It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.

Please white-list or disable in your ad-blocking tool.

Thank you.


Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.


Cold weather survival-part #1

page: 1

log in


posted on Oct, 7 2009 @ 03:24 AM
Cold Weather Survival:

Imaging a scenario where you are forced to walk 100 miles in -65 (below zero) weather, through waist deep snow, the wind is howling at 25 miles an hour, you cannot see more than fifty feet around you, and the air that you breath is filled with ice crystal. You only have five to six hours of daylight each day, and on top of that; you have 75 pounds of gear to hump.

This would be a typical survival situation in Northern Alaska.

Surviving in extreme cold requires additional gear. A simple Bug Out Bag (BOB) will not suffice to save your life from the elements. Even the weight of the BOB will work against you. Saying that’s its almost impossible to carry all your gear on your back, would be an understatement.

The sheer fact that you are walking through deep snow, even while wearing snowshoes, will zap your strength in no time at all. Add to the misery, foul weather, the overall tactical position, and your physical conditioning ; you will soon come to view winter survival trekking as a lost cause.

Using cross country skis is wonderful exercise, and for some people it’s a form of enjoyment. But the sad reality is that cross-country skiing has its inherent drawbacks. The first and foremost is the simple fact that the skis aren’t designed for use in dense forested areas. Secondly; using skis limits the survivalist in how much weight can be carried. Skis have a weight / load rating, much like a boat. Exceeding the limits results in futile efforts, and wasted energy, in terms of Btu’s per hour, and overall heat retention. Basically, you will work harder, sweat more, and consequently suffer for it.

A dog-sled (mushing) team is great for trips around the retreat area, foraging for food and fuel; but in reality, the average survivalist will not have access to a sled and dog team. It’s a serious responsibility, and takes a certain skill set and knowledge. Tactically speaking, using dogs isn’t very safe. Dogs bark all the time, they require carrying additional food, and that translates to extra weight. On the up side; you will always have fresh meat in dire circumstances.

Snowmobiles are definitely the best when crossing frozen tundra, but they become almost useless in heavily forested areas of Alaska. You cannot take a snow-machine through heavy undergrowth with any measure of success. There are many obstacles, such as buried boulders, tree stumps, rocks. Lots of things that will rip a ski off the carriage, and damage the tracks. Snowmobiles also leave tracks that are easy to follow. Even from the air, a snow mobile track stands out from miles away. Noise is another factor to consider when using a snow mobile. Even the quiet ones make a lot of noise.

If using a snow machine to get to the retreat; then having extra sparkplugs, drive belt, fuses, spare oil, and a basic automotive tools set, is critical. This is doubly true when all your survival gear is strapped to the machine, or a pull-0behind sled. The last thing that you need, or want, is to have a mechanical breakdown, and no way to fix the problem. Snowmobilers generally should learn basic equipment maintenance skills, as well as how to repair minor breakdowns that occur all the time.

The snowmobile must have enough horse power to accommodate the size load you will be pulling in a sled. Under powered machines will quickly heat up, like a truck with a heavy load. Having the wrong size tracks, or not enough studs/paddles on the track itself, will result in loss of power and forward momentum. This results in a loss in horsepower, and consequently the machine’s performance will be reduced. All of this affects not only the fuel consumption, and the overall mechanical condition, but your own personal survivability itself.

The end result is that the most efficient way to travel across snow covered terrain, is on foot, and pulling a sled. There are several different sled configurations available. Even the most basic, which is nothing more than a plastic tub with a metal handle, will haul 300Lbs of gear, and will float.

Generally there are three types of sleds:
A North Pole Sled, A South Pole Sled, and a Toboggan. The NP sled is narrow and longer, while the SP sled is a little wider, and shorter. The Toboggan fills the void in-between, and is more for generalized use in non-arctic environments.
No ,matter which sled you decide to use, care must be taken to keep an eye on the plastic runners. Even a small nick or tear will amount in increased friction against the snow. Small tears in the plastic will eventually accumulate enough snow to make you feel like your pulling extra weight. A handy repair kit will take care of that problem.

Plastic bungee cords have a tendency to become brittle and snap when the temperature drops (below ) -20 degrees. Having a stash of nylon or hemp rope will aid in field expedient repairs.

The sled, no matter which type you choose, should have a stable platform for cargo, and several lash-down points. Sometimes, it’s will be necessary to drill extra holes along the top edges, and reinforce the holes with metal grommets or other suitable material. You’ll want a lot of lash-down points.

A stretchable cargo net, as well as a waterproof covering is also needed. Both to secure, and protect your gear from the elements. The tarp/covering is placed over the gear, and the cargo net secured over the tarp. Additionally, several bungee cords are used to keep all the gear secured to the sled itself, and this keeps everything inside the sled in the event of a roll-over. Expect that to happen occasionally, especially when traversing rough terrain.

