Winter Survival Basics Module 1: Introduction

Wintertime is a great time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, but it is definitely significantly more challenging than it is in other seasons. There are a variety of reasons for this, but the common theme revolves around climate and weather. In this course, we will discuss the potential hazards that occur in the winter months, how to properly identify and prepare for these hazards, as well as the appropriate skills and gear needed to safely enjoy the winter months!

Why get out in the Winter?

As an avid hiker who focuses on getting to know the trails I frequent, I always enjoy seasonal changes, and it never ceases to amaze me how familiar landscapes and terrain can change so drastically throughout the year.  The winter produces some of the most drastic changes to the environment, as much of the plant life dies away, the animals that you see in the warmer months begin to go dormant or move to warmer climates, and the snow and ice can completely transform an area. There is beauty to these changes, and a level of quiet solitude you can experience that you may not experience when it is warmer outside.

You will find the trails far less traveled in the winter months, even the highly trafficked beginner trails can be devoid of people in the winter. If you are anything like me I enjoy the quietness of the woods without a lot of people around, it really helps me to immerse myself in the experience of being out in nature.

Winter Hazards

There is a good reason why there are fewer people frequenting the trails in the winter, it’s much more difficult. Cold temperatures, snow, ice, and wind present challenges; there are various safety issues to contend with from health-related issues from cold exposure to terrain hazards from snow and ice. In this course we will discuss a few of the most common hazards including, but not limited to:

-Hypothermia

-Frostbite

-Snow and ice on the trail

-Frozen bodies of water

-Vehicle travel hazards

While many of these hazards are easily avoided by not exposing ourselves to the elements, those of us with an adventurous spirit probably do not want to sit inside for a few months waiting for the Spring. With the proper Mindset, Skill Set, and Gear Set navigating these challenges is doable and you can have a lot of fun in the process!

Avoiding Winter Emergencies

The best way to deal with an emergency survival situation is to avoid being in one. The first step to avoiding emergencies is to have the proper mindset. In the winter months, the mindset areas that are most beneficial are

-Situational Awareness

-Proper Planning

While there are other mindset factors that come into play these will be the main focus of this course. Situational awareness will help you identify and avoid potential hazards, and proper planning will prepare you for the hazards you may face. 

In addition to having the proper mindset the appropriate gear is also vital to avoid emergencies. In this course we will focus heavily on:

-Layering and outerwear

-Footwear

-Eye Protection

-Winter survival kits

-What should be in your pack

Handling Emergency Situations

If you find yourself, or someone else in an emergency situation having the appropriate mindset, skills, and equipment on hand will be vital and could mean the difference between life and death. 

From a mindset perspective in winter emergencies, like any emergency situation, remaining calm, cool, and collected is vital. Panicking is a waste of energy and leads to sloppy mistakes that can make an emergency situation even worse.

When it comes to skill set there are always skills that will be beneficial in the outdoors such as the ability to make a fire, basic first aid, and the ability to navigate to safety. Along with those skills, we will also discuss the appropriate gear that goes along with those skills. The winter presents some specialized challenges in this area that we will discuss in this course including:

-How to treat hypothermia

-How to treat frostbite

-What to do if you or someone else fall into a body of water

-How to build a fire in wet conditions

-How to retain warmth over long periods of time

-What to do if you are stuck in your vehicle

Get Ready to Learn

There is a lot to Winter Survival, but equipped with the appropriate mindset, skill set, and gear set you will be ready to get out there and enjoy one the best times of the year! This program will be ever-growing and evolving so check back frequently for new modules and additional resources that will be available for our students. 

I highly recommend grabbing a notebook and a pen and taking some notes as you go along. Reading and watching videos is a great way to be introduced to new information, but writing and taking notes have proven time and again to help our brains memorize information.

Completing these modules won’t make you an expert or even proficient in the skills and topics we will discuss, but they serve to give you some direction. Practice and experience will be your best learning tools. We encourage each of our students to take what they learn here and practice, but we also implore you to do so safely. If you are a beginner, practice these skills at home or in your backyard. If you don’t have the space at home try it in the local woodland. 

Always be respectful of others and respect local laws as many state and municipal parks have rules and regulations relating to fire, harvesting materials, and other actions that will somehow alter the ecosystem. Do not destroy or damage public property or do needless damage to our local ecosystems. Always clean up after yourself and if you take something into the woods, make sure you take it out!