like a big bean burrito, I could easily feel the warmth returning to my body, and I spent the rest of the night actually warm enough to sleep comfortably.

It’s hard to use a space blanket while you’re hiking though. When I’m on the move I use HotHands. I’ll activate one or two and place them within the inside pockets of my jacket. You actually have to keep these things migrating from pocket to pocket or you can end up cooking yourself.

Don’t solely rely on these two items to keep you warm. You can’t go out hiking in a cotton T-shirt, get drenched by surprise weather, and then expect fantastic results from a HotHands packet and a space blanket. Don’t be stupid. Both of these items will definitely help to keep you warm, but you don’t want to be fully relying upon them if you can help it.

Wrapping it Up

Above all else, use your head. If you have some serious qualms about what you’re getting yourself into because the weather is looking more iffy than normal, then don’t go. That’s how you avoid putting yourself in a survival situation to begin with. When you are out though, following the above advice will help to ensure that you not only stay as warm as possible, but safe from hypothermia and frostbite as well.

As another summer slowly dies, colder weather is going to start creeping its way into our lives again. In my area this is my favorite time to go backpacking. Less

Something that can be of value to any prepper at any stage of development, even urban preppers in tight dwellings, is planning. Permaculture’s sectors and zone maps are two of the most powerful tools for developing a plan, both for assessing risks, identifying resources, and developing efficient plans for a site.

Usually sectors gets covered first. I’m going to cover Zones instead. I highly endorse doing a search for “permaculture sectors” – that’s where risks and resources are going to be found. Research it with an eye for defensive and evacuation potential as well.

Zone mapping in permaculture is where we define areas by our presence, using activity and energy input level. By consolidating things that need the same amount of interaction, or even each other, we can greatly increase our efficiency. With a map that actually shows our patterns, and our goals, we can move or site things to maximize that efficiency.

Permie Zones

Permaculture zones are abstract geographic areas delineated from the other areas of our property – or our habitual paths – by the amount of time we spend in that area. The zones are based on access, not geographic nearness to our homes and beds. Many zone map examples are shown in concentric rings, but actual zones are drawn and defined by our energy and presence, not distance.

Permaculture universally recognizes 5 zones, in ascending order based on the time we spend there. Sometimes there’s a Zone 0 for the self or the home. The primary-activity and most-visited zones are Zones 1 and 2.

1 Very intensive presence – Most active, usually multiple trips/passes daily

2Intensive use – Active, possibly still multiple visits per day, but not quite as frequent as Zone 1

Zone 1 is where your paths most frequently take you. It’s based almost entirely on our human environment.

Things like kitchen herbs and table gardens that need irrigation or are harvested from daily, pets and livestock that are visited daily for care or entertainment, and daily waste and composting areas are located in Zone 1.

Our kitchens and bathrooms are pretty automatic on a household/apartment level, although in permaculture, most will automatically stick the whole house in Zone 0-1.

I don’t, because I have a front stoop I almost never go in/on/through, a spare bedroom I’m only in one part of the year, only pass through my den, and on a daily basis, I usually only poke my head into the living room if I’m looking for a person or a dog. On the other hand, my father spends far more time in the living room. He rarely uses his kitchen porch, whereas my mother and I are on ours ten to fifteen times a day for access to the yard, gardens, or letting animals in and out.

The inclinations between the back and kitchen doors and-or time spent in different rooms change the views and the opportunities our presence offers. For us, it matters. For others, maybe not as much.

Zone 1 sometimes includes livestock, or sometimes they’re bumped to Zone 2, even if they’re livestock we bed down and release, milk, collect eggs from, or feed twice daily.

Zone 2 includes those areas that may not see quite as much human interaction. Regularly permies will include things like perennials with longer seasons between harvests and less daily and weekly care needed, and some livestock like foraging cattle or meat goats.

Zones 3 and 4 see increasingly less human interaction and fewer human inputs (or will, once established).

Zone 3 is larger elements, usually – the bulk foods like grains and orchards, animal pastures, ponds. They are things we may only see weekly, monthly or quarterly.

