13 Things You Didn't Know You Needed to Survive the Polar Vortex

PHOTO: A man shovels snow using a shovel with a D-grip handle. Getty Images
A man shovels snow using a shovel with a D-grip handle.


As a "polar vortex" from the Arctic makes its way through parts of the United States, communities in northern areas of the country and regions not used to extreme cold may be caught by surprise today.

Read More: Aside From Really Cold, What's A Polar Vortex?

Though the vortex won't linger for long in the U.S., temperatures have already dropped to 32 below in Fargo, N.D.

In Photos: Freezing Photos Across the Country

Here are 13 suggested items compiled by Consumer Reports and Outside Magazine's executive editor Sam Moulton that even the most experienced winter outdoor enthusiasts could benefit from to survive and remain comfortable in extreme weather.

quicklist: title: Gloves media: 21437259 category: $89 text: Lodestar gloves by Outdoor Research ($89) are recommended by Outside for backcountry activities. The gloves breathe well and dry quickly, Outside says.

Outside Magazine's executive editor Sam Moulton says the Gordini Swagger by Gore-Tex is a great glove for the money at $65, especially for resort skiing.

quicklist: title: Mittens media: 21439477 category: $50 text: Outside Magazine recommends its share of gloves, but sometimes you need to let your thumbs do all the work.

"If it's really cold, you've got to go mittens, which are much warmer because your digits are all together, share heat and keep each other warm," Moulton said.

These Marmot mittens (pictured) are sold for $50 on REI.com, and are marketed as waterproof. Moulton says these mittens are worth the investment.

quicklist: title: Generator media: 21436280 category: $3,700 text: Many times, extreme winter weather can lead to emergencies that require a power generator. Consumer Reports recommends the Kohler 14RESAL generator, which has a hefty price tag of $3,700 before installation, but it includes a transfer switch. A $475 add-on module allows you to monitor your generator's status using a PC and remotely control power outputs.

quicklist: title: Jacket media: 21436383 category: $200 text: Outside magazine included the Marmot Isotherm jacket ($200) in its list of "best new insulated jackets," for its "exceptional breathability." The jacket is best for moving quickly, Outside says.

Moulton said Outdoor Research's men's transcendent sweater ($189) is a great, lightweight and packable down jacket.

You can find more of Moulton's picks in Outside's Winter 2014 Buyer's Guide, which is on newsstands.

quicklist: title: Snow shovels media: 21436609 category: $25+ text: Consumer Reports recently published a guide to buying the right snow shovel for each consumer's needs.

Snow shovels aren't brand oriented, said Peter Sawchuck, test program leader for home improvement at Consumer Reports. But there are eight shovel types that come with their own pros and cons.

For example, shovels with "ergonomic" handles that are bent may actually be harder to handle because they must be used in only one specific angle. A D-shape handle is typical, and make sure it's not too big or small for your hand. A padded grip is helpful, he says.

"Like a snow blower, a snow shovel is a function of what you're going to do with it, whether you use it on a long walkway, driveway, or deck," Sawchuck said.

If you're just pushing snow, it's best to use a wider based shovel and a more narrow shovel works if you are lifting snow off a patio or deck, for example.

The magazine tests the snow shovels in arduous conditions when it analyzes its snow blowers -- that is, with seven tons of wet sawdust.

"We blow it with the snow blowers and shovel it back into place," Sawchuck said.

quicklist: title: Ice scraper media: 21436671 category: $20+ text: Sure, it's a simple tool, but with some elbow grease, an ice scraper can remove a thick layer of ice from a car windshield. Make sure your car has this at all times in the winter. If you're traveling in frigid temperatures, make sure your rental car includes an ice scraper.

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quicklist: title: Snow blower media: 21436794 category: $1,500 text: The Cub Cadet 31AH57S snow blower is Consumer Reports' best snow blower. Though the cost may seem steep at $1,500, Sawchuck said it will likely last 15 to 20 years or so. Snow blowers are preferred machines for people who have driveways. The Cub Cadet's second propeller can help clear snow that is up to 24 inches deep.

"It's not a lawnmower," Sawchuck said. "It will last a long time."

quicklist: title: Disposable hand warmer media: 21436841 category: $10 text: YakTrax disposable hand warmers really do last for hours. A pack of 10 costs $10.

quicklist: title: Ear muffs media: 21436889 category: $80 text: Sometimes a body's extremities need the most protection. You don't need the fanciest ear muff, but if you want it all, the 180s Bluetooth HD ear warmer allows you to listen to your calls in high definition on the go.

quicklist: title: Zippo hand warmer media: 21437130 category: $16 text: The Zippo hand warmer is touted as a safe hand warmer that can keep warm for up to 24 hours or so before it needs to be refilled with more lighter fluid.

quicklist: title: Boots media: 21439425 category: $140 text:

Moulton's favorite boots are Sorel's waterproof men's Caribou boots, which sell for $140.

Not to be overlooked in the bottom half of your body are pants.

"People layer on top and forget about their bottoms," he said.

Instead of wearing heavy snow pants, Moulton said he likes to wear lined flannel pants if he is playing with his kids outdoors.

quicklist: title: Klean Kanteen media: 21439611 category: $29.95+ text: Moulton says he's a "big fan" of hot drinks, so he recommends Klean Kanteen.

"Their double-walled thermoses keep liquids hot for up to six hours," he said, even in extremely cold weather.

quicklist: title: Head/neck gear media: 21439713 category: $29 text: Buff headwear, made of merino wool, is described on the company's website as a "seamless tube of fabric."

Moulton says he has seen many recent football spectators wearing these on their heads or necks.

"They're really great," Moulton said. "They cover that exposed skin on your neck and head. You can wear it underneath your hat or under a ski helmet. They're great warmth-boosting layers."