Cold Weather Survival: Fire and Shelter

Fire

There is a big difference between reading about fire starting and having the skills needed to start a fire. It is especially important to practice building a fire in adverse weather. Spend a night out in the cold wilderness and you will quickly learn to appreciate the benefits of a fire.

Fire gives us the option to cook a meal, purify water, clean our utensils, add warmth to our shelter, and dry our clothes. Fire also gives us a psychological edge, there is just something uplifting about the dancing flames. Fire helps improve our morality and give us a sense of control.

Some wood burns easier than others. For example, pine trees that contain resin and tar create more and darker smoke than deciduous trees but they are also fairly easy to light. So pine would be the choice to get a fire started but then switching to hardwoods later can help with less smoke, longer slower burns. Don't overlook man-made objects as fuel for your fire such as plastics. But avoid breathing the smoke. For heating purposes, a single candle or a small fire the size of your hand provides enough to heat to keep you warm if you have built an enclosed shelter.

Know the difference between tinder and kindling, check out our article to learn more. Unless you're committed to executing a bow drill 100% of the time, carry some sort of back up fire starter, whether its from a Survival Fishing Kit, a Paracord Bracelet, or your homemade fire starting kit. Above all, practice using it in a controlled environment. 

Snow Shelters

Building a shelter is an important skill in surviving a cold weather event. Shelter material should be made of insulator not conductors such as metal. Be sure your shelter has some ventilation especially if you intend to build a fire in it. The shelter should be no larger than needed so that it is easier to heat. In a survival situation smaller is better when it comes to building a temporary shelter. Never sleep directly on the ground or put clothing, sleeping bag or other equipment on the ground. Lay down a bed of leaves, grass, or other insulating material to keep the ground from absorbing your body heat.

The snow cave shelter is a effective shelter because snow is a good insulator and wind screener. To build, you will need a snow drift of at lest 9 feet high. Keep the roof arched for strength and to allow melted snow to drain down the sides. Build the sleeping platform higher than the doorway. Keep away from the cave's walls or better yet dig a very small trench between you and the wall to keep yourself dry while inside should any runoff occur.

Snow Trench

Snow trench is the most basic of snow shelters. You simply dig a big hole of prefered size and depth in the snow and then cover it with something. The trench can be covered for example with snow blocks or some fabric. Skis, ski stick and sleds are useful to give the cover a structure. A tent that has broken in a storm can still be used to cover a snow trench keeping you protected from the storm. The length of the structures supporting the roof somewhat limit the size of the trench.

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