People usually think that cold weather survival is easier to manage than hot weather. You can put on layers, drink hot drinks, or wrap yourself under a warm blanket. Unfortunately, these options won’t be readily available when you’re in the wilderness.
Nature has always been the biggest challenge to survivalists, but with the right cold-weather survival tips, you can safely survive freezing weather and even enjoy your time while doing so.
Cold Weather Survival Tips
Although scientists always warn us of the dangers of heatwaves, cold weather is actually more dangerous. As a matter of fact, since 2000, extreme weather conditions have killed about 5.08 million people every year. 4.6 million people died of extreme cold, and only 0.46 million people died of extreme heat.
The record of the coldest temperature that a human body could survive in belongs to Anna Bågenholm. In 1999, Anna was skiing and accidentally fell into a frozen stream. Although her body temperature reached 56.7 degrees Fahrenheit, her cells didn’t explode, and she was revived.
Typically, winter survival tips aim at maintaining your body temperature around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Your brain and heart functions will be affected once your body temperature drops to below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. At 70 degrees Fahrenheit, death happens because of hypothermia as the cells freeze and rupture.
Of course, before spending time in the wilderness, you need to study the weather and be prepared for your journey. But if you happen to deal with a sudden blizzard or an unexpected drop in temperature, following these winter survival tips can actually save your life.
1. Cold Weather Survival – Understand the Real Nature of Your Situation
Even if it wasn’t your main goal when you left home, once the weather changes and you feel under-equipped, your mission shouldn’t be about hunting or camping. It’s all about staying warm and avoiding hypothermia.
2. Dress Right
If you choose to spend time in the wilderness, dress right. Wearing 3 to 4 layers is better than wearing a heavy sweater because you can remove a layer when needed.
Start with a moisture-wicking layer, followed by a warm fleece layer, and then a lightweight waterproof jacket. Choose loose-fitting clothes that don’t restrict the blood flow.
Your clothes should have wrist and ankle closure to seal the heat. Don’t forget waterproof boots to keep your feet warm.
3. Cold Weather Survival – Keep Your Extremities Warm
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You might not realize that some parts of your body are colder than they are already. For example, your hands, feet, nose, and ears can get too cold even if you can’t feel it. This happens because you’re getting used to the feeling.
This is why you should keep them warm using gloves, socks, and a scarf. You can also wear plastic bags before putting your socks on to keep your feet warm.
If you happen to remove your gloves to do something with your bare hands, avoid putting them into your pockets because they might be filled with snow. Instead, unzip your jacket and put them inside against your chest.
4. Be Prepared For Emergencies
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If you’re going camping or hunting in cold weather, your gear probably contains a warm blanket or a chemical heat pad that you can use when the temperature drops. But if you get stranded in a malfunctioning car, an EDC kit will actually save your life. There are ready-made EDC kits that you can easily keep in your gloves compartment, or you can make one based on your personal needs.
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5. Cold Weather Survival – Avoid Moisture on Your Body
In cold weather, moisture is your biggest enemy because it’ll transfer the heat away from your body. This applies to both being drenched in water and your own sweat.
If some of your clothes get wet, try to change them or remove a layer. This also helps with sweat that can actually freeze on top of your skin. Since walking in the snow is challenging, you’re likely to sweat a lot. Move slowly to avoid sweating and remove a layer even if you’ll be slightly colder.
6. Stay Hydrated
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If you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, you still need to find ways to stay hydrated. Avoid putting snow directly into your mouth because it’ll lower your body’s core temperature, especially if you’re sitting.
Instead, mix ice with a small amount of water to melt it or keep a bottle of ice in a sleeping bag at night. If you have access to fire, melt ice in a container. Remember that ice contains more water than snow, so if you have an option, choose ice over snow.
7. Keep your Body Fueled
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Packing the right food can save your life in cold weather. If you’re camping or hiking, keep a supply of dry food items that you can eat with zero preparation. Think of packing nuts, beef jerky, and granola in your EDC kit for emergencies. If you have built a fire, instant soup will be tasty and warm.
8. Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
Caffeine can keep you alert but is diuretic, so it’ll make you lose more fluids. Alcohol can make you feel a little warm, but you need to be in your right mind while on a cold weather survival.
9. Stay In Your Car
If you get stranded in a vehicle, stay inside. Not only will a car create a better shelter in case of rain or hail, but you’ll be found easier. cold weather survival are more successful when people can locate you faster. It’s easier to locate a car than a missing person.
10. Get Creative With Building Fire
In cold weather, the dry air will help you build a fire, but having access to what can help you build a fire can be challenging. This is why you need to carry some tools to make the fire last.
Waterproof matches or a Ferro rod can come in handy. Pieces of cloth from car seats can last for long. You can also use tampons, especially when covered in a thin layer of Vaseline that will help them burn longer. Fat rope sticks burn for long, and burn even better when they’re cold.
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11. Pick the Right Shelter
If you’re packing for a survival mission, choose a 4-season tent that’s designed to withstand the cold. However, if you happen to be stranded in the cold weather, finding a natural shelter should be your top priority.
Find a big tree and stay next to it as a big pine will keep the falling snow away from you. Just shake the branches before you sit so they don’t fall on you. You can build a snow shelter if you have to spend the night.
12. Avoid Metal Objects
You should try to stay away from metal objects as much as you can. So, if you’re inside a car, it’s recommended to stay inside and not sit on the hood because the metal surface will transfer the heat away from your body faster than the cold air. Also, remember that metal objects can also conduct electricity, so you should be safe in case lightning suddenly strikes.
13. Avoid Sleeping in a Closed Sleeping Bag
It might be tempting to close the sleeping bag or cover your face while sleeping. However, this will cause the moisture to build up and eventually freeze on your face. It can also make your body sweat at night.
It’s recommended to cover your body and even wrap your whole face, as long as you can leave your nose and mouth exposed, so you can breathe directly into the air. A balaclava mask that covers your face and allows you to breathe comfortably is a great choice.
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14. Create a Raised Bed
The ground is colder than the air, so you should avoid sleeping directly on the ground at all costs. Instead, create a bed using leaves, sticks, or pieces of clothing if you have to, as it’ll be warmer and more comfortable.
15. Stay On Schedule
If you’re camping, understand that taking down and setting up your tent will take more time in cold weather. So, if you’re moving to reach base camp, stop long enough before the sun goes down.
16. Cold Weather Survival – Don’t Move in the Blizzard
When there’s a storm or blizzard, it’s best to stay in your shelter or car. Walking through the storm will make you tired for no good reason.
Moreover, you could be moving in the wrong direction if you don’t have a compass or a GPS device. Instead, wait until the weather is better and try to follow your tracks instead of trying to find a shortcut to your original starting point.
17. Attend to a Frostbite Only When it’s Safe
If your toes or fingers are suffering from frostbite, don’t expose them to the cold air until it’s actually safe to do so. Partially thawing your body tissues and freezing them again can cause more damage. This is why you should avoid taking off your gloves and socks until you can actually get medical help.
Wrap Up – Cold Weather Survival
Cold weather survival requires several skills. It’s crucial to keep your body warm, stay hydrated, and choose the right sleeping spot. Stay active and warm.