If you have to travel or enact a self rescue in a winter survival situation you will face many obstacles.
Your location and the time of the year will determine the types of obstacles and the inherent dangers.
· Avoid traveling during a blizzard.
· Take care when crossing thin ice. Distribute your weight by lying flat and crawling.
· Cross streams when the water level is lowest. Normal freezing and thawing action may cause a stream level to vary as much as 2 to 2.5 meters per day. This variance may occur any time during the day, depending on the distance from a glacier, the temperature, and the terrain. Consider this variation in water level when selecting a campsite near a stream.
· Consider the clear arctic air. It makes estimating distance difficult. You more frequently underestimate than overestimate distances.
· Do not travel in “whiteout” conditions. The lack of contrasting colors makes it impossible to judge the nature of the terrain.
· Always cross a snow bridge at right angles to the obstacle it crosses. Find the strongest part of the bridge by poking ahead of you with a pole or ice axe. Distribute your weight by crawling or by wearing snowshoes or skis.
· Make camp early so that you have plenty of time to build a shelter.
· Consider frozen or unfrozen rivers as avenues of travel. However, some rivers that appear frozen may have soft, open areas that make travel very difficult or may not allow walking, skiing, or sledding.
· Use snowshoes if you are traveling over snow-covered terrain. Snow 30 or more centimeters deep makes traveling difficult. If you do not have snowshoes, make a pair using willow, strips of cloth, leather, or other suitable material.
It is almost impossible to travel in deep snow without snowshoes or skis.
Traveling by foot leaves a wellmarked trail for any pursuers to follow.
If you must travel in deep snow, avoid snow-covered streams.
The snow, which acts as an insulator, may have prevented ice from forming over the water.
In hilly terrain, avoid areas where avalanches appear possible.
Travel in the early morning in areas where there is danger of avalanches.
On ridges, snow gathers on the lee side in overhanging piles called cornices.
These often extend far out from the ridge and may break loose if stepped on.
Here’s some basic shelter you can build rather quickly and efficiently.
Snow Cave Shelter
The snow cave shelter is a most effective shelter because of the insulating qualities of snow.
Remember that it takes time and energy to build and that you will get wet while building it.
First, you need to find a drift about 3 meters deep into which you can dig.
While building this shelter, keep the roof arched for strength and to allow melted snow to drain down the sides.
Build the sleeping platform higher than the entrance.
Separate the sleeping platform from the snow cave’s walls or dig a small trench between the platform and the wall.
This platform will prevent the melting snow from wetting you and your equipment.
This construction is especially important if you have a good source of heat in the snow cave.
Ensure the roof is high enough so that you can sit up on the sleeping platform.
Block the entrance with a snow block or other material and use the lower entrance area for cooking.
The walls and ceiling should be at least 30 centimeters thick. Install a ventilation shaft.
If you do not have a drift large enough to build a snow cave, you can make a variation of it by piling snow into a mound large enough to dig out.
Snow Trench Shelter
The idea behind this shelter is to get you below the snow and wind level and use the snow’s insulating qualities.
If you are in an area of compacted snow, cut snow blocks and use them as overhead cover.
If not, you can use a poncho or other material. Build only one entrance and use a snow block or rucksack as a door.
Snow Block and Parachute/Tarp Shelter
Use snow blocks for the sides and parachute (or a large tarp) material for overhead cover.
If snowfall is heavy, you will have to clear snow from the top at regular intervals to prevent the collapse of the material.
In a winter survival situation shelter from the elements is essential.
Without it you will not last long (usually just a couple of hours once night falls).
Here’s the basic knowledge you need if you are going to survive out in the cold.
Your environment and the equipment you have with you will determine the type of shelter you can build.
You can build shelters in wooded areas, open country, and barren areas. Wooded areas usually provide the best location, while barren areas have only snow as building material.
Wooded areas provide timber for shelter construction, wood for fire, and protection from the wind.
Note: In extreme cold, do not use metal, such as an aircraft fuselage, for shelter as the metal will conduct away from the shelter what little heat you can generate.
Shelters made from ice or snow usually require tools such as ice axes or saws.
You must also expend much time and energy to build such a shelter.
