Things to do When it's Cold Outside
Outdoors things that is, not rearranging your
few things you can do outside when it's really
cold. Nothing too involved and these things
shouldn't need you to be out for too long so
you won't get frozen yourself in the process.
Make an ice-light -
A Finnish tradition
bucket, water, candle.
You fill a bucket of water and leave it outside
to freeze. I did this one when it wasn't so
cold, just a few degrees below freezing, the
actual temperature isn't so important as long
as it consistently below zero so it doesn't
start to melt.
After a couple of days, you turn the bucket
upside down and get the ice out, mine had about
a 10cm / 4" slab of ice on the top and
walls of around 2" / 5cm thick, there was
a still liquid water bit in the middle at the
bottom (so be careful when you tip the bucket
upside down) which makes a space for the candle.
The speed of freezing depends on your temperature
of course, if it's well below freezing it might
just take a few hours.
I supported the sides on a couple of pieces
of wood around 2cm / 3/4" thick to allow for
a flow of air to the candle. Light the
candle, carefully place the ice on top and
you've a beautiful icy light. The heat of
the candle melts a hole through the ice
above it after a while, but this doesn't
seem to matter, the candle should be
sufficiently protected by the ice walls from the
wind to not blow out.
You could also try mixing some food dye in
with the water to get coloured ones too or
maybe use a glow stick or two as a light
Throw hot water
into the air and watch it drift away
It needs to be much colder for this one, it
works better the nearer to boiling the water
is and the bigger the difference between the hot
water and the air temperature is. Try it on
the coldest day you can and do what you can
to keep the water as hot as possible, realistically
it needs to be below around -20°C / -4°F
for good results.
Get a vacuum flask and fill it with boiling
water (take care) leave for a minute
or so, pour it away and fill again with boiling
water, put on the lid and go outside, you'll
also need a plastic cup or even better an insulated
mug. Pour some of the water into the cup and
throw it into the air. Marvel at how the hot
water goes up but then turns to steam and simply
drifts away! There's lots of opportunity for
photography too, get into position with a plain
background behind where the steam will be and
play around with shots into the sun or lit by
the sun from the front.
If it's very cold and you're very careful, you
could even try to put some in a supersoaker,
water pistol or similar and puff out steam.
In a similar vein try blowing bubbles and
watch them freeze into ice crystal balloons
before they land (or maybe shortly
Expanding ice and
A simple one but fun for the younger ones or
if you've never done it before.
On a cold night / day fill a bottle with cold
water and screw the lid on tight, place it outside
and wait a few hours or until the next day.
As the ice freezes it expands and so will split
or break the bottle. It looks better with a
glass bottle as it's more obvious what has happened,
though of course you then have broken glass
to clean up (easier if you can leave it until
the ice has melted) plastic bottles might just
expand with the ice and not split.
Leave the top off the bottle but fill it right
to the very brim, you should get a column of ice
coming out of the top of the bottle.
Drill a hole in the bottle top or saw a slit,
with some experimentation you can make some
cool shaped ice extrusions.
If you have more time and/or patience, you could
try supercooling water.
The idea is that you can cool a liquid
below its freezing point and as long as it is
clean and undisturbed it won't freeze for a
while despite being cold enough to.
You could do the same thing in your freezer
but there's a lot of potential for messiness
that is more easily contained outdoors.
Take several clean plastic bottles and fill
them with water, screw on the lids and leave
them outdoors in a calm spot where it is below
freezing. As a guideline for a 500ml / 1
pint bottle, 3 hours at -20°C
/ -4°F (the temperature of most freezers)
is the right sort of time but it's very variable.
Some of the bottles may have already frozen
solid (and so split - hence this is better outdoors)
but hopefully some should still be liquid and supercooled.
Carefully pick one of the still liquid ones
up and either tap the side sharply, tilt upside
down or shake it gently. If you're lucky and
it is supercooled you will see the liquid water
turn to ice starting within a matter of seconds.
Another variation is to very carefully unscrew
the top from the bottle and pour it onto a very
cold hard surface (should be lots around if you're
outdoors!). This time if you're lucky, you will
make a mound of ice as the water comes out liquid
but almost immediately freezes as it hits the
already frozen surface, make sure there is already
a small piece of ice that you're pouring it