Human beings were obviously not built for sleeping in snow or for surviving in cold weather conditions. Unlike most animals, we don’t have a thick hide or a luscious fur to keep us warm and dry when faced with snow, frost or icy winds. Therefore, if you ever find yourself in a winter survival situation, like being stranded on a mountainside after you went hiking or skiing or maybe even stuck in your car on a snowed in road, here are the best 9 tips to help you get through it safe and sound.
#1. High calorie food
When stranded in such a situation, one of your best weapons against the cold is food and especially the high calorie type. Therefore, before embarking on a trip to the cold regions, pack lots and lots of high calorie foods, such as whole wheat bread, coconut milk, avocados, oils, nuts and seeds, different types of butter, chocolate and fatty cheeses. In cold regions, you will need double the amount of calories you normally intake just so you can keep your body temperature at optimum levels. Another great tip regarding food is to always have a high calorie snack before going to sleep. For example, drink a cup of hot chocolate with some butter melted in it.
#2. Beware of ‘widowmakers’
Widowmakers are dead trees that have frozen over in the cold and become brittle. This happens mostly when their sap freezes. Being so brittle, they are prone to break and topple over tents at the smallest gush of wind, so make sure you don’t plant your tent near one of these. Widowmakers, apart from whole trees, can also refer to single branches, dead, dry and frozen over, that are simply hanging in a tree, ready to fall at any time, so make sure you are on the look-out for those as well. You can either cut the dead and frozen branches down or you can simply move your campsite. If you elect to cut them down, make sure to use a special survival knife for this. A regular knife will just tear the branch and may cause more to rupture.
#3. Snow walls
One great way of protecting yourself and your tent against the freezing winds, in a snowy overnight camping situation is to build some snow walls around your tent. Depending on the area where you’re camping, you can either build yourself some fancy walls, out of cut ice blocks or, if you’re in a forest, simply erect some walls out of the snow using your hands, much like you did when you were a child and were playing in the snow. They will help insulate your tent and block all the wind, which would, otherwise, penetrate or even, if strong enough, tear down your tent.
#4. Use one single door of your tent
This is for going in and out while you do your things around the tent, like cooking, going to the bathroom or leveling the snow. Ideally, you should have a tent big enough to divide into different sections. Meaning your tent should have at least one vestibule, separate from the sleeping area, where you can organize and store all your clothes and gear and where you can do the cooking. This way, you will minimize the cold and the snow entering your sleeping “room” and keep it in the “vestibule”. You will give thanks for this piece of advice at night, when you go to sleep and it’s nice, dry and toasty in there.
#5. Go to the bathroom a lot.
Actually, you should try going to the bathroom as often as you can before going to sleep, in order to keep your bladder constantly empty. A full bladder will determine your body to work harder in order to stay warm, which translates into the fact that you’ll feel colder. So make as many trips as you can. However, if you are not a big fan of always going outside in the cold to pee, you can keep a pee bottle with you in the tent, as long as it’s tightly shut and use that to solve your bathroom problems.
#6. Make sure your dog is dry.
For those of you out there who like to go camping in the snow with their dog, you should know that a very important piece of advice is to make sure you get him nice and dry before he’s allowed in the tent for the night. A simple way of doing that is to just let him roll around in the snow or you to rub him with some snow yourself. It will absorb the moisture and you can easily pat it off him. Also, once he’s inside the tent, don’t forget to wrap him in a blanket as well or, if you didn’t bring a blanket especially for him, in a coat. Even though he has fur, he still needs to keep warm at night when he’s motionless.
#7. Bring a buddy
If going camping or backpacking, it’s advisable not to go alone. In summertime it’s a lot easier, because the conditions are milder, but in wintertime, both the weather and the environment are harsh and literally anything can happen. So the best solution would be for you to bring at least one more person with you, who can help in case anything goes wrong.
If left stranded in a cold region without food, do not despair, there are nourishment sources. Fish and seafood are the easiest source. You can catch and eat snails, clams, crawfish, crabs, oysters, or eat the eggs inside sea urchins, which you can break apart with two stones or a sea cucumber. You can also eat kelp, which are the long seaweed that grow between rocks. As far as animals go, you could try polar bear. The meat is edible, but this should be your last resort. They are very dangerous animals and, unless you have a reliable gun, you shouldn’t go anywhere near them. Always cook polar bear meat before eating it, except for the liver, which is not edible. You can also eat seal and a number of birds.
#9. Surviving in your car.
There are a few pointers here you should know, in case you get stuck in the snow, in your car.
- Never leave your vehicle. It’s the best shelter you’ve got
- Always notify the authorities, your friends, your family and anyone who could help you
- When you are done, turn off your cellphone, to save battery
- Make yourself visible to rescuers, by tying a red piece of clothing on your car
- Clean the exhaust pipe regularly, so that you don’t get carbon monoxide poisoning