Category: Outdoor Survial


_MG_0102aFirst things first when you are out in the woods during the winter…that is the ability to stay warm. When we (VaCreepinOutdoors and I) went out I knew it would get cold and I did my best to think ahead.
Hypothermia during cold weather is probably more common than we realize… and CLOTHING is your first line of defense along with a little knowledge of how heat loss occurs.

I should know, went out hunting one early firearms season weekend, it was still about 40ish degrees and I am a warm person to begin with. Typically I get hot. It was overcast, chance of rain only about 20% and I dressed according to the weather forecast…just 3 layers, didn’t take anything for rain, no jacket, no coat, no hat, no gloves (blaze orange vest required!)…figured I would be good to go.

Yeah, sure…about ½ hour after settling in for the duration it started to drizzle, then rain…and don’t you know the temperature dropped too? Let me tell you something, I am a pitbull and won’t give up, but after getting pretty damp (not soaking) and handling the cold steel of the shotgun I use for hunting, with water dripping off the end of my nose…I started to feel the creepin’ cold setting in. About hour and a half of that (still raining off and on) I was down right cold and shivering. Still I sat there. DH was further down and finally called it a day (he was warm and dry btw having been ready for it if it came)…thank goodness…I didn’t realize until I stood up and started moving just how far down the road of hypothermia I had traveled, shaking like a leaf, a bit disoriented (in my own backyard!!!) and freezing cold to the bone. And did I mention my toes were numb? My clothing was only damp mind you, but my hands were frozen and fingers hard to move too, hair was wet and well…lesson learned. I actually went out the following day and bought a blaze orange water resistant, blaze orange hoodie…definitely warm and it is now my go to when I go out in the woods.
Soo…with that said…

#1 is clothing…dress for the weather and overkill is not a bad idea…you can always take things off but you can’t add enough if you get cold. Layers, water resistant, nylon, wool…and take extra with you just in case, especially socks. I also have a couple of different gloves I take with me, one pair is rather thin and another set is thicker. In this category I will include having the right socks and shoes. As VaCreepinOutdoors has pounded into my head lately, your feet is where most heat loss occurs. The thing about the head is a myth. Frankly I only wear a headband that goes over my ears and am just fine with that. And the ground is a heat sucker especially when damp or wet and its cold outside. Guess what touches the ground? Yep, your feet. I will say that cotton socks are a no go, wool socks, nylon are best. Cotton for the most part in the winter is a no go as it retains sweat which means heat loss.

Also, be mindful of your shoes. Unfortunately during this camping trip I chose to use my light weight hunting boots instead of my heavier ones, which turned out to be not so smart by the middle of the evening…toes were frozen after kneeling on the ground trying to get a fire going. Knees got damp and that was okay, I had some thermals on. But my right foot was resting on the ground (sole side up) so that the thinnest area on the boot was flat on the ground. Bingo…heat loss. And it was funny, but after those toes got cold the rest of my body started getting cold too. I wound up throwing on my heavy hunting coat on top of my hoodie, long sleeve shirt and jogging shirt that I like to wear when out and about (nothing like a bra to make life miserable!). And I will tell you something else…cold feet in cold boots next to a fire doesn’t work!!! I had thought to bring along some of those air activated hand warmers and wound up using those in toes of my boots, but those things took FOREVER to warm up, think it was about an hour or so before my toes unfroze. But more on those things later…

Got a bit of relief after taking my boots of for a short bit (long enough to stick the hand warmers into the toes of my boots) but put those babies back on…may have been better off leaving the boots off and putting my feet up close to the fire until the warmers were up and working.

I had my gloves with me but wound up still having to stick hands over the fire to warm the fingers up when I had to take them off to hook up sleeping bags…cold fingers and toes do not make for an easy evening of trying to get things done…walking is hard and dexterity goes out the door…

I wasn’t miserable camping in the cold but the experience taught me a few things about footwear and clothing…I had the socks right, but not the boots and definitely learned about heat loss due to the ground. Even slightly damp socks will suck the heat right out of you. Won’t be repeating those two mistakes again for sure. Waterproof, snow/winter boots, more than one pair of extra socks and making sure that I have a set of toe warmers open and ready to go if I even THINK that my feet are going to get cold. Also, I need to figure out some way of putting a barrier between me and the ground that easy and light weight to kneel on…VaCreepinOutdoors keeps some sort of oilskin cloth on him for that and think I have solved that problem.

