When it comes to surviving the cold weather, there are three things you need to do. Buy a bunch of canned food, stay inside, and pay your gas bill!
Even though that sounds like the safest bet when you’re trying to stay warm, not everybody has the luxury to become a recluse for the winter. That’s why every single person should know how to protect their families, neighbors and themselves from the harshness that comes with the unforgiving cold weather. These little tips and tricks can help with every day winter worries to extreme winter weather survival. Going further, I’m going to explore several different situations to consider involving the cold weather. Depending on your area there are certain elements will differ, but the basics are the same. Whether you’re an average every day citizen, an active “outdoorsy” hiker or a Three Percenter, these are the things you need to know.
As a Three Percenter, you probably know about (and have) a Bug out Bag or a “go bag”. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, these are bags used to carry the supplies needed to survive any situation where you are departed from modern society, and should be able to help you survive for around 72 hours or more. More often than not, people use these bags in the case of emergency, hiking or for every-day use. Personally, I keep mine in my car so I have mine with me basically everywhere I go. I think for the colder months, this would be a good habit to keep for every American. The majority of modern emergencies involving cold weather are people drifting off the road into a ditch and becoming stranded. Having your B.O.B. on you could save your life in a situation like this.
There are some extra items for cold weather that your bag might already have, but if they don’t, you should consider them. The extra items can include: a broad shovel to move snow, a saw or hatchet, a container (preferably metal) to melt snow into water, matches or a fire starting kit or wafers (magnesium fire starters are also known to last longer and perform better in wet and windy conditions), hand warmers, emergency blanket(s) or a space blanket, an extra change of clothes, bright colored/neon bandannas for signaling for help and extra high calorie foods that are nonperishable and easy to carry, and some snow shoes (or you can learn how to make some snow shoes with some tree branches and twine). It can also be helpful to use or keep near some waterproof boots and an “arctic” level coat or sleeping bag. They make some that can withstand temperatures up to -20 degrees Fahrenheit and can be very ideal for every cold weather situation you can think of.
The most important thing to remember is you need to keep your core temperature stable. There are two things you need to constantly be watching out for are hypothermia and frost bite. Some uncommon symptoms of hypothermia (besides shivering) include a weak pulse, confusion or memory loss, loss of coordination, slurred speech and (the scariest) is extreme drowsiness. If you start experiencing any of these symptoms you need to restore your core heat by any means necessary and quickly. Changing any damp or wet clothes to dry ones, starting a fire, using hand warmers or body heat from another can help save your life. With frost bite, you need to watch for white patches on the skin (that will eventually turn black), numbness and hardening of the area. If you start experiencing these symptoms, you need to warm the areas slowly. Do not put anything hot directly on the skin and DO NOT RUB the area. This will only injure the tissue further. You can prevent both of these irritants by dressing in layers when you leave the house, keeping an extra change of clothes with you, and at least keeping a blanket, or maybe a sleeping bag, and some matches or a lighter in your car. This situation is the most common situation for Americans, but luckily two advantages you gain by being in your car. You already have shelter from the elements and you are on a road, so with your fire skills and neon bandannas, someone is more than likely going to find you before you have to worry too much.
For the more adventurous individuals, a hike can turn into a terrible situation when cold weather becomes involved. The winter B.O.B. is an obvious choice to take on any hiking trips during the winter months, or the in elevated areas, with the possibility of snow. In addition to your bag you’ll want to also prepare yourself with a few additional items and skills before adventuring out. If something goes wrong in the cold weather and you’re on your own, you’re going to have to know some small basic skills in order to ensure your survival. Unlike the car, you will not have shelter made for you. Learning how to make a lean-to shelter, or an A-frame shelter before your hike could save your life. After making the shelter with branches or logs, you can use snow as an insulator. If you chose to carry a tarp or blanket, you can use it for ground coverage. By doing this you’ll keep yourself dry and it will help conceal any heat. A metal container is perfect for melting snow into water for drinking and making any dry foods you might be carrying. Just remember when you’re purifying water by boiling it, you always want to make sure it actually boils for over a minute to kill all bacteria. Being nourished, staying warm and staying hydrated is incredibly important. Ration out the food you have, and only eat when you have to. In the cold, it will be more often than a normal hiking day due to the shivering which burns more calories trying to keep you warm.
Learning how to build a fire is the second most important skill you need out in the wilderness. There are several different kind of fires that work well including the tee-pee fire pit. The Dakota fire hole is said to be the most effective and long lasting because there is a constant air flow, and the “upside down” fire pit is said to be the best for cooking. Any fishing and hunting tools and skills would help in this situation as well, and if nothing else, know your area. What berries and plants are safe and carry more calories and which plants and berries will make you sick or kill you are important things to know if you plan on (or find yourself in a situation where you have to) trying to live off the land. Making yourself sick with vegetation in cold weather is the worst thing you can do. Some plants and berries can grow in the less cold areas during the winter months and can help if you need nourishment.
One of the most crucial things to do when stuck in any cold weather situation is staying positive! It’s the hardest thing you’re going to have to do, but it’s the one that will get you the farthest. If you start to become negative, do whatever you can to make yourself feel better. Sing a familiar song, think of your first date with your spouse, do absolutely anything. I know it doesn’t sound that important, but losing hope is a slippery slope that will cause you to lose focus on keeping alive until help comes. Or, if you are continuing your hike in the cold, becoming unhappy can cause you to lose your focus while walking and cause you to lose your footing, which can be more harmful than the weather. Staying positive is a lot easier when you know that you’ve prepared for this and that you have the supplies you need in any bad situation. That’s why I highly recommend reading the articles we have on fire building and Bug out Bags, because these will help you most. Stay completely covered as much as possible, change any wet clothes and replace with dry ones (hang on a branch over fire to dry your wet ones), keep active and keep your core temperature stable, eat reasonably, drink water or boiled snow and do everything you can to stay positive and get out of the situation alive! That’s all you have to do. If you find yourself in this situation and have a phone and know a Three Percenter, after calling the local authorities, call one of us and we will help you through it. If you come across a Three Percenter flag hanging anywhere or on someone’s shirt, jacket, etc, please approach us. We will be more than glad to help you. That’s what we do, help our fellow Americans in any and every way we can.