SOME SNOWCAMPING AND SURVIVAL TECHNIQUES
The winter survival techniques described here require the
items on the daypack list.
|Make a snow
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
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
|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
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
SOME THINGS TO KEEP IN
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
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
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
I will be adding more material to this
section, please check back.