By Steven E Stillwell
Winter poses different challenges for the outdoorsmen, because cold weather can have a negative impact on your body, mental capacity, and essential equipment. In freezing temperatures, the survival gear that you rely on could malfunction, because things have a tendency to shrink, crack, or seize-up! When your extremities, especially your fingers are cold, your reaction time slows down, it becomes painful to perform simple tasks, and in some situations, it’s impossible.
Some of you reading this article might have experienced colder climates, but minus -40 below, without the wind-chill factor is hard to beat.
Physical exertion can be dangerous when it’s subzero outside, because the combination of perspiration and evaporation will cause your body to cool off and this can kill you. In order to function, you need to pace yourself, and regulate your body temperature ‒this is easier said than done!
Hypothermia is defined as; low and dangerous body temperature, caused by prolonged exposure to cold conditions.
In a survival situation, you have to create a MICRO ENVIRONMENT in order to sustain yourself. What am I talking about; keep reading and you’ll find out. When your body starts feeling cold, you need to warm yourself up, and a survival shelter is your best option when you’re miles away from civilization. If the weather permits, be sure to utilize your campfire to the fullest extent. It’s also possible to build an improvised fireplace inside, but this takes practice and a certain amount of skill. Having something as simple as a candle in your daypack could make things a little more comfortable, because a strategic combination of things certainly adds-up.
STAY DRY AND SURVIVE. It’s imperative that your structure is waterproof, and constructed in such a manner that it’s an effective windbreak. Adequate ventilation is also important, because carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal, but your shelter must have the ability to trap a certain amount of heat in order to be effective. You’ll have to experiment to find the happy-medium.
Taking intermittent breaks, changing your socks, and allowing your damp clothing to dry out, will help stave-away the winter chills. Rotation is a key element when it comes to staying warm. Dirt, grime, and perspiration will impede your body and your clothing’s ability to trap radiant heat. In layman’s terms, CLEANER CLOTHES WILL KEEP YOU WARMER.
20 years ago, I traveled to Wisconsin for a routine hunting trip, but the weather turned nasty and bitter cold before reaching my destination. I’ve driven in hazardous conditions more times than I can count, but this winter storm was unique and brutal. Luckily I was prepared, because MURPHY’S LAW dictates that the worst case scenarios will always present themselves when you’re not ready.
The thermometer was pegged at zero degrees when I arrived, and the wind-chill factor was approximately minus -20 below.
The next morning was opening day of deer season, and the climate was even worse. In fact, it was so cold that everyone’s rifle froze shut, except for mine. What was my secret; it’s vital that you degrease, and keep your weapon bone-dry in winter conditions. Any moisture whatsoever, including certain gun oils, can freeze when the temperatures dip. If you bring your firearm inside after spending a few hours in the field, this complicates matters, because the steel will sweat and condensation will form within seconds! After each and every hunt, I stowed my rifle in a gun-sheath and in my cold truck’s camper where conditions wouldn’t fluctuate. My weapon never failed me, and I shot three deer that week.
If you’re interested in learning and sharing more survival skills, I invite you to join our Facebook page, OUACHITA BUSHCRAFT AND SURVIVAL. We also welcome your comments and suggestions!