If you don’t know how to survive winter, you would be wise to consider these suggestions.
If you live in the Midwest, chances are the first weeks of January 2014 have hit you with some of the coldest temperatures in recent memory. Dubbed a “polar vortex” by weather analysts, the current trend of frigid weather patterns has left many of us stranded indoors, unable to even start cars or drive to work, let alone hit the woods for a midwinter hunt or head to the lake for the New Year’s inaugural ice fishing escapade.
When wind chills are dropping temperatures to negative 30, 40, or 50 degrees outside, take it as a sign that you shouldn’t be spending any time out of your house. At those temperatures, exposed skin can swiftly become frostbitten, and hypothermia is a major risk. However, the temperatures will eventually lift and you will inevitably feel the urge to head outdoors for another hunting or fishing trip. When that happens, make sure to observe the following guidelines.
If you find yourself stranded in the wilderness during a blizzard or a deep freeze, finding shelter should be your first priority. If you own or know of a cabin, house or any sort of structure near your current position, make your way toward it. You also may be near your vehicle, and even if it won’t start due to the cold, it can still function nicely as a shelter. If neither of these things is an option, try to think back on what you’ve seen on your hunting or fishing trips. Are there any signs of civilization nearby? Homes where you can get out of the cold and call for help, or outposts or sheds that could at least shield you from the wind or snow? If so, take advantage of them. If nothing else, a snow cave can help you, but should only be a last resort.
Not all of these shelter forms will do much to keep you warm: a snow cave is obviously cold, and a car won’t provide much warmth without running its heating vents. Improvise to insulate yourself from the cold, whether that means lining your snow cave with pine tree boughs or using all of your gear and even your car’s upholstery to wrap yourself in a bundle of warmth.
We don’t generally think of water shortage as a problem that may put us in danger on a winter hunt. We aren’t sweating as much as we would on a summer outing, and therefore don’t require quite as much hydration. However, you can easily become dehydrated if you are stranded in the wilderness during the winter, and you might actually be in more danger than in the summer because most of your water sources will either be frozen over or will be cold enough to rapidly cause hypothermia. Snow can be a viable source of water, but only if you melt it before consuming it. Eating snow or drinking extremely cold water will lower your body temperature at a time when you can’t afford to lose it.
Be ready to start a fire
Fire can be your best friend in a winter survival situation, as it can be used both to provide you with a much-needed heat source and to serve as a means to signal for help. Before you head out for a winter hunt or an ice fishing afternoon, make sure you have a lighter or two in your pack, as well as a few flammable items you can use to easily ignite a blaze.
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