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Winter Survival Class


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Today my friend and I attended a winter survival class hosted by the Nordic Search and Rescue. Great information. Some of it was a refresher, some of it was new tips to try and some of it was an eye opener. One would hope never to have to use those skills; but more and more lately, we hear of backcountry rescues (and sadly, recoveries). You could start the day off with a blue bird sky and by afternoon a storm could blow in if you hadn't checked the weather reports before you left, or you could become injured and a nice day could go to hell-in-a-handbasket in a quick hurry.

Being able to survive the night in the winter doesn't take a super athlete, or mean you have to be an experienced backcountryman. A small bit of planning beforehand will save your life. The class went into much more detail but some highlights...

Tell someone where you are going...and when you should be back. They can alert authorities if you don't show up.

Check the weather reports before you head out. Storms appear suddenly in the mountains.

Some pack items...

Extra water and snack rations.

Wear warm layers - carry an extra pair of dry socks and/or gloves.

A contractors plastic garbage bag so you'll have some shelter from the elements (or a bivy).

Bic lighter so you can start a fire. A few cotton balls with vaseline on them make for a good fire starter.

Knife and a length of paracord.

Basic first aid kit.


A couple tidbits that caught my attention if you were stranded out in the freezing cold waiting for rescue.

When you drink from a hydration pack, if your tube doesn't have an insulated sleeve, blow the water back down the tube into the reservoir (after you finish taking a sip) so it doesn't freeze in the tube.

You could put your feet into your backpack to keep them warm.

Stuff pine branches into your jacket for insulation--also use the pine boughs to line the ground where you lay.

Helicopters don't see people on the ground, they see tracks. Leave big noticable tracks in shapes or patterns (like a BIG X or arrow) to alert someone in the air that you are down below...especially if you are seeking refuge in a small grove of trees.

Did I mention, KEEP CALM??

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Excellent, helpful information! I'm hoping to take one soon. We're looking into winter camping and backpacking. Being a total noob, I know we should take one before we do. :)

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  • Premium Member
Aaron Zagrodnick

Great tips - I'll definitely be using the hydration reservoir technique on cold weather trips for the next few months!

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