First off this is meant as a brief introduction to a part of winter survival that apparently everyone of the TV survival gurus gloss over. Hopefully someone will read something not previously known to them. There is allot more to this but that is for future posts.
I have borrowed the illustrations from the Swedish Armed Forces: Survival manual. An excellent book on Scandinavian climate survival. Sorry about the ungainly size of them. Will try to do that better in the future.Winter bivouac without dying.
To sleep in severe winter without a sleeping bag or tent is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do and live. “The trick is waking up alive.”
as they say.
On that note I will write a bit about setting up your bedding in the field. -Pack the snow of your bivouac by compacting it with your skies.
After 30minutes it should be hard enough to walk on, during that time you will gather fir branches [or an equivalent]. Compacted snow frozen over holds the branches that come later on, way better.-Gather fir branches.
Fir branches is one of the best heat isolating nature material you can find. If you can, strive to get below the tree line and into some vegetation.[In peace time simulations you should strive to break branches at least 10cm from the trunk of the tree, so as not to harm the tree.]-Put fir branches down into the ground in a layered pattern.
The layer of branches should be so thick that you cannot feel the ground beneath you at all. This should be springy, like a mattress. -Finish with loose branches on top in the same direction.
Card board, papers and whatnot are also useful as insulation. [If you feel the ground beneath you, do it again, do it right.]-Warm up before bed!
It is important to warm up before you go to bed. Move
for 5-10minutes. Do not overdo this and start to sweat:“If you sweat, you die.”
/Actual proverb in Greenland.Eat/drink warm
if at all possible before you go to sleep. Eat warm and wake warm.[Answer the call of nature.]-Get your dry socks on!
As with all sleeping in the out of doors the rule is: “Have allot under, little on, and allot on top of yourself.”Always remove the shoes
, I cannot stress this hard enough. In an arctic setting you do not want condensation in your boots. Trust me on this.
Put on your dry socks. -Position, position, position
Always lie on your side in a foetal position
. You loose less heat to the ground if you minimize your contact area, the curled up position allows for increased retention of your core heat.
Put your work gloves or some increased insulation under your hips
. This is the body part that most often leads to loss of body warmth.
Always keep your cap on
to avoid loosing body heat.Put your feet in your bag
if you have one. [remove the steel frame in severe cold]
If you have no pack you should cover your feet in fir branches for insulation.[Put the boots in your bag by your feet or in your armpits to warm them with your body heat. Waking up with frozen boots does not a happy camper make.]Cover yourself
with your snow gear and whatever you have to form a blanket.
A warmer layer of air will form within this covered area so try to remain still
to avoid letting the warm air out.Put the coat over your upper body
and use one of the arms to breathe through, breathing in a sleeping bag or under a cover may cause condensation, ice, freezing and death
. [The air you breathe out contains allot of moisture, something you will become acutely aware of if you should breathe into your gloves for warmth in severe cold. So you will not want it in your sleeping bag or under your cover.]
If you can get a fire going
you can save allot of time and hurting and further increase your chances of waking up alive.
With a fire you could, for instance, warm rocks
so that you can barely touch them. Put these around you outside your clothes. Knees, arm pits and groin are are very good places. Also put rocks in your boots and cover some warm rocks with your wet clothing. The rocks hold heat for 3hrs and will let you sleep for roughly 5hrs.“If you have failed to grasp the contents of the theoretical part of this course, the mountain will kill you.”
- Warning given to soldiers at the arctic winter survival course.
I apologize if this post contains allot of red and warnings, but when you trim it down, pretty much everything that remains is: "Try not to die!"