Surviving a Winter Storm with a Cardboard Box

Written by The Ready Store

During this time of year, winter snow storms are a large reality. Winter snow storms can cause major power outages in your home. If you aren’t lucky enough to have an alternative power source, having an extended power outage can be dangerous.

Hypothermia is a major concern for peoples exposed to cold temperatures during a winter storm. Over 700 deaths from hypothermia are recorded each year in the United States.

Here are a few tips to beat a winter storm. You’ll be surprised how much help a simple cardboard box can be to keep you warm:

Keep core warm
You’ll need to start by keeping your core body warm. Try to insulate against  the cold, putting on extra layers to ensure that your body stays warm and your internal organs continue to function.

In extreme situations, even items like plastic bags or pieces of cardboard can be stuffed in your clothing to protect against the cold. (Please do not choose this option over a nice winter coat.)

Try not to work up a sweat
You might be tempted to move around a lot to work up a sweat. However, in the cold, your body will be using more calories to generate heat. Working up a sweat can throw that balance off and make the situation worse.

Be smart in the activities you’re doing in the cold too. There are often reports of people who have heart attacks when shoveling snow.

This happens when people who are more used to channel surfing than exercise, leap from their couches and start lifting 40-pound heaps of snow. This kind of sudden increase in activity isn’t a good thing if you aren’t in shape. If you need to clear your driveway, get help from a young neighbor. If not, go slow and steady, taking breaks as often as you need. (Read the original article.)
Frostbite and hypothermia can set in within minutes
If temperatures start to drop rapidly, you’ll need to move quickly to get a source of heat.

Take care to wear gloves, warm socks, hats, coats, etc. If you are exposed too long to cold temperatures, your extremities may be at risk for frostbite. Ice crystals form on the outside of y­our skin cells. This dehydrates the cell and eventually kills it.
The two main stages of frostbite and its symptoms are:
  • Superficial frostbite – numbness, tingling, burning, itching. The skin looks frozen white and retains firmness when pressed.
  • Deep frostbite – increased and eventual loss of sensation, swelling, blood blisters. The skin is yellowish and hard and can appear blackened and dead.

To treat frostbite, move to a warm area as soon as you can and elevate the affected area. Remove any restricted clothing or jewelry to keep from further inhibiting the flow of blood. Thawing should be performed by a doctor, so get to a hospital as soon as you can. If you can’t get to a doctor warm the area quickly in water between 104-107 degrees Fahrenheit (40-42 degrees Celsius). This will be a painful process, but necessary to save your digits (Read the original article.)

Hypothermia sets in when the body temperature drops below normal, causing problems for the respiratory and circulatory systems. You have hypothermia if your body temperature drops below 95 F.There are a few signs of hypothermia including: 

  • Cold skin to the touch
  • Hypothermics will shiver and then be cold with no shivering
  • They will be weak and slow moving with slow reflexes
  • Irritability and combativeness
  • Confused. Many hypothermics begin to hallucinate
  • Slow breathing
  • Slow, irregular, heartbeat (Courtesy of UM Medical.)

In order to keep hypothermia from getting worse, you’ll need to warm the person. You might need to share your own body heat with the person.

Collect heat
If you don’t have power in your home, the extreme cold can start to set in quickly. If this occurs, it’s recommended that you try to stick your heating efforts to one or two rooms.

Stick to one room for heat and close off unnecessary rooms in the house. Make sure there are no air leaks in the room. Keep sunlight streaming through the windows in the day, but block all windows at night.(Read the Weather News article.)

If your home has more of an “open concept,” you might need to use cardboard boxes to trap heat in to a makeshift room. If the situation gets extremely desperate, you can use these cardboard boxes to trap the heat into a small confined area. Even the light of a flashlight might be able to help generate heat in such a small area.

Eat calories
In extreme cold temperatures your body will use calories to generate as much heat as it needs. You need to be sure to keep your caloric intake high when facing dipping temperatures.