A “South Pole Sled” works best. Basically it’s the type of sled that is used by arctic explorers to carry their gear and supplies. The sled is attached to a pulling harness, worn much like a backpack, though it possible to install a pulling handle. Basically one steps inside the handle, and using sheer strength and willpower, pulls the sled along behind them.

The sled should be packed with extreme care. The first and foremost, is to have all your gear arranged for quick access.
Stoves, and lanterns should be stored in plastic hard-sided cases, each marked with a strip of duct tape. Fuel, food, and other essential gear should be stored in plastic containers as well. Separate the fuel from the food, and if possible, keep the fuel away from sleeping gear and clothing. Medium size cases make ideal storage containers, and make loading and unloading supplies a breeze. Never just toss your gear into the sled and call it a day. It will catch up with you later when you least expect it.

Waterproof gear bags (not the plastic type that crack in cold weather) should be used for clothing, blankets, and sleeping gear. Compression-stuff sacks work best to avoid bulk and reduce space in the sled. Forget about wrapping your gear with saran wrap or aluminum foil. Both tend to become brittle, and snap, when it’s really cold out in the wind.

The sled must be arranged in such a way, that at a moment’s notice, in total dark, with the wind howling at 50 miles an hour; you can reach your gear without fumbling around, or trying to guess where everything is located.

Typically a loaded sled will weigh about 75Lbs to 100 Lbs, depending on the amount of supplies you decide to carry. The amount of supplies depend on how far you will have to travel, and how long it will take to complete the trip.

There are some smaller sleds available called “Husky” sleds. They are only about 18”x24” in size. Normally they come with a very long square handle for pulling, much like a lawn mower handle, except you step inside of the handle area itself. These are excellent for carrying your BOB, and a few other supplies. They are ideal for “Getting Out Of Dodge” in a hurry, when there’s not a lot of ground to cover. Their only limitation is the amount of gear that they will carry.

Going “light” during extreme winter weather is never an option. Many people die each year from exposure to the elements. Even in 35 degree weather, people have perished of hypothermia. Extreme cold, such as what is found in Alaska, and some of the northern states, complicates survival situations many times over.

A broken leg, a deep gash that requires sutures are life threatening. Other medical emergencies are complicated during these extreme situations. Being alone, or even with another person, could spell serious trouble in the event of a heart attack, stroke, or other illnesses.

With the ever-changing weather patterns sweeping across the globe, knowing how to survive in extreme cold should be part of the overall survival strategy.

Butane, Alcohol, and Propane have no use in a survival situation such as this. The fact that you cannot resupply is most evident. Propane freezes at -20 (below), and requires thawing/heating before it will work in a propane stove or lanterns. Multi-Fuel stoves, such as MSR Stoves work best. Gasoline, kerosene, aviation gas, diesel fuel, white gas; these are the types of fuel sources a multi-fuel stove utilizes. But, an ample supply of fuel is required, and usage time must be limited.

Think of fuel stoves in this way: A typical isobutene or alcohol stove will bring a liter of water to boil in less than 4 minutes. Normally the average burn time for these stoves are between 32 to 43 minutes. Taking this basic formula, it’s easy to determine that a standard liter fuel bottle will only last through 8 uses. That in itself speaks volumes, in that these types of stoves, though lightweight and efficient, are sorry fuel misers. Having a stove that burns a liter of fuel every 2-1/2 days is wasteful. Keeping enough fuel on hand will offset this little problem, unless you’re taking on a serious trek that will require trekking across a vast expanse of land. Practice with several different models and types of stoves before it becomes necessary to actually have to rely on the stove for survival. Now is the best time to test, as opposed to a survival situation when your life will depend on it.

Stay away from the flimsy aluminum fuel canisters that comes with most stoves. Use hard case plastic that will not crack when frozen, or burst open when dropped. Tight fitting caps are also essential. Fuel vapors, as well as the fuel itself, can leak out. If the fuel containers are near food supplies, then food supplies becomes unusable. Test the fuel container beforehand. Fill the container with water, and put in the freezer for several weeks. If it breaks at home, it’s useless in the field. Remember; spilling fuel on your fingers when filling a stove during cold weather, will quickly lead to severe frostbite. Use a small hand siphon pump, or a funnel.

The best set-up for a stove also includes a plywood sheet. The plywood keeps the stove from melting the snow/ice under it, provides a stable cooking platform. and saves the tent floor from burns and scorching. A small piece is all that’s required. Normally a 6” x 8” section will do the trick. Small blocks of wood glued or nailed onto the plywood sheet will aid in stabilizing the stove. Treat the wood with a waterproof stain, and nail/glue a plastic or laminate strip around the edges of the wood itself. This keeps moisture from permeating into the fibers of the wood.

