Since the dawn of man, people have learned to use techniques to survive in any condition. With just a glance at the map of the world, you will see that any habitat that nature can throw at humans has become habitable land. Even the polar extremes have abundant bands of people crossing their vast expanses.
What sometimes separates people in different habitats are the specific techniques to find the three essential elements necessary to sustain human life: water, food, and shelter. So, to survive in a cold climate, there are some important tips to keep in mind.
Surviving While Traveling
Extreme cold temperatures can drop to -60ºC and never get to the freezing point. Traveling in these regions is extremely difficult for the body, and if you are in a situation of survival in this climate it is recommended not to move more than is necessary.
The highest risk is being trapped in an area where you can not get adequate shelter to protect yourself from harsh elements. Another problem with travel is that the use of the compass in cold regions is generally not an option due to the inaccuracy related to the proximity of the magnetic pole.
The best travel guide is the sky in these areas, but to use this method one would have to travel during the cold night when the stars are visible.
A tip for the necessary trips, if there are trees available, is to try and make snowshoes from small trees by folding a fresh branch in the shape of a tear, securing it with material similar to rope, and building a platform to lean on.
Finding Quick Shelter
The key to finding immediate shelter in cold regions is to locate natural shades such as rocks or ice formations that protect from the wind, or trees that are free from the accumulation of heavy snow. If you are outdoors, the only option is usually to build a barrier from the elements, such as an igloo, using the available snow and ice.
Finding Suitable Fire Material
Finding suitable fire material can also present a significant challenge, especially if there are no trees available. If fuel is available in a disabled vehicle, it can serve as a temporary source of fuel for a fire.
Other options include animal fat and any plant material that can be removed. One tip is to be very careful when starting a fire near any ice/snow shelter as the heat can quickly melt the structure and leave you more exposed.
Food sources in cold regions can be unpredictable. In general, animals such as rabbits and squirrels can be easily tracked by tracks in the snow.
If firearms or hunting equipment is not available, imitating the sounds of prey animals through a variety of means, such as pursing the lips, can help you survive by attracting an animal within arm’s reach. Coastal regions offer opportunities for fishing, as well as seals that can be used not only for food but also for fuel and clothing.
Look for holes in the ice that can serve as breathing holes for diving animals. Arctic plants are generally edible; some notable exceptions are Baneberry and Hemlock which are poisonous, so be sure to be aware of how they look.
Finding a source of clean water is the most straightforward task in cold regions due to the natural abundance of fresh snow and ice to use as water. Just remember to melt the ice before consuming it – not only to maintain body temperature but also to avoid injury and eliminate organisms that may be present.
Sleeping in a Cold Climate
For those in northern climates that lack sun, keeping the lights on during the day helps prevent circadian rhythms from going wrong. Use “daylight” or “sunlight spectrum” bulbs, which provide approximately 92% of the same spectrum as sunlight.
A few hours before going to sleep, turn off the lights; add orange, red, or yellow bulbs if there is a problem falling asleep. The colors of the fire remind us of ancient times when the fires were the only light source at night. Oddly enough, our brains are quite familiar with the colors that indicate when to prepare for sleep.
Prepare for the onset of sudden cold by wearing a jacket, gloves, and a hat. A warm hat will prevent a large amount of heat from escaping the body.
The trick to staying warm during the seasonal changes has to do with the amount of energy the immune system requires to function correctly and the need to maintain body temperature at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
If the body cools and the heat cannot be recovered quickly, opportunistic organisms could gain the advantage.