These nutritional tips may help reduce symptoms of cold exposure:

  • Eat warming spices in your foods, such as basil, ginger, turmeric, garlic, and cayenne.
  • Eat antioxidant foods, including fruits (such as blueberries, cherries, and tomatoes), and vegetables (such as squash and bell peppers).
  • Eat more hot soups made with fresh vegetables.
  • Avoid coffee and other stimulants, alcohol, and especially tobacco. Tobacco causes blood vessels to constrict and may increase risk to hypothermia.
  • Drink 6 – 8 glasses of filtered water daily. Hydration is important in reducing problems from cold exposure.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes daily, 5 days a week. (Courtesy of UM Medical.)

With a food supply for The Ready Store, you’ll be rest-assured that your food is giving you enough calories and doesn’t taste like a cardboard box.

Updated February 3, 2012


  1. Eugene Farley wrote:

    Taking an aspirin each day, even a baby aspirin will help keep the inflammation down. stocking up on candles beforehand will give you a heat source in a small area. If you are caught in the snow and cant move the vehicle a candle could save your life. Make sure that you leave the window cracked enough to keep the oxygen from being used up.

    February 6th, 2012 at 2:22 am
  2. C Walter wrote:

    Good to be aware of. But! putting plastic bags in your clothing is a very bad idea and should be used as an absolute last resort before death due to exposure ocurrs. The body is always giving off heat and moisture from the skin. Any material that traps moisture on the inside with cold temps on the outside will result in condensation. Moisture will collect against the skin and soak into other clothing. This will greatly reduce any insulative value of the clothing and cause a much greater risk of cold injuries. This is why gortex was such a great invention. It allows moisture to escape but keeps falling water out. I have survived comfortably a lot of exposure to cold extremes in wet conditions outside thanks to gortex clothing coutesy of Uncle Sam :) Old rags, newspaper, towels etc will be much better for insulating in an emergency situation. The best situation is to have coldweather clothing on hand in the event of cold weather, including in each vehicle the family uses.

    February 6th, 2012 at 8:40 am
  3. J Schlarb wrote:

    I don`t wear the plastic bags, I wod them up in little balls and place them inside my under clothes to create air pockets of warm air. You don`t want to stop the air from escapeing. So don`t wear them like a shirt. These small pockets will allow you to adjust your body temperature so as not to freeze.

    February 6th, 2012 at 9:29 am
  4. C Caruthers wrote:

    I knew a homeless man who lived in his car for a couple of years. He said he kept warm using a metal coffee can stuffed with a roll of toilet paper for a wick. Then he poured enough rubbing alcohol in the can to soak the paper. He used a tin pie plate to put out the flame. Sounds dangerous, but in a survival situation I might try it.

    February 6th, 2012 at 11:44 am
  5. Janet wrote:

    If there’s no heat you might want to consider having everyone sleep in a tent in the living room. In addition, blankets could be put over the tent to add insulation. :)

    February 6th, 2012 at 7:07 pm
  6. Fred wrote:

    I talked to an old German soldier who survived on the Russian front by stuffing waded up newspaper in his uniform. It also gives air pockets and is easily found. Hope this info helps.
    They were deployed with summer uniforms.

    February 6th, 2012 at 11:44 pm
  7. Ellyn George wrote:

    My hubby makes 100% soy wax candles and we do not use paraffin. We used to do it as a biz on the web, but have cut back to word-of-mouth, family and friends. In our process of deciding how to make them, we decided on 100% soy wax for many reasons.

    One reason is that it is an all-natural product that burns very, very cleanly. You burn all your wax instead of creating a tunnel down the middle (as with paraffin jar candles). Paraffin is a petroleum-based product and, when you’re in a smaller space, you don’t want to breathe what amounts to car exhaust.

    You may want to consider an unfragranced 100% soy wax candle in your supplies (container candles) especially if you have someone with a breathing problem or young children. Just a thought.

    February 10th, 2012 at 9:01 am
  8. Ellyn George wrote:

    If you live or visit a potentially heavy snow area, or if you are out skiing, snowmobiling, etc., put a bright orange flag in your survival bag. If your car goes off the road, you wind up lost, or even in a situation where you are covered by snow, this bright flag can save your life when your emergency signal fancy gadgets can’t be heard or the battery goes out. These flags can be found in collapsible form and fit in any survival pack. In a car, it slips over your antenna or goes between your driver’s door and the roof of your car.

    February 10th, 2012 at 9:06 am

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