Always use the stove inside a tent, or at least out of the wind. A fierce howling wind eats up (Btu) energy. Even with a wind-screen, the effectiveness of the stove is reduced in high wind environments. But, when using the stove inside of a tent, a cross-draft (open the air vents) must be used to prevent the steam from icing up the roof of the tent, and then freezing.

Cold weather affects every piece of your survival gear, but none are more critical than having a good stove to cook with, and keep warm. Spare parts such as regulator valve, pump, leathers, and small set screws are critical to keeping the stove operable. Good quality indestructible fuel bottles, as well as a good supply of fuel, is also critical. Normally, two people will use about 1-Litre of fuel every day. This is under optimal conditions. Melting ice, thawing out frozen gear, and just staying warm will double that number.

Below zero freezing weather plays havoc with small screws, nuts, and bolts. These snap off when tightened or adjusted. Use quality steel screws, not the cheap imported steel that comes from Asian countries. The cost is not that much more. But the overall survivability of equipment, and yourself are improved.

A Coleman “Dual Fuel” camper’s stove (Gasoline or White Gas) also makes a great addition to the winter survival kit. Keep extra regulator, fuel line, as well as various bolts, screws, and nuts around for field repairs. Coleman makes a field repair kit, as well as a maintenance kit. Buy both, and store it with the stove. Make sure you get the kind of stove that has a fold out wind screen. Replace any rusty or dented parts before venturing out into the cold weather with it. It’s always best to keep the stove and repair supplies stored inside a weather tight box. This will prolong the life of the stove, and prevent rust buildup.
Keep your stove in top notch shape, or you will pay the price for neglecting it.

Thermos Bottles:
This will probably be one of the most important items in the kit. Even though you are surrounded by miles and miles of snow; the energy expended to melt snow into drinking water isn’t worth the effort. Likewise, melting ice for water is time consuming and requires a lot of energy/fuel source, unless you happen to be sitting by a roaring fire.

Test a thermos bottle; fill it with water, then tossed into your freezer for a week. The cheap one’s will crack and allow the water to freeze. The good quality one’s such as the Nissan Stainless Steel variety, won’t crack when frozen. These are the best for sub-arctic situations because their lightweight, and durable for extreme elements. You will need several of these in the arctic environment. They in fact, replace your canteens, as well as providing you with hot liquid refreshments when it’s not possible to stop, or when trying to conserve fuel.

Meals are prepared with water from a thermos.
Since the cold weather will freeze most canned foods, you will have to have plenty of drinking water on hand to prepare dry bulk meals. A typical menu would consist of oatmeal, cream of wheat, freeze dried scrambled eggs, and other freeze dried food packs. Don’t skimp and buy the one-person servings. In extreme cold weather situations your body will require a lot of fuel for energy. A hot meal takes care of that.

Water for morning “coffee” is boiled at night, and the thermos is stored inside the sleeping bag with you until morning. A quick hearty breakfast of oatmeal, sprinkled with a liberal helping of brown sugar, gives one the energy boost for the long trek throughout the day. Adding a little avocado oil also helps to boost the body’s fuel pump, but using too much will quickly lead to diarrhea . Olive oil tends to freeze in extreme weather. Spray cooking oil will quickly freeze. Lard packed in cans will also freeze and become a solid frozen lump.

When water becomes a critical issue, the best method for filling the thermos, is to melt ice. The general rule is to melt ice every time that the stove is used. That way, a small amount of water is replaced whenever cooking is done. However, if the water supply becomes critical, then it will be necessary to stop and seek out an ice supply. Frozen streams, lakes, or rivers are good sources. Using a small hand held ice auger; a person can bore through several feet of ice in just a few minutes. Melting is accomplished by boiling ice in a lid covered pot. As the ice melts, and turns into water, more ice is dropped into the pot. As an added bonus, the water is purified, at least to some degree.

Small kerosene lanterns are great for cold weather survival. They put out a small amount of heat, even though smoke and noxious fumes are a problem to contend with. Battery operated lights are near useless, since the cold weather affects their performance and energy storing capacity. Most LED variety of lights fail miserably in a survival situation. That expensive LED flashlight has a low burn time, and require a steady supply of batteries. Typically, a three watt LED will use four AA-Batteries, and only burn 12-15 hours on the lowest setting; half that on the highest setting. Not worth it when your hauling everything on your sled, or your back.

Candles are good, as long as you’re out of the wind. In this case, the triple wick-120 hour candle in a can, add some flavor to those dark nights.

