Sometimes you have to go a bit “MacGyver” to beat winter at its own game. It’s not enough to pack a warm blanket in case your car stalls or wear two pairs of wool socks to keep your toes dry. You need a few hacks — unconventional solutions, if you will — to keep functioning during this frigid stretch. We asked some experts for their best cold-weather secrets, from how to keep your cellphone from dying to how to get traction on ice.
How to get into your car when the lock is frozen
Ideally, you have an aerosol de-icer on you. It’s cheap and portable. But let’s get real. You can barely keep track of your wallet, let alone a can of de-icer. So take some advice from George Davi, a locksmith at Locksmith Brothers: Squirt hand sanitizer into the lock to help melt the ice and then jiggle the key. Also, depending on how icy the lock is, you might try heating up your car key with a lighter to loosen things up. Now, just hope your car starts.
How to stop spinning your wheels on ice
Kitty litter would not be Frank Chambless’s first choice to provide traction for tires: “You don’t want to get to that point unless there’s nothing you can do.” But the mechanic at Fran’s Auto Repair in South Boston said if you find yourself in a slick spot, litter can do the trick. When temperatures plunge, keep a bag of (clean) litter in the back of your car to spread under a tire to improve grip. Another hack: To prepare for the onslaught of snow from the “bomb cyclone,” consider covering your (upright) windshield wipers with a pair of old socks so the blades don’t cake with ice. Doesn’t look pretty, but it gets the job done.
How to keep your iPhone from turning off
So you find yourself outside, braving a wind chill of minus 16 degrees, in a landscape that looks like the ice planet Hoth, and your cellphone dies. What do you do? First, give it time to warm up, according to Curtis Ingram, owner of TechRescue, a Brighton repair shop. Extreme cold affects a cellphone’s functionality. “You don’t want to use the phone in temperatures below 0 because the battery will degrade quickly,” Ingram said. To keep your phone operational, slip it in a pocket close to your core or in a case that will keep it insulated. “So if you’re taking a hike and your phone can’t stay in your pocket,” Ingram said, “turn it off and you should be fine. When it does come time to turn it on again, give it a few minutes to jump back up in temperature.”
How to walk (relatively) safely on ice
Sometimes getting from the front door to the sidewalk is like trying to navigate center ice at the Garden. One false move, and you’ll go down on your bum or your back or your knee. So be careful. Walking on ice takes a certain finesse. Blanchette recommends sliding or shuffling your feet as a strategy for staying upright. The Canada Safety Council, which also knows a thing or two about ice, suggests spreading your feet more than 12 inches apart and keeping your knees loose, even a little bent, to ground yourself. Take small, slow steps, and put your whole foot down at once. Ice grippers, little cleats or even chains attached to the soles of your shoes, can also help stop slips.
How to keep your feet dry; how to get your boots dry
As any hiker worth her salt knows, cotton kills. It gets wet, stays wet, and does nothing to wick away moisture. So wear a pair of wool socks, maybe even two, under your boots to keep your toes dry in the bitter cold and snow. For additional protection, slip a plastic grocery bag — or even a plastic slider bag — over your stocking foot before slipping on your boot. So says Chuck Blanchette, director of camping with the Boy Scouts Spirit of Adventure Council, which oversees troops in Boston and the northeastern Massachusetts region. “It provides an extra layer and holds in the heat,” he said. Then, once you’re home and need to get your boots dry quickly, cut up a foam pool noodle, stuff a section into each boot shaft, and put the boots near (but not too close) to the heater. The noodles keep the boots upright and allow air to circulate.