Would you know how to survive out in the cold? These tips and skills can mean life or death when it comes to being out in the wild in freezing cold weather.
Knowledge and preparation are the key elements anytime you venture out in to the wilderness, not matter what the prevailing weather conditions when you start your journey.
Your core temperature is always a concern when the weather is cold. Snow, ice, rain, and frigid temperatures will leech body heat from your body, sapping your energy, and causing your body to burn calories to keep your body warm. If you have a limited supply of food, this can quickly become a dangerous situation.
Dressing in layers is the best idea when you plan to be out in the cold. Each layer traps air between itself and the next layer, which is warmed by your body, and in turn insulates you like your own little heater. For adults, three to five layers is recommended.The first layer should have wicking properties, because even though you are cold initially, as you warm up and move around you will perspire, and it is important to keep your skin dry. Wet skin will work against you as it cools off. The outer most layer should be a waterproof windbreaker, to keep water out and heat in. The great part about layers is that you can regulate your temperature by removing clothing. For children, you might want to add one more layer than what you are wearing.
- Keep Moving
It is important not to sit still. Body temperature drops more quickly and blood flow decreases. By elevating your heart rate, blood will keep flowing to your extremities building body heat in the process. You do not want to over do it to the point where you start to sweat, because this will create moisture and which will in turn lower your body temperature. With that in mind, do chores and necessary things at a moderate pace, such as building your shelter, making food, or hiking for water. If you begin to perspire, remove a layer of clothing to where you are still warm, but not hot. Slow down your pace until you recover a comfortable body temperate.
- Fuel Up Your Body
Be sure to drink water. Our bodies can survive longer without food than water. You will dehydrate and die of thirst without water for three days, whereas you can live for three weeks without food. Make sure your bug out bag is packed with energy producing foods that are not high in sugar, such as nuts, seeds, granola bars, energy packs, protein bars, and Gatorade powder. Gatorade replenishes electrolytes better than water. The idea is to keep your bug out bag light, but filled with foods that will keep you going. It is not feasible to carry gallons of water with you, so finding a clean water source is imperative to your survival. Included in your bug out bag should be some form of water filtration whether it be heat or a small filtration device. Don’t risk drinking water straight from a stream, and especially from stagnant lakes or ponds.
- Keep Your Head Covered
Your mother was right when she told you to wear a hat. Our bodies lose 90% of their heat through the head. Be sure to keep your head dry and covered in a hood or a hat, which can be removed just like any layer. Do not let your head get sweaty or you will end up with wet hair which will cool your core temperature down too fast.
Tips For Surviving Cold Weather
Now that you’re dressed correctly, and have food and water, it’s time to shelter yourself from the cold weather and survive the outdoor elements.
- Building A Shelter
A top priority for surviving cold weather is keeping yourself sheltered form ice cold wind, snow, sleet, and rain. Even though your dressed in layers, extended time in blowing wind, pelting sleet, or a blizzard of snow will put you into a hypothermic state faster than you think.
Packing a blanket or tarp in your bug out bag is essential. Gather branches to create a basic frame and then drape the tarp over it to keep out rain. If it’s snowing, the piling snowflakes will create insulation from the cold. Use the blanket to to sit on to protect against the cold or damp ground.
Next it’s time to build a fire, for three reasons; warmth, cooking, and melting snow and ice. Make sure to ventilate your tarp, or whatever you are using as a roof, by angling a hole in one or two areas or you and your fellow inhabitants will suffocate.
- Building A Fire
Gather wood from branches or whatever else is around. Dead branches in trees are better than those soaked in rain or snow on the ground. Pack a lighter and some newspaper to quickly start your fire.
Cold Weather First Aid
With all of the above tips, you still might be subjected to extreme cold for too long. This can result in hypothermia or frostbite.
When your core body temperature drops below 95 degrees, hypothermia can set in.
Symptoms include …
- Slow speech
- Loss of coordination
- Confusion or memory loss
- Weak pulse
Treatment includes …
- Seek Shelter
- Replace wet clothes with dry clothes, or cover yourself in a dry blanket or sleeping bag
- Sit by a fire or cuddle with another person
- Drink warm liquids
- Get medical attention if possible
Frostbite can cause skin necrosis if not caught early or if not treated. This happens when an extremity is exposed to the elements and ice crystals begin to form on the skin.
Symptoms include …
- White patches on the skin
- Numbness in the area of frostbite
- Hardening of the skin
- Black patches on the skin when severe
Treatment includes …
Warm the affected area by sitting near a fire and covering the area
Run area under warm water
Do not place the area in hot water or treat with hot water as this could cause burns to the skin because you will not feel it right away due to numbness
Don’t walk on toes that are frostbitten to avoid more damage
Do not rub area to warm it up
Get medical attention if possible