3 Critical Survival Skills in the Winter
According to the American Red Cross, dozens of Americans die each year from cold exposure in the winter. Other deaths can be contributed to frostbite, hypothermia and the damage done to the liver, kidneys and pancreas that these conditions cause. Fires and carbon monoxide from improper attempts at heating add even more lives to the toll. In short, it’s important for you to understand how to survive in winter weather. Here are three crucial skills you should know and practice.
Understand How to Avoid Hypothermia
Hypothermia occurs when your body cannot maintain its heat and suffers damage. If your temperature goes too low, organ damage and death can occur. Understanding how to properly maintain your body heat and avoid heat loss are crucial skills for surviving severe weather. Some factors to consider include:
- Dress yourself properly. You want to wear layers that trap body heat and allow your perspiration to wick away from your skin. Avoid cotton, as it is a poor insulator and holds moisture. Select man-made materials like polyester or natural materials like leather, fur or wool. Pay special attention to your extremities, as your head, hands and feet are usually the first areas affected by the cold.
- Learn to notice when you’re sweating. If at all possible, you don’t want to sweat. The perspiration will moisten your clothes and sap body heat. Pace yourself while working outside to avoid sweating as much as possible.
- Maintain your body from the inside out. Dehydration and poor nutrition both make you more susceptible to hypothermia. Drink plenty of water and follow a balanced, healthy diet. Definitely avoid alcohol and caffeine, as these will both dehydrate you further.
Be Able to Identify Hypothermia
You also need to understand the signs of hypothermia. In the beginning, you’ll note shivering and some mental confusion. As your condition worsens, the shivering will become more violent and eventually stop. You will find it impossible to focus on a task or think clearly. Your breathing will become shallow and your pulse will weaken. When the hypothermia progresses to the severe state, you will lose consciousness and be unable to help yourself at all.
Recognizing the early warning signs will help you make good choices and take appropriate actions. If you’re shivering and feeling a bit fuzzy-headed, march in place out of the wind, eat some of your survival emergency food and drink water. If you’re working outside and are sweating a little, you may want to remove a layer or two to keep your temperature stable. Understanding your body and its cues are essential to surviving foul winter weather.
How to Build a Warm Shelter
If you reside in an area where coniferous trees are plentiful, a pile of branches and a tarp can make a cozy lean-to. If you live in a more inhospitable area that gets a lot of snow, you may need to know how to make a properly ventilated snow cave. While tents are great, you should know how to build and heat a natural shelter using minimal tools. Carefully research the options for the area in which you live and practice these skills until you are comfortable building a shelter and heating it. In milder climates, body heat may be enough. In colder areas, learn how to build a fire with found materials. These skills can save your life.
Surviving winter weather is largely a matter of staying warm, dry and protected from the elements. For these reasons, learning how to dress properly and listen to your body’s cues are imperative. Learning to build a warm shelter is also important, as you may not always be able to move constantly to maintain your body temperature.
This article first appeared on American Preppers Network and may be copied under the following creative commons license. All links and images including the CC logo must remain intact.