Zone 4 gets even less interaction. Usually this is managed land, tailored for foraging, livestock fodder and crop trees, timber, and longer-term grazing.

Zone 5 is an area that humans largely leave alone. Some will define this as an entirely wild area. Some will define it as a managed wild area.

To some, it’s for nature and only nature – left as a green-way – while to others, periodic hunting or foraging in this area is expected. For others, Zone 5 might be brush piles, frog houses, owl and dove and bat houses, little native patches of weeds, and other things we scatter through a yard and garden and affix to buildings to encourage helpful wildlife.

This site deepgreenpermaculture.com has a more detailed set of examples and some graphics of Zone definitions. It also has some subsections about common zone sizes.

Permaculture Research Institute – Urban farm rabbits located over composting bins, near water catchment, and along path between house, shed and garage.

Urban & Suburban Sites

There’s nothing wrong with taking a set of known factors and twitching it. Zone definitions can be rearranged and relisted, tailoring them to fit our lifestyles.

For an apartment, condo, or a single-family home on less than a half-acre, zones shrink and include our floorplan. When we turn to sector mapping, we zoom out and include more of our neighborhood with condos and small yards, but that “zoom” can apply to zones as well.

Regardless of where we’re going, or what’s around us as we putter through the day, our habits tend to change by season, and what’s around us changes. There may be areas we can “expand” into besides our own property.

That’s really worthy of its own article, but some examples would be any areas we can hit with seed bombs for wild edibles or for plants that can be improving the soil now for use in a crisis. We might have parks, verges, ditches and other areas that are untapped resources but are on some of our daily, weekly and monthly beaten paths. We might also find landowners (or absent landowners) to talk to about growing space, or have rooftops or fire escape landings that we can use for planters and water catchment, now or “after”.

Knowing where we go most frequently will help even the tiniest studio prepper identify places that have the most potential with the least effort – and that’s really what efficiency is all about, with efficiency one of the major gods of the permies.

Multiple Maps

What I recommend and what I do for clients is to actually print three identical maps. Two are for “right now”, and are going to be our habitual activity maps, one for the “high season” when we’re outside the most and one for the “slow season” when we’re outside least.

The third map is going to be our “ideal” map – what we’re about to work to make happen.

See, we’re going to use these maps to identify existing zones using our current activity. However, going back to efficiency, we’re also going to use them as a planning tool. Some of the trends we identify will lead to changes, hopefully consolidating our zones of activity for better efficiency.

We can also nab a wider view for our neighborhoods, even as home- and landowners.

Those with significant acreage might want to do one map set with just the house and the 0.5-1 acre it sits on and a second set with the whole property and a margin around it.

Supplies for Mapping

Printing and drawing really is the easiest way to make this happen. You can use computer programs to trace lines that will progressively darken or lighten with every pass. That’s not crazy talk, since it offers opportunities to make multiple-scale maps at once, then just zoom in and out. For the average client, it’s a black-and-white drawing or Google map of their property, regularly with a chunk of the surrounding area that’s going to leave some margin for additional notes.

I really like the Google Earth maps that are nice and up-to-date, and that you can adjust by season and time of day. They let you pick noon in the barest of winter, which lets you “see” more of your property. If you can’t get a free submission to Google Earth, find out if a local library has it, do some screen grabs at various zooms/scales and print them off wherever it’s cheapest.

For paper, standard letter 8.5×11” is fine, or we can go up to 11×17 or even 17×24” if we want.

We’ll also want some coloring supplies.

A couple of sharpened crayons or colored pencils are fine. Markers also work, although you either want really fine points or really big maps. Aim for colors that are easy to see on a simple map, that you’ll be able to see the map through (no dark Sharpies or pens), and that will darken as you overlap lines. Red, orange, blue, and pale purple tend to work really well.

One Map

If you only want to print one map, no big there. Hit the dollar store for some of that thin notebook or copy paper that you can trace through. You can shine a light through some plastic or use a bright window to help see better. Call it an overlay.

You can also create a larger map and make overlays of your zones and sectors using contact paper and map pens or grease pencils.

Overlays will also help reduce printing in case you decide you want to add seasonal maps, do maps for each member of the family, or combine everything into a single map.