Clothing wasn’t a real issue having been there done that one before, but I did try out a ‘new’ type of thermal leggings and I will tell you what, I think they would be good for spring or summer, but will be going with Columbia’s Omni-Heat or the old fashion type in the future. My legs weren’t cold, but they weren’t warm either.

At this point I will go over signs of hypothermia just so you can be aware…its not fun nor pleasant as I can attest to personally.

Signs of Hypothermia:

Hypothermia is most often caused by exposure to cold weather or immersion in a cold body of water. Primary treatments for hypothermia are methods to warm the body back to a normal temperature.
Shivering is your body’s automatic defense against cold temperature — an attempt to warm itself. Constant shivering is a key sign of hypothermia. Signs and symptoms of moderate to severe hypothermia include:
• Shivering
• Clumsiness or lack of coordination
• Slurred speech or mumbling
• Stumbling
• Confusion or difficulty thinking
• Poor decision making, such as trying to remove warm clothes
• Drowsiness or very low energy
• Apathy or lack of concern about one’s condition
• Progressive loss of consciousness
• Weak pulse
• Slow, shallow breathing

More on hypothermia here.

So, essentially clothing and the right TYPE of clothing for the weather is your best friend when going out in the woods. I did bring extra clothing just in case (that’s the nice thing about planned camping) but no true rain gear such as Frog Togs…an oversight on my part that luckily didn’t cause me any problems. So, lessons learned, mistakes not to be repeated (hopefully). Hope you get something useful out of this!

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wintercar2Yes, I am being a little industrious today…but when the mood hits, you ride with it…

Have to travel during a ‘wintry’ event in your car. So now what?
I have put together a quick list of what to have in your car to survive the unexpected. No one likes to think about being stuck in traffic grid lock, or having to shelter in place or forbid, having an accident in which help may not arrive any time soon. (Been there done that one, too bad I didn’t hit the deer!) But by having a few things available to you, you can be somewhat comfortable and warm…just in case your car becomes your home away from home for awhile during the winter:
PS…I would recommend keeping it somewhat in reach within the confines of the car, so you don’t have to get out to get it.

Winter survival kit for the car:
In the bag (not optional):
Extra gloves and a beanie hat
2 extra pairs of socks
At least one warm blanket
Emergency Mylar blankets (several)
External way of recharging cell phone
Water (at least 1 quart, metal bottle preferred, plastic can break)
Hand and foot warmers
Protein Bars or Other type of no need to cook food (jerky, dried fruit)
Flashlight (handcrank type)
Flares (you can buy the type that uses batteries)
Decent first aid kit (not the little one)
Good knife
Duct tape
Folding shovel
Waterproof Matches
Ice Scraper

Optional Items but Great to Have:

Snow Boots
Extra Clothing
Kitty Litter/Rock Salt
Small Wood Camping Stove (yes, a bit overboard but you never know) great way to melt snow for water.
Small handcrank radio
PMates (look them up)
A couple empty plastic water jugs

Additionally, you should always have your cell phone with you and keep in touch with family, and while I get GPS is a tracking device (which I don’t like) I would make sure its turned on just in case…they can track you via your gps coordinates of your cell phone.
Sprint has a great service called Family Locator and is cheap and easy to use…just requires that the cell phone be on.

Keep in mind that if you are traveling with children you will need MORE of the above items and it would be a great idea to pack in the car bag a few things for them to do to stay busy if you have to be in the car for an extended period of time.
EMT’s are trained to look on cell phones for ICE numbers. In Case of Emergency…get at least one listed on yours.

While I understand that many people have to wear work appropriate clothing, if you know a winter event is coming or could potentially happen, do yourself a favor and change clothes before leaving work to head home.

