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Surviving In The Snow / Extreme Cold

Surviving in the extreme cold is mostly about staying warm and keeping your body temperature up. The traditional survival techniques do not always apply, due to the cold and wet surroundings. By following the techniques in this guide, you will greatly improve your chances of survival.

Disclaimer: The survival tips on this website are for informational purposes only. The authors take no responsibility for the reader's individual actions or usage of the information presented on this page.

1. STOP and Think

Use the Boy Scouts mnemonic device of "STOP", which stands for "Stop, Think, Observe, and Plan".
You've just discovered that you are lost in the snow or an extreme cold climate. You're unsure about whether or not rescue will be arriving. Here is a list of what you should be doing:

1. Keep warm and avoid hypothermia.
2. Find or build a shelter before nightfall.
3. Use snow as a source of drinking water.
4. Create a fire.
5. Wait at least one week for rescue.
6. Find a source of food.
7. Fashion a weapon you can use for self defense.
8. Travel in one direction during daylight. Sleep at night.

2. Keep Warm / Avoid Hypothermia

Hypothermia can kill faster than any other threat in an extreme cold climate, so staying warm and keeping your body temperature up should be priority number one.

If you have extra clothes, then wear enough layers to stay warm, while still being able to move around comfortably.
Make sure that your clothing stays as dry as possible. Be sure to wear multiple layers of socks.

Throughout these entire survival steps, you are always going to want to stay as dry as possible.

You'll also want to create a fire each night to keep your body temperature up.
Use the heat from the fire to dry any clothing that you might have gotten wet during the day.

Building a Fire
Building a fire in the snow can be difficult, because most of the materials will be too wet to ignite.
You will need to find a relatively dry area as a location to construct your fire.

Building The Structure:
Step 1: Gather any dry tinder, twigs, and branches of various sizes that you can find.
Step 2: Using the smaller twigs, create a teepee shape with tinder placed in the center.

Lighting The Fire:
If you have a lighter or anything that sparks, use it to ignite the tinder.
If you have glasses, binoculars, or a camera, use the lens to concentrate the sun's rays on the tinder to ignite it. Then blow when it starts smoking.

You can use the fire-plow method, but again, the materials must be completely dry and not saturated for this to work:

The Fire-Plow Method:
Step 1: Find a soft wood and cut a groove in its base.
Step 2: Place some tinder at one end that you will ignite.
Step 3: Using a hard stick, plow the end up and down this groove to create friction.
Step 4: The tinder will begins to smolder, blow on it to help fuel the fire catching process.
Step 5: When the fire catches, place more tinder and small twigs on the fire to help it grow.

3. Build a Shelter

If you are able to find a nearby cave, this is a great shelter to use in extreme cold environments. However, be sure that the caves are not already occupied by animals, such as bears, before entering them.

If you are unable to find a cave, there are two other effective shelter systems that you can use in the extreme cold climate.

The Snow Cave
Step 1: Dig a hole into the snow.
Step 2: Discard any snow downhill.
Step 3: Dig upward to create the sleeping area above the door.
Step 4: Use a stick to create ventilation holes in the roof.
Step 5: Create a packed snow door to cover the entrance.
Step 6: Make sure there are ventilation holes in the door.

If you are in forest areas, then create a "Lean-To Shelter":

Creating a "Lean-To" shelter:
Step 1: Find a large branch and lean one end up onto a tree.
Step 2: Place smaller branches at 45 degree angles along the length of the large branch.
Step 3: Cover the entire structure with leaves and foliage.

4. Finding Water

The first thing you should be aware of is that eating snow by itself does not hydrate the body. The snow must be melted first.

Melting Snow By Fire:
If you have a tin/aluminum can available, this will provide a perfect container to add the snow and melt over a fire.

Melting Snow By Sunlight:
If you in an environment where you are unable to create a fire, then your best option is to get any material that are water proof, set a thin layer of layer of snow over it.
The more reflective the surface, the better. Allow the sun to melt the snow and the drips can be funneled into a container.
To speed up the melting process, use a lens from glasses, a camera, or binoculars to focus the sun's rays onto the snow.

5. Finding Food

The animals in the forest provide a valuable source of nourishment.
Unless you are an expert hunter, you are going to have a better chance of trapping your food, rather than trying to catch it.
Use the 4-figure deadfall trap as a way to trap and kill your food.

The 4-Figure Deadfall Trap:
Step 1: Gather 3 branches and a heavy stone.
Step 2: Cut notches in the branches as indicated in the illustration below.
Step 3: Hold up the rock with one hand, while positioning sticks "A" and "C".
Step 4: Once the weight of the rock is resting on "A" and "C", use your free hand to insert and mount the trigger stick "B".
Step 5: Let go and the trap should be balanced and set.
Step 6: When a bird or animal comes along to eat the bait, the trigger stick will trip and the rock will kill with a fatal blow.

6. Traveling/Resting:

Always travel during the day, while resting at night.

The snow will be the biggest obstacle in making distance while traveling. So a good idea is to fashion snow shoes out of the available twigs that you have at your disposal.

Creating Snow Shoes
Step 1: Find two flexible branches.
Step 2: Bend them into a round, pear shape.
Step 3: Tie the ends together with cord or torn strips of clothing.
Step 4: Cross smaller branches over the pear shapes.
Step 5: Interweave the cord/strips to secure the smaller branches to the snow shoe.
Step 6: Find a flexible branch to act as a strap to slide your own shoe into.
Step 7: Secure this branch to the sides of the snow shoe.
Step 8: Slide your food into the strap and you're ready to start walking in the snow.

Once you have created your snow shoes, follow the same techniques you would use in a forest survival scenario. Find a nearby stream and follow it down stream until you reach any signs of a settlement or civilization.

7. Predators

Bears are hibernating during the winter months and you will not likely run across any unless you disturb their sleeping quarters. Be careful when traveling and be cautious of caves. It's possible that they are already occupied by hibernating bears and you would not want to disturb them.

Wolves will only attack when they feel that they are being threatened. Keep your distance and try not to appear threatening.

8. Getting Rescued

If you already let people know where you were going before you got stranded in the snow, then chances are that a rescue party is looking for you. Your chances of survival are greatly increased if you stay in one place rather than travel. Rescue parties can sometimes take a couple weeks to find you, so you might want to try to hold out until you are absolutely sure that the rescue has been given up. There have been many stories of people dying in cold climates, simply because they didn't believe that rescue was coming and they tried to venture out on their own.

Whether you decide to stay in one place or venture out on your own, you can use these guidelines to help you survive.

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