Okay, here we go again another article on how to survive in cold weather. Redundant right, but keep in mind redundancy is the best backup plan.
Like your parents, they would always remind you lest you forget that you must brush your teeth twice a day and always, always wash your hands after using the bathroom. There is some advice you simply cannot hear too many times.
Once you start thinking you have all the bases covered is when you do not have all the bases covered, and finding out you do not during a survival situation may be too late. Make sure you are prepared by going over your gear, equipment and survival knowledge often and then hone your survival skills as often as possible as well.
Snow already in some parts of the country, so winter is not far off for the rest of us.
Now May Be the Time to Go Over Your Vehicle’s Winter Emergency Kit
1. Change out batteries in flashlights and check the expiration dates on your emergency medical supplies, rations, and bottled water.
In some cases, you may want to consider carrying at least a 24 to 48 hour supply of maintenance medications in your vehicle
2. Make sure your cold weather coat and wool blanket (s) and/or cold weather sleeping bag is cleaned up and packed tight from that last trip where you piled fertilizer, and potting mix on top.
3. Make sure you still have your cold weather gloves, shoes/boots, head protection, and neck scarves.
4. Check all your maps, you may find some are several years old, so they may need to be updated.
5. Check any power converters and/or “jump battery boxes” to make sure they are fully charged and are operational.
6. Ensure you have a car charger for that new smart phone the one buried in the glove box may be one from three phones ago.
7. Check the spare tire and double check to make sure your jumper cables were put back from the last time you used them.
8. Cordage 50-100 feet of quality nylon or 550 Paracord:
In white out conditions you can become disoriented just feet from your vehicle so secure yourself to your vehicle with rope if you have to leave it to clear snow from the tailpipe or for any other reason.
9. Check for any damage to your rain poncho or other wet weather gear.
10. In some parts of the country, you may need tire chains, sand or cat litter a shovel and a nylon-towing strap may be a good idea as well.
A small survival kit packed in a small backpack for year around use is also a good idea. The kit would be in addition to what you would normally carry for emergencies in winter and summer. Some suggestions for your kit include:
- A multi-tool
- Cordage, quality nylon or 550 Paracord:
- Compass, whistle
- Emergency rations for at least 24 hours such as protein bars, peanut butter and crackers, trail mix and so on
- Duct Tape
- Matches, lighters and you can also carry a magnesium stick and/or Ferro rods along with some candles and a tin can for emergency heat or cooking
- Mylar emergency blankets, lip balm, sunglasses, bandana, hat, work gloves
- Signal flag or brightly colored material for signaling
- Poncho and a waterproof/light weight nylon tarp for emergency shelter
- Hand sanitizer that is alcohol based, can be used as a fire starting aid as well
Keep in mind the above list is by no means comprehensive, adapt as needed for your specific situation
Getting Lost or Stranded in the Wilderness in Cold Weather
If you do not believe you could ever get lost then you probably have not prepared to get lost, pride can get you killed so assume you could become lost and prepare for it. Becoming lost or stranded while hunting or hiking may mean spending a night or several nights in the woods in frigid temperatures.
Anyone can get lost regardless of their level of expertise in survival skills, and you certainly can become stranded due to an injury or mechanical breakdown, and all of this just a few miles from home in some cases. What you thought was just a few hours hike can turn into days wandering in the wilderness.
Hydration Is Important In Cold Weather
Loss of body fluids will cause the blood to thicken creating more stress on the body and will increase the chances of frostbite, because blood flow will be reduced to the outer extremities.
The body will first attempt to keep the core warm by directing what warm blood there is to vital organs. Warm blood to the inner organs means less blood to the outer extremities, and this is what can cause frostbite on any exposed skin.
Drink regularly even if you do not feel thirsty. The average adult needs at least two-quarts/liters of water daily to maintain hydration levels, so make sure you are consuming enough to stay hydrated. Sweating, urination, bowel movements and breathing all expels fluids from your body that must be replaced regardless of the temperature.
Ensure you have the means to make a shelter even if it is only for a few hours until the wind dies down or you are simply resting for a few hours. You may need a windbreak to prevent rapid body cooling, so make sure you have the tools to construct one from what is available in your environment and/or pack a shelter with you such as tarps, Mylar blankets, ponchos or even a single person tent.
You can excavate a snow cave or even pile up snow on four sides to create a shelter or windbreak. The inside of a shelter that breaks the wind and prevents snow or rain from entering can be as much as 15 to 20 degrees warmer than the outside air.
Make sure you have sunglasses in your pack or clip-on’s if you wear eyeglasses, because snow blindness is a real possibility, and it can cause permanent damage to your eyes.
Matches can become wet and lighters can fail but a magnesium stick is impervious to water and temperatures as is a Ferro rod. A magnesium stick typically includes a flint bar (typically Ferrocerium, a manmade metallic) imbedded, so this is the best of both worlds.
You have the magnesium shavings that burn hot and the means to create a spark to ignite the magnesium all in one tool. Redundant equals backup, so carry multiple means of fire starting in the event one fails you. You should also have some dry tinder such as cotton balls, wood curls or Fatwood packed in a waterproof bag or container.
Cold Weather Clothing
Yes, we are talking layers here, and there is a reason why you always hear “layer your clothing”. Layers allow you to regulate your body temperature to some extent. If you feel warm, take a layer off until you cool somewhat. This is to prevent sweating, which can be deadly in cold weather even when it is not below freezing. Sweat is designed to cool the body using the evaporative process. Stand in front of a blowing fan in wet clothing and you will know what the evaporative cooling process is.
If you do sweat, you want the inner layer to wick the moisture away from the skin. Wool and fleece will work well for this, while cotton will not. Your outer layer should be waterproof or at least water resistant. Walking around in wet cloths can be deadly even when it is 40 or 50 degrees out.
Change your socks often, and again you want material that will wick moisture away from the skin. Wet socks need to be changed out immediately, so it is important that you always carry extra socks. Avoid sleeping in your shoes or socks if possible.