Cold Weather Survival

 

Being afraid of extreme cold weather is a natural thing. Most people have the tendency to stay indoors next to the wood burning stove when the temperatures dip into the sub-zero ranges. But, some of us enjoy the challenges of facing the extremes—a Man against Nature challenge. Most people think that I’m nuts when they hear that I’m heading 150 miles into the Northern interior of Alaska. Sometimes I believe them too…
Nonetheless; being out there in the thick of winter is both a way to test my gear, and myself. It allows me the quiet time that I need to recharge myself, and the opportunity to get my survival mind-set used to the frigid weather.
 
But it starts at home through meticulous selection of the gear that I will be trusting to keep me safe…
 
Clothing:

Base Layer:

  • Fleece (Stretch) Union Suit
  • Polypropylene Socks
  • Thermax Sock Liner
  • Polypropylene T-Shirt

 
Mid Layer:

  • Wool Pants
  • Wool Pull-Over Sweater
  • Polar-Tec Insulated Jacket

 
Outer Layer:

  • Gortex Parka
  • Gortex Gaiters
  • Gortex Gloves
  • Fleece Face Mask
  • Fleece Watch Cap
  • Snow Goggles
  • Cold Weather (Bunny) Boots
The list above includes everything that I wear. It looks like a lot of clothing, but in reality, it is three layers that help to trap body heat, and keep the cold wind, as well as the wet snow from the “creeping chill” that signals the start of hypothermia.
 
Choosing my gear is very important. If my life will depend on a piece of equipment, or clothing, you can be assured that a lot of thought has went into it, before I lay down my money. The Parka is one such piece of gear that is essential. I don’t play around when choosing what Cold Weather Parka.
  • Snag proof Zippers
  • Multiple Inner-Pockets
  • Multiple Outer Pocket
  • Draw String Waist
  • Snow Skirt
  • Adjustable Collar That Reaches To The Nose
  • Fur Trimmed Hood
  • Nylon Sleeve Skirt: (Keeps the snow and wind off the wrists)
  • Waterproof (Not Water Resistant)
  • Armpit Venting Zippers
The multiple inner-pocket hold the survival gear that I consider essential out in the cold weather.
Extra Insulated Socks are layered in both (large) lower pockets. Having them rolled-up creates unwanted bulk, so I keep one sock in each pocket. It reduced the bulk; most times it’s easy to forget about them until they are needed.
 
Extra Cell-Phone Battery is stored in one of the upper zippered pockets. The battery is wrapped in wool, and then placed inside of a small zip-lock bag. The wool helps to protect the connections from snapping, and in a pinch, the wool can also be used as an emergency fire starter. The zip-lock bag can be used to melt snow for water.
 
A Mini-Flashlight is kept in another chest pocket. During the Alaska winter months there isn’t much daylight. The sun rises about 10:30 AM, and stats setting around 3:30 PM. By 4:30 it is already dark. Having a flashlight handy is a blessing.
 
Disposable Lighter & Waterproof Matches are likewise stored in a zip-lock bag inside of the Parka.
 
In one of the upper-pockets an Emergency Blanket rides along in case I am forced to hunker-down and get warm. I carry both the standard blanket, and the Emergency Space Bag. Both are essential survival gear that I don’t want to get separated from.
 
Zipper-Pull Mini-Compass and Temperature Gauge complete the ensemble. Sometimes it’s beneficial to know what the temperature is, and during darkness or white-out conditions, the little compass might help to determine travel direction. But, during a blizzard, hunkering-down is the only way to survive. It’s easy to get lost out there, or walk right off the edge of a cliff, or stumble into an ice filled stream.
 
A small Water Bottle that is kept half-filled rides near my chest. Keeping it half-filled insures that in the event that I fall down, the water bottle isn’t crushed, and end’s up exploding inside of the parka. Keeping it next to my chest insures that it doesn’t freeze.
 
