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8 Ways Snow Can Be Your Best Friend in Survival Situations

Snow can be a dangerous adversary. Snow survival, in turn, becomes super important.


If you find yourself stranded out in the wilderness in a blizzard, whether thanks to a dead car battery or because you’ve lost your way while hunting in the woods, you may view your circumstances as the direst they could possibly be.

However, while snow, wind, and cold can certainly prove life threatening, there are actually a number of ways in which snow can keep you alive in the wild if you find yourself facing a whiteout night. Be sure to keep the following eight strategies in mind if and when you lose yourself in a blizzard during a hunting, ice fishing, or hiking expedition.

View the slideshow to see how snow can benefit a survival situation.

1. Shelter

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If you are going to have to spend the night out in the wild during the winter, your first priority is finding shelter. You don’t want to be out in the open, exposed to the whipping winds and blowing snow. If the weather is cold enough, wind chills can actually cause frostbite in minutes, so finding yourself shelter from the elements is of pivotal importance.

If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to take shelter in a car, shed, or cabin. However, you might not have access to such safe houses, in which case it’s time to start thinking about building yourself a snow shelter. Build yourself a pile of snow, give it a few minutes to set, and then start digging and hollowing to build a protected sleep space.

2. Water

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There’s a popular contention among survivalists that snow should absolutely not be used for water because it can lower your body temperature and cause hypothermia. This is true, of course, if you are simply trying to eat snow as your water source, which is one of the worst mistakes you can make in a survival situation.

However, if you heat and melt the snow first, it can serve as water source that warms you up from the inside out. Furthermore, going as far as boiling the snow will help to kill any bacterial contaminant that could have crept into the snow, whether from animals or other forces.

3. Injury Relief

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If you are stranded in the winter woods after a treestand fall or some other incident that has left you with sprains, bruises, or other injuries, the snow can bring huge levels of relief to your pain. In such situations – especially if you’ve lost your mobility – you will hopefully have some means of contacting the outside world for help. However, as you wait, snow can serve well in makeshift icepacks to help manage the pain and keep swelling down. It won’t help much if you have a broken bone, but for minor injuries, it can be an absolute godsend.

Keep in mind that extended contact of snow on skin can speed up frostbite threats, so take precautions.

4. Tracking

Photo via WikiMedia

Any hunter who has ever pursued game after the season’s first snow knows just how much difference it can make in the realm of tracking. Whether you’ve landed a shot and are following a blood trail, or are simply following hoof or paw prints through the woods, tracks can easily make the difference between a successful hunting day and an instance of going home empty-handed.

In a survival situation, it can mean the difference between a hearty dinner and a grumbling stomach. Tracks can also help you avoid wandering in circles or walking too far in the wrong direction if you are trying to work your way towards civilization.

5. Marking Your Trail for Yourself:

Photo via Barking Frog Farm

Every hunter knows that tracks in snow can help to land a deer or some other kind of prey, but many forget just how helpful it can be in marking their own trails. If you are lost in the woods and seem to be wondering in circles, try to set up landmarks to let you know which paths you have already tried. If you’re in a blizzard, footprints won’t do you much good, but you can start building small snow structures to help you recognize different spots. Who knows, this bizarre system of markers might be what allows you to find your way back or help others find you.

6. Marking Your Position for Others

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As mentioned previously, leaving signs for others in the snow is a huge benefit. In movies where the hero ends up stranded on a deserted island, we always see the castaway or castaways arranging sticks or logs on the island shore to formulate an SOS. With the help of snow, you can do the same in the woods.

Find a clearing with a nice open canvas of snow and set to work painting your masterpiece. It’s up to you precisely what message you write in the snow – as well as how you write it – but if any other hunters or hikers are in the woods – or if someone happens to be flying above you – there’s a chance they will come upon your spot, get your message, and seek to help you. If you have a way of adding color to the snow – whether with animal blood, urine, charcoal, or some other substance you brought along in your pack – use it. The color will make your message easier to spot and read in a whiteout and will improve the chances that your SOS will be understood.

7. Refrigeration

Photo via PBS

The worst thing about survival situations is that you never know how long you are going to be left to your own devices. Someone may come along to help you in a matter of hours, or you could be required to wait out a multi-day blizzard before being able to find your way home. During that time, you need to be able to keep your food fresh and safe to eat.

Chances are the supplies you brought in your pack – from jerky to trail mix – don’t really demand refrigeration. However, if you killed a game animal and need to keep it preserved for multiple meals, the snow can provide a nice makeshift freezer. Simply bury the meat and mark the location with a stick or snowman, but beware other hungry animals and prepare to defend your food. It could introduce more chances for killing game.

8. Fire

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Snow won’t actually do you any favors when it comes to lighting a fire, but in the right conditions, ice actually can be a helpful aid. If you are stranded near a lake or pond, breaking off a piece of the ice, polishing it down, and rounding it out can provide you with a surprisingly powerful lens or magnifying glass.

With clear conditions and a bit of sunlight, there’s a chance that you could use this makeshift lens to ignite a fire. It’s a difficult process, and if you’ve never even been able to get a blaze going with a magnifying glass, you might just want to spend your time on other things. However, if you’ve got no lighter or matches to speak of and need a fire to stay warm, heat water or cook meat, this might well prove to be the last-ditch effort that saves your life.

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