Now that we are in the summer and there is no place to hide from the heat, I thought that it would be appropriate to write about cold weather survival.  If you start thinking about gearing up now, when you are asked to go on a winter hike or camp-out with your friends it 

Cold Weather Survival

won’t be such a daunting task to prepare for.

I am a firm believer in the Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared”.  Even in today’s fast paced world, I think it is still good advice.  If you are planning on hiking, camping, or participating in any activity that will take you into the cold for an extended period of time you must be prepared.  Be prepared for what?  A survival situation could present itself at any time, and the best way to make the most of it is to “Prepare for the worst and expect the best.”  Listed below are a few situations that you might find yourself dealing with.

Possible Cold Weather Situations and things to think about:

  • Hypothermia—Layers are the solution to keeping warm.
  • Dehydration—Bring along water or a water purifier.
  • Wild Animals—be aware of your surroundings, don’t smell like food.  Why not bring along a can of bear mace.
  • Snow Storms—Watch the weather and be prepared for the worst.
  • Sprained Ankles (Tripping)—Yes, it’s possible even in the winter.  Don’t step on anything that you can step over.
  • Cuts and Bruises—Bring a small first aid kit.  Even John Rambo carried a survival knife with essential items inside the storage handle.
  • Getting Lost—Remember to print out a map of the area and bring a compass.  Also, it is a good practice to tell someone where you are going and when you will be returning.

Now that we have looked at some of the things that could happen to you on your trip, here are a few steps to aid in avoiding dangerous situations.  These are steps that I use in preparing for my next adventure and hope that you find them useful in your preparations.

1.  Planning.  Be sure to ask yourself the important questions.  Such as, where am I going?

2.  Research.  Figure out where you are going.  Knowing where you will be will help you prepare.  It’s not a bad idea to talk to locals and get their thoughts on the lay of the land.  Their insight to survival could be invaluable.  Also, here are a few questions that you should consider:

      1. What are the proposed weather conditions?
      2. What are the typical local weather patterns?
      3. What is the typical elevation of the area?            

3.  Gear up.  You don’t necessarily need the most expensive gear to survive, but this doesn’t mean that you can buy the cheapest gear out there and expect it to perform.  Remember that quality is more important than price.  Look for products that are rated highly by consumers.  It wouldn’t be a bad idea to talk to your friends and see what they have used and what has worked for them in the past.  They will have some stories to tell and products that they have found useful.  At a minimum I would take a small amount of tender and a firestarter with me.  Be sure not only to carry these two items, but practice with them before hand so that you will have the skill to start a fire without matches or lighter fluid.

4.  Stick to your plan.  Don’t think that you can leave your predetermined route to explore the mountainside without risk.  Unless you are an expert mountaineer and have the know-how to use a compass and a map you will most likely get lost.  Take my advice and stay on the trail.  Whatever you do… don’t trust the compass on your phone as gospel.  Don’t expect to get cell service either.  You might find yourself in a dead spot… literally.  Remember that phone batteries die and they will die quicker when they are cold (especially iPhone batteries).  Also, if your phone is constantly looking for a cell signal the battery will expire quicker.

5.  Don’t forget to enjoy yourself.  With all of that said, enjoy yourself, or it’s not worth it.  That is the reason that you go outside in the first place.  Remember, it is impossible to have fun when you are uncomfortable or constantly thinking about how cold you are.  There is something to be said about having a high pain tolerance.  So, don’t choose fashion over safety or try to make a point about how your tough you are.

6.  Share what you have learned.  Go teach others to what you have learned.  Whether you are a Boy Scout leader, or teaching a class at your local REI, or teaching a workshop at the local community center.  The best way to help others is to be an example and to share your experiences with others.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be a large group, as long as you share your experiences, both good and bad.   We are all learning and improving.  I know that I personally learned a lot listening to my friends and taking their advice.  Why not give back and share what you know, it might get someone interested in what you like.

In conclusion, cold is no laughing matter.  It can numb our senses and dull our minds.  Surviving in the cold weather is a valuable skill that we all need.  Again it is hard to think about the cold, dark winter nights when it is 100 degrees Fahrenheit in July, but I will promise you that it will get cold again.  So, why lose the time in getting prepared.  It is a lot easier to practice making a fire with a flint and steel now versus in the winter when the temperatures are in the teens. 

Remember, to take the right precautions now so that when the cold weather comes we can have fun and enjoy all sorts of winter sports without fear... because we are prepared!  Plus, it is loads of fun gearing up to survive cold weather.  I also think bragging about spending the night in a snow cave is pretty cool, but that is just me.



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Written by Roger Peters — July 30, 2013

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