How long can I stay outside in extremely cold weather?

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The wind chill is -50°C. Should you go to work or stay at home? Read this guide to find out:

Windchill hazards table

This table will tell you:

  1. how long you can stay outside in certain temperatures.
  2. how it will affect your health.
  3. what to do and what to wear for various degrees of windchill.

Windchill hazards chart

Chart adapted from Windchill Hazards and What to do from Environment Canada.

Do you take the bus? Make sure that you:

  1. know your bus schedule
    • Leave your house early. You walk slower in winter.
    • Go out five to ten minutes earlier than the time in Winnipeg Transit’s Navigo Trip Planner.
    • But don’t go out too early. You don’t want to wait in the cold for a long time.
  2. get a mobile app
    • Get free mobile phone apps. These can save your life.
    • Apps will show important information. For example:
      • how many minutes until the bus comes
      • how many minutes the bus will be late
      • if there’s a change in route
      • when the next bus is coming
    • Choose from the following:
  3. find a shelter nearby
    • Not all bus stops have shelters.
    • Look for shelters near your bus stop in case the bus is late and you need to wait a long time.
    • This can be a:
      • a convenience store
      • building
      • any structure that can protect you from the wind and snow
    • always dress warmly
      • Wear an additional layer if you will take the bus.
      • Take some layers off later if you feel too warm.
      • Read the section below for tips on dressing warmly.

Driving to work

  1. Check expected snow fall before leaving your home.
  2. Listen to news to know traffic conditions. You will find out if there are accidents, road closures, rerouting and others so you can avoid them.
  3. Be prepared. Bring a shovel, snow brush and ice scraper in your car.
  4. Make a winter driving kit. Read: Top 3 winter driving tips.

Dressing for Winter

Manitobans say there’s no bad weather, just poor clothing choices. Follow these tips to stay warm:

  1. Get a winter coat
    • The best winter coats are down-filled and made of nylon.
    • Fur is the warmest. For example, sheared beaver or mink.
    • Fur is expensive. Some people don’t like wearing fur.
    • Go to a thrift store if you like fur but find it too expensive. They have affordable fur coats, scarves or hats.

    What you need to look for when buying a winter coat:

    • High collar to cover your throat and lower face.
    • Warm insulating hood. Drawstrings to tighten the hood around your face.
    • Tight and elastic cuffs. You can tuck your gloves in so that no part of your skin is exposed.
    • Check the coat for the temperature rating.
    • Ask a salesperson for help if you have questions.
    • Color:
      • Choose winter jackets in bright colors for your kids. Drivers will see them better if they walk to school.
      • Choose jackets in yellow or red (or other bright colours) if you work outside.

  2. Layering
    • Keep warm by layering. Have two to three layers of clothes under your winter jacket and pants.
    • Use thermal underwear, shirts, sweaters, and tights.
    • Wool, corduroy, and fleece are the best at keeping you warm.
    • Choose your layers depending on your activities for the day.
    • Take off layers when the temperature becomes warmer. Sweating can freeze your skin and take away heat. You can have hypothermia.

  3. You may need other winter accessories:
    • Hats – see examples here: 9 types of winter hats, U.P. Supply Co.
    • Ear muffs – Ears and fingers are the first ones to hurt when exposed to the cold.
      • The best ear muffs are made of fleece, fur, or sheepskin.
      • There are ear muffs with built-in headphones. There are headband types.
      • Go to 6 ear warmers that won’t mess up your hair by Chelsey Hamilton, for examples.
    • Gloves or mittens
      • Mittens give more warmth. They let your fingers bunch together and create more heat.
      • Use gloves if you will handle objects or operate equipment.
      • The warmest is leather lined with cashmere, wool,or fleece.
    • Shoes/Boots – Winter shoes can range from sneakers to thigh-high boots.
      • Choose depending on your style and the activity you will be wearing them.
      • Choose durable shoes. Think of the height of the heels and the material and thickness of the sole for your safety.
      • The best ones are waterproof and skid-free.
    • Others:

      • Scarves protect and provide warmth for your neck and shoulders. Wool scarves are the warmest. You can also use:
        • Mufflers
        • Stoles
      • Wool socks or thermal socks and leg warmers. Read 14 best socks for winter that keep your feet warm and dry by Sam Escobar, for suggestions.
      • Sunglasses protect your eyes from the wind and glare of the sun. Use goggles when working outside or for outdoor sports.

Added protection

  1. Ski pants
    • Wear ski pants if you will be outside for an extended time.
    • They are windproof and waterproof. Ski pants will help keep your legs warm and dry.
    • Choose fleece or flannel-lined pants (not ski pants) if you will be indoors but need extra warmth.
  2. Face masks
    • Thermal face masks cover your entire face. It has holes for your eyes and nose.
    • It provides maximum protection from the cold wind.
    • They come in various styles:
      • balaclava hood
      • full or half face cover
      • neck warmer
    • Metal or rubber grippers
      • Grippers provide traction so you don’t slip on ice.
      • You attach them to the soles of your shoes.
      • Take them off when indoors.
      • You can keep them inside your bag for later use.
    • Gaiters
      • Gaiters are garments worn over your shoes and lower pant legs.
      • Use them if your shoes and lower legs need extra protection.
      • They are weather-resistant, waterproof, and detachable.

Last tip: Always have lip balm and moisturizer in your bag. Wind burn happens when the air is dry.

Disclaimer: English Online does not profit from the sales of products mentioned in the links for winter accessories. They were chosen for actual depictions/photos. We do not endorse them.
Article updated February 8, 2021.
Sources: Yes, you can survive this cold! Ten tips from a Canadian, Caitlin Kelly, Broadside Blog; Cold environments – Working in the cold, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety; Surviving Canada’s cold weather – How to prepare, Phil Sylvester, World Nomads; and Deep freeze tips for surviving the extreme cold gripping Canada, CBC News. Accessed January 2 and 3, 2018.

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