It’s also a backup against an ill-timed sneeze, doggy nose-bump, or a beloved’s alarm going off and making us jump with a marker in our hand. Hey, we’re preppers. Prepare for crazy things.

The Process of Activity Mapping

This is where the “darkens as we overlap lines, but not too dark” comes into play. Observe, then color.

Start with your first work-day wake-up, and trace your tracks through the house, then outside it. Back and forth, bathroom, coffee, paper, animals, meals, vehicles, back and forth, all through your day until you tuck yourself in at night. To and from the bus, trash can, walking the dogs, as we hang out and retrace steps from vehicles or gardens to sheds and garages, the hose, indoor faucets, all the way down our rows and around our flower/garden beds.

Don’t draw bird-flies straight lines. Trace the actual path everyone takes. Then repeat for the work week, and the weekend.

Remember, it’s the overlaps – resulting in darker colors – that give us our current intensity of use. Be honest with yourself. You’re the one who does or doesn’t benefit.

Zone Map

Your existing zone map just drew itself.

The darkest areas are your 0-1-2 zones. Your palest and untouched areas are your Zone 4 and really, really excellent places to expand that Zone 4 or develop your Zone 5.

Now we go through, and kind of divide those spaces into blobs and blurbs and modern art. We can re-draw or trace our map and give them different colors now, or make them more uniform shades, or just more clearly delineate edges.

You should be able to identify some of the areas you only hit a couple of times a year, like pruning, or places we inspect and repair only as needed.

We should also be observant enough to know those wide, looping, lightly-drawn areas are only us mowing – and maybe we keep those in our map in their apparent zones, or maybe we go back and remove those, or lighten them to more accurately reflect how much attention they actually get while they’re getting mowed. Otherwise, especially for us Southerners, our summer map is going to show our twice-weekly or 2-6 times-monthly sing-along ride or teenager’s slave labor as getting more attention than our workshop and laundry room.

Shoveling snow and raking leaves has some impact on applying the information we just gathered, but not really a ton, so you can go light there, too, if you like.

Applying the Zone Map

Our map doesn’t just sit there. It’s a tool, one of many.

Most of us are likely to have some of our darker/intense areas out there on their own, and many of us likely have dark lines like a drunken spider’s web hooking and criss-crossing.

Those oddball dark jags are places where we can consolidate some of our activities, instead of leaving them suspended and isolated. That will save us time and effort, which will make us more efficient.

When we plan to expand gardens or even change where we keep the tools we use, consult the existing zone map. Places we’re already passing make excellent locations for those.

If we’re passing them regularly, they get more attention and we see that they’re dry, being eaten by critters, sick and sad, or ready to harvest. Being faster to respond to them, and able to respond immediately with tools if necessary, will result in better yields.

Worm bin composter located near the source of feed and easy access to water.

Sometimes we might look at our plan and actively renovate things we already have in place – especially if those things don’t get the attention they should. The extra attention and ease may make it worth it to switch from conventional beds to a series of trash cans turned into vertical gardens, from hot composting piles kept across the yard to a pipe composter in a keyhole bed or a worm composter near the kitchen or the trash.

We may move livestock so it’s faster and easier to get them into gardens for pest control or tilling, or to get composted manure onto large plots. We might move them somewhere else so they’re easier to toss kitchen scraps to.


We might eschew the usual advice of sticking an orchard out-out so we can put small livestock under it, or to make some additional use of our dog runs and kids’ play areas.

Things like the sectors that affect our property, stacking elements and stacking functions, mapping water movement, and switching to low- or lower-labor growing styles that fit into our busy lives can all help make our properties, big or small, more efficient and productive.

A zone map will help us further analyze where we can increase our efficiency and help us visualize how the puzzle pieces of our production and resources can best fit together. We can then play with the map, marking future expansions to see how they’ll fit in with our current traffic flows and patterns, and make our properties more versatile, resilient and productive all over again.

Usually sectors gets covered first. I’m going to cover Zones instead. I highly endorse doing a search for “permaculture sectors” – that’s where risks and resources are going to be