Winter wilderness survival tips that could save you

Being outdoors may be easier in the summer, but that doesn’t mean that you want to be stuck indoors the rest of the year. Getting out and about in colder weather is also invigorating and can be a lot of fun. But before you head out into the cold, you should consider what to do in an emergency.

Winter survival can have a lot of similar concerns as summer survival, including wildlife threats, dehydration, or losing direction, but the means of survival can vary quite a bit. Here are some things you need to know.

1. Water

Clean water is essential for survival
Clean water is essential for survival

You need water to survive no matter what the weather is. It is not just a means for general functioning but can help stave off hypothermia and frostbite. But whether you are melting snow or drinking from a stream, you can still be susceptible to getting a water-borne disease. To be sure that your water is purified, there are a few things you can do.

  • Water filter: there are special portable water filters for this exact purpose. A simple filter is useful for removing small debris and particles from your water prior to purification.
  • Purification tablets: these usually contain iodine.
  • Boiling: the old tried and true method is an effective way to kill bacteria and parasites.
  • UV light system: there are a range of portable devices that use ultra-violet light to treat your water.

2. Watch for frostbite

If you are in extreme weather conditions and are not wearing adequate clothing, frostbite can be a real concern. The initial symptoms are a kind of tingling sensation as the ice crystals begin to form within your tissues. The initial thing to remember is to not rub the tingly skin as that can damage the tissues more than they already are. In a case of frostbite, heating up the area can help keep the frostbite from progressing and keep the damage at bay. Placing hot water on the affected area (about 101 degrees) can melt the ice crystals within your tissues. Using another person’s body heat can also help, but you don’t want to risk either you or the other person getting cold.

3. Make a fire in the snow

Setting a fire in the snow
Setting a fire in the snow

You can build a fire in the snow. Try to find an area that is somewhat shielded from the weather, like a cave, an alcove, or a large tree. The issue with trees is that once the fire is going, the snow on the trees can melt, fall and put it out. So if you are building one under a tree, try to shake the tree to get the snow off the branches first. Clear as much snow away as possible. Try to make a pit out of rocks about two inches tall if there are stones available. Building the fire is the same as it is in warmer weather. Use some tinder, kindling, and fuel. You are going to burn through wood faster than normal, so gather as much as you can. Drier wood is going to be easier of course, but it’s not impossible with wet wood. Make sure your tent is near the fire but not so close that it melts or anything catches on fire.

4. Watch out for animals

All wild animals are likely to more aggressive if they have young to protect
All wild animals are likely to more aggressive if they have young to protect

Some animals do hibernate in the winter, but not all do. Bears especially are thought to hibernate, but that depends on where you are. Remember that grizzly bears often chase you but black bears are less likely to. Do not engage in a fight with grizzly, it’s better to play dead whereas with a black bear, they will disengage from a fight typically.

5. Tell someone where you are

This goes for all year round, but it is always safer if you go with a buddy and let someone else know of your plans, including where you are going and when you will be back.

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marion-fernandez is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival