Tents / Tarps / Bivies
Wild Camping

Lightweight Backpacks
Sleeping Bags

Wilderness Survival
Hiking Adventures

Edible Wild Plants
Survival Kits

Other Cold Weather Survival Concerns

(Adapted from the U.S. Army Survival Manual)

Some tips for dealing with cold weather survival concerns:

Travel

As a survivor in an arctic or subarctic region, you will face many obstacles. Your location and the time of the year will determine the types of obstacles and the inherent dangers.

Avoid traveling during a blizzard.

Take care when crossing thin ice. Distribute your weight by lying flat and crawling.

 Steve's Notes: I've found you can also shuffle across thin ice with spruce boughs under your feet to spread your weight. Don't tie them on, as this will create problems if you break through.

Cross streams when the water level is lowest. Normal freezing and thawing action may cause a stream level to vary as much as 2 to 2.5 meters per day. This variance may occur any time during the day, depending on the distance from a glacier, the temperature, and the terrain. Consider this variation in water level when selecting a campsite near a stream.

Consider the clear arctic air. It makes estimating distance difficult. You more frequently underestimate than overestimate distances.

Do not travel in "whiteout" conditions. The lack of contrasting colors makes it impossible to judge the nature of the terrain.
Always cross a snow bridge at right angles to the obstacle it crosses. Find the strongest part of the bridge by poking ahead of you with a pole or ice axe. Distribute your weight by crawling or by wearing snowshoes or skis.

Make camp early so that you have plenty of time to build a shelter.

Consider frozen or unfrozen rivers as avenues of travel. However, some rivers that appear frozen may have soft, open areas that make travel very difficult or may not allow walking, skiing, or sledding.

Use snowshoes if you are traveling over snow-covered terrain. Snow 30 or more centimeters deep makes traveling difficult. If you do not have snowshoes, make a pair using willow, strips of cloth, leather, or other suitable material.

It is almost impossible to travel in deep snow without snowshoes or skis. Traveling by foot leaves a well-marked trail for any pursuers to follow. If you must travel in deep snow, avoid snow-covered streams. The snow, which acts as an insulator, may have prevented ice from forming over the water. In hilly terrain, avoid areas where avalanches appear possible.

Travel in the early morning in areas where there is danger of avalanches. On ridges, snow gathers on the lee side in overhanging piles called cornices. These often extend far out from the ridge and may break loose if stepped on.

WEATHER SIGNS

There are several good indicators of climatic changes.

Wind

You can determine wind direction by dropping a few leaves or grass or by watching the treetops. Once you determine the wind direction, you can predict the type of weather that is imminent. Rapidly shifting winds indicate an unsettled atmosphere and a likely change in the weather.

Clouds

Clouds come in a variety of shapes and patterns. A general knowledge of clouds and the atmospheric conditions they indicate can help you predict the weather. See Appendix G for details.

Smoke

Smoke rising in a thin vertical column indicates fair weather. Low rising or "flattened out" smoke indicates stormy weather.

Birds and Insects

Birds and insects fly lower to the ground than normal in heavy, moisture-laden air. Such flight indicates that rain is likely. Most insect activity increases before a storm, but bee activity increases before fair weather.

Low-Pressure Front

Slow-moving or imperceptible winds and heavy, humid air often indicate a low-pressure front. Such a front promises bad weather that will probably linger for several days. You can "smell" and "hear" this front. The sluggish, humid air makes wilderness odors more pronounced than during high-pressure conditions. In addition, sounds are sharper and carry farther in low-pressure than high-pressure conditions.

For a discussion of other cold weather survival concerns, return to: Cold Weather Survival.

Back to the main page of the: Wilderness Survival Guide.



###

The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Other Cold Weather Survival Concerns