In the 2016 to 2017 winter period, there were an estimated 34,300 excess winter deaths (EWDs) in England and Wales. The cold weather is coming back which means it is time to prepare. Don’t become another statistic.
During this survival guide we are going to be sharing some tips and skills that you must know in order to be prepared for the cold weather.
1. Dress Properly
Having the proper clothing is an important part of being prepared. There are four ways in which the cold weather can sap the warmth from your body:
- Radiative heat loss – this occurs when your body heat due to the lack of insulation.
- Convective heat transfer – occurs when the wind draws heat away from the body.
- Conductive heat transfer – occurs through direct contact with cold surfaces or liquid, such as sitting on the snow, wearing a sweaty shirt under your jacket or falling into a frozen lake.
- Evaporative cooling – occurs when perspiration evaporates, drawing body heat with it.
If it’s 15 degrees outside, 15mph winds can make it feel more like zero.
Using the correct layering allows you to remove or add insulation so that you never get too cold or too hot. There are three main “under-shell” layers to consider:
- The base layer – this is the layer directly against the skin. The best base layers are made of polyester, polypropylene, merino wool, silk or other materials that wick moisture and dry quickly.
- The mid layer – usually includes a long-sleeved shirt.
- The insulating layer – this is your primary source of warmth. Examples include a fleece pullover, fleece vest or wool sweater. In very cold weather, a down vest or jacket may be used as an insulating layer.
The final piece of layering to get right is the outerwear. Chosen correctly and this will block the wind, keep out the rain and snow, and allow sweat vapor to escape.
Cotton is a killer. Once wet, it can’t keep you warm.
Depending on the conditions, your outerwear may include both a jacket and waterproof pants. Generally, you should choose insulated outerwear for more sedentary activities or if you feel that you frequently need additional warmth.
Winter accessories will help to keep you well protected in the cold weather. These should include:
- Hats – you can lose a fair amount of heat through your head. Synthetic fibers like Windstopper® polyester and acrylic wick moisture and dry quickly. Wool is another warm, wicking material for winter headwear.
- Face/neck – if really cold out, a face mask or balaclava should be worn. A scarf can also be used to provide neck and face protection.
- Gloves – having a warm pair of winter gloves or mittens is important.
- Boots – a good pair of winter boots is essential. Always wear warm, midweight or heavyweight winter socks with your boots.
2. Build a Fire
Staying warm and dry is your first priority. Knowing how to build a winter campfire with limited supplies will greatly increase your chances of survival. Check out the video below to see how you can start a fire on top of snow.
3. Signal for Help
Navigational skills are good skills to have but in a survival situation, staying in one spot will give you the best chance of being found. There are many ways in which you can signal for help if you don’t have a working phone, some of which include:
- Whistle – three blasts of a whistle are generally interpreted as a universal signal for distress.
- Signal Mirror – properly aimed, a signal mirror can shine a beam of daylight up to 10 miles, creating a flash of light that can catch the attention of distant aircraft, watercraft, vehicles, and people.
- Flags – create a flag by attaching a colourful piece of clothing or material to a long stick.
- Fire – your fire needs to create as much contrasting smoke as possible. If it is dark out, concentrate more on creating large flames.
- Signal Mounds – three is the magic number. Create three large piles of leaves or three piles of rocks in a triangular pattern that can be seen from above.
For a more detailed guide on signalling for help check out this guide I found over on The Art of Manliness.
Shelter that can keep you from being exposed to the elements is crucial. This can be either natural shelters such as fallen trees and caves to creating one yourself from your surroundings. For five winter shelter ideas check out this guide found over on Offgridweb.
5. Stay Fed and Hydrated
As your body tries to deal with the stress of the situation, it uses your stored energy to produce heat. For this reason, you must replenish that by staying fed and well hydrated. If using surrounding snow and ice for water, be sure to heat it over the fire first. Trying to drink freezing cold water will worsen your situation.
Eating food is like putting fuel on a fire. Your metabolism kicks into action to digest it, heating up your core body temperature and radiating outwards through the bloodstream.