Avoiding Cold Weather Injury and Death
In the winter the environment can be your enemy or your friend. However you must know how to manage your situation. If you do not manage it right, the environment will injure or kill you, typically it happens very slowly.
Hypothermia is when your body temperature drops to a dangerously low level. If you do not know how to get warm, or if you can not get out of the elements, you will die.
Being unprepared for anything, anywhere is not acceptable. The time to start training and learning how to deal with harsh winter conditions is not when you are in the middle of it. The time to start is prior to your trip in a controlled environment. If you live in a cold climate you can train in the park or your back yard. You do not have to live or go in to the wilderness to prepare.
If you are going to go into the wilderness in the winter taking and knowing how to use snowshoes is a must. Cross country skies work well in some conditions, however when you run into certain areas they are a pain to pack, and maneuver through rough and dense terrain, and you are still suffering sinking in the snow. Just in cases you are out and the area you are trekking is clear, then it turns into a storm, where blowing and accumulating snow could be a problem. Supplies should be carried to tie brush to your feet and make field expedient snow shoes. Walking long distances through deep snow can be impossible if you are low on food and supplies. It Just adds to your misfortune.
Walking in harsh winter conditions is tough and can be a heart attack waiting to happen. Do not attempt to take on the elements if you are not in fairly decent physical condition. Being able to evacuate your bladder and bowls is just as important. You never want your body working harder than it has to keeping things warm, that you could get rid of.
Most important is learning how to build a shelter, snow cave, or locating a tree well at the bases of a tree should be your number one activity. You should become an expert at it before going to any remote cold weather area. Fire starting can be difficult in cold, blowing wet conditions. Being well prepared with the appropriate fire starting gear is a must. If you can survive in a controlled environment for three days without running into the house or warming up in the car, you should do very well in the wild.
During your training, it is very important to make sure your clothing and footwear is appropriate for conditions. As we have said many times cotton kills. when it gets cold it stays cold. Unlike wool it loses its insulating quality when it gets wet from sweat or snow.
Wearing too much clothing limits your mobility and restricts blood flow. If you dress too warmly and do not layer, you will get too hot, and start to sweat, you will become wet and it is all downhill from there. Wet clothing will begin to draw out the heat from your body. Layering will allow you to remove and or open up clothing as your temperature changes. This will keep you comfortable ad dry.
Cold weather can severely effect environment your equipment. The clothing you wear can affect you ability to use certain pieces of gear. The time to find that out is in a controlled environment, not in the wilderness.
Snow Cave Shelter