Be sure to ventilate an enclosed shelter, especially if you intend to build a fire in it.
Always block a shelter’s entrance, if possible, to keep the heat in and the wind out.
Use a rucksack or snow block. to do this.
Construct a shelter no larger than needed.
This will reduce the amount of space to heat.
A fatal error in cold weather shelter construction is making the shelter so large that it steals body heat rather than saving it.
Keep shelter space small.
Never sleep directly on the ground.
Lay down some pine boughs, grass, or other insulating material to keep the ground from absorbing your body heat.
Never fall asleep without turning out your stove or lamp.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can result from a fire burning in an unventilated shelter.
Carbon monoxide is a great danger as it is colorless and odorless.
Any time you have an open flame, it may generate carbon monoxide.
Always check your ventilation.
Even in a ventilated shelter, incomplete combustion can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Usually, there are no symptoms.
Unconsciousness and death can occur without warning.
Sometimes, however, pressure at the temples, burning of the eyes, headache, pounding pulse, drowsiness, or nausea may
The one characteristic, visible sign of carbon monoxide poisoning is a cherry red coloring in the tissues of the lips, mouth, and inside of the eyelids.
Get into fresh air at once if you have any of these symptoms.
Over the next few days I’m going to show you some various types of field-expedient shelter you can build quickly and effeciently in a winter survival situation.
If you are in a survival situation then there is a high probability that you are going to be consuming some of the local flora in order to sustain yourself.
But you can’t go running through the wilderness Willy Nilly munching on whatever plant takes your fancy!
One bite of the wrong plant and you could be dead in minutes!!
That why it is vital you not only know how to identify poisonous plants but you also understand how they poison, what to do if you get poisoned and how to deal with poisonous plants in general.
Successful use of plants in a survival situation depends on positive identification.
Knowing poisonous plants is as important to a survivor as knowing edible plants.
Knowing the poisonous plants will help you avoid sustaining injuries from them.
How Plants Poison
Plants generally poison by–
· Ingestion. When a person eats a part of a poisonous plant.
· Contact. When a person makes contact with a poisonous plant that causes any type of skin irritation or dermatitis.
· Absorption or inhalation. When a person either absorbs the poison through the skin or inhales it into the respiratory system.
Plant poisoning ranges from minor irritation to death.
A common question asked is, “How poisonous is this plant?”
It is difficult to say how poisonous plants are because–
· Some plants require contact with a large amount of the plant before noticing any adverse reaction while others will cause death with only a small amount.
· Every plant will vary in the amount of toxins it contains due to different growing conditions and slight variations in subspecies.
· Every person has a different level of resistance to toxic substances.
· Some persons may be more sensitive to a particular plant.
Some common misconceptions about poisonous plants are–
· Watch the animals and eat what they eat. Most of the time this statement is true, but some animals can eat plants that are poisonous to humans.
· Boil the plant in water and any poisons will be removed. Boiling removes many poisons, but not all.
· Plants with a red color are poisonous. Some plants that are red are poisonous, but not all.
The point is there is no one rule to aid in identifying poisonous plants. You must make an effort to learn
as much about them as possible.
Learn About Plants If You Want To Survive
It is to your benefit to learn as much about plants as possible.
Many poisonous plants look like their edible relatives or like other edible plants.
For example, poison hemlock appears very similar to wild carrot.
Certain plants are safe to eat in certain seasons or stages of growth and poisonous in other stages.
For example, the leaves of the pokeweed are edible when it first starts to grow, but it soon becomes poisonous.
You can eat some plants and their fruits only when they are ripe.
For example, the ripe fruit of mayapple is edible, but all other parts and the green fruit are poisonous.
Some plants contain both edible and poisonous parts; potatoes and tomatoes are common plant foods, but their green parts are poisonous.
Some plants become toxic after wilting.
For example, when the black cherry starts to wilt, hydrocyanic acid develops.
Specific preparation methods make some plants edible that are poisonous raw.
You can eat the thinly sliced and thoroughly dried corms (drying may take a year) of the jack-in-the-pulpit, but they are poisonous if not thoroughly dried.
Learn to identify and use plants before a survival situation.
Some sources of information about plants are pamphlets, books, films, nature trails, botanical gardens, local markets, and local natives.