A pair of Extra Gloves are not only an essential item, but a part of the survival gear. Gloves get wet, or ripped open on sharp ice. Having a spare set of gloves insures that my time out in the woods is uneventful.
Oftentimes a few granola bars, and chocolate bars are stashed away in the pockets for added energy during the arduous trek across the frozen landscape.
 
Peppermint candies gives a little energy boost. A few soft tissues will help to defray the “runny nose” problems that are associated with cold weather. Soft Berber Fleece works really good, as does pieces of Marino Wool from worn out clothing.
 
 
 
Having quality Cold Weather Boots is paramount to survival out there in the snow country. I prefer the military “Bunny” boots. They are rated to –60 below zero. Topped-off with a set of gortex gaiters to keep the snow out from the top of the boots—keeps my feet in good condition.
 
Tinted Snow Goggles are also a must out there. The sun reflecting off of the snow can quickly create conditions called “snow blindness”. Blowing snow, or ice-fog are likewise deflected by the goggles.

Basic Survival Equipment:

  • Rucksack/Backpack
  • Cold Weather Sleeping Bag
  • Gortex Bivy Cover
  • Sleeping (Ground) Pad
  • Folding Stove w/ Heat Tabs
  • Canteen Cup
  • Arctic Canteen, w/ Carrier
  • Eating Utensils
  • Ka-Bar Knife
  • Sharpening Steel
  • Leatherman Multi-Tool
  • Toilet Paper
  • Fire Making Kit
  • Parachute Cord
  • 8′ x 8′ Canvas Tarp
  • Chemical Lights
  • Chemical Heat Packs
  • 3-Piece Mess Kit
  • Individual First Aid Kit
  • Lensatic Compass
  • Waterproof Map Case
  • Lip Balm
  • Complete Change of Clothing
  • Small Thermos Bottle
  • Water Purification Tablets
  • Poncho

The one thing that I always try to keep in mind when I am out there, is that weight can be the enemy. Humping around a heavy backpack means that walking in the snow requires more effort. Minimal gear which fulfills the requirements for cold weather survival is the only way to go. The added space in the backpack is filled with extra food.

Food Supplies:

  • Instant Oatmeal
  • Instant Coffee
  • Instant Soup
  • Hot Chocolate
  • Tea Bags
  • Raisins
  • Dried Pineapples
  • M&M (Crushed) Candies and mixed with Brown Sugar
  • Emergen-C Vitamin Drink
  • Sugar Packs
  • Non-Dairy Creamer Packs
  • Salt Packs
  • Pepper Packs
  • Mountain House Freeze Dried Scrambled Eggs & Peppers
  • Mountain House Freeze Dried Chili Mac
  • Mountain House Freeze Dried Beef Stroganoff
  • MRE Wheat Bread
  • MRE Crackers
  • MRE Peanut Butter
  • MRE Jelly


Emergency Gear:

  • SPOT-Satellite “Messenger”
  • Arial Signaling Flares
  • Signaling Whistle
  • Orange Signaling Smoke Markers
  • Fluorescent Orange Marker Panel

When I am “just playing” out in the woods; there’s always a chance that I could get myself into serious trouble. Being alone out there when the temperatures are 30-50 degrees below zero, can mean death if a broken ankle, or deep laceration occurs. Having and extra cell-phone battery is alright as long as there is a signal, but most times there isn’t a tower nearby. The SPOT Satellite device works wonders. It’s easy to summon assistance. But once the search and rescue airplanes are overhead, you have to help them find you. Orange panels, smoke bombs, and signal flares will make it easier for SAR to get to you. All of these items can be wrapped inside of an old Blaze Orange hunting vest, and then secured with rubber bands.

 

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One thought on “Cold Weather Survival

  1. This gives me the security of knowing that we have enough
    for a period of time if we break down. Break downs and accidents can leave
    you with no heater, radio, or lights. Regardless
    of the particular type of emergency, planning ahead
    and having the necessary supplies to make
    it through the first several days of the crisis is extremely important.

    Like

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