Make sure you have a full tank of gas before heading out or coming home.

Remember, you can run your car for 10 minutes at a time to warm up (once an hour) if you are stuck. The kicker here is that you really NEED to MAKE SURE YOUR TAIL PIPE IS NOT BLOCKED by snow or ice. If it is covered up or iced over guess what? Carbon Monoxide WILL get into the car and that is a potential life threatening situation.

IF you have to get out of your car, be extremely mindful of what is going on around you. Cars or trucks whizzing by can hit you, sliding of cars…you get the idea. Be AWARE.

Stay or leave the car? This is situational and you may have to make that choice if you are unable to move the car for whatever reason. On that note, years ago I swerved to miss a deer in the middle of the night on a very icy and snow packed road out in the middle of nowhere. I went to the right and guess what? A nice big drainage gully was there. I managed to get the car pointed down so I didn’t roll, but had to leave the car knowing that A) no one knew exactly where I was (cell phones at that time really stunk) and wouldn’t miss me until probably about 8 hours had passed. B) The car was so far down this gully that no one would see it C) it was 2 am in the morning on a Sunday so chances were no one would be driving anytime soon.
And would you believe that I was in area with homes scattered here and there and after knocking on a few doors (pounding actually) and no answer, I gave up and started walking back towards civilization. It was freezing cold and although I had appropriate cold weather gear on (including warm boots) as I walked towards a telephone I got colder and colder. There were a few other things that I found interesting too…a) although I was walking on a major roadway, not one person who passed me stopped to see if I was okay b) walking in the cold becomes a really hard job after about an hour (it took me 3 ½ hours to make it to a working telephone).
So that is my story on that…but the decision to stay or leave can become a life saving or life endangering one and is something to think about before hand.

If you DO happen to make the decision to leave your car…leave a note with your name, number, emergency contact and your hopeful destination…leave your car unlocked too. No sense in making anyone’s job harder and if you have to turn around back to the car for some reason and your hands are really cold, it will make it easier to get back into.

Just my thoughts on being prepared for a winters ride.

wintercar

_MG_0086aNothing like experience gets you ready, tests you and your theories, equipment and yourself and your own skills, attitude, body…and there are always surprises, even for the pros (eh hmm…vacreepinoutdoors I am talking to you lol!) Be it in the home or out in the woods camping overnight, there are always lessons to be learned, new ways of doing things and refinement that takes place while you are ‘practicing’ and putting your skills, knowledge and gear to the test.

Vacreepinoutdoors and I went out this weekend camping…mostly because he likes to camp and pit himself against the elements and hone his own woodlands skills (and test out some new gear) but me, the newbie babe in the woods…for me this was a test to see if even during the good times I could function out there in the woods…Obviously I survived, but I also learned a lot of which I will be sharing with you this week in different blogs addressing different issues.

I knew enough not to be arrogant about the situation and quite honestly was a bit scared (gulp) simply because I have never camped in the winter with minimal gear as we did this weekend. But I trust dear heart so off I went into the wild….so my friends, if you haven’t done something before, besure to go with someone you can trust your life with who know knows more than you…and being out in conditions that you aren’t used to, you better trust your partner.

They say practice makes perfect, but I would beg to differ as nothing is ever perfect when it comes to being prepared. Technology fails, or the old school way just won’t fly right for you. Just when you think you know what you are doing in practice or theory, something akin to Murphy’s Law will come knocking on the door. And believe me, it will. Testing your gear and knowledge before you really need it is great and can be a lot of fun. But it will also show you where your strengths and weaknesses are on a lot of levels. Unfortunately, practicing a particular situation doesn’t necessarily give you a replication of what it would be like if the chips were down and it really counted. It is PRACTICE. Its NOT the real game. And even in a somewhat controlled situation as this weekend was (ie we could go home), things happen and they did…things went right and new ideas worked out.

More to come! Stay tuned! Be sure to checkout Vacreepinoutdoors new youtube videos too…he’s who I hang with and learn from and so can you.