Surviving the First Week: Winter

What happens when civilization crashes during the cold months of winter? It is much easier to survive during the summer (see Surviving the First Week: Summer), but things don’t always go according to plan.

Let’s say you just didn’t expect civilization to not be there anymore for you and are caught unprepared. Hopefully this guide will help you to survive the first difficult week.

  • First: Stay away from cities! Flee! Run away! Cities are a deathtrap. Help will not be waiting for you there. Run to the woods. Stay away from former civilization.
  • Second: Warmth. It is winter and you need it. Do not let your clothing get wet! With luck you will not be wearing cotton. Yes, it is durable, but it sucks up water like a sponge. Hypothermia is much more likely when you are wet. Fire is something you need. With luck you have experience making a fire without the use of lighter fluid or starter logs. Same as in summer, if you have a spark you can make a fire. Look around for dry wood. If you snap a twig and the inside is dry, it will burn. Look underneath vegetation. You are more likely to find dry wood in those areas. If all else fails, use pine needles. If you are in a forest, there will be pine trees around. It may smoke a lot, but it will burn and will be a good fire starter. If there is snow on the ground, dig into it to make a hole for the fire. It is better to build a fire on solid ground. The “tepee” method is probably the best method of keeping a fire going. Once you actually have a fire going, stack wet wood around it. The wet wood will dry out due to the fire and you can use it later. It will be difficult to start the fire. It will be even more difficult to keep it going. Luckily all your efforts will help keep you warm!
  • Third: Water. If snow is on the ground, you are lucky! You have a water source right there. If not, follow your nose. You’d be surprised, but water has a very distinct smell. Especially running mountain stream water. Perhaps you have a cold and your nose is not working as well as it should. Watch the winter birds. They need water too! Of course make sure that you make your water drinkable. (See Water in the Wilderness)
  • Fourth: Shelter. In the winter you need insulation. If you’ve ever seen it done, or have done it yourself, a debris shelter is surprisingly easy to build. Nature Skills has a great article on making a debris shelter. There are some things that are important to remember when it comes to sleeping in a debris shelter. You have created a shelter that will keep you warm. Other animals may appreciate your efforts too. Don’t be surprised if a furry creature decides to curl up in your shelter before you get a chance. Don’t worry, typically it is easy to scare away small furry creatures.  Sleep naked.  It is easier to insulate if you only have to heat up the area between your body and the shelter.  If you have to heat up the area between your body and your clothes, it becomes more difficult for your body to heat up the space around you.  Get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of night.  Jog in place before re-entering your shelter.  Remember that this shelter is temporary and will only last a few days, if that.  If you are feeling creative, you can always try snow shelters.
  • Fifth:  Food.  It is much more difficult in the winter time to find foods to eat.  Pine needles are a good standby.  The inner bark of some trees (pine, maple) will keep you going.  Don’t forget about pine nuts! The roots of some plants, most notably strawberry root, will keep you healthy.  Horray for vitamin C!

With these things combined, you should be able to survive your first week in the wild during winter.  Check back soon for Surviving the First Week: Spring and Fall, and Surviving the First Month: Summer

– Miranda Vivian



  1. Lindsay said,

    July 24, 2007 at 3:36 am

    So, do you guys have any new thoughts on how soon this may all happen? I’m hearing before 2009.

  2. Aftermath said,

    July 25, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    Its happening now. The real question is how long until we reach the tipping point. How long until going to work becomes a thing of the past. How long until the food riots. How long until whats happening becomes undeniable to even the most stubborn. And then, how long will it take. How long will the riots last. How long will the warring would-be Princes of Earth fight. How long until the situation re-stabilizes.

    The tipping point shouldn’t be far off now. Almost certainly within the next ten years. Perhaps as long as twenty. I’m thinking that 2009 is a little soon, but I’d be surprised if I’m still posting by 2020. My estimate as remained unchanged for two years: 2012 to 2015.

    As far as how long it will take, I’m expecting my great-grandchildren to finish the job in their old age. And best part of this last estimate is I’ll never have to know if I’m overly optimistic.

    -Benjamin Shender

  3. JimFive said,

    July 27, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    I think that in this, and in the summer article, you are seriously understating the difficulty of getting enough calories to survive. You can go months with nutritional deficiencies before having any (major) ill-effects, but if you start starving due to lack of calories it becomes much harder to make it back. While pine nuts may be worthwhile in those areas where the Pinon pine exist, the pine seeds in the midwest are much, much smaller. The only reasonable way to get the necessary calories is going to be hunting, trapping and fishing and you are really going to want to start as soon as possible.


  4. Aftermath said,

    July 27, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    Be that as it may, I’m talking about surviving the first week in this post. Not the first few months. What is listed here will allow you to survive that period of time. Granted, it wont keep you alive for months at a time, but it will keep you alive in the beginning. It is likely that those reading this will not know how to hunt, fish, or trap, especially if they are one of the people I am directing this post to: the people that are not prepared at all. If you would like to see how I have expanded upon this, including talking about hunting, fishing, trapping, and the like, visit back. “Check back soon for Surviving the First Week: Spring and Fall, and Surviving the First Month: Summer” Following those will be surviving the First Month: Winter, Surviving the First Two Months, Surviving the First Six Months, Surviving the First Year….and possibly more than that.

    – Miranda Vivian

  5. Lindsay said,

    August 7, 2007 at 2:57 am

    I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m being rude, because that is not my intention at all… I’m just fascinated by your site and really respect what you guys have to say. I talk to tons of people about this, on and offline, and love to see what everyone is saying. My question is: WHAT, in your opinion, is happening now? I see plenty happening that I think may lead to the crash – global warming, economic instability, war, new world order (and the NAU), and on and on… I’m just wondering if you’re thinking of the same things, or others.
    Also, when you think of 2012-2015, are you considering Mayan and Hopi etc. predictions for 2012, or are your thoughts completely unrelated to those predictions?

  6. Aftermath said,

    August 9, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    Now? We’re collapsing. It just takes time for the effects to take their toll. Some of the signs are obvious to most of the people looking. For instance, the investment in fertilizer by the agricultural industry has reduced. And, of course, the old favorites seem to keep getting worse: climate change, peak oil, water shortages, economic collapse, overpopulation. Some of the signs are less obvious, for instance, the very fact that not rebuilding New Orleans was seriously suggested indicates we’re reaching a point where we are no longer willing to invest in our civilization any more. As to the 2012 Mayan deal, I consider it an interesting coincidence, but not a serious indicator of things to come. My estimate comes from the 2005-2007 estimate of peak oil, the 2012 estimate of serious water shortages, and other factors. Many of the most damaging aspects of water shortages, peak oil, climate change, etc are all predicted to occur at around 2012 to 2015. So, I estimate the collapse will reach a tipping point between 2012 and 2015. Basically the prediction is based on the idea that if you throw enough baseballs at a guy, eventually you’ll hit him in the crotch.

    -Benjamin Shender

  7. Lindsay said,

    August 14, 2007 at 1:35 am

    Thanks. I concur, but I wanted to hear your thoughts on the matter. I’ve been watching and noticing most of what you mentioned, but I missed the fertilizer one. I agree that we are in the process of collapse right now.

  8. Aftermath said,

    August 20, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    No problem. We’re all here to share ideas and to discuss them. I just wish there was more discussion than we have.

    -Benjamin Shender

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