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 winter survival

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PostSubject: winter survival    Wed Jan 05, 2011 12:16 pm

Survival Topic we will discuss the general principles of winter survival that you can use to survive in the cold regions of the world.

Winter survival in the wilderness poses some special problems to those who venture into the outdoors during the cold season. There is a great deal of winter survival myth and misinformation, much of which is very dangerous. Winter SurvivalWinter survival is not to be taken lightly. Nature is unforgiving and harsh, more so when margins for survival are made even slimmer when winter takes hold upon the land. In winter conditions one small mistake can lead to very serious consequences.

For the purposes of this article winter is defined as those conditions where the ambient temperature is below the freezing point of water for a significant period of time, which is 32 degrees F or 0 degrees Celsius. Although this temperature cut-off may seem arbitrary it is actually very important to your survival as we shall soon see.

Staying Warm in Winter

Conservation of Body Heat
By definition winter survival conditions are cold environments. Your main task for surviving in winter is to keep your body temperature regulated to roughly 98.6 degrees F while cold and wet conditions are attempting to rob it of heat.Your body heat is lost to the cold environment in five basic ways: conduction, convection, radiation, respiration, and evaporation. The bottom line when you are surviving in winter is to limit heat loss from your body. If your body loses more heat than it generates or absorbs from fire or heating device, you are likely to succumb to hypothermia or become injured due to frostbite or other cold injury.

Winter Clothing
Your first line of defense against heat loss in wintertime is through proper use of clothing. If you are not already, you should be using the Three Layers of Clothing System. To properly utilize winter clothing, you need to stay just warm enough to avoid sweating. Sweat is often generated during periods of increased activity or over dress. This can be very dangerous in the winter cold because sweat will wet your body and clothes, which can lead to hypothermia when you lessen your activity level and start to cool down. The three layer clothing systems allows you to adjust your clothing so that you are always just warm enough but not so warm as to be sweating. Because sweat is so dangerous to the winter survivor a good tip for proper clothing discipline is to keep your body a little on the cool side rather than a little too warm. Remember these important keywords “Stay dry, Stay Alive” – they may just save your life.

Winter Shelter
Body heat is also retained through the proper use of shelter. One way to think of shelter is as another layer of clothing that serves to surround and protect you from the elements while retaining warmth for your body. In summer conditions shelter is often merely a matter of staying dry. The temperature of the air is such that keeping your body warm is not very difficult. Merely by wearing a few extra clothes and having a light sleeping bag you will be OK. True cold conditions present the winter survivalist with the difficulty of staying warm enough while the elements attempt to rob you of warmth. This is especially difficult when you are at rest and not generating heat through exercise. If you have become wet with sweat, melting snow, or even water by falling into a stream or lake, your ability to survive is threatened. Winter survival shelters typically need to be much more insulated than summer counterparts. An adequate shelter for winter use will require more effort and skill to construct. A winter survival shelter allows you to heat the space around your body, so that you can absorb warmth from an outside source.

The ability to build a fire and maintain it is critical to winter survival. A source of heat will add warmth to your body and dry clothes that are damp with sweat or melted snow. A fire is also well known as a great morale booster. Within its warm circle you can be free of cold’s icy grip so that you can rest or work and cook your food. Because fire is so important in winter survival conditions, I recommend carrying at least three means of making a fire. For example, carry waterproof matches, a magnesium fire starter or FireSteel, and a liquid fuel lighter. This will insure you can still kindle a blaze should one or even two methods fail for whatever reason.

High Calorie Survival Food
Food is the fuel your body burns to keep warm. Limited food supplies will limit the amount of heat your body will generate and you will become chilled much more easily. In winter survival it is important your keep your internal fuel reserves topped off with plenty of high quality, nutritious foods. Rather than a few large meals every day you are better off snacking at intervals. Good survival foods include those high in fats and proteins, with some sugars for quick energy when you need it. There are a number of high energy meals and snacks on the market today. Traditionally pemmican has been on the list of arctic explorers foodstuffs for centuries and remains one of the best winter survival foods. Old time arctic survival rations are proven beyond a doubt and remain viable to this day.

