How to Survive a Snowstorm in the Wilderness

By: H. Davis

The winter months can, without a doubt, present some dangerous weather, especially when you’re out in the wilderness. That’s why knowing how to survive in the snow is so important. Coupled with snow, dry air, and everything else that comes with the cold, things can turn ugly quick. 

What most people don’t know, however, is that every snowstorm is different. Nevertheless, each one has the ability to kill an individual and cause major destruction. Blizzards, for example, are perhaps the most dangerous kinds of snowstorms to get caught in. They become even more dangerous in places like mountains since there’s no one to remove the snow — and with everything covered in a white sheet of snow, it can be really easy to get lost and never find your way back.

Ice storms are also dangerous. In the wilderness, the weight of the ice stuck on bushes, rocks, and trees can come crashing down, knocking over everything in its path. These storms aren’t only dangerous for campers, they’re also dangerous for explorers, hunters tracking animals, and rescuers as well. That’s because if there’s enough ice on the ground, vehicle tires won’t be able to gain enough traction to move. This means if you aren’t prepared, the situation could quickly turn into a life or death one. During a snowstorm, objects like bridges and overpass should be avoided at all cost. The last thing you’d want is to be stuck in a vehicle sliding down a bridge with a big drop.

So, what are things you can practice to keep you safe during a snowstorm?

Make a Fire: As beautiful as nature is, there are times where Mother Nature can be cold and unforgiving, which is why it’s important that you know how to build a fire. In the wilderness, a fire can keep you warm and predators away. This means that the risk of experiencing hypothermia, frostbites, or illnesses can be reduced drastically. 

For some people, however, the thought of building a fire using real wood sounds like hard work. That’s because most people don’t that there is a difference in the type of fire created. A fire built in a fireplace, for instance, is different than one built on a BBQ grill. In other words, each fire prepared — no matter the situation — requires the person to have different skills. Knowing how to build a fire using the resources available is a useful skill and an important one to know.

How do you build a fire in the wilderness?

It all comes down to materials and resources when you’re in the wilderness. Once you learn about the materials you have access to, you’ll be able to effectively use them and avoid adding things to a fire that will not light. So, when building your fire, make sure you’re able to gather things that you can add to it. In other words, don’t grab objects that will burn too fast or objects that are covered in ice. These things won’t help, and they’ll only make you work harder when you should be resting. Make sure your material and resources consist of fuel, flammable wood, and twigs. This will keep the fire burning at a steady pace.

After you’ve gathered all your materials, you will then need to choose a location to build your fire. This location should include things like dry ground, flat surface, protection from the wind, and close to your shelter. The fire should also be close to a water source and surrounded by large rocks if you can find them. In snow, you’ll want to build a platform using medium-sized branches. 

Create a Disaster Preparedness Kit: When it comes to emergency preparedness, a well thought out emergency kit is perhaps the most important things you can carry. So don’t think twice about taking time out of your day to pack a disaster preparedness kit, especially if you’re going out into the wilderness during the winter months. 

Remember, a commercial emergency kit is a lot more different than a personal one. While they are still handy and beneficial, they only contain minimal things. Your kit, however, can be catered to you and the situations you may encounter during your time in the wilderness. 

A general rule of thumb that can help you decide what to pack and how much of it: Pack a three-day supply for when you’re away from home and a two-week supply for when you are home. That way, you can survive long enough to get yourself the help you need. That being said, when putting together your personal kit, be sure to consider and include the following supplies (this list does not include general things like a flashlight, radio, etc.):

  • Container: This can be a container that’s big, small, made from aluminum, metal, or plastic. Do you want it to waterproof or dirtproof? Will it be easy to carry?
  • Water: Although water is all around you, it’s not always a good idea to drink liquified snow.
  • Pocket knife: Every kit should have a small pocket knife in case you need to free yourself.
  • Lighter: During a survival situation, make sure you’re ready for anything.
  • Backup matches: Even though most people will reach for their lighter in a time of need, it doesn’t hurt to have backup matches.
  • Whistle: That way if you’re lost, you could use it to help rescue searchers find you.
  • Food: Make sure you have enough for three-days minimum.
  • Small signal mirror: This will come in handy if you need to get a pilot’s attention.

 

Stay Warm: When your body temperature drops from 98 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, your body will go into shock and start to experience hypothermia. This means that the organs in your body will soon start to shut down one-by-one due to the freezing temperatures outside. These organs might include your brain, heart, lungs, and kidney — essentially, everything you need to stay alive and keep your body operating properly. 

The problem with hypothermia, however, is that it can sometimes be difficult to recognize. Why? Well, because the symptoms don’t happen all at once. They occur gradually. That’s why it’s important to recognize the signs. These symptoms can include extreme shivering, lack of coordination, low energy, weak pulse, and slurred speech. The worst part: It’s practically impossible to stop hypothermia once it starts. 

Make sure you avoid getting wet when you’re out in the mountains during the winter months. If for some reason you do get wet or fall through the ice, take your clothes off immediately to avoid hypothermia.

Although beautiful, the truth is, winter is no joke for campers, hunters, hikers, and skiers. Fortunately, if you have the right tools and resources, you can prevent yourself from getting into a sticky situation. Having this type of knowledge can truly make the difference between life and death in the end.

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H. Davis loves exploring the outdoors and reading up on wilderness tips. If you can’t catch him online reading, you might be able to catch him out playing football with friends or cheering on the Boise State Broncos. Follow him on Twitter at @Davis241. Thanks!

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