Gather and cross-reference information from as many sources as possible, because many sources will not contain all the information needed.
Rules For Avoiding Poisonous Plants
Your best policy is to be able to look at a plant and identify it with absolute certainty and to know its uses or dangers.
Many times this is not possible.
If you have little or no knowledge of the local vegetation, use the rules to select plants for the “Universal Edibility Test.”
Remember, avoid –
· All mushrooms. Mushroom identification is very difficult and must be precise, even more so than with other plants. Some mushrooms cause death very quickly.
Some mushrooms have no known antidote. Two general types of mushroom poisoning are gastrointestinal and central nervous system.
· Contact with or touching plants unnecessarily.
Contact dermatitis from plants will usually cause the most trouble in the field. The effects may be persistent, spread by scratching, and are particularly dangerous if there is contact in or around the eyes.
The principal toxin of these plants is usually an oil that gets on the skin upon contact with the plant.
The oil can also get on equipment and then infect whoever touches the equipment.
Never bum a contact poisonous plant because the smoke may be as harmful as the plant.
There is a greater danger of being affected when overheated and sweating.
The infection may be local or it may spread over the body.
Symptoms may take from a few hours to several days to appear.
Signs and symptoms can include burning, reddening, itching, swelling, and blisters.
When you first contact the poisonous plants or the first symptoms appear, try to remove the oil by washing with soap and cold water.
If water is not available, wipe your skin repeatedly with dirt or sand.
Do not use dirt if blisters have developed.
The dirt may break open the blisters and leave the body open to infection.
After you have removed the oil, dry the area.
You can wash with a tannic acid solution and crush and rub jewelweed on the affected area to treat plant-caused rashes.
You can make tannic acid from oak bark.
Poisonous plants that cause contact dermatitis are–
· Poison ivy.
· Poison oak.
· Poison sumac.
· Rengas tree.
· Trumpet vine.
Ingestion poisoning can be very serious and could lead to death very quickly.
Do not eat any plant unless you have positively identified it first. Keep a log of all plants eaten.
Signs and symptoms of ingestion poisoning can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, depressed heartbeat and respiration, headaches, hallucinations, dry mouth, unconsciousness, coma, and death.
If you suspect plant poisoning, try to remove the poisonous material from the victim’s mouth and stomach as soon as possible. Induce vomiting by tickling the back of his throat or by giving him warm saltwater, if
he is conscious.
Dilute the poison by administering large quantities of water or milk, if the person is conscious.
The following plants can cause ingestion poisoning if eaten:
· Castor bean.
· Death camas.
· Physic nut.
· Poison and water hemlocks.
· Rosary pea.
· Strychnine tree.
If your caught out in the wilderness and have limited or no food with you then it is very useful to know what plants you can and can’t eat.
Tasting or swallowing even a small portion of some can cause severe discomfort, extreme internal disorders, and even death.
Therefore, if you have the slightest doubt about a plant’s edibility, apply the Universal Edibility Test below before eating any portion of
Before testing a plant for edibility, make sure there are enough plants to make the testing worth your time
and effort. Each part of a plant (roots, leaves, flowers, and so on) requires more than 24 hours to test.
Do not waste time testing a plant that is not relatively abundant in the area.
Remember, eating large portions of plant food on an empty stomach may cause diarrhea, nausea, or
Two good examples of this are such familiar foods as green apples and wild onions.
Even after testing plant food and finding it safe, eat it in moderation.
You can see from the steps and time involved in testing for edibility just how important it is to be able to
identify edible plants.
To avoid potentially poisonous plants, stay away from any wild or unknown plants that have:
· Milky or discolored sap.
· Beans, bulbs, or seeds inside pods.
· Bitter or soapy taste.
· Spines, fine hairs, or thorns.
· Dill, carrot, parsnip, or parsleylike foliage.
· “Almond” scent in woody parts and leaves.
· Grain heads with pink, purplish, or black spurs.
· Three-leaved growth pattern.
Using the above criteria as eliminators when choosing plants for the Universal Edibility Test will cause you to avoid some edible plants.
More important, these criteria will often help you avoid plants that are potentially toxic to eat or touch.