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Winter Survival

Winter Survival by Craig Nicholson

     Cold temperatures bring their own set of challenges. If the body's core temperature dips much below the 98.6 F/37 C degree mark, a person can die within hours. The cold also lowers our ability to think, numbs the body, and reduces the will to survive. Never allow yourself to stop moving or to fall asleep unless adequately sheltered.

     Survival in winter conditions has been covered partly in the Wilderness Survival section. The main points again are:

     Shelters: In snow regions, it is important to have a fire next to your shelter, but make sure it is down-wind of you. It also helps to put some big rocks or logs on the side of the fire away from you, to help reflect the heat towards your shelter. If there are no suitable materials available for a log-type shelter, you can also make a shelter by making a hole in the snow for yourself. This sounds like a crazy idea to many people, but it may save your life one day. Once again, you are keeping the wind out and your body heat in a confined area. You can keep it simple, or make a small cave in a big snow drift.

     If you are in an area of deep snow and evergreen trees, you can make a tree-pit shelter. You will need some tool or implement for digging.

  • Choose an evergreen tree with large leafy branches that provides overhead cover.
  • Dig a hole in the snow around the tree trunk until you reach the size and depth you need or until you reach the ground.
  • Compact the snow around the top and the inside of the hole to provide support.
  • Get evergreen boughs to lay in the bottom of the pit for insulation.
  • If needed, place other evergreen boughs over the top of the pit for additional cover.

     Finding water: In the winter, look for water under ice or frozen rivers. You can also melt ice or snow in a pot. Ice produces much more water than air-filled snow. It is also best to boil it before drinking, to kill germs and to help warm you up. Surprising to many, eating snow can eventually dehydrate you.

     Survival kit: In cold climates, also add to your survival kit a warm hat, gloves or hand warmers, and an emergency blanket.

     Travelling in the bush: If you are travelling during the winter months, use game trails to help you avoid walking in the deep snow. Frozen streams and rivers are also easy to follow, but watch for weak ice.

     Travelling by car: If you are travelling by car in the winter, make sure you have adequate equipment like booster cables, a shovel, ice scraper, tire chains, and extra car fluids, etc.

     For winter survival training, see Winter survival - HSRS Training.

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