Well for some parts of the United States, winter has already arrived in the way of snow storms. For most of us at lower elevations though, we still have a bit of time. Now is the time to review your preparations for the cold so you don’t get stuck out in, well, the cold.
First order of business would be to swap out your warm weather car kit for your cold weather kit. Don’t have a car kit? Now is a great time to make one and you don’t really NEED two different kits. You can get away with just swapping out or adding some items. Some items that could be part of a cold weather car kit would be blankets, a change of warm clothes, cold weather boots, a jacket, candles, an ice scraper, a shovel, and cat litter. The shovel and cat litter are for self-rescue if you end up off the road in the snow. The candles can be for light or to heat up the car if stuck or broken down. You might already have them in a year-round kit unless it gets hot enough to melt them in the summer. An alternative heat source, like a portable propane heater, might be a good addition also, but would have to be used carefully. Unless you live in an area that gets very cold or could possibly be stuck for an extended time, a few candles would probably keep you from freezing.
Next, I would evaluate your home preparations to ensure nothing needs topped off. If you use propane, ensure the tanks are full and give each a basic safety check. If any look damaged, replace them. Also, check the batteries in flashlights, radios, etc. If you have a generator, it is a good time to test it out and rotate out fuel. If appropriate, work on whatever winter weather proofing you need. Some people seal windows with plastic and/or foam board to reduce lost heat. Others use caulk to seal up any areas that need it. Also, ensure that any plumbing that could freeze is protected by heat tape, a space heater, or other appropriate means.
Lastly, take a look at your day to day cold weather gear. Many people overlook taking stock of this for you and the family. Is your favorite winter coat on its last leg, do your gloves have more holes than you have fingers, does your 13 year old’s coat fit more like a mid-drift shirt since they added 4 inches over the summer? Making sure your coats, gloves, hats, boots, and such are in good condition will provide a first layer (pun intended) of protection from the cold. I have developed a routine that keeps at least gloves and a hat in my main jacket. That way I do not end up needing them only to find I left them in the other car or on the kitchen table. I also make sure to pack items directly in my kid’s bookbag. They may be covered in goldfish cracker crumbs, but they still keep them warm when needed.
Obviously, this is a very high-level look at some of the things you may need to do to get ready for colder weather. Since everyone has a different situation, it is hard to have a one size fits all checklist. I hope this give you some place to start if you are just getting your plans together for the cold. Stay safe and warm out there.