emergency shelter.
snowy field and bare trees
Scott Falls, Alger County, Michigan
A forest bed of wild leeks
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Basic Survival Skills

Winter Survival

Cold, wet weather survival brings on a whole set of very specific issues that need to be addressed.

For winter survival, you need to stay warm and dry or more importantly get warm and dry if you have been caught in a downpour, or just fallen in a bog, stream, or puddle or experienced excessive sweating due to strenuous activity..

Hypothermia is your biggest concern, assuming that you are not seriously injured. Even in temperatures ranging as warm as 60° your body core temperature can drop to dangerously low levels where helping yourself becomes impossible. Shivering is the first and usually mildest warning of hypothermia.

So what do you do?
Snow covered trail through a forest in Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Find a place out of the wind and wet. If this means setting up your tarp shelter, do so quickly. Build a fire to give you a warm place to huddle.
Don’t just sit there, get out of those wet clothes. They will only make you feel colder and draw down your body temperature faster. This is no time to worry about minor things like embarrassment, just do it. Being dry and alive is a better alternative. Dry all of your clothes near the fire. If you have a well stocked survival kit there should be a set of dry clothes in it, dry your body and put them on.  If you have blankets or a bed roll, get into them.
Heat water to make coffee, tea, soup or bullion, even drinking hot water will help. This puts warmth in your belly and your body will have to burn fewer calories to stay warm.  You can do this from your bedroll.
If possible, up your caloric intake to give your body fuel to help keep you warm.
Do Not eat snow to obtain your water. Eating cold snow will affect your core body temperature.  You are much better off to melt it first, then drink it.  You may be surprised at how little water you get from a pan full of dry snow.
If your kit is minimal, more of your efforts will be required and you will need a wider knowledge base. So, remember the old Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared”.

Generally speaking, the worse the conditions, the bulkier the kit due to the additional supplies you will need for colder winter survival.

Just ask yourself, what will I need to stay alive without major discomfort for three or four days in the place I am or plan to go:
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In cold climates, cotton kills.  It soaks up moisture keeping it next to your
body wicking heat away.  Cotton is hypothermia's friend, not yours.
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In dry desert conditions food, fuel, and water are at a premium.
In an arboreal forest, too much water may be a problem.
In Arctic conditions, severe cold brings on a whole different set of issues with the need for at least a week’s worth of food and much more clothing made of wool or synthetics.
In the tropics, mosquito netting and cotton works well.
I have experienced triple digit highs and frigid lows at night in the desert southwest and more than 50 below in Montana’s Cabinet Mountains. Where I have made my home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we see occasional highs in the 90’s in summer and occasional lows from 20 to 30 below zero, with plenty of snow, in winter.

Each season brings its own set of issues. For survival living in the country, I have been no stranger to power outages both summer and winter of a week or more so I keep my home and vehicles in a state of readiness. We take survival with style seriously.  Preparedness is key for any wilderness survival situation but for winter survival, it is paramount.
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The following recipes contain ingredients found in the wilderness
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