When winter hits, we all know how important it is to stay warm. Being too cold can cause everything from wind burn to frostbite, hypothermia, or even death. The cold is especially dangerous to children and the elderly because they lose body heat faster than the average healthy adult. Here are five things that your character can do to stay warm. 

1) Layers! 

Growing up, I was always told: if I was cold, to put more clothes on. The more layers between you and the cold, the better. Layers also keep you insulated. Pantyhose, while thin, is a great way to layer. Even the US army encourages the use of pantyhose to stay warm in the winter. 

Many hunters have this down to an art form so they can hunt no matter how cold it gets. They go out in three layers: base layer, middle layer, and outer layer. The base layer is to get the natural body sweat away from your body, referred to as wicking the sweat away. The middle layer is the insulating layer, designed to retain your natural body heat. The outer layer or outer shell protects you from the elements, like wind, rain, snow, etc. 

Remember, this is the modern hunter’s method. If a person doesn’t have the money to get the perfect layering, they will wear whatever keeps them warm. I’ve seen people use trench bags. If it works, it works. 

2) Fireplace

Maybe you saw this one coming, but a fireplace makes heat. Not only that, but it lets you warm things up, like clothing, blankets, food, water, etc. You see many fireplaces built with rock or brick walls because those rocks and bricks will retain heat even after the fire has gone out. This makes it warmer, needs less wood for the fire, and makes a safety break, so the fire doesn’t catch the walls on fire. You want to be warm, not a crispy critter in the fire. 

3) Heavy bedding

If you ever wondered why quilts were so heavy, it’s because they were made for winter. The heavy bedding allows you to retain more body heat and is great insulation. Older quilts were made with several layers of fabric. Today most homemade or hand-sewn quilts are made with a layer of quilt batting. Batting can be made of cotton, polyester, cotton blends, wool, or bamboo. I see batting more often than anything else, but I still come across some quilts that are only layers of fabric when I shop at the local Amish store. 

4) Body heat 

Shared body heat is a great way to stay warm. Your body doesn’t have to do all the heating, and things warm up faster. Many true or real-life winter adventure stories include shared body heat, whether they are in a snow den or tent. When my children were young, we had a hard winter for this area. It was so cold that even inside the house with a wood stove going, it was hovering at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or about 4 degrees Celsius. We all piled into the same bed that year to keep the newborn and toddler warm. It worked. 

Human body heat is good, but so is animal body heat. There are many tales of dogs keeping lost children warm at night. I know my dog makes a great foot warmer when she sleeps on my feet. Another thing to consider is that animals can put off a lot of body heat in groups. People have often stayed in barns in winter to stay warm and keep their animals warm. 

5) Hat (that covers the ears) 

Winter hats are designed to keep your body heat in, also known as more insulation! Are you getting the idea that body heat is important yet? Winter hats should go over your ears. This keeps them warm and comfortable since the ears are one of the body parts prone to frostbite. To top off, it also keeps moisture and wind from entering your ear canal and causing ear infections. 

Fun Fact: Did you know that adult chickens put off 10 watts or roughly 35 BTUs of energy. It takes approximately 10 watts to heat a one-foot-square space. That means it takes 100 chickens to heat a 10-foot x 10-foot room. 

What could possibly go wrong? 

Likely to go wrong: 

Wearing too many layers can restrict movement. 

Likely to go wrong: 

 Your character wore something with too-wide stitching or knitting, and the wind blew right through it. 

Likely to go wrong: 

 Your character did not add enough blankets. Or maybe they just didn’t have enough blankets. 

Possible to go wrong:

Flue fire. This is a fire within the chimney, usually caused by a buildup of soot. This is a cause of house fires. I doubt smoke alarms will be a thing in post-apocalyptic worlds. 

Possible to go wrong:

People refuse to share body heat until it is bitterly cold and then are too embarrassed to admit it. It happens more than most people think. A lot of time, it is men that are embarrassed, but women can be too, especially if they fear someone will believe they slept with (in the carnel sense of the word) the person they were trying to stay warm with. 

Possible to go wrong:

While trying to stay warm overnight, they slept too close to the fire and lit themselves/their clothes/bedding on fire. 

Unlikely to go wrong:

 Your character wears so many layers, they restrict blood flow. It is unlikely they would not notice that, but it is possible to do, more so if the character is already cold and doesn’t have the best feeling because of it. 

Unlikely to go wrong:

The hat didn’t fully cover the ears, and they were frostbitten. It is unlikely your character would not notice that part of their ear was uncovered, but again, if they had diminished feeling, it is possible. 

Improbable but technically still in the realm of possibilities:

They snuggle up with the pigs in the barn to stay warm. 

Improbable but technically still in the realm of possibilities:

 Your character focus the layering on the wrong part of the body. They may focus on gloves, socks, and hats and ignore the core of their body. This feels like something a young child or someone with dementia would do since most people know they need to keep their core warm since it is where the major organs are.

Helpful Links to Learn More:

Layering tips:


How a Fireplace Works:


Brief History of Quilts: