SOME SNOWCAMPING AND SURVIVAL TECHNIQUES

The winter survival techniques described here require the items on the daypack list.


Make a snow shelter

Find a flat sheltered spot for your shelter. Don't go too close to trees or big rocks since blowing snow tends to accumulate around them. 
Dig a hole in the snow, about a foot longer than your body and about 3 feet wide, use the snow from the dig to build walls around the hole. Try to get one of the short sides downwind.
Keep digging until the hole is 3 ft from floor to upper edge. Keep in mind that the smaller your shelter is the warmer it will be.
Leave a 1.5x1.5 ft opening in the downwind upper short edge with a connecting corridor as in the picture, this will be your door.
If you plan to use a stove in the shelter you must also make a vent opening in the side opposite to the door. This opening should be about 6x6 inches.
If possible, try to make a block of hard snow 1.5x1.5x0.5 ft to use as a door block, place this block inside the hole when you're done.
  

Cover half of the floor on the opposite side of the opening with soft branches to provide extra insulation from the cold snow beneath. This will be your sleeping area, you will later cover the branches with your sleeping pad. If you don't have a sleeping pad with you, make a thicker layer of branches. If it is snowing while you are building your shelter, you can do this step later, after the roof has been put up so you won't get snow on your branches.
  


  

Place a number of tree branches over the hole as in the picture. Keep in mind that these branches may have to carry some heavy snow loads. You can use skis and ski poles for this purpose as well but keep in mind that you won't be able to use them again without ruining the shelter.
  


   

Cover the hole with your tarp. Attach edges and corners as well as possible with stakes made from tree branches or string to a nearby tree. Don't rely on weights such as rocks or big chunks of wood, they will start sliding. You want to make sure that there's no way that the tarp will start sagging or slip down through the openings in the ceiling.
Cover the tarp with a layer of snow for insulation. If there is powder snow available try to get a coverage of at least 3 inches. If there is no powder use wet snow or hard snow to make blocks 1.5" thick to form a sheet on top of the tarp, try to rest the blocks on the support poles and not on the tarp. If it is snowing heavily you can let nature take care of this step. 
    

Move in to the shelter. Put your sleeping pad on the branches and sleep with your head away from the door. You can block the door opening to keep warm but you must have at least two small air vents on opposite sides of the shelter to ensure an adequate air supply.
  

SOME THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
When you're using a stove in the shelter you must open both the door opening and the vent opening. Make sure that the vent opening is kept clear from falling snow on the outside, poke around with a stick periodically if needed.
If you need to urinate during the night, don't go outside in the cold. Just go on the floor inside the shelter. The urine will seep down through the snow, there will be a stained crater left but you can just cover that with some snow.
  


 
 

Make emergency snowshoes

If you're in good enough shape to get yourself back to civilization but don't have any skis or snowshoes you can make a pair of makeshift snowshoes yourself. Making a pair of emergency snowshoes to get to safety is extremely simple. It's surprising how many people try to get to safety in knee deep snow and drop from exhaustion.
 

Find two stocky branches about 3 feet long with plenty of small branches and plenty of green, preferably from a fir tree but other trees will do if there are no firs in the area.
 


  

Tie one branch to each foot at the front end of the branch as in the picture. Thread the string through something on the front of your boot otherwise your foot will slip out of the binding. Make sure your foot can swivel enough to walk.

That's it, you're ready to go!

  

  

Get noticed by rescuers

If you're injured or the conditions are too bad to travel you may want to stay put and wait until you get rescued. This assumes that somebody knows you're missing, so make sure you tell someone where you're going and when you plan to be back. In the wintertime they will most likely be looking for you from the air with infrared (heat) vision systems.

Your body gives out enough heat to be seen, but from far away it could easily be mistaken for a large animal and the rescuers could end up passing you by. Also if you're behind a rock or a large tree seeking shelter from the cold wind they can easily miss you.

The best way to guarantee that they will see you from the air is to have a continuous fire burning. The trouble is that it may take many hours or even a few days until they come looking and you have no way of knowing exactly when, and you will soon run out of firewood for your fire. What you need to use is a Trailstove or similar stove, the trailstove is a small very light-weight wood burning backpacking stove that is specially well suited for winter backpacking. It actually burns hotter that a regular fire but consumes way less wood than a regular fire. A burning trailstove will show up like a bright beacon in the infrared scope, there's is no way that the rescuers will miss you if you have a trailstove. Of course they will find you if you have a regular fire as well but as mentioned above you will have to work a lot harder collecting fire wood to keep it going non-stop, but if you don't have a Trailstove or similar stove then that's what you need to do.

I will be adding more material to this section, please check back.

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