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