Tips for Surviving Extreme Cold and Winter Weather

Humans are homeothermic (a.k.a. warm-blooded) creatures–that means we have this amazingly efficient internal temperature regulator that automatically maintains stable core body temperatures, whether in cold winters or hot summers.

As awesome as that may be, the human body is not equipped to deal with extreme low temperatures.

With the winter months stretching out ahead, here are five survival tips to help you stay warm in extreme cold conditions. 

TRAP THE HEAT IN LAYERS

winter jacket layers

Protect your body heat at all costs!

Since you already have your own body heat, rather than turning up the room temperature, it's easier to warm yourself up first and keep that warmth from being sucked out by the outside cold.

Always keep covered, dress in layers of warm clothing, and wear a hat made for cold weather.

You may have heard before that your body heat drops 40-45 percent if your head is exposed, but that is actually just a myth.

The truth is, if you're not properly clothed, you'll lose heat from just about any other exposed skin, including your neck, ears, wrists, and face.

Wearing layers of loose, light-weight, and warm clothing traps the air between the layers, so don't wrap yourself tightly as that will restrict blood circulation and reduce the amount of trapped air, which acts as insulation.

STAY DRY

stay dry during the winter

Avoid getting water on your skin (yes, even sweat!) because it will make you colder.

Since water has greater density, it conducts heat away from the body 25 times faster than air, which means it sucks the heat out of you even faster.

While layering may prevent you from getting cold, too much layering could get you so hot that you start sweating.

Avoid sweating while staying warm and dry by removing or adding different layers of clothing depending on your level of activity.

REMEMBER TO HYDRATE

stay hydrated and drink water

Sweating also makes you lose moisture which can lead to dehydration.

When your body's fluid level decreases, your body becomes more susceptible to hypothermia and other cold injuries.

Maintain good blood flow and other bodily functions with proper hydration to stay warm.

But never eat snow!

You don't want to spend your precious core body heat to melt snow inside of you.

It takes a lot more heat to melt snow than it does to warm up cold water and it takes a lot of snow to produce enough drinking water.

So your body will end up spending more energy in the process of trying to convert snow into water.

However, if there's no water available and if you must consume snow, melt it outside your body first.

Remember, the more hydrated you are, the warmer you will be.

TAKE SHELTER

winter survival shelter

Protection from the elements is essential and seeking shelter is a critical cold weather priority.

If you are on foot, find the nearest shelter or build one.

If you are inside a vehicle, use it as shelter and stay inside.

Even a thin nylon tent or a shelter made of snow can protect you and keep you alive.

Snow itself is a great insulator, so if you're stuck outside without any other available options, building an emergency snow-cave will help you survive.

If you are already indoors, avoid going outdoors in extreme winter weather as much as possible.

BUILD A FIRE

make fire and stay warm

One of the basic skills necessary for survival is making a fire.

This may seem to be the obvious first choice when thinking about warming yourself up, but without the previous guidelines on top of this list, the fire you build will not be able to provide lasting comfort.

When you build a fire, it's important to maintain it and harness its heat to warm you and your space.

On top of providing you warmth, fire also serves as a signal if you're stuck outside and need rescue.

Having at least three fire starting methods at all times and becoming an expert at using them will save you the trouble of building fire from scratch.

Using sticks and rubbing them together to make fire should only be considered as a last resort.


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