A broken down vehicle, a long hike with the proverbial “left turn at Albuquerque”, an unexpected blizzard, an avalanche, or a hundred other possible scenarios could leave the homesteader with an inherent need to spend the night or even days or weeks outdoors in very cold and inhospitable weather conditions.
It is imperative to take preventative measures any time that you may be forced to go out during the winter months, and learning the lessons contained herein very well may be just what you need to literally save your life.
This opportunity will not be taken to harp on the recent changes within what used to be the Boy Scouts of America, even if such derogatory observations may well be merited … at least according to some people. However, their Motto … “Be Prepared” should ring true, most notably for the homesteader or the people who do live a bit further away from “civilized society”.
Any vehicle used to travel during cold weather should always contain a limited number of supplies. Heavy blankets or preferably quilts should always be a feature in the vehicle. Bottled water should be included, but the bottles should not be filled full to the rim, lest they burst when they freeze.
Energy bars or other high protein snack foods should also be part of this vehicle emergency kit. Road flares are also a good idea, not only for preventing accidents in heavily trafficked areas, but for getting the attention of passers by in more isolated areas.
Winter clothes and even sleeping bags and other items that will be carried during the winter months must be adequately maintained and repaired as needed. Improperly repaired clothing or other cold weather gear will not properly insulate the human body and will allow for excessive heat loss that may be deadly.
Given the light nature of most sewing thread and the heavy weave of most cold weather clothing, cross stitch thread has proven exceptionally well-suited for the repair of heavier outdoor winter clothing. Retrieve as much of the batten as possible when these clothes or other cold weather gear is initially ripped, and make sure that the insulation is put back in place before sewing up the clothes, sleeping bag or other materials.
Cold Weather Sleeping
Despite the desire to sleep with the car engine running and the windows rolled up tight, this is a very bad idea unless you want to wake up dead. Running that coleman heater in the back of the pickup truck with all of the windows closed is also a very bad idea and can be fatal as well.
Fortunately, there are alternatives.
If the person is stranded in a vehicle, it should be allowed to run with the heater blowing on full, and the windows slightly open. Before going to sleep, turn the engine off and clothes the windows.
Whether or not there is a vehicle, there are still options for getting warm before sleeping and preventing early morning chills when rising in the morning as well.
Getting out of the range of any wind is imperative.
Wind will sap both the heat and moisture from a human at dangerous rates, often leaving them waking up dead.
Get out of the wind!
If there is no shelter available, a snow cave, a bunch of branches and even dead brush and dirt can be used to build a primitive lean-to, or if tarpaulins or a tent are available, all the better. Just do whatever it takes to get out of the wind.
If blankets and quilts are available, these may be used partially for shelter and partially for sleeping, but it is best to carry both a lightweight tent and a heavy blanket or quilt. Quite a few goodies, including the tent, can be rolled up in a blanket while still allowing it to be tied neatly on to the base of even a small backpack, so this should really be part of the regular kit any time someone heads out into the woods.
Set up the tent or other shelter to block the wind, then, preferably with two blankets, lay one out on the ground and lay the other one about halfway over top of the first, allowing the sleeper to lay down on the partial section of blanket on top of the grounded blanket.
Use the additional portion of the blanket to roll around in the same fashion that a sleeping bag fits. Using the arms to hold the blanket away from the body, breathe heavily and deeply as you would when blowing into your hands to warm them up.
Generally within ten minutes or so, with the occasional break to avoid hyper-ventilating, there should be a noticeable increase in the ambient temperature inside the blanket.
When it is starting to get warm inside the sleeping bag or blanket, remove your clothing.
Yeah, it sounds crazy, but bear in mind that you are also going to wake up alive and will be at risk of severe chilling in the cold morning air otherwise.
Remove the clothes you will be wearing in the morning and ball them up. Do not worry about the wrinkles, just ball them up and hold them in to your belly as you sleep. When you wake up in the morning, the clothes will be warm to the touch, and more important still, break the chill off your bare skin when you put them on in the morning.
If you have been smart, you already have numerous layers of clothing, and if they are all similarly warmed up while you sleep, the chill will be broken before it has the chance to reach your bare skin, keeping you alive and ready to resume your journey towards ultimate survival.
Ladies Nylon Leggings
This is another area that sounds weird, though not as strange as the final tip perhaps, but nylon leggings … stockings if you will, may not be something you want to go shopping for with your fishing buddies, but they may still help to save your life.
The nylon leggings have a unique ability to retain heat and, when worn under clothes next to the skin or even over top of long-johns or other undergarments, these will help to greatly reduce the level of heat loss.
When it comes time to explain this one to your wife, I cannot help you, but I do know from personal experience that this does work very well.
Walking on Ice and Snow
When I first heard this one, I swore the people who told me were just messing with me … and actually, they gave me these instructions to walk over blue clay … a substance so slickery that even the best of four-wheel drive trucks can get easily stuck on the surface, never having to be buried in the mud or clay.
However, when I tried it out, I found much to my surprise, that not only did it work exceedingly well on mud and clay, but also quite well on packed snow and even ice.
(Please note, I have never tried this in high heels for obvious reasons, so I cannot make any assurances that it will work under such circumstances, but I have tested it and proven this theory wearing everything from flip flops to sneakers to my brogans)
When walking on any slick surface, curl your toes down as far as you can, trying almost to tuck them under your foot. Walk flat footed with the toes continually curled as you step and you should be very pleasantly surprised at how great this works for reducing slipping and falling.
All the same, it should also be noted that this can lead to cramping in short order, and it may not be possible to walk long distances in such a manner. However, for making your way across frozen sections of ground, thick with ice, this will work virtually every time.
Your best bet is never to get stranded out in the cold to begin with, but if you do, if you keep these tricks and hints in mind, you should at the very least, be able to live to tell your tale.