Water in Winter
Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink. Many people do not realize that cold winter conditions are also deep drought conditions. Most of the available winter water is locked up in snow and ice, not easily obtainable by wildlife and man alike. You could die from lack of water when surrounded by snow and ice. Another winter water consideration is that winter air is often as dry as the driest desert and so will serve to rob your body of moisture. This is because cold air does not hold as much moisture as warm air does. This can lead to cracked lips and fingers as your skin dries out. Very cold conditions will increase your drinking water needs. People who are outdoors in these cold dry air conditions are often unaware they are becoming dehydrated. Because dehydration rapidly decreases your efficiency, this can become very dangerous since you will also become more susceptible to hypothermia and injury. In order to obtain fresh drinking water in winter you will often have to cut a hole through the ice of a lake or stream. This can be hard work, especially if you do not have the proper tools. Because it takes a great deal of heat to melt ice and snow you should never try to quench your thirst by eating it. The amount of water you gain in this way will be minimal as it takes a surprising amount of snow to make even a small cup of water. By eating snow you are only wasting precious calories and body heat. You should use a fire to melt snow and ice for drinking water. You should also try to warm your drinking water before consumption since ice cold water will cool your core body temperature down very quickly if consumed in quantity, and draw a number of calories from your body in order to warm it. And remember, always treat your water before drinking it. Boiliing water to make it safe to drink remains the most foolproof and effective method, especially in winter when chemicals are less effective and water filters freeze and clog up.

Difficulty of Winter Travel
Traveling in winter brings on its own special set of problems. Perhaps the most obvious in many areas of the world is the ice and deep snow that sets winter apart from the other seasons. Anyone who travels in winter conditions should be prepared for these special winter survival considerations. If you have ever traveled through deep snow you know how difficult it can be. Often the only way you can travel by foot in deep snow is on snowshoes or skis. If you are trapped in deep snow you may be able to make snowshoes that work well enough to get you out. Even with these the going can be very slow and draining of energy.
Travel in winter often means moving only several miles per day at best. Because it is so difficult to estimate travel times in winter conditions you may underestimate the amount of time it will take to get from point a to point b. For this reason you need to be prepared to spend the night outdoors whenever you are moving through wilderness country. Failure to properly prepare may mean the end of your life. Low winter temperatures can also make trails and roads very slippery with ice. Slips and falls can easily lead to broken bones and fractures. Becoming injured can jeopardize your chances of surviving in winter and so extreme caution must be exercised at all times. The use of ice crampons may be necessary for winter wilderness travel on foot and you should always have a pair on hand. Winter survival conditions may also include blizzards and whiteouts. Whiteouts occur when blowing or falling snow mixes with the snow covered ground to make a scene that is totally white. This obscures all visual cues so that it is easy to become disoriented. Rather than flail about during such inclement weather, risking injury, it is often best to hunker down and wait it out by taking a Survival Nap.

Other Winter Survival Factors

Snow Blindness
Snow and ice can reflect a large amount of ultra violet radiation that normally is absorbed by vegetation and the ground. On sunny days the view can be so bright that it is difficult to see without the use of eye protection that blocks the reflected light.
Exposure of even short duration to this intense UV light can to lead to severe sunburn on any exposed part of the body, but the eyes are most vulnerable. A condition known as "snow blindness" can occur when your eyes become sunburned. When surviving in the winter the last thing you need is to go blind.

The effect of wind on your ability to survive in winter cannot be underestimated. Higher winds will lower the wind chill factor and make it feel much colder. Through the process of convection wind can quickly rob your body of warmth. Taken to the extreme, high winds can easily lead to hypothermia and frostbite if you are not prepared with the essential survival gear and knowledge.

Winter Survival Advantages
However difficult winter survival can be, there are some advantages to cold weather. One major item is that cold weather is also dry weather. A 33 degrees F rain is one of the most dangerous weather conditions. Become wet at this temperature and hypothermia will set in rapidly. However survival when it is snowing at 31 degrees F is much easier – the snow is “dry” can be simply brushed off your body. A difference of just a degree or two can make a vast difference in your ability to survive.

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PostSubject: Re: winter survival    Sat Apr 09, 2011 10:53 pm

A few points to add as I live in Montana and we KNOW winters...

Wool is always better than cotton. It wicks, warms and will still warm you even if soaking wet. Fortunately, it dries fast too.

Don't lick your lips. They start to chap, you are in trouble. Be smart, invest in a chapstik or two. High SPF rating is also recommended.

Cover your head. It's not myth that you lose a massive percentage of your body heat from the top of your head.

DIG! In a SAFE place. It has been shown that once inside a proper shelter, the temperature almost positively cannot drop beneath 0deg F. Takes some SERIOUS winter hurt for that to happen. It's something the Inuit people know all too well.

Eat that fat! From your survival kills. Helps keep vital moisture and elasticity to the skin, high in immediate and strong energy, and helps keep you healty. Soups and stews fortified with animal fat make for a warm body and a happy belly.

More as it comes to me...GREAT post, nwgr!

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