Stick with the small metal kerosene lanterns. The plastic one’s tend to crack in extreme cold weather. You don’t want a leak, and possibly a tent fire from one of these cheap overseas brands. Always carry at least two of them. That way there’s a backup in case you drop the first one.

The Coleman “Dual Fuel” lanterns work equally as well. They will run all night long, and well into the next day, if used on the lowest setting. Insure that you have a suitable hard-plastic storage case with the lantern, as well as extra mantles, and a field repair/maintenance kit. Store the lantern inside a foam padded weather tight box.

Mod Edit: All Caps – Please Review This Link.

[edit on 7-10-2009 by Gemwolf]

posted on Oct, 7 2009 @ 04:33 AM
As someone who has actually done this stuff for real, in a real survival situation.
But i am talking about arctic survival from a military sense coz that is what i know. I have been in temps of -60, so these tips that i learnt as a soldier i hope you will benifit from.

Firstly clothing. It is very tempting to wear jumper after jumper but from my own experience of breaking camp and not taking my warm clothes off and thus developing heat exhaustion in the bloody arctic! I can say that your personal admin has to be on the ball; when you stop you put warm clothes on, when you move you wear the minimum loose in layers. Which is to say; you wear a t-shirt, a fleece, and a thin windproof smock, the fleece being a norwegian army shirt. Not too thick as a fleece, just right!

If you are in a blizard or the temp drops to -60 then you have to dig in. You dig something calle a snow grave if you aint got a tent. This is where you dig a 6 by 3 hole using your skis as roof covering them with snow. The foot of the sg you will make lower that everywhere else coz that is wheer all the cold air collects. In the snow grave you had better have equipt yourself with a candle or two. The reason why is that most people carry a sleeping bag with them yet neglect everything else. But in this case we are sharing them. And the candles drop the temp by a degree each one.

I myself and my mountain and arctic warfare cadre (commandoes) have done worse! But i applaude your motive. But peolpe need theese things: Naptha (coz it boils at lower temps) waterproofs, very thin ones-gortex, freeze dried rations or fresh, doesnt matter, wear clothes loose in layers.

Thats it.

[edit on 043131p://f34Wednesday by Selahobed]

posted on Oct, 8 2009 @ 06:17 AM
Oh jeez I was about to say hyptothermia in 35º?!! and then I clued in that you are using American system...

You know what I like is I would have tried to find a way to pack without a sled but I am glad you said it is a necessity... I will never try to pack medium if I ever end up in Alaska ^_^ lol

The only -30ºC I ever was in had no wind, so it actually felt really nice, my comrades think I am crazy because I like to wear t-shirts in the winter

posted on Oct, 8 2009 @ 06:59 AM
I don't excpect to encounter anything lower than 20 degrees Fahrenheit, but I was wondering about fabrics for the inner layer. is there a list of like the best, next best and so on?

posted on Oct, 9 2009 @ 10:35 AM

Originally posted by calstorm
I don't excpect to encounter anything lower than 20 degrees Fahrenheit, but I was wondering about fabrics for the inner layer. is there a list of like the best, next best and so on?

Not really dude.
Everybody sez "theirs" is the best, but here are the best choices, in order of my personal preference:


Except the wool, all the others suck at shedding water, unless there's an additional outter layer that is waterproof, not water resistant.

Northface make some really great lightweight gear, and I have 3-4 different jackets, parka's and bibs.

Cabela's has excellent gear. Their Gortex "iditord" series are actually patterned after the british SAS smocks.

If you can find it, a real british "Wooley Pulley" sweater is a must have. I've worked outside in it, when it was -20 below, and unless I stopped for more than 10-minutes, I never really felt the cold, except the wind.

Gander Mountain has some stuff, but most of theirs comes direct from Taiwan or China. Lot's of Northface type knock offs.

I keep abreast of new gear, as catalogs arrive in the mail almost every week. When you start comparing different brands, you'll notice that they are all built the same, just a different price, and a different name on the front door. Always look for the word "imported" in the description though...

posted on Oct, 9 2009 @ 10:40 AM

Originally posted by Ridhya

You know what I like is I would have tried to find a way to pack without a sled but I am glad you said it is a necessity... I will never try to pack medium if I ever end up in Alaska ^_^ lol

At first I was a little reluctant to use a sled as well. Did absolutely nothing for my tactical sense.

Then I actually practiced walking the 100 miles to my retreat in the summer months. THAT, my friend, was a turning point for me. My BOB is pretty much compact, and I've arranged everything to suit me to a Tee. But it's still heavy.

I remember one of those nights when my back was so hurting (hey I'm an old fugger) and then I thought about what it would be like to haul the pack through deep snow...

new topics

top topics

log in