With Arctic cold temperatures gripping most of the eastern half of the country, many Americans are getting hit with a brutal reminder of exactly how fierce Old Man Winter can get.
So, what’s a guy to do? Well, Made Man recently hitched a ride with Volkswagen into the frigid climes of Yellowknife, the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories, to pick up a few tips on enduring the wickedest combinations of ice, snow and wind. After all, what better place to contemplate surviving cold contingencies than an area that lies 250 miles south of the Arctic Circle, where temps can dip as low as minus-40 degrees Fahrenheit?
Here’s what we learned…
1. Invest in quality outerwear.
There’s an old saying: “Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.” Well, in Yellowknife, you quickly learn that cliché is also quite applicable when it comes to selecting the right outerwear for a winter excursion. Sure, the general thought might be that any insulated coat, hat, gloves and boots will do. But after spending two to three hours on a frozen lake in minus-20-degree temperatures, you realize that spending $500 or more on a really good parka is a damn good idea. You’ll also want a to pull a good pair of insulated pants on over those jeans, bro.
2. Layer up.
There are few things more critical than layers of clothing when it comes to winter survival. Oh and make sure that the underlying clothing and thermal wear is breathable (preferably with a lot of zippers) when engaging in outdoor winter activities. That prevents the body from overheating and giving off too much perspiration, which can lead to hyperthermia.
3. Pick a capable ride.
If you’re doing any kind of adventurous winter driving, you’ll definitely need a worthy set of wheels. Which, by the way, means something different in Yellowknife than it does on some twisty canyon road in Southern California. When dealing with the challenges up here, features like the Volkswagen Tiguan’s interior heating components and 4Motion all-wheel-drive system’s “Snow Mode” make all the difference.
4. Wear a flotation vest.
Ice-based activities on the agenda? We sincerely doubt that many will find their fun doing deep-water ice diving, like one of VW’s swimming experts pulled off for this pic. But even with surface activities like snowmobiling, it’s only wise to make a flotation vest part of your gear, in the event you do happen to break through the frozen surface.
5. Go light on the beer and heavy on the water.
Nothing quite so negatively affects the body when facing cold situations like alcohol does, says Dr. Kate Breen, a Yellowknife physician who specializes in cold-weather health issues. Despite how it may feel, Breen warns that no alcoholic drink actually helps keep the body warm. Trust us, when dehydration creeps up in a frigid domain, you’ll be glad you opted for water over that IPA for lunch. That said, when you’re officially done for the day, a fine whiskey or two is a pretty good way to wrap the night.
6. Be prepared to communicate.
When venturing out in a frozen tundra for any length of time, you’ll also want to have more than a cell phone on hand, especially given how quickly the cold can drain the battery. In fact, the most essential communication tools include a spot device, DeLorme InReach or a satellite phone to stay in touch with others, especially considering how easily you could find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere.
7. Heed warning signs.
With any kind of adventure, safety depends to some degree on having—and exercising—common sense. For example, if your gut instinct tells you it’s time to find a place to warm up, it’s best to heed the advice of your body, rather than to wind up scrambling for cover, right when your toes go completely numb. Of course, you’ll also want to adhere to the more overt warning signs, like a sign at the entrance to one Yellowknife’s ice routes reading: “Road Closed.”