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Winter checklist for Canada – Be Prepared

Everybody travelling in Canada in winter should have a winter checklist to be prepared.

A winter checklist gets even a higher priority if you drive in any of the northern Canadian destinations.

We try to get ready for winter early here in Canada. To be unprepared for the first blast of winter weather could be a disaster. It’s good to go get ready before the snow flies to prevent problems later on.

Canada has extreme weather patterns. In summer we struggle with intense heat and have to worry about forest fires and our water supply when the land is starting to dry out.

But now, winter is on its way. In many parts of the country, snow is on the ground and survival has begun. Now is the time to look at your winter checklist.

It’s usually already in fall that Canadians mentally prepare for snow.

The first snowfall is always a pain, so it helps to get ahead with winter preparations before the first blizzards hit.

Surviving Canada’s cold can be challenging. In many parts of Canada, winter can mean bitter cold and winter storms that bring high winds, icy rain, or heavy snowfall. For many travellers as well as local people these extreme temperatures can be dangerous and deadly if they are not prepared for it.

It’s called survival, it’s always a relief when we make it through another winter.

If you are travelling in Canada in winter, be prepared. Check on weather reports and listen to warnings. Realize, that snow and road conditions can disrupt or delay your travel plans anytime.

Out of power

Blackouts resulting from storm damage can affect the heating in your accommodation. Be prepared to find some extra blankets. Always have a good flashlight and lamp with extra batteries ready and lots of candles. Power outages during winter are very common in our part of the world.

It’s mostly because of trees falling and hitting power lines. I always try to keep the cell phone charged to be able to phone out in case of an emergency.

Check the weather forecast

Always make sure to check the weather forecast before heading out and take special notice of any extreme weather warnings. Sudden changes in weather are not uncommon.

Wind chill factor

Wind chill is a huge factor when considering cold. A strong breeze is enough to cut through your clothing and you can get frostbite on exposed skin. Weather reports will usually include a wind chill warning. Make sure you prepare for sudden wind chill conditions with wind resistant warm clothing.

Warm drinks

Warm drinks like teas and hot cider are great for fighting off the cold. Alcohol and caffeine make things worse and make you lose heat more rapidly.

Bundle up when you step out of the house

Never leave the house without bundling up first, even if it‘s just to put out the garbage bag. All Canadians know a story about someone who froze to death in front of their own house because they couldn’t get back in.

Winter clothing

More good quality clothing is the obvious answer to extremely cold temperatures. Wear lots of layers; take a hat, warm gloves, a woollen scarf and something to cover your face. Wear thermal underwear, it might save you from a bad experience of being cold. Choose woollen materials over cotton.

Appropriate shoes

Appropriate shoes are essential during the Canadian winter. The ground is much colder than the air temperature. You don’t want to wear shoes with thin soles which are leaking, a large amount of body heat is lost through your feet. Canada has a great selection of arctic type winter boots. My favourite ones are Muck Boots, I would never want to be without them again. Muck boots keep your feet warm and dry in any condition and they are the most comfortable. I wear them all year round in any kind of temperature.

Winter checklist for driving

Winter driving tips can’t be missed on a Canadian winter checklist.

I wouldn’t drive anywhere in Canada without winter tires. My winter tires are studded, and even then I get into scary situations.  In British Columbia, winter tires are mandatory. Check the recommendations for other provinces.

Make sure you have the following equipment with you when driving in winter:

  • Windshield scraper and snow brush
  • shovel
  • bag of sand
  • large box of facial tissues
  • inflated spare tire
  • wheel wrench and jack
  • first aid kit
  • flashlight and spare batteries, lighter or matches
  • flares
  • battery jumper cable
  • Tyre inflator in case of a puncture
  • blanket
  • First aid kit

Take extra precautions for long distance travel and consider taking extra food along.

Drive defensively and know how to drive in icy conditions.

Always be ready for poor driving conditions and unsafe actions of other drivers.

Get the snow and ice off your car and keep windows and headlights clean.

Use a block heater when the temperature drops to -20C or below. This helps the vehicle to start easier and saves on fuel.

Before heading out, let your family or friends know your travel plans.

Hypothermia

Hypothermia occurs when your core body temperature drops below 35˚C (95˚F). Normal core body temperature is 37˚C (98.6˚F). If you are caught out in the cold unexpectedly, this can become a problem. Dress warm and cover up and follow previous tips to prevent it!

Symptoms of hypothermia are shivering, mumbling, strange behaviour, confusion, disorientation, muscle cramps, cold and pale skin. Most important treatment is to warm up as soon as possible

Signs of Frostbite

Frostbite happens when your skin or tissues freeze like ice. Most affected areas include hands, feet, nose, ears and face.

What can cause it: Long exposure to the cold and very low temperatures, high wind chill factor and wet clothing, ingestion of alcohol or drugs, high altitudes.

Try to warm up and see a medical professional as soon as you can.

I hope that this winter checklist is of help to you and gives you peace of mind in enjoying the Canadian winter wonderland!


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Yrene Dee

Yrene lives in Lumby British Columbia, Canada, and is the founder of BackcountryCanadaTravel.com. She was born in Switzerland, lived and worked on different continents and has travelled the world. Yes, that's me, an Entrepreneur, wilderness nut and animal lover. I write about things I love. Mostely.

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